Development meets demolition

‘This was my dining room’, said Happy, as she stood on platform of broken tiles; all that remained after her house had been demolished in March this year. VusiMuzi informal settlement – where Happy had lived for 23 years – had been the site of an attempted re-blocking exercise by the City of Ekurhuleni.

Reblocking changes the structure a settlement by moving the size, shape or location of peoples’ homes, in order to create space for roads and services. Shack Dwellers International have argued that the process can both improve people’s living conditions and increase community cohesion. In Vusimuzi, however, the community has been left divided.

A 23-year-old resident, who wished to remain nameless, recalled the first time that he heard about reblocking: ‘The councillor came here and he just promised the good things: He promised to connect electricity, he promised flushing toilets, he promised nice streets.’

Residents in Vusimuzi were initially enthusiastic: some had been living in the area for over two decades, when they had bought their sites from a local Induna, explained Rebecca Malahlela, a committee member of Abahlali baseMjondolo Tembisa. Since arriving in the area, they had not seen any service delivery. When Rebecca’s daughters completed their Matric homework, their lamps were fueled by informal electricity connections. ‘I want my kids to have a bright future’ Rebecca explained, ‘but the government has failed us’. Whilst residents watched hyper-modern buildings and infrastructure spring up around the city they were, in Happy’s words, ‘left using candles and fire’.

Early support for reblocking fractured, however, as the project progressed. The City insists that they held meetings before any demolitions, and that community members were both informed and willing to move. The residents I spoke to, however, claim that representatives from the city refused to listen to their ideas for the redesign and moved ahead without due consultation. As the young man I talked with explained, ‘they should have listened to the community… the community leaders were saying we know this place for a long time and we don’t want to be moved like this’. The original layout of the settlement and ideas for its future reconfiguration, he alleged, were overridden by the city’s own plans for redevelopment. The demolitions, he claimed, began without warning.

It was late March when ‘contractors’ arrived to demolish Happy’s house. ‘They did not have a name. They just came: the people with the overalls’. Happy claims that she had no time to save her possessions or her materials: her five-room house was destroyed, along with her furniture. ‘What could I do?’, she asked, ‘I am an old woman. I was just standing and looking. If you are alone and the people, they are a crowd, you have no power to say ‘no’’. For the next week, during torrential rain, Happy lived in a tent provided by her local church.

‘I still feel the pain’, Happy explained. ‘I had a nice garden here. I had a beautiful home and I was proud of my home and now I am living like this’. As she spoke, she gestured to the two rooms that she had patched together from the zinc that was donated by her employer and the boards she purchased herself.

Community resistance in Vusimuzi ultimately brought reblocking to a standstill. The street that Happy’s house was demolished to create lies incomplete. But she has not be allowed to rebuild. Now, her neighbour parks his car where her yard used to be. The toilet that she dug for herself lies on the other side of partially formed street. Her neighbours use it without her permission: she struggles to keep it secure and clean.

Meanwhile, in the midst of the disruption, others had built in the gaps between existing housing. Reblocking is supposed to create new spaces of order. But Happy argues that her settlement was ordered before. Now, with the plots disrupted and new densification occurring, life is less dignified and less safe. Today, the noises of everyday life and the flames of accidental fires are free to jump between people’s homes. Happy, however, feels that she has lost the freedom she worked so hard to build: ‘I am 59 years old. I am tired. I don’t know who can help me to fix the pain I can feel. It is only God now’.

In search of rest

SeaM member SJ Cooper-Knock researches urban inclusion. This blog is drawn from her recent work on the everyday lives of informal settlement residents in South Africa. She is currently based in Durban. 

Like many South Africans, James Nthau struggled to make ends meet. In recent years, his wage had been eroded by escalating rent and rising food prices. When he was laid off in February, life quickly became untenable. ‘The owner of the house where I lived chased me and my family away’, he recalled.‘That is when I built my shack here’.

Mr Nthau explains that he was the first to form the settlement that residents have named Phumula Mqashi, meaning rest from rent.* But whilst residents no longer pay rent, rest has proved elusive. Over the last seven months residents say that they have faced 23 attempted evictions. The last of these had happened just hours before I arrived.

The police have claimed that these evictions are legal and devoid of excess force. Residents insist that evictions are counted in scorch marks on the earth and scars on their bodies. On each occasion, they claim, the Ekurhuleni Metro Police Department arrive armed with rubber bullets, tear gas, and crowbars; tearing down structures on the site and burning them as they go.

