‘Black Economic Empowerment’ (BEE) has been a major policy thrust of the democratic governments in South Africa since 1994 in attempting to redress the effects of apartheid. In this article, we explore the historical precedents to BEE in South Africa, review the different steps taken in promoting it, and assess some of its outcomes to date. We argue that BEE can take only limited forms because of the economic policy constraints in which it has been incorporated. Moreover, these forms have an increasingly managerial logic that further restricts what can be achieved. Short of a major shift in conceptions of — and policy for — BEE, meaningful ‘empowerment’ is unlikely to take place.