We are pleased to present the second newsletter of the Mandela Initiative, a multi-sectoral platform to investigate and develop strategies to overcome poverty and inequality.

In this issue, we focus on the role of research in contributing to policies that aim to address poverty and inequality in South Africa. We reflect on several collaborations within and across universities that work towards this goal, and present in more detail the contributions of various universities to our processes, such as the action dialogues.

Looking ahead, we introduce a busy 2017 agenda of planned events – three of which have already taken place: an action dialogue on the historical legacies and contemporary realities of migrant labour; the first in a series of conversations on comprehensive support for South Africa’s youth which was initiated by our partners at the Poverty and Inequality Initiative of the University of Cape Town (UCT); and a dialogue on what South Africans need to live a dignified life – in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Studies In Poverty and Inequality Institute.

Upcoming events include an action dialogue on disproportional income differentials, organised by the Labour and Enterprise Policy Research Group and the Institute of Development and Labour Law at UCT and the Social Law Project at the University of the Western Cape; a workshop to consolidate South African and international approaches to and policy practices on inequality; and a “Communities of Practice” workshop to discuss the findings of the Mandela Initiative’s research projects with government policy-makers and practitioners.

We trust you will find this newsletter useful and inspiring, and feedback or queries are welcome.

Francis Wilson
National co-ordinator
March 2017


   In this issue

Research collaborations towards policies that reduce poverty and inequality

The role of research in informing policy comes with its own unique challenges, according to Mandela Initiative Think Tank member, Prof Jonathan Jansen, former Vice Chancellor of the University of the Free State.

Speaking about this topic in the context of poverty policy and practice at the “Towards Carnegie3” conference which marked the start of the Mandela Initiative process in 2012, Jansen pointed out that “social research in especially developing nations is fraught with implementation problems because of the primacy of politics in shaping developmental agendas rather than the logics of research, and the findings they offer”. He also made suggestions on how to strengthen the impact of research on policies, such as that the country’s universities have to work together, and study approaches that work.

We reflect here on several intra- and inter-university research collaborations – within the Mandela Initiative – that aim to contribute to policy-making processes.


UCT Poverty and Inequality Initiative

The University of Cape Town has a long tradition of basic and applied interdisciplinary research projects that address and respond to specific challenges posed by poverty and inequality in South Africa. In 2013, a Poverty and Inequality Initiative was launched to consolidate, increase and drive the institution’s collective contribution to the country’s strategies that address these challenges. Since then, and under the leadership of a Pro-Vice Chancellor: Poverty and Inequality, the PII has been raising the profile of relevant research groupings within and across faculties, and generating new research and cross-disciplinary collaborations on key poverty and inequality issues. The PII’s Haajirah Esau and Murray Leibbrandt outline some of the initiative’s highlights to date. Read more



Wits Inequality Project

The University of the Witwatersrand has launched a multi-year project on the study of inequality. With an emerging appreciation that the growing levels of inequality may be linked to the current structure of the global economy, this emerging multidisciplinary project in collaboration with researchers from other universities will study inequality in the context of the global south. David Francis, a Wits researcher in the Office of the Dean: Commerce, Law and Management, outlines the project. Read more



Research Project on Employment, Income Distribution and Inclusive Growth (REDI3x3)

Evidence-based policy-making requires that research is brought closer to the world of practice, which is an approach of the REDI3x3 project, funded by the National Treasury and managed by UCT’s Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit. The project promotes dialogue across disciplines and paradigms, and forge a stronger engagement between research and policy-making. A key output for each REDI3x3-funded project was the production of accessible working papers and expert commentaries. These are hosted on the REDI3x3 website and an online portal that aims to facilitate critical debate on unemployment and employment, income distribution and inclusive growth in South Africa.

In November 2016, REDI3x3 hosted a conference to showcase its major research outputs over the past four years with the aim of engaging policy-makers to guide evidence-based change. Read more


Research contributions to the Mandela Initiative

The Mandela Initiative engages some of the country’s leading academics on research related to poverty and inequality. This includes a research programme steered by research chairs from different universities, with support from the Department of Science and Technology and the National Research Foundation.

Researchers and academic institutions are also involved through a series of action dialogues which bring together 20 – 25 experts from universities, government, civil society and business around a particular theme that addresses poverty and inequality. The aim is to think collectively on further possible action, such as multiplying and expanding successful projects. Many of the dialogues were supported by the Programme to Support Pro-poor Policy Development, an EU-funded research and capacity-building programme in the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation.

What follows are a selection of action dialogues – with online links to dialogue or newsletter reports – that were hosted in collaboration with academic units from various universities over the past three years.