‘We don’t want to fight with them’, insisted one man, who wished to remain nameless, ‘We just need somewhere to stay. But here they burn all of our things – even the children’s uniforms – they come with no warning. We only see them when they are very close. They don’t give us chance to run away’.

Sitting in the room he had rebuilt that morning, Mr Nthau showed me a singed face cloth. It was the only thing he had managed to save from the last eviction. Perched on a sofa donated by a local resident, he recalled a recent encounter. ‘The police came’, he said, ‘They hit me with their crowbar. They kicked me like a ball. They sprayed me with tear gas’. Weeks later, Mr Nthau claimed, he still could not sit comfortably: his ribs and legs ached with bruises and he had lost the hearing in one ear.

‘They can see that we are not educated, so they think we do not know our rights’, Mr Nthau reflected. But whilst he knew his rights as a citizen, sometimes knowledge is not power. Although Mr Nthau had tried to take action against the police in the past, he had been repeatedly turned away.

Mr Nthau’s experience was echoed by others I spoke with: many were scared to approach the police at all but those who did found that they ‘were not taken seriously’, in the words of one resident.

In the wake of the latest eviction, however, resolve and desperation had grown in equal measure. As I left, residents were making plans with representatives of Abahlali baseMjondolo to visit the police station again. Collectively, this time. Together, perhaps, knowledge could become power.

  • Translated by occupiers as ‘rest from rent’, the literal translation of Phumula Mqashi is ‘rest tenant’.

Hope Meets Expectation

SeaM member SJ Cooper-Knock researches urban inclusion. This blog is drawn from her recent work on the everyday lives of informal settlement residents in South Africa. She is currently based in Durban.  

As I walked into Solomon Mahlangu settlement, Sne was driving posts back into the ground to rebuild the walls that the Land Invasion Unit had torn down. Still visible on one of the remaining boards was a sprayed number, the ubiquitous sign across eThekwini that the municipality had registered the dwelling, ahead of upgrading. Sne’s home bore testament to contradictions of the South African state, which carries with it the promise of provision and violence.

When they had arrived in the settlement three years ago, residents of Solomon Mahlangu had hoped for provision: for the fulfilment of the rights forged in the transition. Now, they expected violence.

Earlier this year, Sandile Biyela was killed as he was running from police who were dispersing a protest. The police claim that he tripped on live wires whilst fleeing the area. Residents claim that he was shot with live ammunition.

Tensions between the police and residents remain. After the last round of attempted evictions, residents took to the nearby road to protest, stopping the traffic. News reports claimed that the residents used petrol bombs to stop the cars. Residents claim that they used burning tyres. This tactic is seen as both pragmatic and symbolic: Tyres create an impermeable barrier in front of protestors and allude to the notion of a struggle betrayed.

Following the protest, the police allegedly entered the settlement looking for five men who they accused of spearheading the protest. One female resident – who wished to remain nameless – claimed ‘we were just running and hiding everywhere…They said they were going to kill us like Marikana. They said they could kill us in five minutes.’

All too often, the media has tended to focus on ‘violent protests’ in South Africa. The implicit suggestion here is that protests start conversations between citizens and the state. And in South Africa, they do so violently. But protests do not start new conversations: they are responses in an ongoing exchange. Often, they only emerge when people are, in the words of one resident, ‘Tired. Very tired’. Many of these responses are not violent. Where violence does exist, it usually mirrors that which the protestors have experienced in earlier interjections from state or society.

Residents in Solomon Mahlangu say that they now face demolitions on a regular basis. ‘Where are we going to go?’ Sne asked, standing on broken boards and splintered poles.’We have to stay’. But whilst Sne had moved in with hope, he remained with resignation. Like other residents in the settlement, he no longer believed that the state would offer protection or provision. ‘We have no hope’, said Gumede, an older resident. His money, phone, and USB connectors had been stolen in the latest eviction attempt, he claimed. Now, he had to rebuild with nothing.

As I left, Sne continued to hammer in the poles to support his new wall, which would be built from the debris of building materials that now surrounded his home. Last night, he had slept under a nearby bridge. Tomorrow, he feared, the cycle could begin again.

