DURBAN – Thousands of Durbanites turned out for Democratic Alliance's #Marchforchange on the Durban beachfront on Friday morning, calling for President Jacob Zuma to step down.
The ANCYL’s march in support of the president was expected to start at the same time but was delayed as many of their members could not get into the city centre. Buses blocked off all the main routes into and around Durban including the M4 Southern Freeway, M4 Blue Lagoon and the N3 freeway.
At the old Durban Drive-In site, Haniff Hoosen of the DA had warned protesters to abide by the rules. About 5 000 people marched from Sandile Thusi (Argyle) Road to the Amphitheatre at North Beach waving South African flags and holding placards.
While many people sported homemade posters and banners, or placards handed out by various civic organisations and political parties, some protesters upped the ante and forked out large sums of cash to bring their message home.
Thivian Padayachi of Greenwood Park was among the crowd displaying a double sided banner. He was there with his family. Padayachi spent R1 650 on the banner, R380 for the poles and R300 for the T-shirts. He said all this was done for the children.
“A small investment for the future of country,” he said.
Zwakele Mncwango, DA provincial leader, said the people had two choices – one would be to protect Zuma or to protect South Africa. “We all have taken the second choice. Nelson Mandela would be happy to see such a diverse crowd here today,” he said.
John Steenhuisen, the DA chief whip, said he joined the march as a citizen. “Today everyone has put together their political, cultural and religious differences aside. We are facing a crisis. When I look out at the crowd, I see hope and unity. We cannot be a silent witness to corruption,” he said.
Also among the marchers was comedian Muthu Murugan who entertained marchers with light humour. Representatives from the Shembe Church, the ACDP, IFP and civic organisations were also present.
In the city centre, the ANC Youth League gathering started with about 20 people. The number of supporters steadily increased as more supporters arrived in buses. The ANC Women’s League also joined in and people sang anti-Mmusi Maimane songs and pro Zuma songs.
They were demanding that Zuma must not be touched. The ANC Youth League was expected to march in Zuma’s defence, from the Durban Christian Centre to the City Hall. The city said it granted both groups permission to march.
ANCYL regional secretary Thinta Chibane said they planned to march to ABSA and be addressed by newly appointed Police Minister Fikile Mbalula who will talk about the cabinet reshuffle.
The DA was yesterday granted an interdict by the Durban High Court preventing eThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede from instructing law enforcement agencies to arrest protesters at today’s marches in the city.
Zwakele Mncwango, DA provincial leader, said this was a victory for the constitutionally enshrined right to protest peacefully, and for the democratic principles that underpin constitutional democracy.
“We again encourage all concerned South Africans to join our peaceful marches around South Africa,” Mncwango said.
“It is time for us to stand together, regardless of political affiliation in this time of crisis, and send a loud and clear message that [President] Jacob Zuma must go, and go now.”
The DA had made an urgent application against Gumede after her alleged comments that people who marched against Zuma would be arrested because that would be an act of treason.
These comments were allegedly made to SAfm, but were shortly afterwards retracted by her office, which said her comments were taken out of context.
“eThekwini Municipality acknowledges that people are free to exercise their constitutional rights by voicing their concerns and taking part in marches, however, this may not be done in a way that compromises the rights of others.
“Those taking part in the marches are cautioned against injuring others and vandalising infrastructure,” said Tozi Mthethwa, eThekwini spokesperson.
The mayor also pleaded with residents to march peacefully without Mayor Cllr Zandile Gumede pleads with residents to march peacefully without damaging property, injuring law-abiding citizens or blocking roads, preventing others from going to work.
“Gumede said no one would be arrested or intimidated for taking part in the march.
“Law enforcement personnel will be monitoring the movements of vehicles and ensure that traffic disruption is minimised.
“They will also take the necessary enforcement action where there are transgressions,” said Mthethwa.
A national shutdown was planned for today in all major cities as various opposition parties and civil rights organisations mobilised support against President Zuma’s recent cabinet reshuffle.
Pravin Gordhan was fired as finance minister and Mcebisi Jonas as his deputy last week. Several other ministers were also replaced.