09/02/2017 23:52 SAST | Updated 10/02/2017 06:35 SAST

Sona: 'Black People Are Still Economically Disempowered'

President Jacob Zuma says black people are dissatisfied with the economic gains from liberation.

REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham
President Jacob Zuma delivers his State of the Nation Address to a joint sitting of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces in Cape Town, South Africa February 9, 2017.

President Jacob Zuma says black South Africans are dissatisfied with the economic gains from liberation and the gaps between the African-headed households and whites are huge.

"Twenty-two years into our freedom and democracy, the majority of black people are still economically disempowered. They are dissatisfied with the economic gains from liberation. The gap between the annual average household incomes of African-headed households and their white counterparts remains shockingly huge. White households earn at least five times more than black households, according to Statistics SA," he said.

Zuma in his State of the Nation Address (Sona), which heavily tilted to radical economic transformation, said the the situation with regards to the ownership of the economy also mirrors that of household incomes. He said only 10 percent of the top 100 companies on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange are owned by black South Africans.

The situation in many workplaces is no different, he said.

"The pace of transformation in the workplace, the implementation of affirmative action policies as required by the Employment Equity Act, also remains very slow. In terms of the 2015/16 information submitted to the Employment Equity Commission, the representation of whites at top management level amounted to 72 percent whilst African representation was at 10 percent. The representation of coloureds stood at 4.5 percent and Indians 8.7 percent. The report further provides that white South Africans, in particular males, are afforded higher levels of recruitment, promotion and training opportunities as compared to the designated groups," he said.

Zuma said the skewed nature of ownership and leadership patterns needs to be corrected and there can be no sustainability in any economy if the majority is excluded.

"In my discussions with the business community, they accepted these transformation imperatives. Today we are starting a new chapter of radical socio-economic transformation. We are saying that we should move beyond words, to practical programmes. The state will play a role in the economy to drive that transformation. In this regard, government will utilise to the maximum, the strategic levers that are available to the state," he said.

That will include legislation, regulations, licensing, budget and procurement as well as Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Charters to influence the behaviour of the private sector and drive transformation.

He added that the state spends R500 billion a year buying goods and services. Added to this is the R900 billion infrastructure budget.

"Those budgets must be used to achieve economic transformation. As a start, the new regulations making it compulsory for big contractors to subcontract 30 percent of business to black-owned enterprises have been finalised and were gazetted on 20 January. Through such regulations and programmes, government will be able to use the state buying power to empower small enterprises, rural and township enterprises, designated groups and to promote local industrial development," he said.