Policy, Politics and Poverty in South Africa - published

A new book by Jeremy Seekings and Nicoli Nattrass explains why poverty has persisted in South Africa since 1994. In Policy, Politics and Poverty in South Africa - published by Palgrave Macmillan in the UK.- the authors demonstrate who has and who has not remained poor, how public policies both mitigated and reproduced poverty, and how and why these policies were adopted. Their analyses of the South African welfare state, labour market policies and the growth path of the South African economy challenge conventional accounts that focus only on 'neoliberalism'. They argue, instead, that policies were, in important respects, social democratic. They show how social democratic policies both mitigate and reproduce poverty in contexts such as South Africa, reflecting the contradictory nature of social democracy in the global South.

Perceived Relative Deprivation among ‘coloured’ South Africans

21 July, 2015 - 12:45 to 14:00
Whitney Laster Pirtle, Ph.D. Department of Sociology University of California, Merced
CSSR Seminar Room 4.29, Level 4 Leslie Social Science Building, Upper Campus
Abstract / Description: 

So-called “coloureds” occupied an important, intermediate, and often buffering position during apartheid and continue to be a significant part of the South African political and economic landscape today. Considering  "coloureds’" intermediate and often precarious position, this research seeks to understand how "coloureds" perceive their position in contemporary South Africa. Specifically, in this paper I analyze two waves of the Southern African Barometer, and supplement with preliminary findings from qualitative interviews, to determine whether persons who self-identify as “coloured” perceive their group as deprived and gratified compared to “white” and “black” South Africans, respectively. I inform this analysis with relative deprivation theory, which makes predictions about individuals’ and groups’ perceptions of disadvantage (or gratification) relative to another individual or group. I extend the theory to apply to “coloureds” who were once simultaneously dominant and subordinate. I contend such an analysis allows us speculate/deduce key information about how South Africans perceive their positions and experiences within the racial hierarchy. Contrary to my expectations, I found that "coloureds" reported the highest levels of economic and treatment deprivation. I argue heightened perceptions of deprivation are a characteristic of the multiple social comparisons that must be made by “coloureds” today.



Elena presents at the Centre for Intimate and Sexual Citizenship (CISC) at the University of Essex

Elena Moore presented a paper on “Divorce and Emotion Work: The Egalitarians and Emphatic Interaction” at a seminar at the Centre for Intimate and Sexual Citizenship (CISC) at the University of Essex (for more details see  http://www.essex.ac.uk/sociology/news_and_seminars/seminarDetail.aspx?e_id=7478). In this seminar, Elena presented findings from a longitudinal qualitative study on post-divorce parenting. The paper focussed on how emotion work and emotions are experienced relationally amongst a subgroup of divorcees, the ‘egalitarians', and how they consciously manage and display a high level of dedication and attachment to the triadic relationship up to 10 years following the breakdown of a marriage. The paper is based on a findings chapter of her ongoing book project on Divorce, Families and Emotion Work.

Stanford Mahati to present a paper at Singapore migration conference

CSSR post-doctoral research fellow Stanford Mahati is presenting a paper on "Gendered Representations of Zimbabwean Independent Young Female Migrants Negotiating for Livelihood in a South African Border Town" at an international conference in Singapore on "Gendered Dimensions of Migration: Material and social outcomes of South-South migration". Stanford recently published a coauthored article in the journal Feminism and Psychology. He is currently working on two papers on his post-doctoral research on the experiences of fathering among transnational migrants from West Africa and ZImbabwe in Johannesburg. He presented the first of these papers - written with Elena Moore and Jeremy Seekings - at a FaSRU workshop in the CSSR earlier this year.

ASRU at the SA AIDS Conference

The recent Southern African AIDS Conference in Durban showcased the research findings of the Mzantsi Wakho study. Members of the research team presented in over a dozen sessions during the conference, including a plenary. ASRU's director, Rebecca Hodes, chaired the 'social sciences, economics and human rights' track at the conference. All submissions for symposia, roundtables, oral abstract sessions and posters were peer-reviewed. The full list of presentations is attached. The full conference programme is available here.


ASRU publishes article in AIDS

ASRU's director, Rebecca Hodes, has co-authored the first article on findings from the Mzantsi Wakho study, published in AIDS, the most highly-cited journal in HIV research. The Mzantsi Wakho study is a collaboration between the ASRU and Oxford University's Department of Social Policy and Intervention. The research team partners with UNICEF, Paediatric HIV Treatment for Africa, and the National Departments of Health, Basic Education and Social Development, to study how adolescents in the Eastern Cape use HIV treatment and sexual health services. The article presents findings from combined research methods, including longitudinal data, focus groups and direct observations in clinics and leisure spaces, to explore associations between HIV disclosure and adherence to antiretroviral treatment among teenagers in the Eastern Cape.

Discussing Inequality

On Friday 5th June, Jeremy Seekings will be discussing inequality with British Professors Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, the authors of the international bestseller The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better. There is probably nowhere in the world where inequality is more important than in South Africa. The discussion, hosted by the Open Society Foundation, starts at 3 pm, at the District 6 Homecoming Centre in Buitenkant Street.

