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Thousands gather in streets demand President Zuma resignation | Coastweek

JOHANNESBURG (Xinhua) -- Supporters of the opposition party Democratic Alliance [left] gather in protest against South African President Jacob Zuma in Johannesburg, South Africa. Supporters [right] of South African President Jacob Zuma are dispersed in a march in Johannesburg. South Africans on Friday marched across the country calling for President Jacob Zuma to step down while his supporters also marched in solidarity with him. XINHUA PHOTO - YESHIEL PANCHIA

Thousands gather in streets demand President Zuma resignation

CAPE TOWN South Africa (Xinhua) -- Thousands of people gathered outside Parliament on Friday to demand the resignation of South African President Jacob Zuma.

The protest went on peacefully under the watchful eye of police.

It was part of a nationwide shutdown amid growing calls for Zuma to resign. Pro-Zuma marchers also arrived in Parliament to counter anti-Zuma protests.

Police said the number of anti-Zuma protesters outnumbered that of pro-Zuma marchers, who are staunch supporters of the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

More people arrived in mid-day to join in anti-Zuma protesters.

"It is one of the biggest protest against Zuma during his tenure," a police officer said on condition of anonymity.

Nobel Peace laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and his wife Leah joined anti-Zuma protesters in Hermanus near Cape Town.

Elsewhere in Cape Town, protesters formed human chains along streets, to express their unhappiness with Zuma who is facing mounting pressure to resign after he reshuffled the cabinet last week.

The reshuffle affected 10 ministers and 10 deputy ministers, notably Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

The reshuffle led to ratings agency Standard and Poor’s downgrading of South Africa’s credit outlook to junk status and a significant weakening of the rand.

Leaders from civil society, religious bodies and even ANC stalwarts have called on Zuma to quit.

On Thursday, the ANC warned against violence during the protests.

It distanced itself from radical ANC members who threatened to take up arms in self-defence during the national shutdown, organized by opposition parties and civic organizations.

"We condemn in the harshest possible terms reports of people seeking to take up arms in the name of the ANC. Such behavior has no place in a democratic society," the party said.

The ANC also denied reports that it has organized pro-ANC marches to counter the protests.

There have been reports of sporadic violence and intimidation in the run-up to the planned so-called "day of action" on Friday.

"Such actions have no place in democratic South Africa and threaten to turn the country back to a time where civic activism by citizens was stifled in the name of ‘preserving law and order’," the party said.

The ANC called on all South Africans to organize in a calm and measured fashion.

"We should not allow inflammatory rhetoric from certain elements, including on social media, to damage our fragile social fabric and turn South Africans against each other," said the organization.

The ANC said freedom of expression and association are the unalienable rights of all South Africans and are guaranteed by the Constitution.

By equal measure, in line with the right to freedom of association, it is also the prerogative of those who choose not to participate in any demonstrations, to not do so, the party said, adding that this should be respected and any form of coercion with regards to participation in the planned demonstrations, should be condemned.


South Africans march against President Jacob Zuma

PRETORIA South Africa (Xinhua) -- South Africans on Friday marched across the country calling for President Jacob Zuma to step down while his supporters also marched in solidarity with him.

The demonstration came after President Jacob Zuma reshuffled the cabinet and rating agencies S&P and Fitch respectively downgraded the country’s foreign currency sovereign credit rating.

Those marching accused Zuma for all these including the fall in the rand against the major currencies.

They marched in Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, and other parts of the country calling for Zuma to step down.

Some were standing in malls and bridges with placards. Xinhua attended the march in Pretoria to the State House which was attended by over 20,000 people.

A coalition of civil society and political parties marched in the Pretoria to the State House (Union Buildings) under the banner of Save South Africa.

Zwelinzima Vavi, South African Federation of Trade Union leader also addressed the crowd and called for Zuma’s ouster.

Vavi said it was a mistake to put Zuma in power and called on South Africans to join in efforts to remove him.

The opposition party Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Mmusi Maimane addressed the crowd saying:

"We are embarking on a movement for change which seeks to create opportunities for all and build a prosperous and diverse nation ... this country needs a leader that is going to put the people first and not themselves."

Some also protested outside the house owned by the rich Indian family Guptas.

The Guptas are accused of telling the president what to do.

Meanwhile, the African National Congress’(ANC) armed wing during the liberation struggle Umkhonto WeSizwe gathered outside the party headquarters Luthuli House saying they want to defend it.

They were also joined by the ANC supporters, who carried placards written with "leave Zuma alone".

Fitch downgrades South Africa to 'junk' investment status

By Ndumiso Mlilo JOHANNESBURG South Africa (Xinhua) -- The international rating agency Fitch on Friday downgraded South Africa long-term foreign and local-currency Issuer Default Ratings (IDRs) from BBB- to BB+ (Non-investment grade speculative or junk rating).

Fitch remained the country’s outlook stable.

