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If unemployment continues South Africa is inviting anarchy, a debate panel heard in Johannesburg on Wednesday night.
“We need and our government needs to ensure (poor) people live properly... by allowing them economic participation,” said Lawrence Mavundla, president of the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Nafcoc).
He was one of four experts speaking at Constitution Hill on constitutionalism, redress and reconciliation.
“The reality is our people don't live according to the rights enshrined in the Constitution,” he said.
“Our government is going in a different direction.”
He believed government had the same policies it had in the past during apartheid and this needed to change.
Law enforcement officers who used excessive force were similar to apartheid police, just with a new name, he said.
“The houses built for our people today are worse than what they had during apartheid. We are taking them backwards.”
He said South Africa could not carry on this way.
“The salaries paid to directors compared to workers... we need some equality. The gap is too big. We need to bridge the gap,” he said.
“The bread price is the same in the shop.”
He said the problems in the country “belongs to all of us”.
“Whatever happens to this country we will all sink together. It doesn't matter if you are rich or poor.”
Political analyst Steven Friedman said people needed to realise that race would still matter for a long time to come.
“The racial hierachy that existed before is still part of society,” he said during the debate.
“Not much has changed in the past 18 years.”
He referred to a recent survey conducted by the University of Johannesburg that found that 18 years into democracy it took black students about three months after graduation to find a job, while white people with the same degree got it straight away.
Friedman said those in the economic elite need to be aware of certain realities. One reality was that some people lived in extreme poverty.
“Another reality is that It isn't so easy for black people to slot in properly into the economy,” he said.
“We are in a process of change but that change hasn't gone as far as it could.”
He said progress meant shifting power to enable people to empower themselves. - Sapa