Johannesburg - All South Africans have a duty to help build a truly inclusive economy and bridge racial divides, Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane said on Sunday.
"More than two decades into our democracy, the project of building a prosperous and inclusive economy has ground to a halt because the people entrusted with this project have shifted their attention to other things," he told a Heritage Day event at the old Johannesburg Stock Exchange building in Newtown.
"They have turned their attention to ways of helping themselves to the money meant for the people. They have turned their attention to fighting off the factions that threaten their grip on power and wealth. And they have completely forgotten about the people," he said.
The result was growing poverty, unemployment, and anger. Today, 55% of South Africans - more than 30 million people - lived below the poverty line. More than 9.3 million South Africans could not find work, most of whom under the age of 35. South Africa's income inequality was among the highest in the world.
"That is our shared heritage. And it is the duty of each and every one of us to change this, to ensure that this does not become the heritage of our children too. It is our duty to build an economy that is truly inclusive. Not the fig leaf of ownership that the current BEE model has provided.
"Because if you strip away the wealthy cronies who got rich thanks to their ANC connections you’re not left with a lot of black ownership of our economy. I mean real economic empowerment for ordinary South Africans," Maimane said.
It was everyone's duty to fix the broken education system so that children could leave school confident that they had something to offer the world. They had to be provided with the skills they needed to make the most of every opportunity available.
"It is our duty to support and nurture every job-creating business, no matter how big or small. This means making it simpler to run a business and employ people. It also means investing in the sectors with the highest potential for job creation," he said.
"It is our duty to unite South Africans around shared values and to fight the scourge of racial nationalism wherever we encounter it. We cannot allow our country to slide back to a place where people are turned against each other because of the colour of their skin. And we owe it to our children to ensure that their heritage is a more just, inclusive country than the South Africa you see today," Maimane said.