South African President Jacob Zuma has ordered the deployment of more than 440 soldiers to prevent a repeat of violent clashes outside parliament as he prepare to deliver his annual state of the nation address on Thursday.
74-year-old Zuma has faced growing criticism since his last address over a series of damaging corruption scandals, worsening unemployment levels and slowing economic growth.
In December, he beat back an attempt by at least four ministers to oust him from power, following local elections that delivered the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party’s worst-ever results.
The president said the military deployment was to maintain “law and order” outside parliament in Cape Town, but the move was condemned by the main opposition Democratic Alliance party.
He is also fighting a court order that could reinstate almost 800 corruption charges against him over a multi-billion dollar arms deal in the 1990s.
A separate probe by the country’s top watchdog uncovered evidence of possible criminal activity in his relationship with the Guptas, a business family accused of wielding undue political influence.
Increasing numbers of anti-apartheid veterans, ANC activists, trade unions, civil groups and business leaders have called for Zuma to resign.
However Zuma retains strong loyalty among many rank-and-file ANC party members and its lawmakers.