Zuma says the marchers against him are racists. His deputy says their concerns need to be listened to.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said during a televised interview with news channel eNCA on Monday morning that leaders in South Africa should be listening to the protesters who have repeatedly taken to the streets demanding that President Jacob Zuma resign or be removed after the president’s reshuffle triggered damaging credit downgrades.

Ramaphosa is next in line to be president, though Zuma and his faction have already anointed the president’s former wife and ex-African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to take over the reins.

Ramaphosa told the channel: “People of our country are taking to the streets. They’re raising their concerns, and I think what we should be doing as leaders is to listen to some of the concerns that are being raised.”

He was speaking after attending an Easter church service of the Zion Christian Church at Moria in the north of Limpopo.

The deputy president clearly, therefore, does not agree that the marches against Zuma have been racist, which has been the only response by Zuma to the hundreds of thousands of people who have called for him to step down. This despite the fact that they have represented the full cross-section of South African society, and almost all opposition parties have been part of the rolling action protest marches.

They are continuing with their protests and the Constitutional Court is considering an application by the United Democratic Movement on whether a parliamentary motion of no confidence against Zuma should be taken by secret ballot. The opposition believes the motion will be more likely to succeed if held by secret ballot and have said, as part of the motivation, that ANC MPs have had their lives threatened if they fail to toe the party line.

Following the reshuffle at the end of last month, Ramaphosa called the reason given by Zuma for Gordhan’s axing “unacceptable”. However, the party’s top six, of which Ramaphosa is a part, later appeared to accept that Zuma had fired him due to a breakdown in their working relationship.

Together with secretary-general of the ANC Gwede Mantashe, Ramaphosa initially rejected Zuma’s decision to fire Gordhan and his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas.

Ramaphosa had said Zuma presented the top ANC leadership with a “readymade” list of the new Cabinet without consultation.

“It was just a process of informing us of his decision, it was not a consultation because he [Zuma] came with a readymade list,” Ramaphosa told reporters in Bloemfontein, Free State.

“I raised my concerns and objection on the removal of the minister of finance … largely because he was being removed based on an intelligence report that I believe had unsubstantiated allegations about the minister and his deputy.”

He said the report, labeled as “shoddy” by the SA Communist Party, stated that the overseas trip by Gordhan and Jonas was to mobilise financial markets against the South African government.

“I found it totally unacceptable that such a person who served the country with such distinction would do something like that. It reminded me of my own situation in 2001 … when an intelligence report said I was involved in a plot to overthrow the president Mbeki’s government … when this report came up it disturbed me greatly,” said Ramaphosa.

He said that, at the time, he had approached former president Nelson Mandela after the report surfaced, who then promised him he would handle the matter.

Commenting further on Gordhan’s axing, Ramaphosa said he told Zuma he would go public about his disagreement to remove the finance minister as the reasons were based on “spurious allegations”.

“I told him I don’t agree with him, and that I would articulate this publicly. So this is where we are … he has made his choice to appoint and remove ministers, and let me say it is his prerogative.” – Citizen

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