South Africa's African National Congress "closed ranks" around President Jacob Zuma after two key allies of the ruling party called for his resignation following a cabinet reshuffle that cost the country one of its investment-grade credit ratings.
Opposition party leaders said they would do everything to have Zuma removed from office, including mass mobilisation and protests, court action and a motion of no-confidence tabled by the DA in Parliament.
The main trades' union federation, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), which has 1.8m members and which has traditionally aligned itself closely with the ANC, has turned against the president.
The downgrade came after S&P had lowered South Africa's sovereign credit status to junk on Monday.
Pravin Gordhan, former South African finance minister, right, speaks to Mcebisi Jonas, former South African deputy finance minister, during a news conference in Pretoria, South Africa, on Friday, March 31, 2017.
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This is published unedited from the IANS feed.
"The length of the meeting collapses rapidly the rumour that we were put in this meeting and President Zuma just lectured us and we all cowed down and apologised‚" Mantashe said at a media briefing after the meeting. He retains the full support of the leadership of at least five of the ANC's provincial structures, a large number of MPs in parliament, as well as the ANC women's and youth leagues.
The events that unfolded after the reshuffle had "created anxiety and undue confusion as a result of the discordant views, in particular of the National Officials of the ANC", Mantashe said, referring to the criticism directed at Zuma.
There have been widespread calls for President Zuma to be recalled by the ruling party.
Duarte said that the ANC had been aware of Zuma wanting to sack Gordhan from November past year. The political party that led post-apartheid South Africa to freedom has governed in alliance with COSATU and the South African Communist Party, which has also recently called for his resignation.
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ANC secretary Gwede Mantashe said the ANC national working committee (NWC) accepted Zuma's reason of the breakdown in relationship as reason why he reshuffled the Cabinet.
It later said it would meet Zuma "as soon as possible" at his request to discuss the cabinet reshuffle.
Gordhan, a two-time finance minister, was regarded as a steady hand by the worldwide investors on whom South Africa relies to finance its hefty budget and current account deficits.
Cosatu said its hopes that Zuma would usher in a new era of democratic consultation have been shattered.
With Zuma scheduled to step down as party leader in December and as the nation's president in 2019, many ANC officials may believe it's not the time to remove him, said Daryl Glaser, a political science professor at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. The only ANC body with more authority than the NWC, the integrity commission, submitted a letter asking Zuma to resign but later withdrew it because of apparent disagreement among commission members.
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Zuma himself, in his first public comments since he fired Gordhan, said that fiscal policies would be unchanged and that people should remain calm.