Protesters have marched in cities across South Africa including Cape Town, Durban, and the capital, Pretoria calling for the removal of President Jacob Zuma.
The demonstrations came after Mr Zuma’s sacking of a respected finance minister, which led to the country’s credit rating being cut to junk status.
The move added pressure to South Africa’s already embattled economy.
But supporters of Mr Zuma also turned out to defend the president.
This week Mr Zuma survived calls by powerful groups allied to the governing ANC for him to go. He also got the backing of a major decision-making body within the party.
He is not due to leave office until 2019 when his second five-year term comes to an end.
One of the immediate sources of controversy was last week’s cabinet reshuffle which saw the removal of, among others, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.
In Johannesburg, there was a heavy police presence as protesters planned to converge near the ANC headquarters.
Hundreds of veterans of the ANC’s armed anti-apartheid struggle and members of the ruling party’s youth wing also gathered outside its headquarters at Luthuli House to protect the building.
Supporters of Mr Zuma told the BBC’s Milton Nkosi that they came out to promote the president’s policies. They said that Mr Zuma was promising radical socio-economic change.
One supporter said that it would be wrong to force regime change in South Africa, adding that such a move would be “going back to the dark ages of apartheid”.