Rival ANC factions face off in Johannesburg
Activists from rival factions of South Africa's Africa National Congress (ANC) faced off in central Johannesburg on Monday, highlighting deep divisions in the ruling party as pressure grows on President Jacob Zuma.
The ANC, which led the struggle to end apartheid, has been rocked by poor recent local election results largely blamed on Zuma’s leadership and the country’s mounting economic woes.
Police surrounded the ANC’s Luthuli House headquarters in Johannesburg after some party activists vowed to occupy the building to protest against how the party and government is being run.
A small group of about 20 anti-Zuma protesters gathered nearby, while other ANC members loyal to the president pledged to defend the building.
“We lost (control of some cities in the local elections) because of corruption of Jacob Zuma,” Mary Louw, one frustrated ANC member, told AFP.
“We need a leadership who doesn’t promote corruption.”
Plans to march on Luthuli House were dropped due to the threat of violence and the heavy police presence, but the protesters said they would instead hand a petition into the ANC headquarters.
“I’m here to defend my president. Who’s got the proof that Zuma is corrupt? He’s my president until the end of his term,” Cecilia Lindiwe Ximba, a Zuma loyalist, told AFP.
“They have the right to demonstrate, but they only spread rumours. They must wait until he finishes his term.”
Zuma, 74, who was jailed on Robben Island with Nelson Mandela during apartheid, retains strong loyalty within the ANC especially in rural areas, but he could step down before the next presidential election in 2019.
An unemployment rate of 27 percent and GDP growth at zero percent this year have added to his troubles, as frustration builds among poor black communities seeing few improvements since white-minority rule fell in 1994.