South Africa’s black middle class has prospered under democracy

SourceThe Economist
CountryMiddle east

THE HEADY years after apartheid gave rise to what advertisers and the press called “black diamonds”. Portrayals of newly rich black South Africans were often crass, highlighting their flashy cars and fancy homes that had been out of reach in the era of white rule. Many of the gaudiest examples involved people close to the ruling African National Congress (ANC). In 2010 Kenny Kunene, a businessman and convicted fraudster who later starred in “So What: Big Money, Big Dreams”, a TV show, was criticised for spending 700,000 rand (then worth $47,000) on a party where he ate sushi off scantily clad women.

His response: “It cost more than that.”Such tales were entertaining, but they were not the norm. More representative of the milieu of middle-class black South Africans is the Reeds, a suburb in Centurion, near Pretoria, full of Toyotas and modest homes roofed with terracotta tiles. Under apartheid its position near the administrative capital made it popular among Afrikaners (whites of mainly Dutch descent) with government jobs. Today it is mostly home to black South Africans, who joined the public sector en masse after the first democratic elections in 1994.Shortly after that vote Ayanda (not her real name) and more...