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ANC backs Zuma as opposition calls for his resignation

"The Presidency respects the right of South Africans to protest peacefully as enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic".

"We have confidence in the leaders" of Parliament and the African National Congress "and we trust that they will rise to the occasion and give decisive, fearless and honest leadership", the bishops said. It says there were no injuries.

Opposition parties have intensified their efforts to unseat President Zuma, pressuring the ruling party to recall him.

Jonas's resignation comes a week after he was axed as deputy minister of finance in a Cabinet reshuffle that sparked widespread outrage against President Jacob Zuma.

"He explained his reasons then to us that his relationship between himself and finance minister Gordhan was not good‚" she said.

The South African currency, the rand, lost five per cent of its value on the foreign exchanges, but far more serious was the fact that one of the big ratings agencies, Standard and Poor's, downgraded South African bonds to "junk" status.

Earlier on Thursday, two former members of Zuma's cabinet whom he sacked together with Gordhan resigned as ANC legislators, dealing another blow to the embattled party.

"The office of the ANC chief whip confirms the resignation of former deputy finance minister and ANC MP Cde Mcebisi Jonas as a member of parliament effective March 31", the ANC chief whip's spokeswoman Nonceba Mhlauli said.

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"Following the consultation process‚ the Motion will be scheduled for debate in the National Assembly on Tuesday‚ 18 April 2017‚ at 14h00". Aside from noting that fictitious SMS's were doing the rounds, Outa also made mention of the newly installed Minister of Police, Fikile Mbalula, who this week said that police should "meet fire with fire".

Similar votes have failed in the past.

South Africa's rand has tumbled more than 11 percent since March 27 when Zuma ordered Gordhan home from overseas meetings with investors.

The president has been accused of being in the sway of the wealthy Gupta business family, allegedly granting them influence over government appointments, contracts and state-owned businesses.

S&P said the cut to below investment grade reflected "heightened political and institutional uncertainties" following Zuma's shock purge of critical ministers.

Mantashe - who was among those who had hit out at Zuma in recent days - blamed Gordhan's sacking on "the irretrievable breakdown" in relations with the president. He retains the full support of the leadership of at least five of the ANC's provincial structures, a large number of MPs in parliament, as well as the ANC women's and youth leagues.

Mantashe's remarks come amid divisions in the ruling party.

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