Zuma, whose decision to fire Gordhan outraged opponents and some allies, and was cited by Standard & Poor's as a reason for its downgrading of South Africa's credit rating to "junk", said again on Thursday that fiscal policies would be retained. However, there was sporadic violence between pro- and anti-Zuma supporters in Johannesburg when members of the latter group strayed too close to the ANC's headquarters in the city centre.
Zuma this week appeared to have quelled a rebellion within the ANC despite senior party figures, including Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, speaking out against Gordhan's sacking.
Several thousand people attended the Johannesburg protest organised by the opposition Democratic Alliance party, which hopes to make gains in 2019 elections under its leader Mmusi Maimane, 36.
Pretoria and Johannesburg also each witnessed tens of thousands of people taking to the streets calling for leadership change. "We are not going to allow anyone who undermines the ANC and Zuma to come here and do as they please", he said outside Luthuli House.
Demonstrators take part in a protest calling for the removal of South Africa's President Jacob Zuma in Johannesburg, South Africa, on April 7.
"I am marching to get the ANC to take us seriously and respect our wishes by letting the president go", said one of the protestors to Reuters.
Zuma and the ruling party, which suffered big losses in municipal elections past year, have been weakened by other scandals around the president.
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"We are sick and exhausted of the flouting of the constitution, flouting of the law" by the government, said Lawson Naidoo, a protest organizer in Cape Town.
Former finance minister Pravin Gordhan is not a hero of "our people" but a hero of fat cats and capitalists, ANC NEC member Fikile Mbalula said on Friday.
SaveSA, a campaign comprising organisations, civil society groups, business leaders, citizens and others, organised what it says is a legal demonstration, with participants gathering from 10am at Church Square in Tshwane to march to the Union Buildings at 12pm, in terms of section 17 of the Constitution.
"We are here today to defend our president‚ Jacob Zuma".
Supporters then joined in and made it clear they are willing to protect Zuma with their lives.
"Such actions have no place in democratic South Africa and threaten to turn the country back to a time where civic activism by citizens was stifled in the name of "preserving law and order", the party said.
A "holding hands" picket is planned in Cape Town, while other groups are expected to march in coastal city of Durban. In Cape Town, motorcyclists with South African flags led a rally. Members of the influential ANC Youth League gathered in downtown Durban, singing "Awuleth'umshini wami", a song popularized by Zuma, which means "bring me my gun" and held placards supporting the president.