Assigning state a colour muddies water

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Dave Steward of the FW de Klerk Foundation is right to point out that the issue of the ownership of the economy is more complex than President Jacob Zuma and his party would have us believe (“How much power really remains in white hands?”, The Star, July 2).

But Steward’s claim that 50 to 51 percent of the economy is in black hands is not entirely straightforward either. It is based on the assumption that the state (and its share of the economy) is in black hands, and under the previous regime had been in white hands. However, if the state is excluded, the figures tell a different story. Based on Steward’s own figures, without the state and state-owned enterprises, black ownership of the economy will have gone from 12 percent before 1994 to 13.4 percent now. White ownership would have gone from around 44 percent before 1994 to 32.5 percent now.

Steward could argue that it is only fair to aggregate black ownership and state ownership given that the government often describes itself as a black one, and the previous government could accurately be described as a white one. However, if we are to meaningfully assess the control of the economy in the hands of ordinary black and white South Africans, assigning the state a colour may be muddying the water.

Lucy Holborn

Research Manager, SA Institute of Race Relations

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