The Chimera of Redistribution in Post-apartheid South Africa: 'Black Economic Empowerment' (BEE) in Industrial Fisheries

Stefano Ponte*, Lance van Sittert

*Corresponding author for this work

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Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) is an attempt to marry redistributive and neo-liberal economic policies. The South African state, however, has differing degrees of power to force redistribution on different sectors of the economy. Fisheries is one of the sectors where state allocation of licenses, exploitation rights and quotas makes the prospects for BEE promising. In this article, we examine redistributive processes in the hake trawl industry. We conclude that BEE, despite its redistributive intentions, has been doubly conducive to the interests of large-scale South African capital. To begin with, it has by and large confirmed the historical share of fishing rights to incumbent, largely white-controlled, operators. Second, it has created a layer of 'black captains of industry' to whom incumbents are increasingly outsourcing primary production in a volatile, high-risk and currently loss-leading sector. While fishing operations are being outsourced under the banner of redistribution, the fish trade remains under the effective control of white capital.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAfrican Affairs
Issue number424
Pages (from-to)437-462
Number of pages26
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes

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