Blog: 60+ Queer, Old Joburg

By Jonathan Cane 

Our SeaM pilot project focuses on ten, queer Joburgers who are 60+. We are primarily using oral histories to explore how participants understood and engaged with space both during and after apartheid. These oral histories explicitly acknowledge their nested connection with the archival material of Mark Gevisser held at GALA (Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action) and the potential for extending that body of work.
In addition to these life histories, we are collecting different forms of visual material: interior and landscape photography taken by the project team; the photographs and ephemera donated by participants and others, and the archival imagery mined from GALA’s archives and other historical sources. In addition, we are making cartographies, experimenting with collaborative mapping, using tours, and collating the most up-to-date inventory of addresses LGBTI spaces in Joburg’s history.
The current phase revolves around the creation of a digital archival platform. This raises questions like: How can a digital archival platform make material accessible to those who might not easily engage with and contribute to queer histories? What kinds of spatial representations and connections are made possible by web-based archiving? What is the generative capability for the digital arts in terms of building a queer archive?  How does the digital archive work against incompleteness? How can we attempt to embrace an experimental, queer way of dealing with ‘data’?
Below are examples design experimentation focussing on queer locations in Joburg CBD between 1960-1993. The current focus is on a famous club called The Dungeon or the Big D.

Blog: The Burden of Care

by Becky Walker

From 2004-2007 I carried out research for my PhD in Batticaloa, a coastal town in eastern Sri Lanka. Those years of living and researching in Sri Lanka were turbulent: I was there when the 2004 tsunami hit the shores of the island; when the already precarious ceasefire between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) unravelled, descending into fighting which eventually led to the annihilation of the Tigers and the deaths of thousands of Tamil people in the north. What struck me, and what I ended up focusing on in the writing up of my PhD was the ways in which everyday life was held together. I questioned and explored how certain routines and rhythms were held in place despite layers of loss, suffering and uncertainty – but also argued that what is ‘ordinary’ and ‘normal’ in contexts of extreme, protracted violence is constantly remade. In particular I looked at mothers – what it meant for them to keep going – to find meaning when searching for disappeared husbands and sons who had been killed and, the constant threat of violence against their lives and bodies.

I remember visiting one mother whose 14 year old son had been taken by the LTTE. This was her only son. He was snatched on his way to school. She had tried to hang herself twice since his abduction. When we met she had nothing to say. She sat mute with pain.

Another mother had threatened to kill herself in front of the LTTE if they did not return her son. She shouted and screamed outside the camp where her son was being held until they released him, something that almost never happened.

Now in 2017 as I sit and reflect on my current research with a group of migrant women from the DRC, Burundi, Rwanda and Angola  – I am again trying to make sense of ‘the everyday’ and the ‘ordinary’ – the attempts and means of keeping going when lives are shaped by layers of loss and violence.

In earlier posts (see Poking the wound – research, stories and process – thinking through the complexities  and “This small piece of paper” and Being seen) I’ve written about the challenges that the women face in Johannesburg. These are women who fled to South Africa seeking safety and support – and for most – their everyday lives remain precarious and full of risk. Risk because they are cross-border migrants – the scapegoated ‘other’ – accused of making life for local South Africans harder; of taking jobs away from locals even though they can’t find work. They are the ‘other’ whose reproductive bodies are represented as threatening and hostile – bodies that are blamed for burdening an already fraught and struggling healthcare system. They are the ‘other’ assumed to have had children in order to access documentation (which in reality they cannot do) and (non-existent) forms of welfare. They are the ‘other’ who are expected to integrate into a city that does not want them – expected to simultaneously ‘live in invisibility’ while proving they deserve to remain. As ‘othered’ bodies the entanglements of vulnerability and risk frame a troubling and exhausting everyday life.

I have also reflected on the challenges of doing research in this context. I have described the questions – around representation, responsibility and role – that have arisen when working with individuals who are traumatised and, who have many immediate and often, urgent needs. I have been challenged personally in many ways and particularly in writing this reflection about some of their experiences, my relationship with them, and the lenses through which I try to understand their undoubtedly complex lives: motherhood and migrant mothers.

Like the mothers I met in Sri Lanka, for this group there is that everyday struggle to find meaning, to keep going, and especially to keep yourself and your children safe. But in contexts of suffering and violence mothers are almost always defined by their gender, their relationship to others and their wombs – as wives of men killed or disappeared, as daughters at risk and, as mothers. They are mothers in conflict zones – victims and/or survivors, or migrant mothers – working away from their children or enduring life in a refugee camp. As researchers we create these labels and lenses through which lives are explored. We create another ‘other’ – the mother as a research subject.

