East London residents took to the streets from as early as 7am to add their voices to a nationwide call for President Jacob Zuma to step down.
In the biggest political protests in years, large crowds gathered in the capital Pretoria, the economic hub Johannesburg, and coastal cities of Durban and Cape Town. "Zuma, as the saying goes, has struck a rock, but he struck too hard now because the people are saying it is our turn to have a say", Heywood said. "The country needs to change, we still love South Africa because it is still our home".
Police used stun grenades to break up the clash between the anti-Zuma and pro-Zuma groups at the gates of the Gupta compound.
The ruling African National Congress party has been hurt by scandals surrounding the president, and some party members have called for Zuma to quit.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane told a gathering at Mary Fitzgerald Square in Johannesburg that Zuma, and not the country, was "junk".
Some protesters carried signs reading "Fire Zuma" while others said they felt the ruling class were more concerned about enriching themselves than dealing with high unemployment, a slowing economy and stubborn racial inequality.
The rand fell against the U.S. dollar and S&P and Fitch downgraded the country's credit ratings to "junk status".
All backgrounds In Cape Town city centre alone, more than 30,000 people from all backgrounds marched peacefully to parliament, calling for an end to government corruption and Mr Zuma's presidency.
ANC supporters came out in defence of Zuma, saying they would protect the president.
The protests came as the Fitch agency downgraded South Africa's credit rating to junk status, citing political turmoil and governance concerns. Analysts doubted marches would shake the president.
The organisations are also hoping the protest will convince MPs to vote in favour of a motion of no confidence in Zuma.
Demonstrations are taking place in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Pretoria, following last month's cabinet reshuffle, in which the president fired nine members of his cabinet including, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.
But in recent years it has lost voter support and is now embroiled in internal struggles over the way forward.
Outside Luthuli House, camouflaged members of the party's former military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, claimed to be protecting the building from anti-Zuma marchers.
"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. Sangoni said that the ANC would continue speaking to civil society and everyone with grievances about Zuma.
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Nikiwe Apeteng said she felt it was important to pray for the country.
In Johannesburg, where people are due to converge a short distance from the ANC headquarters, motorists have been advised to avoid the city's central business district.