Former ANC chairman Terror Lekota on Saturday opened the national convention by warning that the country was in serious danger of reverting back to “apartheid-era style” if South Africans did not challenge the African National Congress leadership.

Lekota, who received a standing ovation from the crowd who chanted “Bua, Bua, Bua” (speak) as he took to the podium,  said the current African National Congress leadership was no longer committed to principles of democracy adopted by the country in 1994.

He said the hope that came after 1994 was being replaced with despair.

“The evolution of politics in our country has communicated an undiluted message that the dominant political forces in our country are no longer interested or committed to leading our country to achieve the eradication of the colonial and apartheid legacy we inherited in 1994,” he said. “The threat the nation faces is that we will see the reaffirmed (sic) of important elements of this terrible legacy under new masters.”

Lekota and former defence deputy Mluleki George were suspended from the ANC on October 13 for saying in public that there was a looming “divorce” by disgruntled members.

Mbhazima Shilowa, the former Gauteng premier resigned from his post and the party because he was upset by the way former president Thabo Mbeki had been removed from his position.

He has thrown his weight behind the convention, which aims to discuss issues like respect for the rule of law, housing, healthcare and the state of the country’s democracy.

With a party disciplinary inquiry still pending, Lekota resigned the day before the convention, which may lead to the formation of a new political party.