But while my research project ostensibly set out to look at the lives of migrant mothers – the participants –have clearly and forcefully pulled my focus over to their lives as woman – as individuals. They have asked me to look at them. They want me to understand them as women facing violence on the streets of Johannesburg and struggling to make sense of who they are and who they can be. Their lives include the struggle of mothering. All (except one) of the group are mothers and largely, coping on their own. Being mothers and having dependants shapes most of their everyday experiences and vulnerabilities. Having children makes everyday life that much harder – in many ways an everyday burden.

This is not just a burden in terms of the difficulties of having to provide – it’s about feelings, and desires and desperation and distress. What emerges most palpably in our group discussions is the absolute exhaustion of having to care; the challenges of facing daily struggles with additional worries about food, money and rent.

When the women talk in the group it is often from this place of desperation and of the burden of being a mother. The love each has for their children is definitely not in question. This is not about the “bad migrant mother” and should not in any way reflect the common negative assumptions made about “foreign mothers” who neglect their children or have them simply to access support from the state.

This is about women who are compromised in what they can do and what they can even hope for because they are ignored and targeted. In a world and especially in a country where women’s bodies are systematically oppressed and violated – and where poor, black, foreign bodies are easily treated as disposable and unimportant – being a mother adds layers of fear, threat and physical and emotional burden.

The burden manifests in social and economic challenges. It is about precarity in a context where everyday survival is a struggle, that leads to many questions:

What if I gave up?

Can someone else care for my children?

If I wasn’t here would things be better for them?

Mercy has three children aged 13, 7 and 5. A few months ago she arrived at our Friday morning group in crisis. She was exhausted and said she was ‘giving up’. Through tears she described how she’d spent the previous evening searching for rat poison to eat. She felt this was her only option,

“I wish I could die.” she said “At least then someone would have to take care of my kids”.

While that moment of crisis passed and Mercy kept going – there were many more Fridays where she expressed the same desperation.

Until the week she left.

She took me aside one Friday and quietly told me she was leaving the group early because she had decided to travel to a neighbouring country with the hope of making some money selling clothes. I questioned Mercy – my fear and concerns were mostly about the children and that she was still waiting for refugee status, which meant re-entering the country could pose a challenge. She replied,

“there is nothing in the cupboards, the kids have nothing…I can’t find work, I can’t do anything…I have to try”.

 She had a point. She had nothing. This was her one attempt to try something different. It wasn’t my place to stop her. Her husband, who had disappeared for a number of months was back in Johannesburg. Mercy thought he could care for the children. She wasn’t abandoning them. She was searching for another way. She was trying to keep going.

This was a few months ago now and Mercy hasn’t returned. Her husband mistreated the children and they are are now in a shelter (funded by an NGO). They are together and being well cared for.

Mercy may not have yet returned for many reasons, lack of money, problems in gaining entry back to South Africa, or worse. But part of me can’t help but wonder is she hasn’t returned because she was exhausted with the realities of life in South Africa. In the weeks before she left she was growing thinner and thinner. The family had no food and what she was given by the NGO she handed to the children. She had hit crisis point. Burned by the expectations associated with being a mother who felt like she had nothing left to give.

I am clearly speculating. I don’t know exactly what has happened to Mercy or why she hasn’t come back. But of course I am concerned about her, and her children and, we miss her in our group.

Her story is powerful because it illustrates the intense levels of distress that many migrant women are experiencing in Johannesburg. Women who are traumatised by what they’ve been through and who meet a callous everyday life in Johannesburg. Women who are expected to ‘get on with it’ and expected to provide as mothers, with little (if any) support or options. Women for whom suicide sometimes feels like the only option.

As Clara, a young woman from Rwanda with a small son has told me,

“sometimes I feel so tired I just want to sleep…and sleep…sometimes I don’t want to wake up. It could be easier.”

Precious, a participant with two small children, one of whom is mentally and physically disabled told us very early on in our group meetings that she often thought of a way out.

