South Africans to protest against President Zuma on Friday

The office of the ANC chief whip's liaison officer, Nonceba Mhlauli, said they were not told the reasons for Jonas's resignations and said she was not in a position to speculate.

But it is the growing challenge to Zuma's rule coming from within his own party and the wider tripartite alliance that will have South Africa's beleaguered president most concerned.

The ultra-left EFF party said in a statement the Nkandla saga "renders him (Zuma) unfit to hold the high office of President".

"He did tell us a year ago, and the reasons were the breakdown in relationship", she said. The party retains a large majority in parliament, and Zuma has easily survived previous confidence votes. Last night the latter warned that protesters intent on taking their calls for Zuma to resign to the party's headquarters in Johannesburg on Friday would be met with force.

"We will abide by the decision of the ANC National Working Committee as announced by ANC Secretary General comrade Gwede Mantashe that the ANC does not and will not support this motion".

However, Gordhan's removal - which also cost the country one of its investment credit ratings - triggered unprecedented criticism from Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa as well as the party's treasurer and several ANC allies.

"We should not allow inflammatory rhetoric from certain elements, including on social media, to damage our fragile social fabric and turn South Africans against each other", ANC's spokesperson Kusela Sangoni said.

Reports had been that President Zuma fired Mr Gordhan over allegations, contained in a leaked report, that he was sabotaging him. "The committee has accepted the irretrievable breakdown of the relationship between the President and a member of his Cabinet as sufficient explanation for the decision taken by the President", he said. Zuma, how do you justify the sacking of a competent minister like Derek Hanekom and keep the incompetent Bathabile Dlamini? Similar bids have failed to muster the needed votes to oust Zuma in the past. The move had disastrous consequences for the country's already struggling economy, sending the rand into freefall and causing rating agency Standard and Poor's to downgrade the country's sovereign credit ranking to junk status.

Mantashe's remarks come amid divisions in the ruling party.

The DA will march in the commercial hub Johannesburg, while the South African Communist Party (SACP), a historic ally of the ANC which has also demanded that Zuma step down, will march in Pretoria alongside civil society groups.

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.

  • Joey Payne