South African President Jacob Zuma made a hasty exit from a May
Day rally on Monday after the crowd of workers that he was due to
address became rowdy, with some booing and chanting slogans
The labor federation Cosatu abruptly canceled Zuma’s speech and
other addresses at the rally it had organized, as TV footage
showed scuffles breaking out in the crowd, apparently between
supporters who voiced their backing of Zuma and opponents of the
Zuma and his entourage could be seen on live TV leaving the
podium and being whisked away from the rally, in the central city
of Bloemfontein, in a motorcade.
Cosatu, a key political ally of the ruling African National
Congress (ANC), last month called on Zuma to step down after his
sacking of the finance minister triggered a sovereign credit
rating downgrade to “junk”.
Marches calling on Zuma to quit have drawn tens of thousands of
protestors but the ANC has rejected such calls ahead of two
conferences this year, one where it will chart its policy
direction, the other where it will pick Zuma’s successor to lead
the party in 2019 general elections.
The May Day public holiday is an important date in South Africa’s
political calendar, when party leaders try to woo a working class
that has been hard hit by lay-offs in key sectors such as mining.
Zuma has become a focus of mounting public discontent over
government missteps, rising unemployment and a stagnant economy.
Cosatu has signaled its preference for Deputy President Cyril
Ramaphosa, a former trade unionist turned business tycoon who was
the ANC’s key negotiator in the talks that lead to the end of
white-minority rule in 1994.
At a separate Cosatu May Day rally, in rural Hectorspruit in the
eastern province of Mpumalanga, Ramaphosa’s speech was greeted
with loud cheers from the crowd, the South African Government
News Agency reported.
Weeks ago, Ramaphosa openly disagreed with Zuma’s decision to
sack former finance minister Pravin Gordhan, who was widely
respected by markets and regarded as a staunch opponent of the
corruption that critics say has undermined the ANC’s moral
Zuma is widely believed to want his ex-wife, Nkosazana
Dlamini-Zuma, a former cabinet member who just finished a term at
the helm of the African Union, to succeed him.