Former ANC MP Dr Makhosi Khoza File picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

Durban - Former African National Congress (ANC) member of parliament, Makhosi Khoza, took to a podium in Durban on Wednesday night to bring a message of “unity” to the province, but did not shy away from lambasting the party she belonged to for 35 years. 

Khoza, who addressed a wide range of topics, started speaking late at the Maharani Hotel as people flowed into the venue, which was set up to accommodate 200, but eventually ended up being packed with almost double that number.
 
This week she announced the formation of her new political party, simply called Change. 

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Khoza told the audience it would be up to them to decide if she was – as she has been accused of being - a populist or simply a rebel.
 
“In my experience, populists are divisive even though they say they are acting according to the people’s will. Populists are Machiavellian, most post-colonial African leaders have been captured by Machiavellian principles,” she said to applause.
 
The country was currently “editing out of history” freedom fighters like Helen Suzman and Steve Biko, she said. “Helen Suzman was a South African hero, not a Democratic Alliance hero.”
 
“We need to acknowledge people who helped build the country, not edit them out of history,” she said.
 
Khoza referred to President Jacob Zuma as “an extremely morally handicapped head of state” when discussing her time fighting corruption within the ruling party.  

Corruption thrived in disunity, she said, and this had become apparent in KwaZulu-Natal, where it was causing racial divides between blacks and Indians.
 
Durban had become “a city of events”, she said, and the ANC-run eThekwini municipality was “currently run by criminals”.
 
“They (Durban city leaders) are fighting like hell over tenders but couldn’t care about social cohesion. There is so much money spent on putting the faces of MECs on billboards that you would think they were supposed to be in the beauty business but had failed,” she said.
 
“We can address the vast inequalities in our society if we are united, but it will be difficult if we are divided,” said Khoza.
 
Quoting from the Freedom Charter, Khoza said it was important to remember that it spoke of “we the people, not we the black, white or Indian people”. South Africans were good at the ABC syndrome, she said: “Accuse, blame and complain”.
 
She also took a swipe at those critical of women who decided to enter politics. “I refuse to listen to narratives that tell me I shouldn’t lead a party. I don’t consider Mamphela Ramphele (founder of Agang) a failure. I am able to learn from her mistakes.”
 
Khoza questioned why women politicians who go it alone were associated with failure. 

Using National Freedom Party president Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibi as another example, she said: “Any woman that takes on the political Machiavellian space deserves to be celebrated.”
 
Khoza ended her speech with a standing ovation from the crowd and then took part in a question and answer session.