South of the Limpopo, the South African government has been busy restructuring the economy along racial lines for decades. The “colour bar,” which was a system of racial preferences designed to protect white workers from their black competitors during the apartheid era, was replaced by the Employment Equity Act and the Black Economic Empowerment legislation that require private enterprises to hire workers in proportion to their population share. Likewise, strict affirmative action policies govern civil service hiring and government procurement.
The Mining Charter, under which the African National Congress government nationalised South Africa’s mineral rights, also stipulates that at least 26 percent of shares in mining concerns have to be held by African shareholders. A recently-scrapped plan would have raised that threshold to 30 percent. That’s just as well, for South Africa’s mining sector has been, in contrast with extractive industries in other parts of the world, contracting.