JOHANNESBURG/CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – Thousands of South Africans will march on Wednesday against corruption under President Jacob Zuma’s rule, in protests led by unions which have backed a rival to the president’s faction as the next leader of the ANC.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), which is in an alliance with the ruling African National Congress (ANC), has called on its more than one million members to strike and join marches in major cities across South Africa.
Though the protests are officially against graft broadly, much of the frustration and anger is aimed at Zuma.
“Corruption has become endemic under this administration,” COSATU said in a statement.
“This calls for all of us as workers and citizens to stand up and push back against this rot.”
Senior members of the ANC have called for Zuma to step down in recent months following a swell of allegations that his friends, the Gupta family, wield undue influence over the award of state contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
The raiding of taxpayers funds by outside interests is known locally as “state capture”. Guptas and Zuma deny wrongdoing and say they are victims of a politically-motivated witchhunt.
The ANC will pick its next president in December with Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s camp prioritising fighting corruption, boosting economic growth and winning back the trust of supporters who have become disillusioned with the party under Zuma.
Zuma’s powerful faction is expected to back his ex-wife and former African Union chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, although other candidates could still emerge as serious contenders.
“Wednesday’s series of marches and protests that target corruption and State capture are also targeting Mr Zuma and his succession faction in the ANC,” said Gary van Staden, political analyst at NKC Research.
“If the labour movement can produce a show of force reminiscent of its halcyon days, that would prove a major boost to the aspirations of Mr Ramaphosa.”
Zuma can remain head of state until a parliamentary election in 2019, although the next ANC leader could edge him out next year.
Some analysts say an opposition coalition could unseat the ANC at that vote, an unthinkable scenario a few years ago for a party that has led comfortably since it swept to power under Nelson Mandela at the end of apartheid in 1994.
Reporting by Ed Stoddard and Wendell Roelf; additional reporting by Tanisha Heiberg; Writing by Joe Brock; Editing by Toby Chopra