South African Indians will not give their support to the African National Congress (ANC) in the general elections due next year because of corruption and discord within the party, veteran ANC activist and respected sociologist Fatima Meer told the Sunday Times in Johanesburg.
Meer, who turns 80 next week and is a recipient of the Pravasi Samman Award from India, has together with her late husband Ismail Meer been a lifelong friend of former president Nelson Mandela and they both worked closely with ANC stalwart Chief Albert Luthuli.
"The Indian people, as a whole, are very disappointed with the ANC," Meer said.
"I think especially the Ebrahim Rassool factor is going to have a very negative effect on ANC support among Indians and coloureds (mixed race citizens).
Rassool, a South African of Indian origin, has been the only Indian provincial premier in the country since the first free elections in 1994, but was fired from his position by the ANC last week, ostensibly for not delivering on the ANC's mandate.
But sources said his dismissal was largely due to the factions within the ANC that either supported President Thabo Mbeki's failed attempt to secure a third term as president of the ANC or that of Jacob Zuma, who was overwhelming voted in at the ANC's conference late last year despite the criminal charges hanging over his head.
Already the influential Muslim Judicial Council has threatened to get its membership not to vote for the ANC because of Rassool's axing.
"Indians won't vote for the ANC, but they won't vote for any other party either", Meer said, reaffirming her view that the Indian community would rather abstain from voting next year.
Meer made a scathing attack on the current situation within the ANC government in her interview with the Sunday Times, calling for "another Mandela" to take South Africa forward.
"The ANC that I was a member of and that I worked in was a liberation organisation. The ANC of today is the government, and governments are all alike.
"Replacing the (apartheid era white) nationalist government with the ANC government has got rid of racism, but then racism has been replaced with class issues, and inequalities continue."
Meer described the ANC government as "a very weak government, seething with corruption, with the "final axe being the disunity in the party."
Calling Mbeki "very aloof and inaccessible", Meer said although Zuma was "very popular and amiable," he was not qualified enough to revive the moral fibre of society that Mandela stood for as president.
"Certainly Zuma is not going to give us that moral fibre. He comes highly blemished, so we can't' look to him to resurrect our moral fibre.
"Mandela brought a moral fibre to this country, which has grown very thin now. We want that kind of leadership - the Mandela kind of leadership, to strengthen our moral fibre."