Zwelinzima Vavi marching in Pretoria.
Tshwane – Former Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi told protesters at the Union Buildings on Friday that South Africans made a huge mistake in elevating President Jacob Zuma to power.

"Let me give you a short history. 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," Vavi told several thousands of protesters gathered under the Save South Africa banner.

"He moved on. He removed a professional advocate at the NPA [National Prosecuting Authority Mxolisi] Nxasana and splurged a R17 million of our money to force him out. He put in that baby-faced, spineless advocate called [Shaun] Abrahams."

Vavi said the leaders of the civil society movement mobilising against Zuma would not be intimidated by the State security apparatus.

"Let's reclaim our country from all the crooks who are here behind us. We have one message for [State Security Mimister David] Mahlobo and all the crooks. You will not intimidate us. We are not mafikizolos in the struggle. You will not intimidate us. You days are numbered. You are going to go. People of this country are tired of you," said Vavi to loud cheers from the crowd.

Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane told the multiracial crowd that the South Africa was worth more than the junk status to which two international ratings agencies downgraded the country this week.

"We are not a junk country. We have a junk president and we will remove that junk so that South Africa can become prosperous. It doesn't matter where you go, the people of South Africa are diverse, they are beautiful, they are innovative. All we are here to say is that we should remove the junk president so that ultimately all of us can build a nation we can give to future generations," said Maimane.

The South African Communist Party's second deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila urged South Africans to "unite and fight dictatorship".

Mapaila said the SACP no longer had confidence in Zuma. "We're here to support this call that the president must step down for the sole and main reason that he has handed over the sovereignty of our country to the Guptas. We had mandated him to lead through the elections, now he has indicated his responsibilities. Because of that, we can no longer have confidence in him," said Mapaila.

"We therefore feel he must step down. Secondly, there has been too much corruption at the State owned enterprises, particularly with companies aligned with the Guptas." Chairperson of the Save SA movement, Sipho Pityana said Friday marked a critical landmark.

"Today is a very, very important day for our democracy. It is a crucial day in our push back against state capture, corruption and the corrosion of our democracy. It is a crucial day in showing those who hold the levers of the power that we, the people, will not sit back and watch them eat. We will not let the Guptas appoint any more Cabinet ministers. We are determined to reverse their coup d'etat of 31 March," said Pityana.

"We will not let them sneak discredited former Eskom CEOs, or SABC CEOs for that matter, into Parliament through the backdoor. We will not let them feast on our money and use our state-owned companies as piggy banks. We will not let them siphon money from social grants intended for the poor, the aged, and those single parents struggling to bring up children. We will not let them open bank accounts for the Guptas and send plane-loads of money to Dubai."

He said Zuma must be removed from office.

"Most importantly, we will not let Zuma stay a minute longer in office. He has more than over-stayed his welcome. He is a rent-seeker, a comprador, a squatter in a suit. And he must go. Zuma must go," charged Pityana.

The thousands of protesters had marched from National Treasury in the Pretoria CBD, to the Union Buildings. The area was flooded with police officers, some with marked cars from different provinces across South Africa.