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World

In South Africa, Protesters Call For President's Resignation

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Tens of thousands of protesters marched in South Africa's capital today calling for President Jacob Zuma to resign. It's the second round of mass protests in less than a week. There's widespread frustration over a string of political scandals and a lackluster economy. As Peter Granitz reports from Pretoria, pressure is mounting on the president from both outside and inside his party.

PETER GRANITZ, BYLINE: Today is President Zuma's 75th birthday. And while he celebrated the milestone in Johannesburg, some 30,000 people flocked to the lawn outside the presidential offices in Pretoria. The message was clear.

NTEGBELNG NTHULE: We all have one mission - to bring the president down.

GRANITZ: That's Ntehbelng Nthule. She has three degrees and no permanent job, so she traveled two and a half hours to join the protests. She wears the red shirt of the Economic Freedom Fighters. That's a political party that splintered from the African National Congress, the party Zuma leads and the party that has dominated South African politics since democracy began in 1994.

It's led by Julius Malema. He and other opposition leaders, many with vastly different ideologies, are hoping the demonstration forces hesitant ANC members of parliament to support a no-confidence vote.

JULIUS MALEMA: Enough is enough. We can't take it anymore.

GRANITZ: A vote of no-confidence would force Zuma from office. He's survive several before, so the opposition parties are petitioning the courts to allow for a secret ballot. There is growing pressure on Zuma, who late last month fired his respected Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. Two credit ratings agencies downgraded South Africa to junk status following the move, so it's going to get more expensive to borrow money here, and food prices could rise. That worries pensioner Ida Hlatshwayo who supports her children and grandchildren with a government grant.

IDA HLATSHWAYO: Our children - they're not working. We got no money.

GRANITZ: Hlatshwayo is a longtime ANC supporter. She even voted for Zuma, but she says it's time for a change. For NPR News, I'm Peter Granitz in Pretoria. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.