Suspended ANC veteran Terror Lekota preached tolerance at a meeting of dissidents at Orange Farm on Thursday, shortly after opponents chanted “kill Lekota” outside the venue.

“If they say you are dogs, don’t call them dogs,” he told a few hundred supporters of his national convention that will discuss the formation of a breakaway party.

“We must protect the rights of other political formations and parties. We must protect the right to hold meetings, to talk to people,” Lekota said.

“Those of you who were in the ANC and have t-shirts of the ANC, you must not burn them.”

Many in the audience at the meeting outside Vereeniging in Gauteng wore yellow t-shirts imprinted with Lekota’s face and the words “South African National Congress”.

Lekota said: “We must not allow throwing stones, don’t throw stones back. If they go and burn someone’s house, don’t go and burn their house.”

He warned of “dangerous elements” in the ANC and referred to ANC Youth League president Julius Malema who in the past said he was willing to kill for ANC president Jacob Zuma.

Outside the multi-purpose centre at Orange Farm, a group of Zuma supporters had gathered, some of them chanting “kill Lekota” and “kill Shilowa”, referring to former Gauteng premier Mbhazima Shilowa, an organiser of the convention.

The group of Zuma supporters carrying posters announcing his visit to Soweto on November 2 – the same day of Lekota’s convention – also sang the ANC president’s trademark song “Umshini wami [bring me my machine gun].”

Ousted Congress of SA Trade Unions president Willie Madisha said the protesters outside had been organised to disrupt the public meeting and cause violence.

“Unless something is done, we are going to get involved in very serious violence in this country. We have got to say that this is wrong. We cannot allow this type of thing,” said Madisha.

Lekota confirmed that the national convention would be held in Bloemfontein, as originally planned.

He was one of the cabinet ministers who resigned out of loyalty to former president Thabo Mbeki when the national executive committee of the ANC decided to remove him from office.