In his state of the nation address in February, President Jacob Zuma said: “Today we are starting a new chapter of radical economic transformation. “We are moving beyond words,” he declared. Yet words seem to be all that have followed. In the wake of his vague announcement, a mighty rhetorical battle has unfolded, as all and sundry have scrambled to understand what exactly radical economic transformation is, and what its potential implications are. The reason is simple enough: there is no definition. That is, there is no definition outside of the vague and general ANC economic policy framework. A search through ANC archives suggests radical economic transformation is nothing more than a description, an ad hoc phrase invented as shorthand for conventional party thought. But it has become government policy and, through obscurity and fear, it has taken on a life of its own. Actual radical economic transformation, as a coherent concept, does not exist — and it never has.Interestingly, t...

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