SA has become the most unequal society in the world, according to Zwelinzima Vavi, general secretary of the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu).

He was speaking on Wednesday at the unveiling of the Umzinto Wall of Remembrance in KwaZulu-Natal.

Proof of the country's problems was Tuesday's announcement that unemployment was still rising, Vavi added.

“It rose one percentage point - that means 31,000 more people without jobs - in the first quarter of 2011.”

“This brings the official unemployment level to 25%, with the expanded definition that includes the growing number of workers who have given up looking for employment to 35.5%.”

Vavi stressed that apartheid had irreparably destroyed many of the traditional African customs that regulated social life in the community.

“A graphic illustration of the problem was the recent report that nine million South African children are living without their fathers, who are still living but taking no responsibility for their offspring.”

The proportion of fathers who were absent and living increased between 1996 and 2009 from 42% to 48%.

Over the same period, the proportion of fathers who were present decreased from 49% to 36%.

“The old tradition under which fathers were obliged to pay compensation to the mothers of their children has virtually disappeared,” Vavi said.

This was linked to the rise in the number of teenage pregnancies, “in some cases a result of teachers impregnating their learners”.

He said: “The prevalence of rape, from two-year-old babies to old women is further evidence of moral decay.”

SA had a “massive crisis” on its hands, Vavi said.

“In the short term we must come together and commit ourselves to the eradication of crime, corruption, immorality and irresponsibility.”

In the longer term it was becoming more and more urgent, “if we are to prevent a full-blown social and political crisis”, to restructure the economy to one that created jobs, gave people a living wage and made society more equal and just, and created an environment in which family and community life could thrive and prosper, he concluded. - I-Net Bridge