President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers the OR Tambo Memorial Lecture in Naledi, Soweto. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - President Cyril Ramaphosa says there is a chance the country could have faced more corruption if the ruling party’s 2017 conference did not take place.

Ramaphosa was delivering the annual Oliver Tambo memorial lecture in Naledi, Soweto.

The lecture was part of the ANC’s commemoration of the watershed Morogoro consultative conference in 1969 which was held by the party to address its internal crisis, including divisions and low morale of freedom fighters.

Ramaphosa said that before the Nasrec conference the ANC was profoundly weak.

“The most devastating effect of this malaise was its impact on the ANC to be an effective instrument for fundamental economic and social changes. Effective governance was sacrificed as ANC public representatives fought almost continuously over the spoils of office.

“Under such conditions, corruption became widespread, state capture emerged and critical institutions of our democracy were undermined and compromised,” Ramaphosa said.

Addressing a packed Naledi Community Hall which had an overflow tent filled with ANC supporters donning the party’s regalia, Ramaphosa was flanked by the party’s top leadership, including secretary-general Ace Magashule and treasurer-general Paul Mashatile.

He said internal ANC contestation had distorted every aspect of the party’s life, from the recruitment of members to the functioning of branches and how conferences were organised.

According to Ramaphosa, just like in Morogoro, it was the delegates to the party’s Nasrec conference who saved the party from imploding.

“It is the delegates of the 24th conference, the representatives of the branches of the ANC who determined that the ANC was in deep crisis. It was they who decided that organisational renewal is an absolute and urgent priority for the survival of our movement.”

He added that current leadership worked tirelessly to assist the ANC to “restore its moral fibre and its moral compass while also trying to unite it”.

Ramaphosa said Tambo’s contribution to the integrity and unity of the ANC during its darkest days was unmatched.

He also maintained that the Morogoro conference had been the most testing to Tambo’s character, who led the ANC for about 30 years.

“When it seemed that this movement that he had been asked in 1960 to go and establish an outside mission for was falling apart and that the centre could not hold, he worked tirelessly to ensure that the movement remained united and focused,” he said.

ANC Veterans League president Snuki Zikalala said the party’s stalwarts would continue to be a constant thorn in the side of the ANC if it floundered.

“The veterans league stated very clearly that it has the authority to intervene in all issues that affect the integrity and dignity of the ANC,” Zikalala said.

Gauteng Premier David Makhura said the ANC had to insist on quality as a tribute to Tambo in its renewal programme, whom he described as being the best president the ANC had had since its formation.

Political Bureau