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Reviewed by:
  • Racial Redress and Citizenship in South Africa
  • Kevin Durrheim (bio)
Adam Habib and Kristina Bentley (eds) (2008) Racial Redress and Citizenship in South Africa. Cape Town: HSRC Press

The single biggest challenge facing South Africa is overcoming the legacy of racial poverty and inequality. This it imperative, firstly, because human dignity and social justice have always been the objectives of the struggle for liberation, and secondly, because racial inequality threatens to profoundly destabilize the society and the nation state (as Desai and Ramjettan, this volume, argue so cogently). Since coming to power, the ANC government has embarked on an extensive program of affirmative action by means of laws (eg, employment equity, broad based black economic empowerment, land reform) and polices (quotas for sports teams; content and language of public broadcasting) to achieve redress. In contrast to the 'minimalist' version of affirmative action used in the USA and many other contexts, Modisha (this volume) argues that South Africa has adopted a 'maximalist' version which aimed not only to change the composition of the workforce but is concerned with 'transforming the economic system of society so that every racial group of the population is represented in all levels of economic activities' (154). The programme of redress in South Africa has been maximalist and race based.

This book is a stock taking exercise. What has been the impact of more than a decade of profound social change and redress? This collection of essays provides an instructive series of probes into the implementation and consequences of redress in four contexts: the public service, the economy, education, and sport. Like many edited collections, the chapters are rather disparate, having different methodologies, purposes and foci, written by authors from different disciplinary backgrounds: sociology, political science, history, and law. Some chapters present statistical data of employment [End Page 125] demographics in the public service (Naidoo, Chipkin) and the wider workplace (Modisha); there are case studies of transformation in the mining industry (Bezuidenhout), schools (Chisholm), historically black universities (Morrow), and global football (Desai); and policy analyses focusing on the history and ideological underpinnings of racial redress (Ndletyana), Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment (Sanchez), and sport (Desai and Ramjettan). Friedman and Erasmus critically review survey data (and interpretations of the data) of attitudes towards redress of black (subcategorised as 'black African' and 'Indian and coloured') and white South Africans. Bentley and Habib provide introductory and concluding chapters in which they reflect on the process of implementation and the outcomes of redress, and make proposals for transforming redress polices.

This kaleidoscopic collection of fragments and perspectives actually works quite well. It leaves the reader with thought provoking questions and a general impression of the state of things, supported by some concrete detail and a number of striking facts. For example, did you know that black Africans comprise about 73 per cent of the civil service as a whole, about 55 per cent of senior managers and 60-65 per cent of those in highly skilled categories (Naidoo)? Did you know that the biggest beneficiaries of employment equity in terms of increased representation in top management have been white females (Modisha)? Did you know that more than a quarter of workers in the mining industry are employed by outside contractors and labour brokers and some have been reported to earn as little as R700 per month (Bezuidenhout)? Did you know that 'the number of households considered deprived of access to good basic services increased from 5.68 million to 7,24 million between the 1996 and 2001 censuses' (Desai and Ramjettan: 309)? And did you know that today's debates about redress and citizenship can be linked to a longstanding tension between non-racialism and Africanism in the intellectual tradition of the ANC (Ndletyana)? Certainly, this book is a little treasure trove of snippets of life in post-apartheid South Africa.

Three big and interrelated tensions define this field of transformation. First, as the title of the book suggests, citizenship and redress come into conflict with each other as (on the one hand) racial criteria for redress have the potential to exclude the historically advantaged from full participation and cosmopolitan citizenship, and (on the other hand) inadequate redress keeps...


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pp. 125-128
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