South Africans to Zuma: Why did you dismiss finance minister, Resign now

At the same time, the party was trying to engineer a no-confidence vote against Zuma at an emergency session of parliament.

The SACP has also called on Mr Zuma to go.

Speaking at a press conference, COSATU Secretary General Bheki Ntshalintshali said that Zuma was no longer the "right person" to lead the country.

Zuma's ruling party, the African National Congress, has an absolute majority in parliament, but the opposition expects numerous ruling MPs to break the party discipline and vote conscientiously.

The main trades' union federation, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), which has 1.8m members and which has traditionally aligned itself closely with the ANC, has turned against the president.

Mantashe - who was among those who had hit out at Zuma in recent days - blamed Gordhan's sacking on "the irretrievable breakdown" in relations with the president.

Newsmen report that on March 30, Leader of a South African opposition party, Julius Malema, filed for disciplinary or impeachment proceedings against Zuma in a court application. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa described the sacking as "totally unacceptable".

Former Transport Minister Dipuo Peters, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, who was the energy minister, and ex-Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas resigned as members of parliament, effective March 31, the National Assembly said in emailed statements.

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South African President Jacob Zuma says the country's fiscal policies will not change and people should remain calm, after its credit rating was cut to junk following a political reshuffle that he defended as bringing new blood into the Cabinet.

A smooth transition in the finance portfolio has taken place, which shows the maturity of leadership within the governing party, Zuma said.

"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", said the ruling party.

Gigaba and his team will also be reaching out to the worldwide investor community urgently to assure them that South Africa remains a stable, reliable and competitive investment destination, according to Zuma.

"This is a serious weakness and we shall attend to it within renewed vigour", the president said.

Peter Attard Montalto, analyst at Nomura bank, said in a briefing note that Zuma was "a master tactician who can play the internal machinations of the ANC much better than anyone else".

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.