The issue ratings on South Africa’s senior unsecured foreign- and local-currency bonds were also downgraded to BB+ from BBB-.

The rating agency said the replacement of the Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas, is likely to result in a change in the direction of South Africa’s economic policy.

"The downgrade of South Africa’s long-term IDRs reflects Fitch’s view that recent political events, including a major cabinet reshuffle, will weaken standards of governance and public finances," Fitch said in a statement.

"The reshuffle partly reflected efforts by the out-going finance minister to improve the governance of state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

The reshuffle is likely to undermine, if not reverse, progress in SOE governance, raising the risk that SOE debt could migrate onto the government’s balance sheet," the statement read.

Fitch said with the new finance and energy minister, the country’s expensive nuclear program is likely to be accelerated.

They believe this would increase contingent liabilities, which are already sizable.

The government’s guarantee exposure to public institutions, according to the 2017/18 budget was R308.3 billion (22.34 billion U.S. dollars) at the end March 2017, up from R255.8 billion a year earlier.

The State enterprises have additional liabilities of R463 billion in 2016 with no explicit guarantee.

The government has on many occasions bailed loss making SOEs particular the power Eskom.

"Fitch believes that following the government reshuffle, fiscal consolidation will be less of a priority given the president’s focus on ‘radical socioeconomic transformation’.

This means that renewed shortfalls in revenues, for example as a result of lower than expected GDP growth, are less likely to be compensated by expenditure and revenue measures." said Fitch.

"This could put upward pressure on general government debt, which at an estimated 53 percent of GDP at end-March 2017 was already slightly above the BB category median of 51 percent," Fitch added.

The new finance minister Malusi Gigaba has said he will continue with Gordhan’s fiscal policy and will not have a policy shift.

South Africa is currency battling to contain the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality.

Fitch believes that with tensions in the ruling party, African National Congress (ANC) and pressure in the public service delivery will force Treasury to exceed its demands for increased spending.

Fitch also said, "political uncertainty was already an important factor behind weak growth last year, as in Fitch’s assessment it has affected the willingness of companies to invest.

The agency believes that the cabinet reshuffle will further undermine the investment climate.

Fitch forecasts GDP growth of 1.2 percent in 2017 and 2.1 percent in 2018, but the reshuffle has raised downside risks."

Some issues were raised as sensitive and could individually or collectively result in negative rating action.

These include the failure to stabilize the government debt/GDP ratio or an increase in contingent liabilities.

They also cited the failure of GDP growth to recover sustainability due to sustained uncertainty about economic policy.

The rising net external debt to levels that raise the potential for serious financing strains on the country could result in further downgrade, noted Fitch.

This comes after another rating agency S&P downgraded the country foreign currency sovereign rating to sub investment early this week. S&P also downgraded South Africa’s seven banks foreign currency ratings to junk status on Thursday.


ANC Parliament Caucus to vote against motion of no confidence in Zuma

CAPE TOWN South Africa (Xinhua) -- The African National Congress (ANC) in Parliament said on Thursday it will vote against a motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma.

The motion, submitted by opposition parties, has been scheduled for April 18 amid growing calls for Zuma to resign after he reshuffled the cabinet, affecting 10 ministers and 10 deputy ministers, notably Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

"As members of the ANC in Parliament, we have been inundated with mischievous calls, text messages and emails by faceless individuals and organizations lobbying us to disregard the party line and vote in accordance with our individual taste as dictated by our conscious and lobby groups in the upcoming motion," the ANC Chief Whip Office said in a statement.

These calls are not only disingenuous, but also highly unfortunate as they seek to suggest that ANC MPs are free agents open to all sorts of mischievous lobbying and manipulation by the opposition and other forces, said the office.

The very same opposition making these calls have always voted along party lines yet they expect ANC MPs not to be guided and directed by their political party, said the statement.

"We reiterate that as ANC members of parliament we derive our political mandate from the organization.

"We will abide by the decision of the ANC National Working Committee as announced by ANC Secretary General comrade Gwede Mantashe that the ANC does not and will not support this motion," the statement said.

The ANC also rejects calls by opposition parties for a secret ballot in the motion of no confidence.

"The Constitution of the Republic is clear that a secret ballot in the House applies only in the process of electing the President, the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker.

There is no provision in the rules of the National Assembly for such a call," the statement said.

This call is therefore in violation of the laws of parliament as an institution and the Constitution, said the statement.

Some ANC MPs reportedly voiced fear that they would be removed if they vote in support of the motion.

For a vote of no confidence motion to be successful, it requires 201 of the 400 National Assembly MPs to vote in favour.

If the motion is successful, then the president, his deputy, cabinet ministers and all their deputies must resign as provided for in section 102 of the Constitution.

In 2016, Zuma survived two no confidence motions in Parliament which is dominated by ANC MPs.


South Africans prepare for march against President Jacob Zuma

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