Following President Jacob Zuma's cabinet reshuffle last week and the subsequent economic problems that have resulted for South Africa, thousands of South Africans took to the streets in cities around the country to call for him to step down. With protests led by different groups in different cities, the turnout was greater than many had initially anticipated. While marches in some cities turned violent, others passed without incident.
Mary Fitzgerald Square
The Democratic Alliances's (DA) #MarchForChange kicked off at 10 am at the Westgate Transport Hub in the Johannesburg CBD. By 11am, protestors donned in blue and carrying placards, began their march to Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown. The march had been redirected from its original destination at the African National Conference's (ANC) headquarters at Luthuli House due to threats issued by the ANC Youth League in the days leading up to the march. The peaceful gathering was filled with chants of "Zuma must fall" and featured guest performances and speeches. The event concluded around 1 pm with an appearance from DA leader Mmusi Maimane, who was spotted wearing a bulletproof vest. "We will continue until we can say South Africa is where it belongs," Maimane rallied the crowd. "The new struggle has begun."
Thousands of ANC members joined the uMkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans' Association (MKMVA) outside the Luthuli House in the Johannesburg CBD and marched to the Beyers Naude Square. News24 reports that protestors gathered with flags in hand, while others carried sticks, golf clubs and sjamboks. MKMVA national executive committee member Mabel Rweqane said the association had mobilised to defend the party's headquarters. "We are here to defend our HQ -- the HQ of the African National Congress -- from any harm that may arise from the march that is coming led by the DA. Most of the marches have been organised in the name of [peace, but] at the end of the day they end up violent," she told News24.
A crowd of over 25 000 people gathered at Church Square in Pretoria, according to Save SA organisers. Protesters in the crow were seen in Save SA, DA and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) attire. According to News24, Save SA leader Sipho Pityana, Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota, and former Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi were in attendance.
The city was in a traffic gridlock with several roads‚ including the N7‚ N5 and areas around Liesbeek Park and Bosmansdam blocked by protestors and trucks. Crowds gathered on Plein and Roeland streets around central areas such as the City Hall and Parliament.
The situation at the Durban ANC protest. pic.twitter.com/GhZ0uoKXca— The Citizen News (@TheCitizen_News) April 7, 2017
Thousands gathered near the Old Durban Drive-In and marched along the beach front to the amphitheatre for the DA's #March for Change companion event. At the same time, about 300 Zuma ANC supporters rallied and marched to Balito. The two groups planned to travel along separate routes. According to The Times, an altercation occurred when several ANC Youth League t-shirt clad protestors clashed with DA supporters at the beachfront. One DA supporter was assaulted with sticks, prompting police to use a stun grenade against the ANCYL attackers.