President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday said black people were still not in charge of the economy.

He was speaking at the ANC Youth League’s ‘Economic Freedom in Our Lifetime’ lecture at Durban’s Olive Convention Centre.

He told a gathering of more than 2 000 people the party would use next year’s national policy conference to reflect on progress made in the past few years in the implementation of the party’s resolutions, including radical economic transformation.

“The ANC seeks the de-racialisation of the ownership and control of the economy by empowering the historically oppressed, black people and the working class in particular.”

He said the party also sought to de-racialise the economy “because the economy was constructed on racial basis. We can’t be shy about it”.

“We are an exception that we are not in charge, and it is a result of policies from colonial [times] and apartheid that we are not in charge and in control. Even the poorest countries, people are in charge,” Zuma said.

“We have stated before that there is no ‘invisible hand’ that will bring about change, no matter how hard we pray. We can pray during the day and night, there will never be an invisible hand to help us change the situation. The situation needs us to stand up and change it.”

He said black economic empowerment and affirmative policies of the movement have been successful.

It is a fact that income distribution and growth remain racially skewed in favour of white South Africans, Zuma said.

“If that is the case, then the majority of our people are not part of the productive forces or the economy. It means they are just workers. Their participation is not in control of the economy.”

He said ownership of major companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange also remain largely white.

“Iseyinde lendlela,” he said, which means we still have a long way to go.

“In June next year at the policy conference, the question is, what are policies that we are going to do in terms of sharpening our instruments of implementing effectively?”

He said over the next couple of months, members would be spending their time on “non-issues” that had nothing to do with the conference.

“We will be talking about 2017 and another debate about 2019, about how much we are going to lose the elections…

“We need thinner documents focusing on specific issues that must say what do we do in order to implement our policies,” Zuma said.

“If we think there are shortcomings, how do we remedy them? You should lead as the youth…

“I am not happy that black people call themselves businesspeople because they have shares in companies. Shares [do not have] security, you can have shares in any company and [if] for one reason or another the company becomes insolvent, you don’t even know why the business became insolvent, then you have nothing.

“You cannot allow fronting. Let us find a programme that is going to make our people industrialists and own businesses properly.”

Another sector where transformation had been lacking, Zuma said, was mining, which had been the backbone of the economy for decades.

“The ANC government seeks to de-racialise the ownership of the mining industry by substantially and meaningfully expanding opportunities for black people.”

He said if BEE partners sold their shares, the company needed to get new partners in order to retain the 26%.

On Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs), Zuma said sub-contracting would be under scrutiny and that the government should pay SMMEs on time.

Zuma said the ANC was pained to see young, qualified graduates sitting at home without jobs.

He related a story about a young woman from Nkandla who had a qualification in Economy Finance and Banking, but had no job.

“My mind was running around saying, how many more?”

On land, he said the state was acquiring land for land reform purposes, in order to speed up the process of land transfers.

“The ANC has continued to implement anti-monopoly policies, focusing in particular on fighting against cartels and the abuse of market dominance.

“There is a view that more should have been done to punish the companies, and the question of whether or not collusion and corruption are not the same thing.”

He said education remained the most powerful instrument for achieving economic freedom.

“We urge the ANC Youth League to prioritise education and skills development for young people as a programme.”

The ANC supported the call for accessible education for students from poor households, and “that no young person must be denied the opportunity to study because they come from a poor home.”

The funding for higher education remains a key priority, Zuma said.

He said the Commission of Inquiry into Higher Education and Training was investigating and would make recommendations on the feasibility of implementing fee-free Higher Education and Training in South Africa.

It is due to provide a final report in mid-2017.

Zuma said South Africa had a long way to go towards eradicating poverty and inequality, and the struggle towards economic freedom will continue.

“The older generation delivered political freedom, the ANC Youth League must be identified with economic transformation and economic freedom.”