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Black Diamonds is a collective term that is used pejoratively in South Africa to refer to members of the new black middle class. The term was not originally derogatory. It was coined by TNS Research Surveys (Pty) Ltd and the UCT Unilever Institute to refer to members of South Africa’s fast-growing, affluent and influential black community. However, the term evolved negative connotations and is now used almost exclusively as a pejorative term.
Colonial governments in South Africa reduced bushmen to an underclass, and the first generations of independent government entrenched racial segregation in a legal system known as apartheid which, amongst other things, effectively reserved skilled jobs for whites and forced blacks into unskilled labour. This resulted in a society where whites comprised the upper, middle and lower classes with blacks forming an underclass. However, between 1990 and 1994, the South African government led by F.W. de Klerk, under severe internal and international pressure, initiated a process that would culminate in a transition to multiracial democracy, popularly referred to as the "democratic dispensation". In the first multiracial elections of 1994, the African National Congress (ANC) was voted into power and embarked on an affirmative action programme that, gradually over the course of the subsequent decades, brought a new black middle class into being. Many blacks who have benefitted from the affirmative action programmes have become involved in South Africa’s lucrative gold and diamond mining industries, a fact which contributed to the development of the term Black Diamonds.
The term Black Diamonds is used in a derogatory way because people who are referred to as Black Diamonds are viewed by others as gauche nouveau riche/new money and showing poor taste by dressing in a gaudy way, wearing clothes and accessories with conspicuous name-brands (like Gucci or Prada), driving specific cars (like Mercedes Benz or BMWs), going to specific nightclubs (like ZAR, Cubana and News Café) and indulging generally in conspicuous consumption activities without restraint. They are viewed as being an avaricious caste with little regard for philanthropy or benevolent, typically African, social precepts like ubuntu. Many people who are considered Black Diamonds are hard working black people. Black Diamonds is similar to the concept of the WaBenzi.