Cape Town - Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor stepped outside her portfolio on Wednesday to criticise what she called the "huge bonuses" paid to South African bosses.
Speaking at the end of a two-day debate in the National Assembly on last week's state-of-the-nation address, she also warned against "union bashing" by opposition MPs.
"One of the most horrifying aspects of the debate was the union bashing we sat through yesterday.... [It] suggests some of us are lesser democrats than we claim to be.
"Even more distressing, is the fact that bonus payments in America and Europe were criticised, while nothing was said about South African bosses who pay themselves huge bonuses when they have shop floor workers who earn a pittance.
"In fact, very little was said about the inequality of wages in South Africa - it seems some believe we can have economic growth and poverty reduction through the favoured flexibility of impoverished workers who have no security and cannot alter their conditions of poverty."
The ANC could not accept this, Pandor said.
Her remarks were greeted with loud applause from ANC benches, and heckling from opposition MPs.