News Roundup

Comparing notes: South Africa and China service delivery project

The HSRC and the Chinese Academy of Social Science (CASS) are collaborating on a study comparing three best practice municipalities in South Africa with three similar municipalities in the People’s Republic of China to examine areas of good practice in local municipalities and to undertake a comparative analysis  in three service areas, namely sanitation, electricity and water provision.

This project emanates from a memorandum of understanding established between the HSRC and CASS in 2002 that aims to facilitate exchange and cooperation between the two organisations.

CASS and HSRC researchers met at the end of 2011 to commence with fieldwork in South Africa. The fieldwork comprised primarily interviews and the following focus group discussions took place in:

  • Cape Town Metro (sanitation)
  • Moses Kotane local municipality in North-West province (electricity)
  • Tswelopele local municipality, in the Free State (water).

The team met again in China to participate in similar fieldwork in the city of Shaoxing (electricity), a city located in the southern wing of the Yangtze River Delta; Xinyu City, Jiangxi Province (water); and Qingdao City, Shandong Province (sanitation).

Both parties have completed a report on their findings and will now compile a comparative study between the different countries that would make recommendations based on lessons learnt and best practice interventions in each country in order to accelerate service delivery.

The principal investigators of the study are Prof Lisheng Dong (CASS) and Dr Udesh Pillay (HSRC).

Anticorruption research

Ben Roberts

A delegation of the Chinese Anticorruption Research Centre, which falls under the Chinese Academy of Social Science (CASS), visited South Africa and the HSRC in April on a fact-finding mission of five countries to establish anticorruption initiatives elsewhere in the world.

The centre has established cooperation and exchanges with many anti-corruption institutions in various countries and is dedicated to studying the development of anti-corruption theory and practice in China and other countries.

During a visit to the HSRC, Mr Ben Roberts, the coordinator of the South African Social Attitudes Survey (SASAS) , discussed the information gathering and analysis methods used in the annual survey and emphasised the importance of public opinion (also read the latest SASAS analysis of public perceptions of corruption which also appears in this issue of HSRC Review).

Topics addressed during the discussion included questions on the functions of South African anti-corruption agencies; legislation and policy-making against corruption; major measures to combat and prevent corruption in an effective way; effective measures to supervise and check powers of employees in public institutions; the role of the media to supervise corruption and its challenges; the experiences of civil society organisations and academic institutions in anti-corruption; and measures taken towards implementing the review of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), both as a country participating in reviewing other countries and under review.

The Chinese researchers will compile a comparative report of best anti-corruption practices in different countries.

Labour market intelligence research project

Dr Glenda Kruss

Research teams across the HSRC, representatives of public and private research organisations, universities and government departments convened for a workshop in Centurion to flesh out the approach to be employed in undertaking the comprehensive Labour Market Intelligence Research Project, commissioned by the Department of Higher Education and Training.

The HSRC’s Dr Vijay Reddy and Dr Glenda Kruss will lead a consortium of research organisations to provide information, knowledge and intelligence to support a credible mechanism for skills planning, and the development of the post-school sector. This research will support the national priority of a skilled and capable workforce to achieve inclusive economic growth for the country.

The research consortium includes the Development Policy Research Unit at the University of Cape Town and the Education Policy Unit at the University of Witwatersrand. Research partners include the Centre for Education Policy Development, the Joint Education Trust, the University of KwaZulu-Natal and Statistics South Africa.

The aims of the intensive three-day workshop were to develop a common understanding of the project goals and the ‘state of the art’ of research relative to policy challenges. On this basis, the consortium can identify critical cross-cutting issues and potential gaps in the design, to determine new research areas to be covered.

The six themes, each under a project leader, are the following:

  • Theme 1: Establishing a foundation for a labour market information system in SA
  • Theme 2: Forecasting the supply of and demand for skills
  • Theme 3: Studies of selected priority sectors in the South African labour market
  • Theme 4: Reconfiguring the post-school sector
  • Theme 5: Pathways through education and training and into the workplace
  • Theme 6: Understanding changing artisanal occupational milieus and identities.
  • An important aspect of the project is to build and develop research capacity among young researchers and within DHET and the SETAs.

The research will run until 2015.

Antiracism award for HSRC researcher

Dr Earnest Khalema

Dr Ernest N Khalema,  senior research specialist in the Human and Social Development research programme in Durban, received the Individual Antiracism Award (2012) for outstanding academic/community research by a leading Canadian NGO, the Centre for Race and Culture.

The centre also appointed Dr Khalema as an honorary research associate.

Just recently, the editorial team of the journal International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care awarded Dr Khalema the 2012 Literati Network Awards for Excellence for an outstanding paper. The paper was entitled: ‘Challenges and Barriers to Services for Immigrant Seniors in Canada: You are among others but you feel alone’.

The award-winning papers were chosen following consultation among the journal’s editorial team, many of whom are eminent academics or managers. The paper was considered as ‘one of the most impressive pieces of work’ the team has seen throughout 2011.

For further information go to Literati Network Awards for Excellence.

