Motlanthe made the comments while addressing the inauguration and 50th celebration of the formation of the South African Student Organisation (Saso), under the maiden leadership of Black Consciousness stalwart Steve Biko in July 1969.
The event celebrated the formation of the 1970’s group and brought together the founders of Saso, who included two former presidents, Professor Barney Pityana and Dr Saths Cooper, as well as prominent BC figures such as Mamphela Ramphele, Thoko Mpumlwana and 1974 Saso Frelimo triallist and Robben islander Pandelani Nefolovhodwe.
Motlanthe told the audience, from liberation movements comprising the PAC, ANC and Black Consciousness Movement, that the increasing number of parties contesting elections “is good for our democracy”.
Motlanthe made the comments despite his own party - the ANC - gunning for a majority victory.
“We are likely going to have a coalition of 17 or 30 parties,” he said, but urged the Struggle veterans to play their part despite the poll’s outcome. Most of these members across the political spectrum have major influence in various fields of academia, business and the world of work. Others have also served in senior positions in the public service, but were now retired.
He used the opportunity to plead with them to use their skills to assist those in government with their governance and administrative skills.
The call came after Pityana earlier told Motlanthe that South Africa owed the 1970’s group “nothing”, saying despite their age they were still ready to serve the country.
Motlanthe, in an apparent attack on ANC members accused of corruption, pleaded with the Group of 1970 to develop a “national cause” to show that not all people of South Africa were corrupt.
Despite mocking those accused of corruption, Motlanthe steered off ANC internal problems, but said those who were corrupt should be held to account.
Earlier, Motlanthe praised these former university students for their role in the Struggle after the banning of the ANC and PAC in April 1960.
He said Biko and his colleagues immediately brought doubt in apartheid that the “oppressors are not invincible. All of these are moments to inspire us to reflect because the Struggle was waged by people on behalf of the people,” he said.