Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has launched a stinging attack on President Jacob Zuma and the Gupta family in a speech that was interpreted as the unofficial launch of his campaign for the ANC's presidency.
Speaking at the South African Communist Party's Chris Hani Memorial Lecture at the Babs Madlakane Hall in KwaNobuhle, near Uitenhage, Ramaphosa has called on the ANC to address the challenges it is facing, or continue to lose support among its members, and potentially lose control of the country in upcoming elections.
The hall was packed to capacity, along with a tent outside where a further 500 members of the public had gathered for the commemorations.
The crowd, many wearing ANC regalia, including T-shirts with President Jacob Zuma's likeness on the front, cheered and sang as Ramaphosa and former deputy minister of finance, Mcebisi Jonas, entered the hall. One of the songs was "We don't want Zuma, we want Cyril," in isiXhosa.
Call for judicial inquiry into state capture
Ramaphosa called for a judicial commission of inquiry into allegations of state capture.
"The allegations that there are private individuals who exercise undue influence over state appointments and procurement decisions should be a matter of great concern to our movement," said Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa's call supports a recommendation by former public protector Thuli Madonsela for a judicial commission of inquiry into the Gupta family's alleged attempts to capture the state.
"These practices, where you have the sense, that decisions are being taken elsewhere, they threaten the integrity of the state, undermine our economic progress, and diminish our ability to change the lives of our people."
"These activities, if left unchecked, could well destroy our revolution," he said
Ramaphosa said it was, therefore, critical that the allegations of state capture were put to rest, and if there was any wrongdoing it should be exposed, and those practices should be put to an end. He said the ANC had to support the establishment of an effective, credible mechanism to investigate the claims.
"We know there is an elephant in the room, but we don't want to talk about it."
"I support, there should be a judicial commission of inquiry. It is possibly the only process that will be able to get to the bottom of these allegations and determine the truthfulness or lack thereof," he said.
54th ANC conference critical
Ramaphosa said the upcoming 54th ANC conference in December was critical to the survival of the ANC.
"We might have spoken about renewal in the past, but if there ever was a time where we have to act to renew and unite our movement, this 54th conference coming in December is going to be that time."
"In a way, it will be make or break, whether we have an ANC going forward that is united, or we have a shell of an ANC," he said to thunderous applause.
Ramaphosa said money was already being exchanged to secure votes at the conference.
"We must talk about this. We cannot keep quiet," he said.
"The problem is money. Money has come in between us, and today there is patronage, there is money being passed around, in bags, paper bags and brown envelopes."
"As we are leading to the conference, money has become the currency of buying favours and votes. That is already happening," he said.
ANC alienating constituents
Ramaphosa said the marches currently being experienced across the country were further evidence of the challenges being faced by the ANC.
"Throughout its history, the ANC has been the most effective mobiliser. We were able to mobilise social forces across the length and breadth of this country, and today those forces are being mobilised against us," he said.
Ramaphosa said the ANC seemed to be pushing away very important constituencies, which had always been on the ANC's side.
"We now have the uncomfortable situation that broad fronts are now consolidating against us, and we need to be asking why have peopled turned against us," he said.
'We are no longer the leaders of society'
"Unless the ANC addresses these challenges, we can be certain, comrades, that our electoral support will continue to slide down," Ramaphosa said.
Ramaphosa said research had shown that many ANC supporters had not voted for the party in the 2016 elections because of the perception of factionalism, and that the ANC was soft on corruption, as well as the perception that many of the ANC's leaders were self-serving.
"The ANC used to be seen as the leader of society. We provided leadership, we were the go-to organisation. If we are to be honest with ourselves, our movement, the ANC, has lost that position. We are no longer the leaders of society. Society is walking away from us," he said.
Ramaphosa said a decline in the ANC's electoral support had been attributed to a maturing democracy, but said he did accept this.
"Particularly, when we know why our support is going down. Particularly, when we know that we are doing certain wrong things ourselves, that made our support to go down. So, therefore, we need ourselves to correct our ways," he said.
Ramaphosa said if the ANC was voted out of office, as had happened in certain metros in 2016, it would be unable to use state power to continue effective transformation.
"If we continue in the way that we are, I promise you, that support is going to continue going down, and the ANC could lose power," he said.