Abstract: Black Economic Empowerment, Apartheid Style: The Case of Pep Stores Peninsula, Limited, 1973-1974

Anton Ehlers


In a certain sense black economic empowerment (BEE) is not a new concept in South Africa's more recent past. The apartheid policies of the National Party also made provision for the economic development of black people. In the process state-controlled corporations such as the Coloured Development Corporation (CDC) were founded to finance and drive the process. Some white businessmen seized this opportunity to access Coloured group areas as markets. Pep Stores Peninsula, Limited, a clothing retail company founded in 1974, was probably one of the earliest examples in this regard. The aim of this paper is to use the Pep Peninsula case study to argue that the roots of BEE in South Africa stretch back much further than the early 1990s; to posit it as one of the earliest examples of corporate involvement in BEE in South Africa; to highlight the dynamics generated by the combination of state-controlled, ideologically driven, race-based empowerment in tandem with corporate market-driven initiatives; to indicate incidences (tangencies) between the apartheid economic empowerment initiative and the current BEE initiatives of the post-apartheid era.