Vote of no confidence against Zuma brings thousands of South Africans to the streets

On 8th August 2017, President Zuma faced his fourth vote of no confidence before parliament. The motion, once again, did not pass but the battle to unseat Zuma has pitted MPs against one another, and even divided some among Zuma's party - the African National Congress (ANC). 

The discord has spread beyond the seat of government to society, as the public's growing frustration with Zuma's alleged corrupt practices and misuse of public funds has sparked multiple protests, including demonstrations in support of the vote of no confidence prior to 8th August as well as Zuma and ANC supporters taking to the streets of major cities throughout the country. 

Peaceful Assembly

In anticipation of a vote of no confidence against President Zuma, several protests took place, including one organised by the coalition #UniteBehind in Cape Town on 7th August 2017, gathering thousands. #UniteBehind is a coalition of civil society, activists and religious leaders promoting an equal and just society and that are against corruption and state capture. 

Other anti-Zuma protests took place in Durban and Pretoria. In Johannesburg, police anticipated a potential altercation at the ANC headquarters, where protesters were headed, so there was a large police force deployed in South Africa's largest city. In Pretoria, media reported that the protest was peaceful. However, in areas of Johannesburg, according to the BBC, local media had apparently reported that tear gas and rubber bullets were fired at demonstrators. Hundreds of Zuma and ANC supporters also gathered at the party headquarters in Johannesburg, shouting slogans in support of the president and his policies. 

Regular service delivery and housing-related protests have continued to take place throughout the country, including and in particular in the provinces of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng on 8th May 2017

Expression

In the past few months, there have been cases of attacks and threats to journalists in South Africa. Business Day's columnist Peter Bruce and editor Tim Cohen were threatened and assaulted at Bruce's house in Johannesburg on 29th June 2017 by a group of about 20 members of the Black First Land First (BLF) movement that is linked to the Gupta family, according to #GuptaLeaks. Bruce is convinced that the attack is related to an opinion piece in which he details being targeted by the Gupta family for writing critical articles about them. 

On 27th July 2017, a panel discussion organised by a centre for investigative journalism - amaBhungane - on "Inside the #GuptaLeaks" was violently disrupted by BLF members and it leader Andile Mngxitama. amaBhungane has been at the forefront of publishing and reporting on email leaks regarding state capture in South Africa that focus on the Gupta family's involvement. A video of the disruption at the panel discussion/town hall meeting can be viewed below. 

On 8th August 2017, the BLF and its leader were found guilty of contempt of a court order issued earlier on 7th July, in a case brought forward by the South Africa National Editors Forum and 11 journalists to stop BLF and its members from harassing, threatening, intimidating or invading the privacy of any journalist.

Other physical attacks against journalists have taken place throughout the country. On 21st April 2017, several journalists were allegedly attacked and manhandled by a mob at a church in Port Elizabeth, where they were reporting on the arrest of the church's pastor for human trafficking. In May 2017, journalists from the South Africa Broadcasting Company were attacked while covering a protest in Vuwani, Limpopo province, and a photographer and a journalist were attacked covering protests in Coligny that erupted after a court ruling led to the release of two murder suspects on bail.