Reverend Barney Pityana has taken a swipe at President Jacob Zuma and blamed South Africans for electing leaders without vision and basic competence.
The Dispatch Online on Tuesday quoted Pityana as saying: "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."
"That is because we have elected a government without any intelligence collectively to understand what must be done ... We have a government trapped in ideological blinkers that believes and behaves like it is unaccountable."
Pityana was speaking in Grahamstown on Monday at Kingswood College's annual memorial lecture to celebrate the life of anti-apartheid activist Neil Aggett.
He said many of the country's shortcomings could not be blamed on its evil apartheid past.
If South Africans continued to endorse the country's 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".
He said the ANC and its allies treated with suspicion and hostility any ideas that did not reinforce their own "stereotypical reality" and sought to silence the likes of The Spear artist Brett Murray, cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro and expelled ANC Youth League president Julius Malema.
"The truths they seek to present must be suppressed. Yet, we do indeed have a president, head of state and leader of the ruling party, who was charged with rape, was investigated for serious crimes of corruption and who proudly purveys as his trademark his propensity to surround himself with multiplicity of wives."
The Dispatch quoted Pityana as saying no country that boasted an unemployment rate of more than 40% should have such a smug government.
"Government is in no hurry to deal with these matters. Instead it is reported 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."
He said 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," said Pityana.
Pityana is a former vice-chancellor of the University of South Africa and chairperson of the South African Human Rights Commission, and is now rector of the College of the Transfiguration in Grahamstown. – Sapa, staff reporter