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South Africa's top trade union demands Zuma resignation

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
South African President Jacob Zuma gestures during the launch of a large housing project undertaken by the South African government, April 1, 2017, Pietermaritzburg. (Photo by AFP)

South Africa's powerful trade union federation has called for embattled President Jacob Zuma to resign following a deeply unpopular cabinet reshuffle.

Bheki Ntshalintshali, general secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) said at a media briefing on Tuesday that it was time for Zuma to "step down".

"We no longer believe in his leadership abilities," Ntshalintshali said, adding, "The president was careless and reckless.”

Zuma has been under growing pressure by Cosatu, a key part of the governing alliance, following a major cabinet reshuffle which included the sacking of trusted Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

Gordhan's sacking contributed to a credit ratings downgrade to junk status on Monday by Standard & Poor's. The ratings agency added that the shake-up has "put at risk fiscal and growth outcomes."

Ntshalintshali has stressed that the downgrade would "cost the country a lot".

Meanwhile, Cosatu president Sidumo Dlamini has also threatened to mobilize protest rallies to oust Zuma.

"Even if it means marching into the street we will do that to make our point. We believe in this alliance led by the ANC but we want a reconfiguration of this alliance."

Mmusi Maimane, leader of the main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), branded the S&P downgrade "a clear vote of no confidence in President Zuma".

South Africa's new Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba told a media conference that Monday's downgrade to junk status was a setback for the economy.

"We acknowledge yesterday's announcement was a setback... but now is not a time for despondency."

Zuma's cabinet overhaul exposed deep divisions within the ruling African National Congress (ANC)

"There are quite a number of other colleagues and comrades who are unhappy about this situation, particularly the removal of the minister of finance who was serving the country with absolute distinction," Ramaphosa, the ANC deputy president, said after the reshuffle. 

South Africa's former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan gestures as he delivers a speech at the Memorial for the late Anti-Apartheid Stalwart Ahmed Kathrada on April 1, 2016 in Johannesburg. (Photo by AFP)

The opposition DA officials are confident they can recruit enough support from ruling-party lawmakers to unseat the president.

Cosatu, along with the South African Communist Party and the ANC, was at the forefront of the effort to dislodge white-minority rule in South Africa . The struggle led to non-racial elections in 1994.

It has already openly backed Zuma's deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, who led Cosatu during the anti-apartheid struggle, to succeed him in 2019 when the president must stand down.

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