Editor's note

This edition of the HSRC Review brings you findings from the South African Social Attitudes Survey (SASAS) that indicate a public recognition of corruption as a societal priority in South Africa. The authors examine survey data on the public concern with corruption over the past fourteen years to determine whether such assumptions can be corroborated with empirical evidence.

Tracking societal values in changing times, SASAS is a nationally representative, repeated crosssectional survey conducted annually by the HSRC since 2003. The survey series charts and explains the interaction between the country’s changing institutions, its political and economic structures, and the attitudes, beliefs and behavior patterns of its diverse populations.

The article concludes that the intensifying salience attached to corruption represents an appeal from the public for a concerted and decisive policy response; the authors state that South Africa appears to be witnessing the emergence  active citizenship striving to hold leaders to account, and ensure a democracy free of corruption.

Another SASAS article in this edition focuses on the critical issue of food insecurity and the role of social grants in South Africa. Ending hunger, achieving food security and improved nutrition is an international imperative and a national objective. Yet, ensuring that all South Africans have sufficient food to meet the needs of their households remains an enduring challenge. The article examines trends in self-reported food insecurity between 2007 and 2015 and the role of social grants in assisting families to cope with food insecurity.

The authors’ message to policy makers is that forging sustained progress towards eliminating hunger and improved nutrition despite such set-backs is instrumental in ensuring personal and national wellbeing in the country. It will require a monitoring and evaluation system focused on food and nutrition security that provides rapid and effective support to vulnerable households, and helps address the effects of livelihood, food and climatic shocks. Identifying and experimenting with mechanisms to stabilise food prices will also need to be a factor in national and municipal food security policies.

As a publicly funded and mandated entity, the HSRC orientates and marshals its capacities behind addressing the most urgent social questions facing South Africa and the continent. While there are many issues which can be raised, poverty and inequality are the major questions which the country has to address. Poverty and inequality provide the macro-determinants against which the issues of deprivation, and their opposite, the capacity to flourish, play themselves out.

As such the research we conduct and the articles we feature on the pages of the HSRC Review will increasingly reflect our attempts to understand the structural factors that are in play in producing these conditions and, through various forms of innovation which explore creative and hybrid approaches, how they may be undone. In this vein, this edition includes a look at informal settlements, which represent spaces of marginality inequality and deprivation in the urban landscape.

The authors reflect on the implications for policy and impact evaluation through the upgrading of government’s informal settlements programme (UISP). Their recommendations include the utilisation of the UISP indicators to collect data on the effectiveness and impact evaluation of upgraded informal settlements. The authors recommend that the Department of Human Settlements formulate a policy that addresses the emergence, growth and upgrading of informal settlements. Linked to policy is the need for Treasury to increase funding for the UISP and to municipalities in particular, to help tackle the challenge of informality and improve the quality of life of the inhabitants.

Finally the study recommends that the high levels of unemployment particularly among women suggest that programmes designed to tackle unemployment and improve income opportunities need to be gendered, if unemployment and dependence on social grants are to be reduced. Programmes for income generation also need to be spatially targeted to women and youth in informal settlements.

Although a public research organization focused on the human and social sciences, the HSRC’s research intersects with the natural and physical sciences. An article in this edition looks at a new vaccine to help smallholder farmers strengthen food security. Another article on technology transfer in South Africa offers a case for building a strong technology transfer office to expedite the journey of a researcher or entrepreneur’s good idea into a viable and scalable technology that can be commercialised.

We hope you enjoy this issue and don’t forget to have a look at the new titles available from the HSRC Press. Books that make a difference.