Hundreds of thousands of protesters across the country sent President Jacob Zuma a message on Friday: he must go. Picture: Oupa Mokoena
Durban - Hundreds of thousands of protesters across the country sent President Jacob Zuma a message on Friday: he must go.

The message was delivered as rating agency Fitch followed the lead of Standard & Poor’s, and downgraded South Africa’s foreign and local currency credit ratings to junk status, citing Zuma’s cabinet reshuffle and policy of “radical economic transformation” as the reasons for the decision.

Some Zuma supporters, mainly ANC members, tried to intimidate peaceful marches but were blocked by police, who resorted to using stun guns and tear gas to prevent confrontations.

These acts of ANC intimidation led Durban organisers of a memorial service for ANC stalwart Ahmend Kathrada to seek an urgent High Court interdict to prevent “disruptions” to the event. Lawyers for the Active Citizens Movement and the ANCYL will face off at the Durban High Court on Saturday.

Former finance minister Pravin Gordhan and Albertina Luthuli are guest speakers at the service, set to take place at the Sastri College campus from 2.30pm tomorrow.

Ben Modakwe, part of the executive committee of the Active Citizens Movement, brought the application against provincial ANCYL secretary Thanduxolo Sabelo, ANCYL members, and the acting provincial commissioner of the SAPS.

The interdict seeks to restrain the secretary and the ANCYL members from assaulting, threatening, threatening to assault, intimidating or harassing any person attending the memorial service or proceeding to the venue, and to not disrupt by shouting slogans, hurling abuse, overturning furniture, heckling, removing or threatening to remove any speakers/addressing the audience or in any way causing a disturbance, or entering the venue, and the youth body must not be within 200m of the venue.

The legal team for Sabelo and the ANCYL indicated they would oppose the interdict as it was based on unsubstantiated threats of violence.

SAPS was listed as a respondent because it is the body empowered to enforce the law.

The police are not expected to oppose the interdict.

Modakwe said they were concerned that Gordhan had been labelled an “impimpi” by the leader of the ANCYL, which was a serious allegation.

In previous years impimpis had been murdered.

Modakwe said they would have no control over what their speakers talked about, and cited news reports where the youth league said it would counter anti-Zuma protests and would meet “them pound for pound on the streets”.

“I watched a TV clip of a rally which was convened by the national leadership of the ANCYL, and they reiterated that they would be waiting for anyone who opposes the government and President Zuma and will be using sjamboks and every other weapon at their disposal to defend the president,” said Modakwe, adding that a “reasonable apprehension of harm has been created”.

The ANCYL was given time to prepare its responding affidavit for the reasons they wish to oppose the interdict, and present them at court on Saturday morning.

The threats against Gordhan were also expressed by a youth league supporter, who on Friday told a reporter from The Independent on Saturday: “You think it’s tough today, wait until Sunday when Pravin Gordhan comes here”.

This comment was made soon after a lone DA supporter was assaulted and had to be rescued after the march had ended.

Police immediately fired stun guns and rubber bullets.

Sabelo condemned the attack.

Asked why members were carrying sticks at their march, he said they had not been instructed to do so and that the intention was not to harm anyone.

On Friday night, DA KZN leader Zwakele Mncwango said it would open a case of assault and political intimidation on Saturday.

Thousands of Durbanites joined the DA-led march to the amphitheatre at the beachfront promenade from the Old Circus site.

Some time later, the ANC Youth League arrived at the Old Pavilion site having veered from its permitted route to the beachfront. Some carried sticks. There were also a couple of sjamboks.

They then returned to their prescribed route to protest outside Absa Bank where ANCYL eThekwini regional secretary Thinta Cibane warned that the organisation would stop events sponsored by the bank.

Empty buses also blockaded several roads, affecting Umgeni Road, M4 North and South and the N2 near Spaghetti Junction.

eThekwini Municipality confirmed they were municipal buses, stating “the buses were parked by drivers this morning after leaving the depot and the reason for this is suspected to be linked to national mass action taking place today”.

While the buses were removed by metro police, there was speculation on social media last night that the bus blockade was orchestrated to prevent marchers from entering the city.

On Friday night eThekwini Municipality said “the two marches held in Durban today were peaceful”.

Durban Chamber of Business president Zeph Ndlovu said the marches had no “notable disruption” on business because many business owners had made prior arrangements for paid or unpaid leave for workers.

He said, however, that the decision by rating agency Fitch to downgrade South Africa would “weaken the country’s governance and compromise fiscal discipline”.

Saying that new Finance Minister Gigaba would have to work hard to restore confidence in international markets, Ndlovu added: “Social partners in organised labour, civil society and business have to rally behind our rand to quell uncertainty on the international markets.”

Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business chief Melanie Veness said: “Put simply, it’s very bad news for business and it’s bad news for the man in the street.”