Johannesburg (AFP) - A senior official of South Africa's ruling party on Sunday urged its leadership to resign, including President Jacob Zuma, following divisions over charges faced by finance minister Pravin Gordhan.
Jackson Mthembu who is the African National Congress (ANC) chief whip in parliament said the party's poor performance in August local polls, factionalism and the recent fraud charges against Gordhan had motivated his decision.
"When I said the entire ANC leadership... I meant everybody, myself included, (and) President Zuma," Mthembu told eNCA television news channel.
Mthembu condemned Gordhan's prosecution, claiming the charges were politically motivated and raised questions about the direction in which the former liberation party was headed.
"In my view a minister is being pursued for political reasons and then charged with fraud," he said.
Gordhan will appear in court on November 2.
The charges against him date back to his time as head of the country's tax collection body.
He stands accused of acting corruptly in authorising the early retirement of one of his senior employees who was later reinstated in his job.
Gordhan has on several occasions spoken out against corruption in government, and also stood up to Zuma and alleged corrupt associates linked to the presidency.
Mthembu accused the ANC leadership of being "worse than the apartheid regime" saying "the apartheid regime never pursued its ministers the way we are pursuing Pravin Gordhan".
Gordhan's plight has sparked division among the ANC with top leaders such as deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa as well as several other ministers voicing support for him.
Mthembu's comments were rejected as populist by the youth wing of the ANC and Umkhonto Wesizwe, the association which brings together members of the now defunct armed wing of the ANC, both Zuma allies.