  • Social cohesion in the Karoo
    Centre for Development Support, University of the Free State

    This workshop aimed to identify critical new insights which can inform policy and interventions that support social capital, social networks and social cohesion as being key to socio-economic development and poverty alleviation. Read more
  • Engaging poverty, inequality and unemployment and rethinking social policy and post-education in the Eastern Cape
    Centre for Integrated Post-School Education and Training, Nelson Mandela Metropole University, in collaboration with Rhodes University and the University of Fort Hare

    This regional colloquium explored how the ‘triple crisis’ of unemployment, poverty and inequality relate to the Eastern Cape specifically; and to assess the particular role of post-secondary education and training as an intervention to this ‘triad’. Read more
  • Agriculture, poverty and inequality
    Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS), University of the Western Cape

    The South African rural economy and the potential of small-scale, communal and commercial agriculture, respectively, to address poverty and inequality have been the focus of several action dialogues in collaboration with UWC’s PLAAS. Read more
  • Towards a more cohesive society
    Poverty and Inequality Initiative, University of Cape Town

    Social cohesion is one focus area of the Poverty and Inequality Initiative, alongside youth development, and this series of workshops explored identity and social cohesion; rebuilding trust in a segmented society; youth, safety and social cohesion; and designing a socially cohesive society.
    Read more
  • Youth, inequality and the labour market
    REDI3x3 and the Poverty and Inequality Initiative, University of Cape Town

    The challenges of South Africa’s alarming rate of youth unemployment, and the most feasible policy options to create a better future for youth were on the agenda of this policy workshop. Read more
  • Western Cape regional workshop: A focus on health and education
    Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Studies, University of Stellenbosch, University of the Western Cape and University of Cape Town

    This gathering provided a platform for researchers, members of civil society and government to discuss developments in their respective fields of health and education and to plan activities for 2015. Read more
  • Job-creating skills development
    University of Cape Town

    This dialogue brought together experts in skills development from various sectors to devise concrete plans of action on how education and training can be used to enhance and increase job creation for South Africa’s youth. Read more

   Recent events


Migrant labour in South Africa: historical legacies and contemporary realities

The continued importance of migrancy and migrant labour to the lives of many black South Africans on the mines emerged from the Marikana investigation. This gathering allowed academics, government and development practitioners to workshop how the legacies of migrant labour, and its current features, might be dealt with better at practical and policy levels. It was hosted in collaboration with the Human Sciences Research Council and the Fort Hare University. Read more



Youth conversations for action: towards a basic package of support for youth

Research shows that the upward mobility of South Africa’s youth is still severely compromised by income poverty and racial, class and gender inequalities. These limit their access to opportunities and chances for growth and prosperity, and result in multiple levels of deprivation which can drive the intergenerational transmission of poverty. With the intent to explore more comprehensive support for young people, UCT’s Poverty and Inequality Initiative has formed a broad coalition with partners to identify the necessary building blocks for a package of support for youth. Read more



Sufficiency: what we require for a dignified life

The Nelson Mandela Foundation, in partnership with the Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute and the Mandela Initiative, hosted a dialogue on 14 March, titled "Sufficiency: What we require for a dignified life". The dialogue addressed the question of daily needs and go to the heart of what citizens desire and deem enough to feel safe, fed, secure and enabled to perform without the pervasive 'threats to survival'. The dialogue engaged with ideals of permanently transcending poverty and living sustainably in the broadest sense. Read more


   Upcoming events


Disproportionate income differentials: the long walk to social justice

“Apartheid wage gap” refers to pay differentials between occupations which historically were reserved for whites, or were limited to blacks (known as “disproportional vertical income differentials”). The Labour Market Commission has called for substantial reductions in earnings differentials, but these are being deracialised rather than narrowed. This upcoming action dialogue, on 18 - 19 April, will debate pro-poor and pro-equality policies on disproportionate high-income differentials, and aims to inform practical measures towards income proportionality between occupational levels. It is organised by the Labour and Enterprise Policy Research Group and the Institute of Development and Labour Law (UCT), and the Social Law Project (University of the Western Cape). Read more



Inequality symposium

There has been a significant increase in research and policy debates on South African inequality over the last few years. A team of (primarily) researchers and (past and present) government officials, each with intersecting involvement in the Mandela Initiative, has often discussed the pressing need to consolidate and systematise local learnings on inequality along with lessons from similar processes internationally. This goal will be pursued in the last week of May through a Mandela Initiative workshop with key South African and several international contributors. Supported by the Programme to Support Pro-poor Policy Development, an EU-funded initiative in the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, the event aims to consolidate local and international thinking and policy practice and to map a work agenda that would lead to a report and a set of well-motivated and well-processed policy proposals by year end.



Community of Practice workshop

A Community of Practice must be strategically aligned to government policies aimed at addressing key social challenges and problems. Such a community has emerged through the Mandela Initiative’s research programme funded by the National Research Foundation and led by recipients of the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI), an NRF and Department of Science and Technology partnership. With the MI’s research reaching fruition this year, these SARChI Research Chairs will host a two-day Community of Practice workshop in May to discuss the research results and debate their policy implications with key actors from relevant government and non-governmental agencies. Read more



This newsletter was written and compiled by Charmaine Smith, with much-appreciated contributions from:

David Francis, University of the Witwatersrand – for the article on the Wits Inequality Project;

Haajirah Esau and Murray Leibbrant (and with input from Ariane De Lannoy and Justine Burns), University of Cape Town – for the article on the UCT Poverty and Inequality Initiative;

Haajirah Esau; Francis Wilson; Ariane De Lannoy, University of Cape Town – for fact-checking and peer review of articles by Charmaine Smith.

Photo (Hostel, Johannesburg): Ben MacLennan/Special Collections/UCT Libraries



For feedback or more information about the Mandela Initiative,
contact the communication manager, Charmaine Smith,
on 021 – 650 1816 or at charmaine.smith@uct.ac.za.