Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has taken a swipe at what he calls the "small recycled elite" who exploit government's Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) policy.
He has added his voice to growing concern that BEE could be benefiting a few black elite at the expense of the poor majority.
Archbishop Tutu was speaking during the second annual Nelson Mandela Lecture in Johannesburg today.
The cleric said most of the black elite seemed to forget that one of the liberation struggle's objectives was that "the people shall share" in the economy.
"We were involved in the struggle because we believed we would evolve a new kind of society, a caring, a compassionate society.
"At the moment, many, too many, of our people live in grueling demeaning, dehumanising poverty," said Archbishop Tutu.
He said the country aspired to have a new quality of society that was compassionate, gentle and caring, urging business to intensify the fight against poverty.
He further asked what was "black empowerment when it seems to benefit not the vast majority but a small elite that tends to be recycled? Are we not building up much resentment that we may rue later?"
Last month, Finance Minister Trevor Manuel posed similar questions to the Association of Black Securities and Investment Professionals (ABSIP) asking if black business understood government's economic policies.
"Have we achieved true transformation and empowerment if lucrative deals are structured that add to the boundless wealth of an elite few, while leaving the plight of the majority unchanged?
"...each ABSIP member should ask themselves what have I done to promote this objective? And what do we understand by the term "transformation and empowerment?"
Mr Manuel urged the business executive "to move beyond individualism."
Speaking at the 40th annual convention of the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce (Nafcoc) yesterday, Minister in the Presidency Essop Pahad said it was not enough for black business to acquire stakes in white owned firms and just be content with doing "business as usual".
He said they ought to contribute to skills development, employment equity, and small business development.
Similarly, it would be an error for white controlled companies to think that transferring their minimum equity obligations was the beginning and end of BEE, he cautioned.