The Congress of South African Trade Unions, COSATU, a federation of all the trade unions in the country, has called for President Jacob Zuma to step down, saying that he was no longer the “right person” to lead the country.
Bheki Ntshalintshali, Secretary General of the association which says it has about 1.8 million members, made this known during a media briefing on Tuesday.
President Zuma has been under growing pressure following a major cabinet reshuffle which included the sacking of the country’s former Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan.
The development led to South Africa’s credit rating being cut to junk status putting more pressure on a troubled economy.
COSATU forms part of what is called the Tripartite Alliance along with the the African National Congress, ANC, and the South African Communist Party, SACP.
The SACP has also called on President Zuma to go.
Ntshalintshali told newsmen that the union’s decision was driven by Zuma’s failure to consult it before making changes to his cabinet, describing the president’s leadership as “inattentive, negligent… and disruptive”.
He, however, added that the COSATU was not concerned about the sacking of Gordhan as finance minister because he was, as his predecessors, “not a friend of the workers”.
“We will support the new minister where necessary and fight with him where necessary,” he added.
Analysts say President Jacob Zuma is certainly politically weaker today than he was over the weekend describing COSATU’s call for him to step down as a crushing blow to the beleaguered head of state.
The workers’ union federation had been a reliable supporter of the president against unrelenting calls for his removal.
Focus now shifts to the National Working Committee,NWC, of the ANC which is currently meeting.
However, regardless of the outcome of that meeting, deep divisions within the body will entrench positions between the pro and anti-Zuma factions.
Zuma is due to step down in 2019 at the end of his second five-year term as president.
Last week, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa called the sacking of Gordhan “totally unacceptable”.
Former President Kgalema Motlanthe also said that it was difficult for Zuma to command respect after the constitutional court found him in breach of the law when he failed to repay government money spent on his private home.
Meanwhile, new Finance Minsiter Malusi Gigaba has been working to reassure South Africans about the state of the economy.
Gigaba told a media briefing that the country’s downgrade to junk status by ratings agency S&P was a setback, but that people should not be despondent.
“I’m not saying it’s easy to get out of a rating downgrade, yet I remain confident,” he added.
He said he would lead a meeting with ratings agencies Fitch and Moody’s.