The economic impacts of the South African child support grant

Dr Margaret Chitiga-Mabugu


The child support grant (CSG), particularly aimed at children in poor families, has been expanded greatly in recent years. A new study, commissioned by UNICEF and conducted by the Economic Performance and Development (EPD) research programme at the HSRC under leadership of Prof Margaret Chitiga-Mabugu, will be exploring the economy-wide impact of the grant on the South African economy.

There are several channels at the household level through which these impacts can be transmitted:

  • Changes in labour supply of different household members
  • Investments of some part of the funds into productive activities that increase the beneficiary household’s revenue-generation capacity
  • Prevention of detrimental risk-coping strategies such as distress sales of productive assets, children school drop-out, and increased risky income-generation activities such as commercial sex, begging and theft
  • Research has also documented three types of local economy impacts: transfers between beneficiary and ineligible households; effects on local goods and labour markets; and multiplier effects on income and/or welfare.

This project will analyse the last of these channels, namely the multiplier effects on income and/or welfare of the CSG in South Africa. To this end, the study will develop a micro-simulation technique, which will be used with a Computable General Equilibrium (CGE) model to determine these effects. An innovative bottom-up/top-down approach is proposed.

In particular, the micro-economic module identifies two main channels through which the extension of the social grant affects the economy: labour supply and household consumption. After the consumption and labour supply models are estimated, we propose to simulate the extension of the CSG in order to reach around two million eligible children that are not covered by the scheme.

We will present three scenarios:

  • An increase in the value of the CSG (20% of the CSG for people already benefiting from the transfer)
  • An increase in the number of beneficiaries (among the eligible households)
  • In the last instance, a combination of the two scenarios above.

This project is scheduled to be completed by July 2012. HSRC researchers in the Economic Performance and Development programme will work with the Financial and Fiscal Commission and Laval University in Canada.


Study on ‘moffie culture’ in Cape Town wins research grant

Allanise Cloete

An ethnographic study by Allanise Cloete entitled ‘The invention of moffie life in Cape Town, South Africa’ was among only 10 proposals to be awarded study grants by the International Association for the Study of Sexuality, Culture and Society (IASSCS).

The objective of the IASSCS grants is to promote research capacity globally in socio-cultural dimensions of sexuality, with special attention to countries where sexuality research is not well-developed.  IASSCS received over 160 applications for these grants. Ms Cloete is currently pursuing her doctorate in social anthropology at the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at the University of the Western Cape.

Her proposed study on ‘moffie’ life in the coloured population’s popular culture and everyday life presents an interesting case study on hetero-normativity and its contestations. In this study she explores the links between the cultural performance of gay men in local popular culture (specifically focusing on beauty drag shows) and the everyday performance of being a ‘moffie’ and how this is related to the seemingly social acceptance of this culture in the working class coloured communities of the Western Cape.

Launch of French translation of The Meanings of Timbuktu

‘Salt comes from the north, gold from the south, but the word of God and the treasures of wisdom are only to be found in Timbuktu.’ - 15th-century Malian proverb

This volume, authored by leading international scholars and launched in English in 2008, is now also available in French. The French translation, Tombouctou: Pour une histoire de l’érudition en Afrique de l’Ouest,  was launched on 3 May by the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) and the HSRC in Dakar, Senegal.

Contradicting the popular notion that African history survived only through the oral tradition, this collection of essays examines the rich legacy of written history on the continent, specifically in Timbuktu. It brings together articles written by a number of leading international scholars covering a wide range of areas in the study of Timbuktu, from archaeology and literature to the intellectual life, libraries, and private collections in Timbuktu and West Africa.

The book begins to sketch the different ‘meanings’ of Timbuktu within the context of the intellectual history of West Africa, in particular, that of the African continent. In a joint project between South Africa and Mali, a library to preserve more than 200 000 Arabic and West African manuscripts dating from the 13th to the 19th centuries is currently under construction. It is the first official cultural project of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the socio-economic development plan of the African Union, and when the library is built, the cultural role of Timbuktu will be revived, as it becomes the safe haven for the treasured manuscripts. The manuscripts prove that Africa had a rich legacy of written history, long before western colonisers set foot on the continent.

The book covers four broad areas: Part I provides an introduction to the region; outlines what archaeology can tell us of its history, examines the paper and various calligraphic styles used in the manuscripts; and explains how ancient institutions of scholarship functioned. Part II begins to analyse what the manuscripts can tell us of African history. Part III offers insight into the lives and works of just a few of the many scholars who became well-known in the region and beyond. Part IV provides a glimpse into Timbuktu’s libraries and private collections. Part V looks at the written legacy of the eastern half of Africa which, like that of the western region, is often ignored.

A fascinating read for anyone who wishes to gain an understanding of the aura of mystique and legend that surrounds Timbuktu, The Meanings of Timbuktu strives to contextualise and clarify the importance of efforts to preserve Timbuktu’s manuscripts for Mali, for Africa and for the intellectual world.

The Meanings of Timbuktu, Shamil Jeppie, Souleymane Bachir Diagne (eds), HSRC Press