Protesters against President Jacob Zuma in Pretoria. Picture: REUTERS
Protesters against President Jacob Zuma in Pretoria. Picture: REUTERS

Townships across Pretoria were tense on Tuesday morning ahead of a vote on President Jacob Zuma’s leadership in parliament. Streets in the capital were barricaded with burning tyres.

The National Intervention and Public Order Policing Units were placed on standby as word spread that earlier protests — which were quickly ended by police — would erupt again if Zuma was not voted out.

MPs are due to debate a motion of no confidence at 2pm on Tuesday‚ after which they are expected to vote on whether or not Zuma should stay in power.

Although Mamelodi’s streets were quickly cleared by police this morning‚ residents could be seen collecting rocks and stockpiling tyres. Children were sent to collect petrol from several nearby garages.

Gideon Dube‚ a Mamelodi resident‚ said he was concerned about what would happen if the vote did not go the way people were hoping. "The trouble this morning was mild. People were allowing taxis and buses through‚ especially those carrying EFF supporters to the city centre‚ but I am worried about what is going to happen if the big man [Zuma] is not voted out. We are hearing there will be big trouble. I just hope that the police are ready for this because I don’t that they will be able to stop it."

TimesLIVE saw people carrying 2-litre cool drink bottles filled with petrol. They refused to speak to journalists and called older protesters‚ who told reporters to leave the area. "This is not your fight. This is ours. This is our time to speak. You have yours in the elections‚" said a teenager.

Samuel Msimango‚ who lives in Mamelodi’s Mahube Valley‚ said people were not just angry with Zuma. "People are not only protesting for Zuma to leave or stay. There are also people who are going to protest over the lack of electricity and water." He said people had been protesting over the lack of services for weeks. "Residents from here have been fighting ... with water‚ electricity and toilets. There is a lot of anger here and it’s all going to come out today."

A Mamelodi police officer‚ who asked not to be named‚ said they were all on standby and that leave had been cancelled: "Everyone has been placed on high alert."

A Pretoria K9 unit member said that they were conducting "round-the-clock patrols" in the city‚ especially in hot-spots such as Mamelodi and Soshanguve. "We have deployed to all off-ramps‚ and major routes into and out of the townships. We are ready and if needs be we will be able to call on more manpower."

Tshwane Metro Police spokesman Isaac Mahamba said the situation, for now, was calm after this morning’s protests. "It took us about two hours to clear the blocked roads in several areas. We have deployed all our forces and are in control of the situation."

He noted that the police had approved a march for 10‚000 and had prepared for this turnout, but they were expecting a peaceful march as per the terms discussed by the leaders of the march: "The march has to be peaceful; those who are not taking part must not be affected. We will be here to ensure other people’s rights are respected."

Midway split in Cape Town

Meanwhile the Cape Town CBD is split down the middle. ANC supporters chanting Zuma’s praises started marching from the Grand Parade in the morning. ANC supporters‚ dressed in the party’s colours‚ sang: "Voetsek‚ man! Fokof‚ man! Leave Msholozi alone."

Opposition parties‚ who marched from Keizersgracht Street‚ called for Zuma’s downfall. The two groups are set to meet at the gates of Parliament.

Hundreds of police officers have been deployed to keep the peace in the streets of the city, which has granted the ANC’s Dullah Omar Region a permit for 10,000 marchers. They started filing into the Grand Parade after 10am as a van blared Zuma’s trademark Mshini Wam’ (Bring me my machine gun) song. By 11.30am, buses filled with ANC supporters were still streaming into the CBD.

But opposition parties beat them to it. DA supporter, in blue, had gathered at Keizersgracht parking lot early in the morning‚ alongside EFF‚ Congress of the People‚ Freedom Front Plus and UDM supporters for their "Fire Zuma" march. This group has also been granted permission for 10,000 marchers.

One protestor told TimesLIVE: "I am here to see Zuma off. I saw a great poster saying: ‘The people have come to say goodbye’. I was here in April for the ZumaMustFall [protest]. I am here today to see that it happens."

At one stage, a group of DA supporters passed ANC members and sang: "These are thieves." The ANC supporters retaliated, saying, "Maimane is a dog."

The "Fire Zuma" protestors brandished hundreds of posters. One read: "Amnesty se gat — Go straight to jail." Another: "A yes vote for Zuma is treason."

There were almost no posters among the pro-Zuma group, instead‚ they were dancing‚ singing and waving a few South African flags.

EFF coverging on Church Square

A march by the EFF to the Union Buildings in Pretoria was set to get underway in the morning‚ led by the party’s Tshwane region. Businesses around Church Square‚ where about a 1‚000 people in the party’s red regalia had gathered‚ have shut their doors as a precaution.

Benjamin Disoloane‚ the party’s Tshwane regional chairperson‚ said they were expecting more people to descend on the square from across the region. "People of Tshwane have responded very well‚ which shows that this is citizen’s march in solidarity with MPs who will be voting on this historic day."

He said they were hopeful that Zuma would be removed from office, and that if he was not removed‚ they would mobilise the citizenry to ensure he left: "He is not a president anymore so we have no memorandum to deliver. We are just going to march to the Union Buildings and return."

Marchers were warming up by dancing to struggle songs coming from large speakers mounted on the EFF’s truck.

"Zuma will step down today. He has survived several times but today we will have an acting president because most MPs will vote against him‚" said Steven Madondo at Church Square.

Another EFF supporter‚ Mike Mpane‚ said they were gearing up for celebration: "We have the numbers‚ we are sure that Zuma won’t survive this motion of no confidence."

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