Cape Town. 120215. Professor Vuyisi Gumede from Institute for Justice and Reconcilation. The Institute for Justice and Reconciliation gave feedback on their transformation audit. Reporter Neo Madladla. Picture Courtney Africa

More than half of South Africans believe that political leaders are not concerned about them, according to an audit by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR).

The IJR has also warned in its latest transformation audit that unless there is “major structural reform” in the economy, SA is unlikely to meet its developmental needs.

This emerged at a press conference in Cape Town on Wednesday to launch the annual audit.

The aim of the audit was to investigate whether the transformation of the economy was resulting in the creation of a more equitable and inclusive society.

The audit found that the current economic model’s inability to adapt to changing domestic and international economic realities had made poor South Africans more vulnerable to economic fluctuations than at any time since the country’s transition in 1994.

Areas studied were economic governance, the labour market, skills and education, poverty and inequality.

Professor Vusi Gumede, associate professor of developmental studies at Wits University, said the economic structure was unsustainable because the socio-economic inequalities from the apartheid era were still alive.

He said the country did not have a comprehensive policy to address poverty or the quality of education.

“We say kids must be in school and teachers should be on time – but there is no talk about the quality of education.”

He said the current interest rates and tax policies favoured educated and rich people and it was hard for young graduates to get into the job market as their qualifications did not match the skills required by many industries.

This year the audit contained an additional chapter on public opinion regarding matters of economic security, drawn from the IJR’s annual SA Reconciliation Barometer Survey.

* 51 percent of respondents felt political leaders were not concerned about them.

* 67 percent said their living conditions had stayed the same or worsened over the past year.

* 32 percent said inequality represented the major source of division in the country.

* 39 percent felt they were likely to be unemployed at some point this year.

* 49 percent said the country’s economic conditions would stay the same or get worse over the next year.

Jan Hofmeyer, head of the policy and analysis unit at the IJR, said the current economic model was failing South Africans as inequality continued to grow.

Hofmeyer said that over the past 17 years major gains had been made “in addressing the immediate needs of society’s most vulnerable, but given the scale of the challenge, the question remains whether it is enough”.

Hofmeyer said the official unemployment figure was 23.9 percent, but looking at the rise in the number of people who depended on social grants and pensions to support their families presented a different picture.

He said in 1996/7 there were about two million South Africans who depended on social grants and pensions, but in 2011 that figure was close to 15 million.

neo.maditla@inl.co.za - Cape Argus