Protesters have marched in cities across South Africa calling for the resignation of President Jacob Zuma
Tens of thousands of protesters marched through South African cities on Friday demanding President Jacob Zuma's resignation, as a second ratings agency downgraded the country's debt to junk status.
Zuma's sacking of respected finance minister Pravin Gordhan last week has fanned public anger, divisions within the ruling ANC party and a sharp decline in investor confidence in the country.
"Recent political events, including a major cabinet reshuffle, will weaken standards of governance and public finances," the Fitch ratings agency predicted as it announced the downgrade.
The Standard & Poor's agency had also downgraded South African sovereign debt to junk status after Zuma's dramatic ministerial shake-up.
Zuma, who came to power in 2009, has been battered by a series of corruption scandals during his time in office, while the country has suffered record unemployment, slowing growth and stubborn racial inequality.
His removal of Gordhan unleashed a fresh bout of criticism, as many ordinary South Africans and international investors saw the former minister as a bulwark against corruption.
In the biggest political protests for several years, large crowds gathered in the capital Pretoria, the economic hub Johannesburg and coastal cities of Durban and Cape Town.
The ANC slipped to 55 percent of the vote in last year's local elections - its worst ever result.
Senior party figures, including Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, have spoken out against Gordhan's sacking.
Junk status was likely to increase the cost of the government's debt and shrink public funds available for welfare, health, education and housing.
South Africa's trade union federation Cosatu this week joined many anti-apartheid veterans, civil action groups and business leaders calling for the president to resign.
Zuma, 74, is due to step down as head of the ANC in December, and as president ahead of the 2019 general election.
Friday's marches were mainly peaceful, though police used stun grenades to disperse rival groups of protesters outside the Guptas' main residence in Johannesburg.
Outside Cape Town, retired archbishop Desmond Tutu, who is in frail health, made an appearance in support of the protests.
Parliament will vote on a motion of no confidence in the president on April 18.
Darul Ihsan Media Desk