ANC president Jacob Zuma yesterday blamed former president Thabo Mbeki for ignoring members of Umkhonto we Sizwe and leaving them in poverty.
Zuma, speaking in Bloemfontein, also accused Congress of the People leaders, who had been part of government, of trying to absolve themselves of responsibility for the failures of the ANC over 15 years.
Zuma said there was a "significant number of MK veterans who are struggling to make ends meet".
"On several occasions MK veterans have staged sit-ins at ANC headquarters in order to bring their grievances to the attention of the national leadership," he said.
Zuma called on the ANC to accelerate the Polokwane conference resolution that MK veterans should be financially supported.
He also called on MK veterans to defend the ANC from "attempts to sow disunity and confusion within the party's ranks".
He said the MK veterans should play a leading role in forming street committees to fight crime and that they should educate the South African public about how other African countries supported the liberation struggle.
"Xenophobia has no place in the ANC or our country," Zuma said. "We should in time tell detailed stories of how our brothers and sisters on the continent sacrificed their own lives for the sake of our freedom."
Zuma admitted that the ANC had failed to "balance governance with party work".
He said many problems "could have been averted" had ANC party structures been stronger.
The ANC president was speaking to about 15000 supporters at a rally commemorating the 47th anniversary of the MK. It was held at the Seiso Ramabodu Stadium in Mangaung, where the ANC was formed 97 years ago
Slain former MK chief Chris Hani was also conferred with the Isithalwande award, the highest honour that the ANC can pay to anyone. Hani's widow, Mpho Hani, received the award on his behalf.