Archbishop Desmond Tutu took a swipe at black economic empowerment at a lecture given on his 77th birthday at the Cape Peninsula of Technology yesterday.
Tutu said ordinary South Africans, like the Israelites in the Bible, were still "travelling through the wilderness".
"Some have reached the other side and,having crossed over, have forgotten the ones still left in the wilderness. I really sympathise with the younger ones because it is hell in the wilderness," said Tutu.
He avoided any mention of his recent threat to boycott next year's elections.
He vetoed the South African Council of Churches' announcement he would hold a press conference after the lecture, and refused to answer questions about his decision not to vote.
Tutu also declined to say whether he would support the "ANC South Africa", a breakaway party widely rumoured to be launching today in Johannesburg.
Tutu was criticised by political figures yesterday for threatening not to vote.
Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi accused him of "practically endorsing voter apathy".
And the Azanian Youth Organisation said that democrats should not refuse to vote just because the "ruling party is in a muddle".
Meanwhile, at the same lecture, the SACC said it had ended its 15-year policy of "critical solidarity with the state".
SACC deputy general secretary Vuyani Vellem said the SACC would on Friday announce its plans to intervene in future economic policies. Vellem said the church had "got lost in the euphoria of democracy" but would deliver a manifesto this week "reflecting the aspirations of the people".