Zwelinzima Vavi marching in Pretoria.

Pretoria - Former Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi says the move to elect President Jacob Zuma to the top ANC position was a terrible mistake.

He was addressing a more than 25 000-strong crowd that hit the streets of Pretoria on Friday to march to the Union Buildings demanding Zuma to step down.

Vavi said: “We made a mistake in elevating a crook who was facing 783 charges. The first thing he did was to dissolve the Scorpions and some of us stupidly gave him a round of applause.”

He pointed fingers at Zuma for removing former National Prosecuting Authority boss Advocate Mxolisi Nxasana and replacing him with a “spineless advocate called (Shaun) Abrahams”.

“As if that was not enough, he removed from the Hawks a celebrated MK commander of the Western Cape, (Anwa) Dramat, and forced him out by giving him R3-million so that he can employ apartheid policeman (Berning) Ntlemeza,” Vavi said.

Zuma’s other blunders included the appointment of “a social worker”, Riah Phinyega. After her ascension to a top police rank, “Marikana happened”.

Vavi further castigated Zuma for making Hlaudi Motsoeneng the SABC chief operating officer despite him having a “standard seven qualification”.

“You now know that the staff at the SABC may not get any salaries at the end of this month,” he said.

He lambasted Zuma for the financial crisis at the South African Airways SAA and for getting the Guptas family s to get involved at a power utilityEskom.

People were mobilised to take a stand against Zuma’s intention to sign a nuclear deal with the Russians because it would be costly for the government and dangerous to society. “If we allow them… your children, your grandchildren and many generations to come would still be paying Russians, Zuma’s friends, until we are mortgaged as a country to Russian and France,” Vavi said. He called on marchers to reclaim their country by pushing Zuma out of the presidential office.

The march was joined by the workers’ unions, religious groups, student movements and political parties under the banner of #Save South Africa campaign. It took place on the back of the cabinet reshuffle by Zuma, which resulted in the sacking of former Pravin Gordhan as finance minister and Mcebisi Jonas as deputy finance minister. Gordhan was replaced by former home affairs minister, Malusi Gigaba.

Jonas has this week resigned as the member of Parliament.

Zuma’s cabinet reshuffle decision has been widely criticised for being at the centre of last week’s announcement by the rating agency Standard & Poor’s to relegate South Africa’s credit rating to junk status. Fitch followed on Friday.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane expressed his support for the marchers’ call for Zuma to go.

“We are not a junk country, but we have a junk president and we will remove him so that South Africa can become prosperous,” he said.

African Christian Democratic Party leader, the Reverend Kenneth Meshoe, thanked protesters for putting the country first and called on those who wanted to sell South Africa to go. Social justice activist Mark Heywood called Zuma a puppet of the Guptas and reiterated the call for him to step down. “When Jacob Zuma steps down the people shall rise,” he said. Themba Maseko, a member of #Save South Africa campaign, said: “This march today is a march for all South Africans. We want to stress again that this march is against Jacob Zuma and his thugs,” he said.

Sipho Pityana, national convener of the campaign, said Zuma had “disgraced” the office of the president.

“He has turned it into a den of iniquity. It is a mere toy telephone for the real seat of power – the Saxonwold shebeen – where our president gets instructions from this corrupt clique on who to appoint as a minister, director-general, board of state-owned entities and leaders of government institutions,” he said.

Pretoria News Weekend