In November 2003, the South African wine industry held its first consultative conference on ‘Black Empowerment’. The press reported to the world that the industry was at last entering ‘the new South Africa’. For years, it had been a byword for white power and black exploitation – famous for the grim working conditions, poor wages, degrading institutions, and authoritarian, racist white farmers. In contrast to the past, when talk of change was the prerogative of white and male industry insiders, a wide range of industry stakeholders were invited, and the conference itself was dominated by new black faces and voices. A Wine Industry Plan was presented, in which ‘Black Economic Empowerment’ (BEE) figured as a central element. This paper argues that far from representing a decisive break with the past, BEE in the wine industry is in important ways continuous with it. BEE allows the industry to avoid potentially more uncomfortable options to redress current and past race-based imbalances – such as land redistribution, import boycotts, and better working conditions for grape pickers.
Du Toit, A.; Kruger, S.; Ponte, S. De-Racialising exploitation: &#8216;Black economic empowerment&#8217; in the South African wine sector. Danish Institute for International Studies, Copenhagen, Denmark (2006) ii + 30 pp. ISBN 87-7605-173-0 [DIIS Working Paper no 2006/34]