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Vol 44 No 17

Published 29th August 2003

South Africa

Busy bees

The Oppenheimer mining dynasty clambers on to the black empowerment bandwagon

Steam is building in the empowerment debate. Now the Oppenheimer family, which for 100 years has dominated South African gold and diamond production, has made another of its 'strategic interventions' in national politics and economics. Its latest initiative is rocking a divided business community by calling on the white-dominated private sector to commit itself to supporting black 'economic transformation'. Current clan leaders Nicholas (Nicky) and Jonathan Oppenheimer have launched a national debate on their proposal, presenting voluntary transformation as preferable to enforced change and as an opportunity rather than a threat. In return, they have proposed that racially 'transformed' corporations should be rewarded with tax cuts. 'Non-transformed' companies may find themselves paying more taxes; already, the 'transformation' credentials of companies are being used as key criteria for awarding government contracts.

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