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South African president brands anti-govt protests ‘racist’

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Tens of thousands of South Africans from various political and civil society groups march to the Union Buildings to protest against South African president and demand his resignation on April 7, 2017 in Pretoria, The protest comes after South African President Jacob Zuma dismissed widely respected South African Minister of finance, Pravin Gordhan in a cabinet reshuffle. The move by Zuma has caused the South African economy to be given a ‘junk’ rating by two of the international financial ratings agencies widely seen as a move to allow a controversial nuclear deal with Russia to go through, as well as allowing the Gupta family to buy a bank in the country, neither of which Gordhan would allow as Minister of Finance. A cut-out poster of Atul Gupta is visible. / AFP PHOTO / MUJAHID SAFODIEN

South African President Jacob Zuma on Monday described last week’s protests demanding that he resign as racist, as he fought back against the criticism that has threatened to split the ruling ANC party.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched through South African cities on Friday, angered by years of corruption scandals, record unemployment and slowing economic growth under Zuma’s rule.

Zuma’s recent sacking of respected finance minister Pravin Gordhan unleashed a fresh bout of public frustration — as well as unprecedented complaints from senior ANC figures, including the deputy president.

The largely peaceful protests in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town appeared to attract a diverse mix of South Africans, but Zuma railed against those who participated.

“The marches that took place last week demonstrated that racism is real and exists in our country,” he said.

“Many placards and posters displayed beliefs that we thought had been buried… with some posters depicting black people as baboons.”

The president said some South Africans regarded “black people as being lesser human beings”, but he gave no further details about the alleged placards and posters or where they had been seen.

The protest in Johannesburg was organised by the main opposition Democratic Alliance party, which many ANC supporters accuse of harbouring white racists.

Further demonstrations are planned on Wednesday ahead of a parliamentary motion of no confidence in the president on April 18.

Zuma has easily survived previous such votes against him.

The president was speaking at an annual memorial service for anti-apartheid hero Chris Hani, who was shot dead by a white suprematist in 1993.

The African National Congress (ANC) led the decades-long struggle against apartheid, and carried Nelson Mandela to power in the 1994 elections that ended white-minority rule.


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