About 300 protesters, mostly African National Congress (ANC) members, marched through Johannesburg, South Africa’s economic hub to deliver a list of demands and call for a new president, at the ruling party’s headquarters on Friday.
Some of the arguments in support of removing President Cyril Ramaphosa mentioned the rising cost of living, fuel-price hikes, incessant power cuts and rampant corruption in state institutions.
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According to Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), the annual consumer price inflation rate increased from 5.9 percent in April to 6.5 percent in May. The latest data could spell trouble for the country, with inflation exceeding the South African Reserve Banks’ target which aims to maintain consumer price inflation at 3 to 6 percent.
Unemployment is also rife in South Africa at 34.5 percent, with many jobless youths blaming immigrants for taking away economic opportunities – a situation that has heightened the rise of xenophobic groups such as Operation Dudula.
However, at the top of the protestors’ demands was the removal of Ramaphosa as president due to a growing number of personal scandals, including the alleged theft of $4m hidden in his furniture at his Phala Phala Wildlife farm.
Ramaphosa is accused of covering up the theft by enlisting the aid of Namibian officials and his personal security detail, who are accused of kidnapping and torturing the thieves.
The organiser of the march, Carl Niehaus, a senior member of the now-disbanded Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKVA), a group that represented veterans of the anti-apartheid military wing of the ANC, said it was “the first of many protests to come”.
“This march is the result of a deep unhappiness with a president who has failed his country and has revealed himself to conduct himself in a criminal manner, he told Al Jazeera by phone.
“In any other democratic society, he would have been removed already. People were tortured at his farmhouse, including a woman housekeeper. We have a serious problem of gender-based violence in South Africa, but we have a president who is accused of participating in violence against a woman,” Niehaus said.
“As ANC members, we don’t have another option,” he added. “We demand accountability from the leadership that is why this march is significant, the ANC members are saying enough is enough.”
Supra Mahumapelo, the former premier of the North West province told jeering protesters that “Ramaphosa’s time is up.”
“The National Executive Committee of the ANC has the power to remove President Ramaphosa. All it took was a meeting to remove Jacob Zuma, I was there,” said Mahumapelo. “Our people are hungry. A new president must focus on improving our peoples’ lives.”
“In order to resolve hunger, an immediate decision must be taken for the state to produce food and encourage cultivation. All we need is the land and the right leadership,” said Mahumapelo in a dig at Ramaphosa over allegations that the president favours the private sector.
According to Mahumapelo, the disgruntled members of the ANC will form a committee representing members from all nine South African provinces, and they are giving the national executives of the ANC “seven days to meet and discuss the removal of President Ramaphosa.”
The national spokesman of the ANC, Pule Mabe did not respond to multiple requests for comments.
Ex-Finance Minister Des Van Rooyen who also joined the protest told the ANC members to take “resolutions that hold those in power accountable” back to their branches ahead of the next elective conference in December.
“The most unusual thing is that they want us as ANC members to allow those we have elected to go to the next policy conference without assessing the performance of those we elected in Nasrec,” said Van Rooyen.
“We are not going to allow that. Take that resolution in your branches,” he added, calling for a boycott of the policy conference in December unless Ramaphosa is removed.
‘He is not above the law’
The protest comes on the heels of multiple opposition parties calling for Ramaphosa to step down, and threatening protest action as the president dodges questions about alleged criminal conduct at his Phala Phala Wildlife farm.
The leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EEF), Julius Malema called for Ramaphosa to be “impeached” at a news conference on Thursday over the alleged impropriety at his farm.
“We refuse to turn a blind eye against crimes committed by Cyril Ramaphosa. He is not above the law, and he will never be above the law,” said Malema.
“We are going to engage in a national shutdown which will remove Ramaphosa from office, while making additional demands.”
The EFF is also demanding, among other things, the removal of the entire Eskom board, regulation of fuel prices, and a “basic income grant” that, according to Malema, “will protect the poorest of the poor.”