South Africa's ruling party backs embattled president

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.

"No army allows its soldiers to be commanded by the enemy general", said Mantashe, indicating that Zuma's fate rests within the ranks of the party he leads. Mantashe, however, said such a vote would fail because it amounted to asking the ANC, in power since the end of white minority rule in 1994, to "close ranks" rather than defect at the whim of another political party.

He said the party had accepted Zuma's reasons for firing Pravin Gordhan, and that it was a mistake for party officials to differ in public over the Cabinet reshuffle last week.

He made headlines a year ago when he said that he had been offered the finance minister job by members of the Gupta family, Indian businessmen who have close ties with Zuma and have been accused of influence peddling. The rand fell more than 1 percent following the ANC's decision to back Zuma. They blame political uncertainty and the abrupt sacking of Gordhan.

"We have confidence in the leaders" of Parliament and the African National Congress "and we trust that they will rise to the occasion and give decisive, fearless and honest leadership", the bishops said. 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.

In a veiled attack on Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane, Gordhan said there was a trend of misleading the poor.

"I need time to reflect before making a decision".

Ramaphosa, who could succeed Zuma, described it as "totally unacceptable".

Mantashe denied that Gordhan was sacked exclusively because of an intelligence report that accused him and Jonas of plotting with banks in London to undermine the South African economy, saying it was not the only reason for Gordhan's removal.

  • Leroy Wright