ANC veteran Winnie Madikizela-Mandela lambasted the party for slow delivery and said it had failed the people.
Speaking at a Workers’ Day rally at the Lucas Moripe stadium in Atteridgeville, Pretoria, Madikizela-Mandela said the death of Andries Tatane in Ficksburg and service delivery protests in areas that were traditionally ANC strongholds were proof that the party had let down the masses.
She also claimed that public spats between senior leaders in the tripartite alliance were a manifestation of a leadership crisis and that there was no guarantee that the alliance could withstand the storm.
Although she urged the more than 3 000-strong crowd to campaign and vote for the ANC in the local government elections, she said the patience of voters was wearing thin and their confidence in the ANC should not be taken for granted.
“Our people are refusing to be victims of broken promises. They have resorted to protests as forms of direct action because their hopes have been blasted. The shadow of disappointment is written in their faces,” she said.
Quoting Martin Luther King, Madikizela-Mandela warned that “there comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men and women are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair”.
She added: “There can never be peace when economic injustice prevails. And we mislead ourselves if we think we can set the timetable for other people’s socio-economic freedom. Our people demand socio-economic justice, and they demand it now.”
She said the ANC had failed to deal with the underlying causes of problems the poor were facing on a daily basis.
“This is a manifestation of the political crisis,” she said.
“There was a time when we led, today we spend most of our time responding. This reflects another crisis, a leadership crisis.”
She said Tatane’s death and other problems in other communities could have been avoided if the ANC had been in touch and engaged with its people.
“Ficksburg and the death of Andries Tatane should be a constant reminder of an experiment gone wrong and a failure to compose a revolutionary song that is in tune with the people” said Madikizela-Mandela.
She said the ANC had taken its eye off the ball, lost its way and needed to refer back to the Freedom Charter to get back into line.
“We are increasingly allowing ourselves to be hoodwinked by irrelevancies instead of dealing with the main challenges of our times.
“We seem to have veered off the track of what we intended to create – a non-racial, non-sexist, non-ethnic and prosperous society envisaged in the constitution.
“At times like this we need a political, moral and economic compass to take us back into the correct direction and correct path.
“Fortunately for us, the Freedom Charter serves this purpose of guiding us back to the correct trajectory,” she said.
She was confident people would still vote for the ANC but warned comrades that they needed to deliver what they had promised.
“It is worth noting that even as we fail the masses, they still expect us to lead because they know we are the only progressive force that can ameliorate their conditions.
“We dare not fail them or take their faith in us for granted,” said Madikizela-Mandela.
Nor did she mince her words about the state of the tripartite alliance, which has seen public spats between senior leaders of the ANC, Cosatu and the SA Communist Party.
“It is an understatement that the alliance is at war with itself. We mislead ourselves that because it is an alliance forged in the crucible of struggle, it can withstand all political storms,” she said.
“We survived the storms because the movement and the alliance were led by men and women of vision, who could use their skills to galvanise the masses of our people… we have to put our house in order. It is not too late.
“The public spat between leaders of the alliance must cease.
“Yes, it will get us a few headlines, but it will not advance our agenda of ensuring that the rainbow nation that is talked about becomes a reality.”
Political leaders, including Tshwane mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa, ANC Gauteng chairman Paul Mashatile and Cosatu CEC member Mugwena Maluleke, were also at the rally and offered Workers Day messages , emphasising that the workers still faced many challenges 17 years into democracy and that their plight must be shared by the whole country.