S. African Workers Boo Zuma, Scuffles Erupt, Speeches Canceled at May Day Rally

A worker takes part in a May Day march to the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. (AP Photo/Denis Farrell)

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South African President Jacob Zuma was jeered by labor unionists and his speech was cancelled after scuffles broke out between his supporters and workers chanting for him to step down at a May Day rally on Monday.

Zuma, who is facing calls to resign after a string of scandals, was expected to call for unity between his ruling party, the African National Congress, and labor unions at the event in Bloemfontein, but groups in the crowd booed him and clashed with his supporters, preventing him from speaking.

All speeches were cancelled by the Congress of South African Trade Unions, the country’s largest body of unions, which has called for Zuma to resign.

Zuma, 75, once a popular figure among South Africa’s workers, was eventually ushered away by his bodyguards.

Calls have been mounting for Zuma to resign since last year when South Africa’s highest court found he violated his oath of office by not reimbursing the state some of the $23 million spent improving his private home. Zuma eventually did pay back the money.

Zuma also has been criticized for his ties to the Gupta family, Indian immigrants accused of trying to influence the selection of Cabinet ministers in order to promote their businesses. Zuma has denied any inappropriate influence on his selections and the Guptas deny wrongdoing.

Last month, Zuma fired finance minister Pravin Gordhan, widely considered an effective, honest steward of the economy, an action which further alarmed many South Africans. Tens of thousands marched and held anti-Zuma marches across South Africa after the firing of Gordhan.

South Africa’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, has called for a parliamentary vote of no confidence against Zuma. The vote is expected to be held in the coming weeks.

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