Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng says it's a shame that inequality in South Africa has become "sharper" during a constitutional democracy.
Delivering the 17th annual Nelson Mandela Lecture at the University of Johannesburg's Soweto campus on Saturday, Mogoeng said: "It really is a shame that 25 years down the line we still have so much of our people suffering as they do."
"It is a shame that inequality has become sharper during constitutional democracy. We need unity now more than before," Mogoeng said in his keynote address.
"We will be betraying the legacy of Madiba if we don't give practical expression to the injustices of our past"
He spoke under the theme: "Constitutionalism as a tool for transformation."
"We will be betraying the legacy of Madiba if we don't give practical expression to the injustices of our past."
He also said each citizen had the responsibility to build the country and that people should not waste time polarising society.
"Let's confront and expose any institution and anybody who practices discrimination."
The chief justice said most of the country's problems were a direct consequence of colonialism and apartheid.
"Anybody who says don't blame anything on colonialism and apartheid is being mischievous. Most of the problems we have to deal with right now are a consequence of colonialism and apartheid. It's critical that we never stop talking about it. What we cannot do is blame it all on colonialism and apartheid.
"It is therefore absolutely necessary that we never stop talking about colonialism...and apartheid."
Mogoeng called on South Africans to unite, adding that "unity is essential for what Madiba calls 'the vision enshrined in the Constitution'."