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  1. ITV Report

Thousands protest against South African president Zuma on his 75th birthday

  • Video report by ITV Africa Correspondent John Ray

Tens of thousands of South Africans staged a protest against President Jacob Zuma on his 75th birthday.

They called for his resignation because of scandals and his dismissal of a widely respected finance minister.

The president, meanwhile, danced at a party where well-wishers said they loved him.

The rally in the capital, Pretoria - which followed nationwide protests on Friday, comes amid sharp criticism of Mr Zuma within the ruling African National Congress party.

Although the president still commands the support of powerful ANC factions.

President Zuma pictured earlier in the week. Credit: AP

President Zuma, who is in his second five-year term after becoming president in 2009, has become a flashpoint for concerns about government corruption and mismanagement in one of Africa's most powerful economies.

"Take a permanent holiday" said one protest sign mockingly wishing a happy birthday to Mr Zuma.

Some demonstrators carried a mock coffin covered with a South African flag.

Crowds gathered at a central square and marched peacefully to the Union Buildings, which house Mr Zuma's offices.

Police estimated the crowd size in Pretoria at 30,000. Protest organisers said the number was higher.

"All political parties have come together to send one message," Mr Malema said.

"Zuma must leave office, and the soonest he does that, the better, because this country must recover economically."

Protesters gather on the lawns of the Government Union Buildings in Pretoria. Credit: AP

Last month, President Zuma fired Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, who coincidentally turned 68 on Wednesday, in a Cabinet reshuffle.

Mr Zuma spent 10 years in the same Robben Island prison where Nelson Mandela was held, but his anti-apartheid record has been overshadowed by scandals, including the spending of millions of dollars in state funds on his private home.

He paid back some money after the Constitutional Court ruled against him last year.

On Monday, Mr Zuma said many white demonstrators calling for his resignation are racist.

Opponents described the remark as an affront to legitimate protest.