"The ANC has a chance to change but it can only change when Zuma leaves with his people," Vuyiseka Dubula of Sonke Gender Justice told the packed memorial service for Kathrada being held at the St George's Cathedral in Cape Town.
Fiery #FeesMustFall leader Fasiha Hassan said young people no longer want to be “used” by the African National Congress.
Hassan compared the leaders of the ruling party to Kathrada whom she said joined protests for free education, and instead of scolding her, he would listen.
This, she said, was sorely missing in the current ANC movement.
“We are indeed at an epoch as this country. The bitter truth of the matter is that we failed our people long time ago. We became a left-talking but right-walking ruling party,” she said to loud cheers and shouts of “yes” from memorial attendees.
She said the ANC had become a party of “nepotism” and corruption, and that young people would not allow themselves to be used during factional battles within in the ruling party.
Seeham Samaai from the Women's Legal Centre said: "We cannot stand by and watch our country implode."
Several leaders from the Christian, Muslim and Jewish faiths said they joined South Africans who were fighting corruption.
"South Africa surpassed all countries as the most unequal society in the world. Add to this...the new king on the trough of state capture and permeation of corruption intensifies in the corridors of the people's representative society," a representative of the United Ulema Council of SA, adding that Parliamentary processes had become "an embarrassment to the nation".
The Council also called on the ANC "to address and provide the nation with prompt resolutions to curtail mass dispiritness, despondency and desperation".
Pravin Gordhan, who was fired as finance minister last week, was due to address the memorial.