South Africa is a fractured country, but today, across colour and class, tens of thousands united on one unequivocal demand: President Jacob Zuma must go.
It is hard to estimate how many people marched from Church Square to the Union Buildings in Pretoria. It was likely at least 20 000. At one point the stream of people was over 2km long.
At the Union Buildings the protesters were addressed by former COSATU General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and current DA leader Mmusi Maimane.
Kopano Segwapa explained why he was protesting: “I’m here to fight for my freedom, for my rights … for my country because we don’t want to have this corrupt president … we are struggling, we are suffering while he enjoys a fruitful life.”
His friend Thabiso Setheiso said, “I must play my part. If the Rand falls they’re [the ministers] not going to be affected that much. There is no free education but they’re willing to let the rand fall, and now enough is enough.”
And their friend Given Mazibuko said: “If we don’t act today Jacob Zuma will cost us our future.”
About 5,000 people gathered on Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown Johannesburg in an event organised by the DA. Nearby, about a thousand ANC supporters surrounded Luthuli House. A DA supporter who wandered onto Beyers Naude Avenue got beaten up and was saved by police.
When the DA protest dispersed at about noon, groups of toyi-toying ANC cadres, brandishing an assortment of weapons, turned on alleged drug Nigerian drug dealers at the Bree Street taxi rank.
About 50 ANC supporters clad in yellow T-shirts and fatigues stormed through the metal-grid gates leading into the taxi rank mall but rapidly came tumbling back out as taxi bosses and shop owners fought back.
A tense stand-off followed, with both sides throwing paving stones and bottles at each other. The ANC cadres then backed off, hurling threats over their shoulders as they headed back up Sauer St to Luthuli House two blocks away. There they regrouped with a larger contingent of cadres and marched back to the taxi rank.
Taxi bosses shut the gates and two women cadres stood at the gates urging their comrades to calm down, to no avail as paving stones flew through the air, one hitting a female ANC marshal on the hip. However, the rapid arrival of shotgun-carrying police and metro cops saw the ANC cadres running for cover.
Before the march, human chains were formed on the roadside in areas such as Muizenberg, Rondebosch, Diep River, Fish Hoek, Woodstock, Sea Point and the city centre.
The gathering outside Parliament attracted the largest numbers, with protesters from civil society, political parties and ordinary citizens calling for Zuma to be removed. There were actually two marches, first one organised by the DA, and then one organised by civil society.
“All those of us who are marching from the Treatment Action Campaign, from the Social Justice Coalition, from Equal Education, we are here with a very specific purpose – a just and equal South Africa,” activist Zackie Achmat told GroundUp.
He pointed to the march led by civil society organisations and said that it was a unified one of African, coloured and white people.