“When I am in a taxi with the boys I think about it crashing. I wish it would crash and kill us. I wish it would kill us all together at that one time….then the suffering is over and we are all gone”

Precious is devoted to her children. Everything she does is for them. But she is unemployed, she is struggling to find a place for them all to stay and she has little support with the youngest child who if fully dependant on her. The family were recently evicted from their flat in Yeoville after defauting on the rent during a time that Precious suffered a miscarriage. Precious fled the DRC and the horrific experiences she endured there in the war many years ago. Her family is scattered now and she is alone in South Africa. She doesn’t want her children to suffer. She doesn’t want them dead. But living in a country, a city where violence and loss have become the ordinary and where the everyday is defined by struggle dying sometimes seems like the better/only option.

This talk of suicide as an option, real or imagined has come up a lot and is often a response to the layered nature of trauma and crisis, and sometimes even – a desperate call for help; a way to put into words their anguish, both past and present. Thankfully we work through a Psychosocial NGO at the same site where the group meets. This means that we are able to ensure that support is provided whenever such ideations are shared. But this does not change the reasons why suicide is talked about and often entertained as the only way out of their current stresses and traumas.

Interestingly, in Sri Lanka, the women I came across would say they wanted to die because they didn’t have their children with them. They couldn’t bear life without them. Here, the women talk about dying with or without their children as an end to the immediate pain and/or a place or point where something different can be imagined. With the children they could perhaps all be freed of suffering – without them the children might be better provided for. Thus thoughts around death are tangible in a context where the past and present pose unanswerable questions about the future. The women do not know if next week or month will be easier, they don’t know if they will ever find work, ever be granted refugee status and if this will even make a difference.

To reiterate – this is not about wanting less or loving less.

This is about the burden of motherhood and of care that is created by dire poverty, persistent gender-based violence and brutal xenophobia. And yet, despite the frequent desire to give up many find a way to manage. Week after week they come back to our group, often saying “we are still trying. We are still here”.

Their situation, however, remains desparate – and even bleak.

In Sri Lanka an exploration of the significance of routines and rhythms of everyday life and ideas of what is ordinary helped me make sense of violence and loss. In South Africa – as work with this group of women has shown me – this feels more complex. This is not an obvious war zone – the conflict is not always visible – but the suffering and violence still continues. The women are expected to anticipate this and to deal with the layers of vulnerability they face while caring for children. They have all fled war. They know the realities of conflict and they now know that sometimes the isolation and persistent forms of violence in a country that hoped would be safe can sometimes feel worse.

And this is captured by Mary below. Mary is from the DRC and the mother to four children – the youngest of whom is a result of rape. Her words powerfully express what I have been trying to say and push us to really try and better understand ‘migrant motherhood’ not just through the lens of mothering but from the experience of women, of individuals who are trying – and who sometimes feel like giving up.

“In DRC…In DRC….It’s not a country it’s a hell.

But in South Africa I’m not free.

Killing is something even like the Congo. Everyone has a gun and can do anything. That is so painful that I am not free staying here. Any movement, you cannot enjoy life. Something, anything can happen, anytime, any moment in South Africa. People are dying – foreigners are dying .

 I have nowhere to go, nothing to do, no hope …and my children are waiting”



Thank you to all the courageous participants in the group for sharing their stories and to Elsa Oliveira for her support in running the group and thinking through the issues that arise.

The research for the group is funded through MaHp, SeaM and a “Life in the City’ postdoc with the Wits School of Governance and hosted by The ACMS.

SeaM pilot round one: Keeping marginal voices at the centre

ITEM Approx Price (£)
PI Flight 825
Cartoonist 800
Chair Hire 30
Catering 100
Local facilitators (2 x 3 days approx) 180
Local translator 40
Cartoon poster and postcard printing 160
Report printing 250
Miscellaneous stationary/materials/postage 50
Petrol costs 30
Phone costs 35
TOTAL 2500

Lead SeaM Team Members:

 Tamlyn Monson (Wits)

Elsa (Wits)

Sam Spiegel (Edinburgh)

Rationale for Project (500 words max)

How does your proposed pilot further the aims of the SeaM project?

