South African President Jacob Zuma has branded protesters calling for his resignation “racists”, saying they held placards that were derogatory about black people.
Thousands of people took to the streets after he sacked the finance minister.
The latest protests protests organised by several opposition parties and civil society groups.
“The marches that took place last week demonstrated that racism is real and exists in our country,” he said.
Zuma plays the race card – By Milton Nkosi, BBC News, Johannesburg
Many South Africans have said President Zuma is blatantly playing the race card on an issue-based protest against his own defective style of leadership following a near catastrophic cabinet reshuffle when he sacked the much respected Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.
His decision was swiftly followed by two credit ratings agencies downgrading South Africa to junk status.
This caused many people – black and white – to come out onto the streets in their tens of thousands, including many from his party the ANC, calling for Mr Zuma’s resignation.
Unfortunately for the president, more protests are planned for Wednesday – his 75th birthday.
Opposition parties have vowed to keep the pressure on. He will increasingly find it difficult to use race as an excuse.