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South African trade union says Zuma must resign

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — In a move that could have major political ramifications for South Africa's ruling African National Congress party, the country's biggest trade union called Friday for President Jacob Zuma to resign and said it will not support the ANC in next year's elections.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, or NUMSA, the biggest affiliate of the umbrella union movement COSATU which is one of the partners in the ruling ANC tripartite alliance, said President Jacob Zuma's administration has been marked by one scandal after another.

The decisions were made at a special congress of the union, held east of Johannesburg. The union called on Zuma to resign because his administration is "steeped in corruption, patronage and nepotism," said the union's secretary-general Irvin Jim.

Jim said the African National Congress has not stuck to its election promises to work in close consultation with the unions. "It has just passed anti-working class law and policies," said Jim. He said the union would not support the ANC in next year's elections. "NUMSA as an organization will neither endorse nor support the ANC or any other political party in 2014," he said.

The union's alliance with the ANC is dysfunctional, in crisis, paralyzed and dominated by infighting and factionalism, said Jim. "The alliance operates only during election periods. It is used to rubber stamp neo-liberal policies of the ANC ... It is our experience that the working class is being used by the leader of the alliance as voting fodder."

With more than 320,000 claimed members, NUMSA makes up a considerable chunk of Cosatu's 1.8 million membership. It's not certain however how many votes the ANC stands to lose as a result of the union's withdrawal of support as members are still free to decide who they want to vote for. But there has been growing disenchantment with the ANC's leadership and observers believe it is sure to have some impact at polling booths next year.

A date for the national elections in 2014 has not yet been announced.

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