Malusi Gigaba.  Picture: REUTERS
Malusi Gigaba. Picture: REUTERS

Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba has called the black middle class "cowards" for always criticising the government and reiterated the need for black professionals to prioritise radical economic transformation.

Speaking at a Black Management Forum dinner on Friday, Gigaba said: "The black middle class, owing to its junior position in the economic relations, is never heard criticising the conservative vested interests, but will be quick to criticise government for any wrongdoing … because government is easy to pick on and will not apply any sanctions against forces that brought it to be, whatever the unfairness or viciousness of the attack or criticism."

To thunderous applause, Gigaba said there was intense contestation about the content of economic transformation. "We either recoil in our plans or implement so minimalist a transformation that it would amount to no change at all".

On criticism of the ANC, he said the political agenda that undermined economic transformation "is to eventually turn popular opinion against the government of change so that it becomes replaced by a government of the status quo and vested interests".

Gigaba once again emphasised the need for radical economic transformation and reiterated his commitment to the National Development Plan.

Radical economic transformation had failed in the past 23 years and created a situation in which "racially exclusive political and social forces defeated in 1994 [are] continuing to hold political and economic sway".

On recent GDP figures that indicated SA was in a recession, he said "we cannot have a business-as-usual approach". The problems SA faced were structural and the recession reflected the " historical problem of a lopsided structure … a deindustrialising economy, an economy where institutional power to make investment decisions and to price risk is concentrated in the hands of the few", where black people are not key players in value chains.

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