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Africa

South African opposition seeks to harness discontent over Zuma

South Africa's opposition Democratic Alliance is set to lead a protest march through Johannesburg, giving vent to economic concerns and to questions about President Jacob Zuma's ability to lead the country.

When President Jacob Zuma sacked his respected finance minister Nhlanhla Nene on December 9, 2015, there was a chorus of protest. Within hours, his critics on social media had taken up the call #ZumaMustFall.

More than half a million people have since signed an online petition calling for Zuma to be removed from office.

A week ago, a huge banner reading Zuma Must Fall was removed from a building in Cape Town by members of his ruling African National Congress (ANC).

The haphazard reshuffle at the finance ministry didn't just cause dismay among South African financial analysts, it also send the rand tumbling on exchange markets.

Announcing plans for Wednesday's march in Johannesburg, Mmusi Maimane, leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) said that he wanted the whole of South Africa to unite and promote fairness and prosperity. He called on his countrymen to join the march "in solidarity with the poor and unemployed South Africans who are suffering as result of no economic leadership."

Mmusi Maimane

Mmusi Maimane: 'Let us stand together and start to bring change to South Africa'

Impact of protests limited?

But not all South Africans DW spoke to in Johannesburg were unanimous in calling for Zuma's departure. Abel said the opposition "can talk but they must wait until Zuma finishes his term."

Samantha was rather less patient. "He must disappear. We must get a new president right now," she said.

Badile said #ZumaMustFall does not offer anything to the country's youth. The energy, the resources being put into the march could be "used to fund students and ensure they have a better life."

South African universities were hit by a wave of protests over tuition fee increases last year under the hashtag #FeesMustFall.

Zakhele Ndlovu, a political scientist at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, said he is not surprised by the large number of people saying Zuma should depart. Many are worried by the state of the economy and the steep decline in the value of the rand. But he says it is important to remember that South Africa faces imminent municipal elections in which the DA will be competing with Zuma's ANC.

"It could be a sort of campaign strategy to say that we are led by someone who is not fit to be president," Ndlovu told DW.

Protest marches and campaigns on social media directed against Zuma may be popular and could even have some impact, but it is highly unlikely that they will hasten the president's departure in the immediate future. He still enjoys overwhelming support from the ANC and his second term doesn't end until 2019.

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