Why a white minority continues to dominate South Africa’s economy


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Many would like to consign the polarising debate about “white monopoly capitalism” (WMC) in South Africa to the margins.

They argue that its proponents are nothing more than Marxist ideologues or mischievous political manipulators

But, even if we query the integrity of the term WMC, its introduction into South Africa’s contemporary discourse is indisputably good for the country’s politics.

Above all, it’s an urgent reminder that the inequalities of wealth, income and opportunity in this country are not only extreme but still highly racialised.

It forces people to ask why, even under a black government, a white minority continues to dominate the most productive parts of the economy.

The extremes of racialised inequality in the country are not just an affront to social justice but are also politically explosive.

Granted, the implementation of employment equity and Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) has somewhat ameliorated racialised patterns of wealth and ownership.

But, no one should be surprised when black people at the bottom of the heap get angry.

Neither should people be surprised that there are politicians who, for reasons good and ill, are willing to exploit that anger and mobilise around it.

For the last twenty years, mainstream politics has talked a lot about addressing the extremity of inequality, but has done little about it.

The governing African National Congress (ANC) has indulged in much egalitarian rhetoric while the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) has targeted “equality of opportunity”.

In practice, both have embraced the mantra that a rising tide in the economy will lift all boats.

But, today the tide has long been out.

The boats are stuck in the mud.

And it’s taken the rise of the radical Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) to shake the major parties out of their complacency by espousing a revolutionary assault upon WMC.

That’s a major plus for the country’s politics.

Continued next page

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The Insider

The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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