::wysiwyg_text::Since 1994, the democratic government in South Africa has worked hard at improving the lives of the black majority, yet close to half the population lives in poverty, jobs are scarce, and the country is more unequal than ever.

For millions, the colour of people’s skin still decides their destiny. In his wide-ranging, incisive and provocative analysis, Hein Marais shows that although the legacies of apartheid and colonialism weigh heavy, many of the strategic choices made since the early 1990s have compounded those handicaps. Many who fought to bring an end to apartheid believed that a new dawn had arrived in South Africa as, briefly, they basked in the euphoria of the Rainbow Society.

Despite all the genuine attempts to solve the many problems facing the poor majority, they had overlooked the basic human qualities in the leadership elite that had brought disappointment to the majority in country after country to the north as they achieved independence. Most important of all was the decision that for South Africa to take its place in a world dominated by capitalism and the capitalist ethos it had to follow the same path and, of course, it inherited the necessary structure to do so.

During the apartheid era the ruling white minority was always desperate to link the South African economy with the wider capitalist system and by creating a special market economy based upon the country’s mining wealth indispensable to the wider market economies of the West they prolonged the apartheid system and their power.

The apartheid system was brought to an end not least because the powerful white business community realised they would be destroyed if they tried to hold onto power any longer and so they came to terms with the new order and did so by presenting their successor black rulers with a ready made capitalist infrastructure that would maintain a market economy that would most easily allow the new South Africa to enter the world market system as a significant player.

The majority of the people fit into this system just as they did – at the bottom of the pile – during the apartheid era. This is a deeply researched book that makes a major contribution to an understanding of South Africa today.

Hein Marais

Zed Books 2011