March 15, 2010 / 2:24 PM / 10 years ago

S.African trade unions back finance minister Gordhan

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa’s powerful trade union federation COSATU on Monday joined the ANC in backing Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, rejecting criticism of him from the ruling party’s youth wing.

South Africa's Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan delivers the 2010 budget speech at parliament in Cape Town February 17, 2010. REUTERS/Nic Bothma/Pool

The ANC Youth League — an increasingly vocal and significant political force within the ANC — last week accused Gordhan of not following party policy and of ignoring the plight of the young.

But COSATU, whose relations with Youth League President Julius Malema have soured since both helped Jacob Zuma rise to the national presidency, condemned the attack on Gordhan, a day after the African National Congress expressed their confidence in him.

“The federation also fully backs the NEC’s (ANC National Executive Committee) defence of Pravin Gordhan,” the labour federation said in a statement.

“While we have some disagreements with the finance minister over monetary policy and wage subsidies, on which we shall continue to engage, we have expressed agreement with many other sections of his budget speech, and we deplore the personalised attacks which have been made on him by the ANC Youth League.”

Malema has unnerved investors with his calls, first made last year, for mines to be nationalised, and targeting Gordhan could add to uncertainty.

Gordhan succeeded Trevor Manuel in the key post when Zuma announced his cabinet in May last year and has been well-received by investors and markets.

Last month’s budget was lauded by the head of the International Monetary Fund Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe said after an NEC meeting on Sunday that the party’s confidence in Gordhan had grown and he praised the 2010 budget, which seeks to keep spending relatively high to help spur an economy recovery, while aiming to gradually reduce a budget deficit.

COSATU also backed the ANC’s call for an end to public spats between members of the tripartite alliance — the ANC, COSATU and the South African Communist Party — and supported disciplinary action against anyone defying the appeal.

“This is the second time such a pledge has been made, but last time no action was taken against those who defied it, for example the president of the ANC Youth League,” it said.

Malema was warned by the ANC last December about harming unity with the alliance after he traded insults with the communist party.

On Monday he was found guilty of hate speech regarding comments about a person who had accused Zuma of rape.

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