Zuma said at a business question-and-answer session in Cape Town that South African taxpayers should focus on developing the country rather than on feeding the poor.
“We cannot be a welfare state,” Zuma said.
“We cannot sustain a situation where social grants are growing all the time and think it can be a permanent feature.”
He said the country was paying for the mistakes “of those who were there before”.
“By creating a society which did not have equal opportunities, we disadvantaged a lot of people, mainly in education,” Zuma said.
“We have people who are there, but they have no skills at all.”
South Africa had to develop programmes to reach a stage where it reduced the number of people who received social grants and balanced it with those who were taxpayers.
“Let us educate our citizens so there are no people sitting there who are helpless.”
Zuma said the country had to estimate at what point it could begin to reduce social grants.
“I am certain we will come to that point. No one will want to sustain this.”
Taxpayers should develop the country “rather than feed the poor”.
It could not be that people with bodies which had no defect “form part of the army of those who are in poverty”.
“This cannot be sustained,” Zuma said.
According to the National Treasury, the government spends 10.9% of its total budget on social grants, which support about 15.2 million South Africans.
The Treasury estimates that spending on social protection will rise from R160 billion in 2012 to R182 billion by 2014.