JOHANNESBURG—South Africa’s powerful federation of trade unions on Tuesday called on President Jacob Zuma to step down, becoming the latest ally of the ruling African National Congress to abandon the embattled president.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions, or Cosatu, is part of the alliance that has kept the ANC in power for the past 23 years. The South African Communist Party, the other member of that alliance, already called on Mr. Zuma to quit on Friday, the same day the president dismissed the country’s popular finance minister.
“Cosatu no longer believes that the president is the right person to unite and lead the movement,” the federation’s general secretary, Bheki Ntshalintshali, said. “The time has arrived for him to step down and allow the country to be led by a new collective.”
However, Cosatu stopped short of calling its 1.8 million paid-up members to take to the streets to protest the president and specifically asked its members not to support any demonstrations organized by opposition parties.
Mr. Ntshalintshali also said that Cosatu blamed what he called Mr. Zuma’s inattentive and disruptive leadership for S&P Global Ratings’ downgrade of South Africa’s foreign-currency credit rating to “junk,” while also denouncing the firm’s interference in the democratic process.
S&P on Monday cut the rating by one notch, to double-B-plus, becoming the first major ratings firm since 2000 to determine that the debt of Africa’s most-developed economy was no longer investment grade. The firm also lowered its local-currency rating to triple-B-minus from triple-B.
Mr. Zuma dismissed the finance minister—along with 19 other ministers and deputy ministers who were either moved out of or around cabinet—shortly after midnight Friday, ignoring objections from his own party’s top brass.