Since the May 2008 xenophobic attacks, a growing body of literature has framed the study of anti-outsider mobilization in South Africa as a form of contention between citizens and foreigners, or between sons of the soil and outsiders. This focus on de jure citizenship and autochthony as identities underpinning conflict has tended to take for granted the citizenship of attackers and flatten the claims for space being made by locals and foreigners. Tamlyn Monson’s ethnographic study of two parts of a violence affected informal settlement opened the black box of ‘citizenship’ in the informal residential areas strongly associated with violence to articulate the voice of perpetrator communities, whose historical and spatial marginality plays a role in shaping contention with the claims of more recently arrived marginal groups. The study is highly relevant to SeaM’s interest in the negotiation of security on the margins in urban South Africa, and the interaction of multiple marginalities in urban areas, examining as it does the uneasy relationship between the historical struggle of marginal urban citizens for security and justice, and the new claims on marginal spaces made by newcomers. This valuable but potentially controversial study is worthy of wider dissemination, but given its controversial content, the production of this knowledge calls for greater participation of the subject community both in mediating the knowledge produced through an academic study, and in determining what, and how, findings should be disseminated. The proposed study plans to use innovative visual methods to apply a coproduction filter to a scholar’s narrative of the history of the settlements and key themes in the insecurity of residents, creating space for the production of counter-narratives, opening narrative and counter-narrative to the public gaze, and inviting members of the public to shape the narrative and provide direction on how best to share related knowledge publicly in the interests of a more equal citizenship and improved security on these margins of both the city and the state’s power.

How will it contribute to knowledge of academic and practice communities?

In terms of the academic community, the study is an opportunity to unpack ethical issues around knowledge production. By subjecting a set of findings to the gaze and voice of the community that formed a PhD study’s research object, the project exposes as well as questions the power of the scholar in producing and disseminating knowledge. The process draws the scholar into an uneasy vulnerability, unsettling her power in interpreting and presenting knowledge, while enabling the ‘object’ of study room to reshape the knowledge produced through scholarship. In terms of communities of practice, the study contributes to the knowledge resources of the partially institutionalised, but often amorphous and emergent, informal community of practice embodied by a squatter settlement. The process will enable the co-production of narratives and visual materials to publicize the injustices faced by citizens in South African squatter camps, and the selection of images and narratives to be made visible to the broader public. The researcher will also provide residents with a resource for the collation of this material for potential publication in appropriate news or other public outlets.

Proposed Research Methods (200 words max):

The project will have several components, all aimed at subjecting a set of findings to the gaze and voice of the community that formed a PhD study’s research object.

  1. A cartoonist will be commissioned to produce cartoons representing key aspects of the researcher’s narrative, making them visually accessible to the less
  1. The cartoons will be used in a series of small group engagements to stimulate discussion, and create space for the expression of alternative concepts and narratives. This will culminate in a ranking activity where participants order the cartoons by priority in terms of their ability to capture the experience of security at the margins in Mshongo. Views on how the top ranked cartoon/s could best be shared with the public will be
  1. The cartoonist will be commissioned to adapt existing cartoons or produce one or more additional cartoons to incorporate/express any distinct new voices and viewpoints emerging from these
  1. One or more small-scale open readings of a simplified report of the original findings will be conducted to allow residents to provide direct feedback to the researcher’s narrative, and offer suggestions for how the knowledge could be best used to constitute a resource for residents as members of an informal community of


Proposed Outreach Event (200 words max):

  • A brief on the engagement will be written and submitted to a) the Tshwane Sun
  • An opinion piece will be written and submitted to a) The Pretoria News, and b) oneor more national newspapers, using one or more cartoons highlighted in the review and knowledge production process, and highlighting issues that were given priority by participants in the engagement

Other Outputs

Reflections on the project’s contribution to knowledge will appear in additional outputs required of SeaM projects:

  • A 3,000 to 5,000 word report (which could potentially form the basis of a co- authored article at a later stage).
  • One blog post for SeaM

SeaM pilots round one: Work and well-being on the periphery

Line Item Detail Amount in GBP
1. Qualitative Fieldwork in two sites:
Careltonville and Durban Deep
30 days x GBP 40 a day for incidental costs – food, transport, data, airtime 1,200
2. Research Assistants Stipend costs at each site (2 x 2 months at GBP700 month) 2,800
3. Survey Costs In partnership with Stats SA – including pilot survey design for Durban Deep and analysis of census data 5,000
4. Dissemination Costs 1 x policy dialogue of 50 people 500
Total 9,500

Lead SeaM Team Members: (each proposal must include at least one team member from each university) ACMS, Wits:

Dr. Zaheera Jinnah, Assoc.Prof. Jo Vearey, Thea de Gruchy [plus Goitse Manthata, doctoral candidate] UoE: Dr. Samuel Spiegel [plus Jessica Yu, doctoral candidate]
Project partners: Statistics South Africa (STATS SA) Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA) Sonke Gender Justice South African Cities Network  Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) at Wits University Global Health Research Program at University of British Columbia Partnership Africa, Ottawa Department of Health, SA

Rationale for Project (500 words max)

How does your proposed pilot further the aims of the SeaM project? How will it contribute to knowledge of academic and practice communities?
This project aims: (1) to comparatively analyse the living and working conditions of peripheral informal and peri-urban mining communities; and (2) to understand how innovative participatory visual methods can be used alongside traditional empirical approaches to health and social science scholarship using two case studies.

