HUMAN rights activist Barney Pityana came out guns blazing yesterday, saying South Africans needed to take responsibility for the country's failures because they insisted on electing leaders without vision, basic competence or an understanding of democracy.
He said many of South Africa's present failings could not be blamed on its "evil" apartheid past.
"We must blame nobody but ourselves for the tragedy of our education system, a collapsing healthcare system, a bloated but inefficient civil service, pervasive crime and corruption that has become endemic," Pityana said.
"That is because we have not only elected a government without any intelligence collectively to understand what must be done and to draw on the resources of the entire society to fix what is wrong. We have a government trapped in ideological blinkers that believes and behaves like it is unaccountable."
Pityana was speaking in Grahamstown at Kingswood College's annual memorial to celebrate the life of anti- apartheid activist Neil Aggett.
He said if South Africans continued to endorse this failed leadership the result would be "continued chaos, extending inequality, burgeoning unemployment, poverty and the social evils that have become characteristic of much of our society".
The ANC and its allies treated with suspicion and hostility any ideas that did not reinforce their own "stereotypical reality".
Pityana said no country that boasted an unemployment rate of more than 40% should have a smug government.
"It is reported that public resources are being manipulated to enrich the few and to build a monument to Jacob Zuma's presidency by establishing a new town on Zuma's doorstep in Nkandla. And through it all this nation is fast asleep."
Pityana questioned what it was about people like Aggett, Steve Biko, Rick Turner and Nelson Mandela that made them visionaries.
"They knew that to be human meant they had to live in the freedom they believed in and never compromise their own humanity by succumbing to fear and embracing the irrationality that engulfed society."
He said it was the likes of Aggett that had provided South Africa with its constitution, which recognised that critical consciousness was the best defence against the irrationality of power.
The entire structure of government should be about galvanising resources to achieve the constitutional objectives of human dignity, equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms.
"Only when we are progressing towards the realisation of that ideal will the deaths of the likes of Neil Aggett not be in vain," Pityana said.
Aggett, a pupil at Kingswood College from 1964 to 1970, died in detention in 1982 aged just 28.
Pityana, a former vice-chancellor of the University of South Africa and former chairman of the Human Rights Commission, is now rector of the College of the Transfiguration in Grahamstown.