Without state nor status - exploring undocumented migrant children’s experiences in Cape Town

2 June, 2015 - 12:45 to 14:00
Lena Opfermann (Visiting PhD student in the CSSR, from the University of York in the UK)
CSSR Seminar Room 4.29, Level 4 Leslie Social Science Building, Upper Campus
Abstract / Description: 

This presentation reflects on preliminary findings of a drama-based research project that explored the experiences and perceptions of undocumented migrant children living in Cape Town. Participants’ recurring references to discrimination, xenophobia, crime and loneliness show that their lack of a legal status specifically as well as their foreign nationality more generally affect their daily lives in practical and emotional terms. Participants’ enacted performances display notions of vulnerability and victimhood on the one hand and agency on the other hand. I interrogate how state actors, civil society and academic discourses instrumentalize these contrasting notions for their own purposes in an attempt to either enhance or restrict migrant children’s status in society. I conclude by arguing that neither the children’s actual nor attributed agency is sufficient to transform their status if they live in a state that does not recognize their presence. 


Lena is a PhD candidate at the Centre for Applied Human Rights, University of York (UK), and currently a visiting student at the Centre for Social Science Research at UCT. Her PhD explores the experiences of unaccompanied and undocumented migrant children in Cape Town through a theatre-based methodology. Lena has a background in International Humanitarian Action (MA) from the University of Uppsala (Sweden) and in Cultural Sciences (BA) from the European University Viadrina (Germany). Prior to her PhD she worked for several years in the protection of refugees and migrants in South Africa, Ecuador and Angola. From 2008 to 2011 she led the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town’s advocacy programme with a particular focus on advocating for the rights of unaccompanied foreign children, disabled refugees and persons affected by xenophobic violence. 

Constraints, Competition, and Competitiveness: Explaining the Non-linear Effect of Democratisation on Political Budget Cycles

9 June, 2015 - 12:45 to 14:00
Halfdan Lynge-Mangueira co-authored with Ferdinand Eibl
CSSR Seminar Room 4.29, Level 4 Leslie Social Science Building, Upper Campus
Abstract / Description: 

This article investigates the effect of democratisation on political budget cycles (PBCs). Challenging the existing literature, we demonstrate that democratisation has a non-linear effect on PBCs along the regime spectrum: positive at the autocratic end, negative at the democratic end. We explain this finding by the countervailing effects of executive constraints and political competition as two dimensions of democratisation. While the former contains PBCs, the latter stimulates them. Because of the empirical covariation between the two, PBCs occur primarily in hybrid regimes where executive decision-making powers are relatively unrestricted and politics is beginning to be competitive. We also show that while executive constraints and political competition condition PBCs, what triggers the fluctuations is electoral competitiveness. Only when incumbents fear electoral defeat, do they create PBCs. The study is based on a new dataset on public spending in 87 non-OECD countries, covering the period from 1960 to 2006.

Halfdan Lynge-Mangueira is a doctoral candidate at the University of Oxford. His research in comparative politics and political economy focuses on electoral mobilisation, manipulation, and dispute resolution. Prior to commencing his doctoral research, Halfdan Lynge-Mangueira spent five years with the UN in Bangladesh, Mozambique, and Ethiopia, as a political advisor and democratic governance specialist. He holds MSc and BSc degrees in politics from the University of Copenhagen

Workshop on the Politics of Social Protection in Africa

The Legislating and Implementing Welfare Policy Reforms (LIWPR) project is holding its third workshop in the CSSR on Thursday 4 and Friday 5 June 2015. Papers will be presented on the politics of policy reform in Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, as well as South Africa. This project is funded by the UK Department for International Development (DfID) through the Economic and Social Research Council. Enquiries should be addressed to Elizabeth.Welsh@uct.ac.za. 

New PhD and Masters graduates

Five students with links to the CSSR graduated in June. Eric Schollar completed his PhD on mathematics teaching and outcomes in South African primary schools. Ralpsh Ssebagala's PhD was on household debt and the National Credit Act in South Africa Jan Schenk's thesis involved a comparison of popular culture and identity among adolescents in Cape Town and the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte. Chijioke Nwosu's PhD examined the relationship between health and labour market participation. In addition, Kezia Lilenstein graduated with distinction, after completing her Masters degree. Her dissertation examined reservation wages among young people in Cape Town. The CSSR congratulates all students who graduated this year.

