Johannesburg: Thousands of South Africans demonstrated on Wednesday for the resignation of President Jacob Zuma, who has been enmeshed in scandals that critics say are undermining the country's democracy.
The protests in the administrative capital of Pretoria came as opposition lawyers argued in court for the prompt release of a state watchdog report about allegations that a business family linked to Zuma sought to influence some Cabinet post selections to benefit its own business interests. The president has withdrawn a bid to block the release of the report, said his lawyer, Anthea Platt.
The possibility of new revelations of alleged wrongdoing at top levels of the South African government is likely to increase pressure on Zuma, who apologised earlier this year after the Constitutional Court said he flouted the constitution in a scandal over more than $20 million in state funds used to upgrade his rural home. Zuma eventually paid back more than $5,00,000, an amount determined by the national treasury.
In a separate scandal, the director of the National Prosecuting Authority this week dropped fraud charges against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan following an outcry by South Africans who suspected the move to prosecute Gordhan was an attempt by government factions to take control of the national treasury.
On Wednesday, business executives, religious leaders and others gathered in a Pretoria cathedral to demand that Zuma quit. They said alleged corruption linked to the president was undermining one of Africa's biggest economies, which is experiencing weak growth, as well as a constitution that was crafted after the end of white minority rule in 1994.
"It is not possible to turn the situation around" as long as Zuma remains president, said Sipho Pityana of Save South Africa, a coalition of groups that say they seek to protect the constitution.
Separate rallies were also held in Pretoria by South Africa's two biggest opposition parties, the Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Fighters. The ruling African National Congress party, which took power after the end of apartheid, lost several key municipalities in local elections in August, partly because of public dissatisfaction with the president.
Zuma has not commented this week on growing calls for his ouster. He is scheduled to chair a forum in Harare on Thursday with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.