The story of BEE as a tool for facilitating economic transformation is well captured by two interviews conducted 15 years apart. In 2004 then president Thabo Mbeki claimed that the idea that BEE had benefited an exclusive, small elite of ANC members was entirely false. As examples of its success, Mbeki cited Telkom and Eskom.

The Telkom consortium deal — led exclusively by ANC elites with a third of the shares reserved for “mass-based groups” — was popular and topical as it involved the state taking an active role in a transaction as part of its privatisation exercise of Telkom. Mbeki’s other example, Eskom, had a focus on the operational rather than the ownership component of BEE.

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