South Africa Stock Volumes Plunge as Protesters Rally Nationwide

JOHANNESBURG (Capital Markets in Africa) – Tens of thousands of protesters marched in South Africa to demand that President Jacob Zuma resigns after he fired the finance minister and reshuffled the cabinet.

 Marchers chanting “Zuma must go” in Pretoria, the capital, walked to the Union Buildings, the official seat of government, while thousands of people faced riot police outside the chained gates of parliament in Cape Town, and rallied in Durban and Port Elizabeth.

In Johannesburg, eNCA television showed footage of police firing stun grenades near the home of the Gupta family, who are friends of Zuma and in business with his son. Demonstrators, there were carrying signs including one that said: “puppet masters must go.” Last year the nation’s graft ombudsman implied that Zuma allowed the Guptas to influence cabinet appointments and the issuing of state contracts. Zuma and the Guptas deny the allegations.

South African equity trading volumes are projected to fall by half on Friday as protesters amass across the country to demand the removal of President Jacob Zuma following a cabinet purge that resulted in the country’s credit rating being downgraded to junk.

“It’s quiet,” Michael Porter, a trader at Unum Capital in Johannesburg, said by phone on Friday. “I don’t know if anybody’s out marching, or whatever they’re doing, but it’s definitely quiet.”

Zuma’s decision to fire Pravin Gordhan as finance minister and make 19 other changes to his administration in a reshuffle announced after midnight on March 31 caused stock volumes to climb to about 344 million shares a day for the next five trading days, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Given the volumes traded so far on Friday, that’s projected to drop to 167.2 million shares by the 5 p.m. close in Johannesburg, a 51 percent decline after the flurry of trade that saw bank counters lose about 100 billion rand ($7.3 billion) in value during the five-day period.

While Johannesburg’s biggest stock market decided not to close on Friday, traders were free to choose to protest by stopping orders or joining the various marches, Nicky Newton-King, chief executive officer of JSE Ltd., said by phone on Thursday. Foreign investors have been net sellers of South African equities in the 11 days through Thursday.

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