Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma's decision to replace Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene during a sensitive period in South Africa's economy is a sign that government is mismanaging the country's affairs, former Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said on Friday.
Vavi described Nene's dismissal as "unceremonious and humiliating".
"The dismissal of a finance minister, possibly the most senior and sensitive portfolio in the Cabinet, without stated reasons, beggars belief, especially at this super sensitive time for the South African economy."
- Read more: Nene axing a huge blow for already frail economy
Vavi said many were asking themselves how Zuma could praise Nene for doing a good job, yet move him from his position 48 hours after the country had received a devastating credit rating.
The fact that there had been no explanation for Nene's axing only served to confirm that the real reasons were being hidden from the people, he said. This was why there was a sense of compliant silence among other ministers and alliance leaders. He accused them of watching quietly as the country started to sink, like the Titanic.
"What is staggering, even accepting the president's prerogative for the hiring and firing of Cabinet members, is that this drastic action was clearly not discussed beforehand.
"The silent compliance of other Cabinet members, not to mention alliance leaders, increasingly resembles the orchestra on the Titanic who played on regardless as the unsinkable liner slid beneath the icy waters of the ocean."
Although the organised labour movement was not a fan of Nene's, they still respected him, Vavi said.
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"Let us be clear. The finance minister has not behaved like a friend of organised labour. However, one can at least respect his commitment to his held positions, his willingness to engage, and perhaps most tellingly, the fact that he has not been implicated directly in any corrosive corruption scandals," he said.
"This is increasingly rare."
Work needed to be done to ensure that South Africa was radically transformed into a country where inequality, poverty and unemployment were a thing of the past. And that work was more urgent than ever now, Vavi said.
A vibrant, independent and united trade union was needed to save South Africa from those who had abandoned it "to swell their own already bulging bank accounts", he added.