11/04/2017 07:25 BST | Updated 11/04/2017 16:01 BST

Opposition Parties Come Together For Mass Action To Depose Zuma

The plan for 'Operation Zexit' is first to get rid of the president, and then the African National Congress in 2019.

If the anti-Zuma march of April 7 was meant to feel like a spontaneous uprising of ordinary people, the one planned for April 12 will be the next step up -- a mass mobilisation of all the opposition parties of consequence.

It will begin in Church Square in Pretoria, and proceed to the Union Buildings. There, a message will be delivered to President Jacob Zuma: he is the first citizen in name only.

On Monday, leaders from the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), African Independent Congress (AIC), African People's Convention (APC), Congress of the People (Cope), Democratic Alliance (DA), Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and the United Democratic Movement (UDM) held a joint press conference.

They announced that their differences had been set aside, for the purposes of putting the country first. Zuma presented such a grave danger to the country, they said, that all their individual political programmes had been put on hold for the purpose of forcing Zuma to step down.

"From Wednesday, 12 April 2017 onward, the aforementioned political parties shall embark on a programme of periodic mass action to ensure that South Africans, and their country, are protected from the brutal hand of Mr Jacob Zuma. We now announce -- to all South Africans, Africa and the world -- that we have declared 12 April a national day of action," said DA national spokesperson Phumzile van Damme, reading from a statement.

There's a delicious irony to the date of the beginning of this mass action –- Zuma turns 75 on Wednesday. If everything goes according to plan, his gift from the opposition parties (joined by civil society and ordinary citizens) may be not be quite what he was hoping for.

UDM leader Bantu Holomisa confirmed that the necessary permission had been obtained for the march.

There had been some incidents of violence which marred the marches on Friday, reportedly instigated by people wearing ANC Youth League regalia. The opposition parties warned that this would not be tolerated on Wednesday. "Let those people organise Zuma's birthday elsewhere," said EFF leader Julius Malema. "Nobody will scare us. Not the uniforms bought at Pep store that were outside Luthuli House on Friday, and not the so-called youth league. If they come to our march with ANC or [South African Communist Party] t-shirts, it must be to join us. They will subject themselves to our leadership and discipline."

Van Damme concurred, saying that nobody would be intimidated by any threats.

"We owe it to the poor to explain what junk status means. What it means to someone who lives in a shack today, but wants to buy a house tomorrow."

Last week, Parliament's speaker Baleka Mbete announced that the motion of no confidence tabled by opposition parties would be debated on April 18.

As each party leader pleaded with those ANC MPs who no longer wish for Zuma to be president to vote him out, Malema warned that the march on Wednesday was not really about the outcomes of that motion, several of which have already failed in Parliament.

"We are not so bothered about what happens on the 18th. We are worried about mobilising the people. Do they understand what is happening to the country?" Malema asked. He said it wasn't surprising that white people had been so alarmed by the news that S&P Global and Fitch had downgraded South Africa's rating to junk status. They had the benefit of a better education; the task now is to explain to poor people how their lives were now worse.

"We owe it to the poor to explain what junk status means. What it means to someone who lives in a shack today, but wants to buy a house tomorrow," he said.

After the march and the motion of no confidence, the parties said the focus would be on more action, more mobilisations, towards removing the ANC from power in 2019. But that timeline did not apply to the president. He needs to go now, they said, before he does any more damage.