Working Paper
‘Delangokubona’ and the distribution of rents and opportunity

An exploration of tensions over race-based policies of redress and redistribution in South Africa

Capital spending on infrastructure presents a significant counter-cyclical tool, however contested it might be in a society as unequal as South Africa.

The history of racial capitalism, race-based exclusion from economic participation, and an enduring political economy based on the concentration of capital, product, and service markets has given rise to a post-apartheid ‘politics of entry’ that mobilizes both formal and informal adaptations of redistributive policies aimed at ensuring redress of past injustices and access and participation by small and medium-sized enterprises owned by historically disadvantaged people.

This is observed in stark form in the capital spending on economic and social infrastructure, which the South African government envisages as the ‘flywheel’ of the country’s economic reconstruction and recovery.

Applying a combination of tools from new institutional economics, political sociology, and heterodox political economy frameworks, this paper considers the ‘informal’ and at times violent adaptation of policy, here defined as the ‘Delangokubona phenomenon’, which uses both formal mechanisms and the threat (perceived or real) of violent disruption to negotiate access to policy-sanctioned economic ‘rents’ under the auspices of ‘black economic empowerment’ in public infrastructure projects.