Former finance minister Pravin Gordhan says the first step of transformation is fighting the "rot" or state capture and corruption.
"Stage one of transformation today is how do we fight the rot... In all of this, the state plays a very important part in the change process. If a state is captured, can it play that role?" he asked.
"The majority of South Africans, whether it is in the political parties or outside, want a servant state. We've got some tough battles to fight in that regard."
Gordhan was speaking at the inaugural ASI Financial Services' "Thought Laboratory" in Alexandra on Thursday night.
He said the country was about to see a process that will see a date being set for the "burial" of neoliberalism and asked the audience how to create a more socially just society.
"The majority of South Africans, whether it is in the political parties or outside, want a servant state." -- Pravin Gordhan
"The real challenge for us is when transformation occurs, who benefits from it? Ultimately any transformation strategy has to solve some of the legacies of our past... Not every South African feels that they are an important and benefiting part of the economy of South Africa," he said.
"The second big issue is overconcentration, the monopolisation in our economy and how do we overcome [it]"
Speaking to an audience dressed in fancy attire and two-piece suits, under a white tent looking over the Alexandra township, Gordhan said there are distorted ownership patterns in the country.
"The lack of opportunities and the glass ceilings that black professionals face in corporate South Africa is another grievance... If you want to change those fundamental factors, you also have to talk very frankly about the factors that are standing in the way of transformation happening," he said.
"There's too much of orthodoxy in our economic thinking. If we are going to meet the old challenges in a new way, we have to go beyond both orthodoxy and dogmatism as well. A consequence of thinking in a new way is we must be open to a plurality of ideas."
His comments come on the back of him calling for Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to send president Jacob Zuma packing back to Nkandla in January after Ramaphosa assumes leadership in the ANC.
According to a report by Netwerk24, Gordhan told an investment conference in Cape Town on Thursday morning that it is "imperative" Ramaphosa becomes the governing party's leader when it holds its national conference in December.
Gordhan has become a vocal critic of Zuma and has spoken out on state capture and corruption since his sacking in March this year.