I would like to welcome you to this – the FW de Klerk Foundation’s – 10th annual conference. We instituted the conferences in 2010 to mark the 20th anniversary of the commencement of our great national transformation process.
In June this year the Foundation will be celebrating its 20th birthday: for 20 years we have been doing everything we can to uphold and promote the Constitution that is the foundation of our new society – and that remains the best hope for peace, progress and justice for all South Africans.
I welcome this opportunity – on the eve of the 25th anniversary of our new non-racial constitutional democracy – to join in a discussion on one of the most important challenges facing our country: the need to achieve equality.
The achievement of equality was one of the prime goals that we set for our new society when we adopted our present Constitution in 1996. Together with human dignity, the advancement of human rights and freedoms, non-racism and non-sexism it was one of the core founding values on which our new constitutional dispensation was constructed.
It is a matter of the deepest national shame that we have not only failed to make progress in achieving equality – but that we are now an even more unequal country than we were in 1994. Indeed, by any measure we are now the most unequal society in the world.
Inequality is generally measured by the Gini index, which reflects the distribution of income on a scale where 0 indicates perfect equality – where all citizens would have exactly the same income – to 100 – where all the income in a country would be bestowed on a single individual.
South Africa’s dismal failure to achieve greater income equality is reflected in the fact that our Gini index is now 63.4. This makes us, according to the World Bank, the most unequal country in the world. Inequality has also increased within all our population groups – and particularly among black South Africans where it mirrors national inequality levels.