Migrant Organising and Civic Agency

12 May, 2015 - 12:45 to 14:00
Leah Mundell
CSSR Seminar Room 4.29, Level 4 Leslie Social Science Building, Upper Campus
Abstract / Description: 


This project is an engaged research collaboration with the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town, a refugee services organization. In November of 2014, Scalabrini Centre launched a new initiative to build a Women’s Platform, a network of refugee, immigrant, and South African women’s community groups that would provide mutual support, training, and networking opportunities. Seven nationality groups currently participate in the platform, coming together across differences in migration status, religion, socio-economic class, and language to fight the isolation often caused by migration and eventually to support the development of small businesses and social entrepreneurship. My still ongoing qualitative research with the Women’s Platform examines the factors leading women to engage in such organizing structures, the cultural specificity of their engagement, and the habits and practices that make particular support strategies successful. I am particularly interested in how civil society organizations can successfully engage with migrants as agents of change rather than recipients of services. Here, I attempt to anticipate challenges that may arise as the group moves from primarily social support into micro-finance and entrepreneurship. Critics of micro-finance organizations have argued that such structures may commoditize women’s social relationships in ways that jeopardize their effectiveness in providing social support. How might the Women’s Platform be building the trust, collaboration, and leadership necessary to make that transition successfully?

Leah Mundell is currently a visiting scholar at the Centre for Social Science Research of the University of Cape Town. She is an instructor in the First Year Seminar Program at Northern Arizona University and until recently was Director of Organizing for the Northern Arizona Interfaith Council, a broad-based community organization working for social change on issues such as immigration and public education. She received her Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 2003.

The Land Occupation as a Tactic: Community Organisation and Contentious Politics in the Marikana Informal Settlement, Cape Town

5 May, 2015 - 12:45 to 14:00
Rayner Teo
CSSR Seminar Room 4.29, Level 4 Leslie Social Science Building, Upper Campus
Abstract / Description: 

What makes a successful land occupation? Marikana informal settlement is the largest new land occupation in Cape Town since Siqalo (2012), and it is probably there to stay. In this ongoing research, I document the emergence of community organising in Marikana, as well as the political opportunities that have facilitated the land occupation—particularly the role of the newly-formed Ses'khona People's Rights Movement. Guided by perspectives from social movement theory, I conceptualise land occupation as a tactic within the repertoire of contentious politics in South Africa. I then build a case for considering the poor in South Africa as a social movement that employs a large and varied repertoire of contention, including the land occupation

Rayner is a research master's student in the Sociology department. He is studying collective action, contentious politics, and social movement organisations in South Africa. His dissertation work focuses on the Marikana land occupation in Cape Town. His work is funded by the Fox Fellowship from Yale University, and the CSSR.

Interrogating health coverage in Africa

28 April, 2015 - 12:45 to 14:00
Nicoli Nattrass/Danielle Pagano
CSSR Seminar Room 4.29, Level 4 Leslie Social Science Building, Upper Campus
Abstract / Description: 


The International Labour Organisation has recently released data on 'health care coverage'.  We interrogate this variable by examining the sources for the estimates, and by exploring whether it is correlated with key outcomes, notably the percentage of poor women who give birth with health professionals in attendance.  We find that the ILO's new measures of legal coverage and deficits pertaining to health care workers are predictors of pro-poor outcomes in Africa. However we are concerned that the estimate of legal coverage is misleading in many cases.

Technocrats, Elections and Social Protection in Ghana

21 April, 2015 - 12:45
Eduard Grebe
Rm 4.29, Leslie Social Science
Abstract / Description: 

During the 2000s, Ghana introduced substantial social protection policy reforms. These included reform of the contributory pensions system from a single statutory defined-benefit scheme and a colonial-era defined benefit scheme for civil servants (the former introduced and the latter closed to new entrants in 1992) to a new three-tier system with mandatory and voluntary privately-administered schemes augmenting the SSNIT. A new contributory national health insurance scheme was introduced in 2003 and several forms of social assistance targeted at the (largely rural) poor, including a school feeding programme, ‘capitation grants’ to expand free primary education and the flagship Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) cash transfer scheme. All of these reforms were initiated under the right-of-centre Kufuor/New Patriotic Party administration, who had won the 2000 elections and unseated Jerry Rawlings’ National Democratic Convention which had been in power since democratisation in 1992. The NDC returned to power in 2008 and has continued the implementation NPP-introduced reforms and with broadly similar economic and social protection policy. Given Ghana’s experience with poor performance during statist experiments under military rule and the return to sustained economic growth after painful ‘structural adjustment’ reforms in the 1980s, the broad cross-party consensus on macroeconomic policy is not surprising. What requires more explanation is how and why Ghana opted for an unusually contributory social insurance-oriented social protection policy framework augmented by various forms of social assistance and a (relatively parsimonious and small, but largely domestically-funded) conditional cash transfer scheme – and that this policy path too enjoyed broad consensus. It introduced cash transfers earlier than many African countries and in a less donor-driven fashion, despite early resistance from some parts of the polity to handouts’. However, despite highly-competitive elections with two dominant parties, neither party appears to have seized a populist social assistance agenda (for example, broad expansion of LEAP or universal social pensions) in order to attract poor rural voters, the urban poor is largely left out of the social protection system, and the LEAP programme has remained small under the rule of both parties. This paper examines the ‘technocratic’ agenda (among both donors and bureaucrats) and the political/ideological agendas as well as electoral incentives on politicians in an attempt to help explain the path of Ghanaian social protection policy reform since 2000.