Black economic power and nation-building in post-apartheid South Africa

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71 Scopus citations


This paper evaluates the evolution and the implementation of the ANC government's commitment to fostering a black capitalist class or black economic empowerment (BEE) as a non-racial nation-building strategy. A substantial black bourgeoisie and other middle classes have begun to emerge over the last decade, contrary to popular perceptions. The legitimating role assigned to the emergent black bourgeoisie by the ANC and the government, however, threatens to turn the strategy into a nepotistic accumulation. This development is paradoxically threatening to re-racialise the country, widening black inequality gaps, and precluding the rise of a black bourgeoisie with a nurture capitalist agenda. Other equally powerful social groups have begun to challenge the prevailing strategy, compelling the government to explore a more accommodating strategy exemplified by the recent introduction by the government of 'broad-based economic empowerment'. Should a less patrimonial, less racially and ethnically divisive BEE strategy emerge from this quasi-pluralist power play, such a change holds prospects for the creation of a 'growth coalition' capable of sustainable capitalist development and true empowerment of the black majority. That would be a positive development in terms of establishing and consolidating democracy in South Africa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-30
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Modern African Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Sociology and Political Science


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