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Where are they now? Ajay and Atul Gupta in 2011 with Duduzane (son of Jacob) Zuma, then director of one of their companies  (©Gallo Images/City Press/Muntu Vilakazi)

Black empowerment is not just about schemes to help black businessmen and black farmers. Most of all, it is about rules requiring all businesses to have at least 25 per cent black ownership (preferably 51 per cent ) and as many black directors, managers and suppliers as possible. Inevitably, this means businesses having to hand over large chunks of their equity for low prices. But the policy also requires a careful counting of every category by race — yet racial classification is supposed to have been abolished. Moreover, many black shareholders, having received their shares at sub-par prices, quickly cash them in for a quick profit. This leads to government demands that the companies now “empower” another set of black shareholders to bring them back up to the 25 per cent level, while the companies indignantly reply that they cannot keep giving away their equity.

Black empowerment is so politically correct that few want to stick their heads above the parapet. Yet business universally sees black empowerment as a tax on investment and it is a powerful disincentive for foreign investors. Additionally, of course, most of the black empowerment bonanza has gone to a few politically well-connected members of the elite, the most successful of them all being Cyril Ramaphosa who has amassed a fortune of $425 million from a standing start 20 years ago. Yet no new product or services or even any particular company is associated with him, and nor does he possess any special entrepreneurial skills. Instead, he has had multiple directorships and has benefited from many favourable share deals in other people’s companies.

The post-apartheid dispensation works well for the new black elite but offers no advantages to most blacks and is directly harmful to South African society as a whole. What it means is that South Africa, like most other African countries, is really run for the benefit of the small black bourgeoisie — perhaps a quarter of a million people in a population of 57 million. This perspective informs almost everything about the country. For example, South Africa gains high marks from UN agencies for equality of women because it has many women MPs (mainly just voting fodder on the ANC list), yet this tiny elite is absurdly unrepresentative. South Africa has one of the world’s highest rates of rape and violence against women, three-quarters of black families are headed by a single woman and they seldom receive any support from their ex-husbands. In real terms the plight of black women is abysmal. They are the true heroines of modern South Africa, holding together whatever is left of the black family.

For the whites South Africa remains a beautiful, sunny and exciting country in which to live — and the country still depends heavily upon them. Their numbers may be down by 20 per cent in the last 20 years but they still pay an overwhelming share of taxes, grow virtually all the food, manage almost all the big companies and run the country’s top schools and universities. They are, in African terms, South Africa’s great competitive advantage — yet they are also reviled, endlessly reminded of their past sins and have learnt to keep their heads down. Instead of confronting their accusers most of them busy themselves with private life, making money, sport, philanthropy and, often, a passionate concern with the country’s environment and threatened wildlife.
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April 16th, 2018
9:04 PM
While Thabo Mbeki deprived black South Africans of retroviral drugs the Apartheid regime caused a much greater genocide. Its rule resulted in millions of black South Africans, mainly infants and children, dying of starvation because they were deprived of food.

April 13th, 2018
3:04 PM
There is much truth in this piece but it gives white South Africans a free pass.They have white Messiah Syndrome deeply embedded—most senior positions in companies are held by whites not because they are more competent but because most whites have refused to change and embrace meritocracy. The decisions are made in secret white laager committees—so nothing has changed from Johan Anthoniszoon "Jan" van Riebeeck’s days.

April 9th, 2018
5:04 AM
This article did not cover the other aspects in all this. Julius Malema...he is the greatest danger to peace.

Eddie Goldschagg
April 8th, 2018
8:04 AM
R W Johnson.There are a lot of people who certainly will not like what you said, but you hit the nail on the head. Thank you. I will follow you with interest.

April 8th, 2018
7:04 AM
As a South African I ask. What is the next step?

Craig Schweitzer
April 6th, 2018
5:04 AM
Att: R.W. Johnson I am a South African, am a third generation citizen and spent my entire life living in Johannesburg. We get bombarded with political opinions from numerous sources. People comment of current affairs from various perspectives, and often with differing agenda's. I read your article with interest, and was captivated from your first sentence. You have so succinctly documented exactly what is happening in South Africa (and Africa) right now, that I feel your article should be used as a reference point in understanding the political and economical situation of this country before continuing with a political direction. I feel that the reality, which you have described, should be understood, and the course of our future altered to fix our future outcome, not for the benefit of the quarter million only. Thank you for writing this article, I will certainly share it far and wide, and intend following your future commentaries.

Johann Fourie
April 6th, 2018
2:04 AM
A most interesting summary of events of the past 20 + years, albeit alarming at times.Full marks to the authour.

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