PRETORIA, President Jacob Zuma has stressed that while the South African economy is slowly beginning to pick up, the government is adamant that it will continue to push for radical socio-economic transformation.

“We are operating under a difficult environment but there is hope. The economy is beginning to pick up,” he said on Friday night when speaking to communities through the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) link-up to community radio stations. Listeners were able to call in and pose questions to the President.

He said the majority of black people in the country had previously been prevented from participating and it was time to end the monopoly of the economy. This reality needed to be turned around if South Africa is to eradicate poverty, inequality and unemployment.

“We need to open up the economy,” he said in engaging with South Africans a week after he delivered his annual State of the Nation Address (SONA) in Parliament. In his address, he said radical economic transformation would be at the centre of the government’s priorities for 2017.

The government anticipates an economic growth rate of 1.3 per cent this year, but unemployment remains a huge challenge, hence the government’s Nine-Point Plan to re-ignite growth so that the economy can create jobs.

He said during his address that the time had come for the state to move a step further to ensure an overhaul of the economic structure of the country for the benefit of all citizens – not just a few.

Responding to questions posed by the public on the issue of land, he said: “The issue of land is a serious and fundamental issue. You can’t separate the issue of land from the economy because land is where the economy is.

“We are saying that when we obtained freedom … we introduced systems like it should be bought by government from land owners. We now see that that system has not helped us to address the issue. It has addressed it to some degree but there have been problems as well.”

He said government had given land claimants the option of the land or money with the majority of people opting for money.

“Others went back to the land and we did not have a system to assist them [to ensure] the land could be productive. We will also work out a system to assist to make land viable and productive so that we deal with poverty. We need more land for black people that must be addressed.”