Protesters gather in Pretoria and Cape Town for an anti-corruption march backed by labour and civic groups. Photo: Theolin Tembo

Cape Town - Thousands of people began gathering in three of South Africa’s main cities on Wednesday ahead of marches to protest corruption.

More than 350 civic-rights groups, religious organisations and labour unions are backing the demonstrations in Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban.

“This is a peoples’ march against corruption,” Moira Campbell, a spokeswoman for Johannesburg-based Corruption Watch, an anti-graft unit established by the country’s biggest labour federation, said by phone.

“It is a non-political event that is for anyone who feels the way we do about corruption.”

While the ANC won 62 percent of the national vote in last year’s elections, its critics accuse President Jacob Zuma and his government of being complicit in corruption.

State entities wasted R1.17 billion in the year through March last year and incurred R33.6 billion in irregular expenditure, according to the nation’s auditor-general.

On September 28, the US Securities and Exchange Commission said Hitachi had agreed to pay $19 million to settle charges that it inaccurately reported “improper payments” channelled to South Africa’s ruling African National Congress, to help it win contracts from state power utility Eskom. The ANC denied any wrongdoing.

The protesters’ demands include that political party funding be made transparent, the auditor-general conduct regular lifestyle audits of senior public officials, public servants wear name tags when on duty and anti-corruption laws be strengthened.