Multiple deprivation in the Eastern Cape

Spatial patterns of poverty and multiple deprivation are not random. Spatial distribution reflects the outcome of a number of dynamic social processes and factors, including migration; availability and cost of living space; community preferences, and current and historical policies, assert Michael Noble, Gemma Wright and Wanga Zembe-Mkabile.

These processes and factors are particularly important in South Africa where the spatial legacy of apartheid means poor South Africans are spatially concentrated and tend to reside either in former racially segregated ‘townships’ around cities created or confirmed as a result of the Group Areas Acts 1950-1966, or in former homelands created in colonial times and further promulgated under the Bantu Authorities Act 1951.

There is a growing concern that the former homeland areas are being left behind, yet there are very few data sources that enable spatial analysis of deprivation to be undertaken at sub-provincial level.

Drawing on experiences of developing indices of multiple deprivation to inform policy development in both developed and developing countries, the Southern African Social Policy Research Institute (SASPRI) recently developed a ward-level measure of multiple deprivation using the 2011 Census of Population. Because the measure, called the South African Index of Multiple Deprivation 2011 (SAIMD 2011), reveals deprivation at ward level, it enables analysis of deprivation at sub-provincial and sub-municipality levels.

SAIMD 2011 comprised four domains or dimensions of deprivation: material deprivation, employment deprivation, education deprivation and living environment deprivation. These were combined with equal weights to produce an SAIMD score for each ward in South Africa. Table 1 on page 17 shows the indicators comprising the SAIMD 2011 domains.

Why is this important? The SAIMD enables deprivation to be profiled for each ward in the country in an accessible way. Each domain is expressed as a simple proportion of either households (material deprivation domain) or of the ‘at risk’ population (the other three domains). So, it is possible to say that for any given ward in the country, w% of its households are materially deprived; x% of the adult population are employment deprived; y% of the adult population are education deprived; and z% of the population are living environment deprived.

Although the SAIMD 2011 is calculated at ward level, it is also possible to summarise it at province level by averaging the ranks of the SAIMD score for each ward in the province, taking into account the population size of each ward (Table 2).

When analysing the data at local municipality level, it emerges that of the 10 most multiply deprived local municipalities in South Africa, five were in the Eastern Cape (Ntabankulu, Port St Johns, Mbizana, Ngquza Hill, Engcobo) and five were in KwaZulu-Natal (Msinga, Vulamehlo, Maphumulo, Umhlabuyalingana and Nkandla).

Almost a third of wards in the Eastern Cape were in the most deprived decile nationally. In order to map the ward-level data, all the wards in South Africa were divided into 10 equal groups (deciles) based on their SAIMD score. The most deprived wards were shaded deep blue with a gradation through to yellow for the least deprived wards. At ward level, almost a third of wards in the Eastern Cape (31%) were in the most deprived decile nationally (Table 3 on page 18).

Figure 1, a map of the Eastern Cape, blatantly shows that 20 years after the advent of democracy in South Africa, the former homelands continue to bear the brunt of poverty and multiple deprivation in South Africa. The former Transkei and Ciskei homelands are clearly depicted and are predominantly in the most deprived decile nationally. The extent of deprivation in these former homelands is explored in more detail in the full report.

By documenting this spatial distribution at small-area level, the challenge of the former homelands, particularly in the Eastern Cape, is brought to the fore. As well as being used to encourage thought and debate about how to ensure that the former homelands are not left behind, policy makers can more effectively target resources and policies to complement mainstream services in such highly deprived areas.

This process can be further enhanced by analysing not only the overall index of multiple deprivation but also the component domains, and so obtain a more nuanced picture.

This article is based on a 16 October 2014 research seminar hosted by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) in collaboration with the HSRC, SASPRI, the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) at Rhodes University, and the Programme to Support Pro-Poor Policy Development (PSPPD) in the presidency. Presentations and related documents can be downloaded at

Authors: Professor Michael Noble, executive director of SASPRI and honorary fellow at the HSRC; Dr Gemma Wright, research director, SASPRI; and Dr Wanga Zembe-Mkabile, director and research fellow, SASPRI.