JOHANNESBURG: A memorial service for Indian-origin anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada today turned into a protest venue against South African President Jacob Zuma's cabinet reshuffle.
The memorial service was organised by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation and the South African Communist Party (SACP) after the government cancelled at the last minute a scheduled official memorial service in Soweto on Saturday morning.
More than 6,000 people gathered at the City Hall here for the memorial service where African National Congress' veteran leaders and Kathrada's widow sought Zuma's resignation.
Former President Kgalema Motlanthe, called for Zuma’s head in his eulogy.
Zuma came under fire from all sectors of society after he dismissed five ministers, including Indian-origin Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan who has been lauded for his efforts to pull South Africa out of an economic abyss.
Today, the City Hall thundered with chants against Zuma.
"For those who temporarily think they are in charge of our country, they must know that our forebears proclaimed that there is no government that can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of the people," said Gauteng Provincial ANC representative Brian Hlongwane.
"We are here to celebrate an extraordinary generation who led us out of the wilderness and into democracy,” said Kathrada’s widow Barbara, who also served a decade in jail for anti-apartheid activities.
She too called on Zuma to resign.
Gordhan said that the country was in a "mini crisis."
"Postponing the official memorial service was petty and spiteful," Gordhan said as the final speaker at the service.
Kathrada, who was jailed alongside Nelson Mandela on Robben Island, died on Tuesday after a short illness following brain surgery.