The ANC's alliance partner Cosatu is looking to the party's conference for economic reform.
The government could not just focus on creating an environment for business to invest, Congress of SA Trade Unions general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said on the sidelines of the ANC's Mangaung conference on Wednesday.
He said the state was a critical player in the economy.
“So when you talk about land reform you want to see a stronger role from the state. When we talk about industrial policy... we want to see a stronger role of the state.”
Cosatu's second largest affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA, wanted a “freedom charter moment”.
This included people owning the country's land and mineral wealth.
“In particular a state that is going to intervene and make sure that intervention is in the interest of the ordinary people,” Vavi said.
Whether it was agriculture, land reform or food security, the state had to have a central role.
Cosatu did not believe in the wholesale nationalisation of mines, but that the state needed to play a more strategic role.
This was one of the recommendations proposed at the ANC's national policy conference earlier this year.
“It (the state) must carefully consider where it wants to involve itself,” said Vavi.
“We must not develop state capitalism. We know the disastrous consequences of that, but we want an active state.”
The government needed to have a serious role in the mining industry, which included strategic nationalisation of particular minerals. This could help with other objectives such industrialisation, he said.
Vavi said land redistribution in South Africa was taking place too slowly and land which had already been distributed was not being utilised.
“Seventy percent (of land) is lying idle, not being used. This is a problem.”
What was needed was a government which intervened, but also one that would be active in ensuring aspirant farmers were trained to use the land.
Land could not just be about “assisting colour”, but also about food security.
“(What) everybody seems to be ignoring is that the Constitutional Court did say that the state can proclaim land for the purposes of redressing the past and the purposes of development, and can set the price thereafter,” he said.
“That's what we want. That's what we need in South Africa.” - Sapa