South African President Jacob Zuma has abandoned a May Day rally after a large crowd of workers chanted slogans against him and demanded his resignation.
Zuma, who is facing calls to resign after a string of scandals, was seen hastily leaving the podium and being whisked away in a motorcade from the rally in the central city of Bloemfontein on Monday.
The president, 75, once a popular figure among South Africa’s workers, was heckled by trade union members who sang anti-Zuma songs as he prepared to speak at the rally.
TV footage also showed scuffles breaking out between some members of the crowd calling for Zuma to step down and others who were chanting in support of the president.
Organizers from the labor federation known as the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) abruptly cancelled Zuma’s speech and other planned addresses at the rally.
Cosatu president Sidumo Dlamini, who had been due to share a stage with Zuma, said that organizers’ attempts to calm the crowds were unsuccessful.
“It is sad that after a successful march which was well attended by the workers… chaos from members prevented us from proceeding with the program,” Dlamini said.
Cosatu, a key political ally of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), last month called on Zuma to step down.
The call for resignation came after his sacking of the finance minister triggered a sovereign credit rating downgrade to “junk.”
Former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan was widely respected by markets and regarded as a staunch opponent of the corruption
The developments come as the administration of President Zuma has been accused of corruption, mismanagement and of failing to transform the lives of black South Africans.
Zuma has become a focus of mounting public discontent over rising unemployment and a stagnant economy.
In recent months, marches calling on Zuma to quit have drawn tens of thousands of protesters.
South Africa’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, has called for a parliamentary vote of no confidence against Zuma
Previous no-confidence votes against Zuma have failed as his ANC party, which has ruled South Africa since the end of apartheid in the 1990s, dominates the parliament
South African political leaders on the May Day try to woo a working class that has been hard hit by lay-offs in key sectors such as mining.
By Africafrique and agencies