South Africa is being held to ransom by people in politics who are acting out of personal gain, former SA Human Rights Commissioner Barney Pityana said at the SA National Convention in Sandton on Saturday.

He said many people were just making an investment for themselves, but there were others who had not done so and were not afraid of accountability, nor would they see the point in protecting leaders for corrupt activities.

Particularly, there was a younger generation “who do not wish to be burdened by the past”, Pityana told delegates who cheered throughout his speech.

Turning to the behaviour of some of ANC president Jacob Zuma’s supporters, which convenor Terror Lekota has expressed concern over, Pityana said that former president Nelson Mandela had been worried about the behaviour of people who had appeared in support of his former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela at a court appearance in the early nineties.

He had said they were being “bully boys” in their zeal to support her and were compromising the integrity of the ANC. Mandela had said that nobody should enter the struggle for personal gain.

Pityana said people who were babies when Mandela made this statement in 1991, are now finalising their schooling.

“And I want to promise you they are a very different breed of South Africans. Many of them will vote for the first time. They have no wish to be burdened with the past.”

He also said the “archaic” party list system had to be abolished by something more representative.

“Quite frankly it is an insult to the people of South Africa.” People would become cynical unless this system was changed. “Change is not just something that is dreamed of in America by Barack Obama,” he said.

Zuma recently had corruption charges, related to allegations of bribery in a significant arms deal, set aside.

Vocal support for him during his court appearances gave rise to tensions within the ANC while Thabo Mbeki was still president.

Lekota was suspended from the ANC when he criticised the way Zuma had been supported.

He has since resigned from the ANC and he and other high profile political veterans are hosting the convention to talk about these issues and a new political party could be formed.