Former president Nelson Mandela's widow, Graça Machel, says those leading the country have betrayed South Africa, the Cape Argus reported.
Machel addressed the Dullah Omar Memorial Lecture at the University of the Western Cape on Tuesday.
She reportedly said politicians had put themselves and their coffers first.
"We feel betrayed by some who we have elected to lead and govern us with responsibility, accountability and respect for the Constitution. They put themselves and their coffers ahead of the wellbeing of the country and the people.
"Political assassinations have become common, especially in KwaZulu-Natal. Just a few days ago in East London, a political conference ended in bloodshed.
"Those we have [been] entrusted for our wellbeing are not leading with a sense of ethics and morality," she said.
She also reportedly said society had normalised violence, and said the high rates of violence against women and children was a sign of the decay of moral fibre.
Machel also said the values of Dullah Omar were "in short supply" and decried the levels of violence in society.