South Africa’s scandal-hit President Jacob Zuma has abandoned a May Day rally after he was booed by workers demanding his resignation.
Scuffles broke out between Zuma’s supporters and opponents, resulting in all speeches being cancelled.
The main labour federation, Cosatu, called on Zuma to step down last month after he sacked his widely respected finance minister. Zuma’s allies say he will remain in office until his term ends in 2019.
He was seen on live television hastily leaving the podium and being whisked away in a motorcade from the rally in Bloemfontein city, Reuters news agency reports.
Zuma attended the rally despite the fact that powerful affiliates of Cosatu had opposed his presence.
Cosatu is part of a formal alliance with the governing African National Congress (ANC).
Earlier, sections of the crowd sang a song which, loosely translated, means: “Have you heard the good news? Zuma is going,” South Africa’s privately-owned News24 site reported.
Cosatu leader Sdumo Dlamini said the rally had been marred by chaos, forcing its cancellation. The protest required thorough reflection on the part of the country’s leaders, he said.
Senior ANC officials were also booed at a May Day rally in Durban city, the political heartland of Zuma.
Pressure on Zuma to resign has been mounting since he sacked Pravin Gordhan as finance minister in March. It led to global rating agencies downgrading South Africa to junk status.
The reshuffle was condemned by trade unions, big business, the opposition and and senior members of the government, including Deputy President Cyril Rampahosa.
The opposition has repeatedly accused Zuma of being corrupt, and says the reshuffle was aimed at giving him and his allies greater access to government money.
Zuma said the reshuffle was aimed at promoting “radical economic transformation” to benefit the poor black majority.