Case Study #1 will be based in Johannesburg, which is (one of) the most unequal cities globally and presents a complex web of interlinked urban health challenges, including an HIV prevalence of 11.1%. A growing population of the ‘urban poor’ includes internal and cross-border migrants, many of whom reside in sub-standard housing in the central city or in peripheral informal areas where HIV prevalence and incidence are highest, and are reliant on fragile livelihood activities – including small scale artisanal mining.

Case Study #2  will be based in Carletonville Gauteng, where there is a substantial gold mining presence with one of the deepest large-scale gold mines in the world. By collaborating with the Department of Health, we will explore the living and working conditions of people living on the periphery in Carletonville, where there is a need to revitalise “distressed mining communities” according to the South African government’s Special Presidential Package.

Through a social determinants of health (SDH) lens, this pilot project will explore the lived experiences of  marginalised, peripheral mining communities. The findings from both case studies will be compared and used to inform the development of a larger research proposal for which funding will be sought.

Furthering the aims of the SeaM project: This pilot project will examine the relationship between multiple forms of marginalisation and well-being in two peripheral mining communities. Through a mixed methods approach that will contribute towards two focus areas of SeaM – Big Data and Visual Methodologies – this pilot project will investigate methodological approaches to exploring precarious work, informality and health on the urban periphery. Findings from the pilot project can be used to: inform future research; and make recommendations for practical interventions.

This proposal will further strengthen the collaboration between the Centre of African Studies at the University of Edinburgh and the African Centre for Migration and Society at the University of the Witwatersand, and build new exchanges with the Global Health Research Program at the University of British Columbia and the Department of Health in South Africa. This will include using pilot project findings to inform the development of a larger research proposal for which funding will be sought and student exchange and training between the ACMS and CAS.

Contributing to knowledge of academic and practice communities: the project will contribute to a better understanding of what risks informal and dangerous work of individuals living and working on the periphery – such as informal mining – presents to workers’ and communities sense of subjective and actual well being.
Analytical research is currently lacking on the specific pathways to promote health equity for these communities. Inequities in health and well-being are associated with the urban periphery and knoweldge gaps contribute to inadequate policy and programmatic responses.

Proposed Research Methods (200 words max)
A triangulated mixed-methods approach is envisaged.

Desktop review: a review of relevant literature and policy will be undertaken

Ethnographic Fieldwork: researchers will map the physical, social and economic landscape of mining communities to obtain a clearer understanding of the risks faced by communities and everyday experiences of mitigating and addressing issues of well-being. It will include key informant interviews with community leaders, mineworkers, health care officials and practitioners in the research site.

Visual methodologies: based on ethnographic research and drawing on the MoVE method: visual: explore project (ACMS), appropriate visual methodologies will be used.

Big Data: with Stats SA, to conduct a pilot project to develop a survey of informal mining communities in order to obtain data on health, livelihoods and well-bring on the periphery. Depending on feasibility, secondary analyses will be undertaken with the Mineworkers Compensation System and census databases. Combining the results of the survey and the database analyses, the research group will explore the relationship of predictor variables (such as work history and access to compensation) with health status. Importantly, these surveys will be informed by international best practice models on surveying informal mining and on Stats SA’s own work on communities, health care, and informality.

Proposed Outreach Event (200 words max)
Two processes are proposed:

  1. We will partner with the South African Human Rights Foundation, Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA), Sonke Gender Justice, South African Cities Network and Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) at Wits University to host a policy dialogue targeting city, provincial, and national level officials from health, social services, and labour to share the main findings of the project.
  2. We will produce a series of fact sheets/ issue briefs, blog posts and media articles which will summarise the key findings of the project for a popular audience. Findings from the pilot project will be used to inform the development of pro-poor policy and programme recommendations. These will be disseminated through on-going partnerships with civil society organisations to improve the sector.