The report shows how South Africa’s spatially unjust land use systems impact on (informal) micro-enterprises in the township context. The report illustrates the ways in which land use management systems have intentionally and unintentionally reinforced Apartheid era town planning and spatial injustices. For township micro-entrepreneurs, the land related processes which people have to navigate to obtain regulatory compliance resembles a Kafkaesque world: one in which the rules are nightmarishly complex, incomprehensible and illogical. Partly as a result of these challenges, the great majority of township informal micro-enterprises do not comply with land management system requirements and gain few to no benefits in doing so.  Township micro-entrepreneurs have no alternative to trading illegally. We refer to this process as ‘enforced informalisation’.

Based on detailed evidence, the report amplifies the argument that South Africa requires a land use system that can more effectively operationalize the principles of spatial justice and spatial resilience, whilst making allowance for economic marginalisation.  Land systems need to recognise the fluidity of urban conditions and multiple uses of land for business, social, cultural and residential purposes. The report recommends specific ways in which legislation need to be refined, including the need for urban land reform in spatial development frameworks. We recommend that municipalities should simplify land use systems and accommodate mixed land use with greater tolerance for economic activities.  Finally we call on national government to develop a policy framework on micro-enterprise formalisation, specifying land use requirements and specific additional criteria for certain classes of enterprises.

Click here to view the report.

Making All Voices Count research report

Our Making All Voices Count research report has been published.

This report draws on research that has been done at SLF within the past 6 years. It focuses on four case studies which examine challenges faced by marginalised groups and the individuals that campaign on their behalf. These groups include activists against gender-based violence, community care workers and health committee members, informal traders, and Rastafarian bossie doctors. We have worked with these groups through a range of technology-enabled participatory processes to unpack the dense and complex layers that block government accountability in South Africa.


Click here to view the report.

PMA Goes International

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Contributor: Rory Liedeman


March 2017 was an extraordinary month for SLF’s Participatory Monitoring and Accountability (PMA) research team, for two main reasons. Firstly, from 5 March to 10 March, Farida Ryklief, Soeraya Davids, Sinazo Peters, Joanna Wheeler and Rory Liedeman attended a week-long participatory workshop, as part of a larger South African delegation travelling to Italy. The gathering was hosted by the Rockefeller Foundation at the Bellagio Centre and brought together various stakeholders (including academics, government/decision-making officials, researchers, citizen and community-based organisations) from around the world to participate in an exclusive global event that aimed to explore the theme of how to build inclusive and resilient cities. It provided our group with an important opportunity to share the PMA experiences, methods, achievements and future plans with people beyond our South African borders, while allowing for a number of new connections and friendships to be made in the process. Included in the South African delegation were Mr Jonathan Tim (Chief Director at the Department of Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation) and Professor Laurence Piper (University of Western Cape – Political Studies).


Creating Inclusive and Resilient Cities participant group, at the Rockefeller Foundation Centre, Bellagio.


After returning from Italy, the team dove straight into hosting an international workshop of their own (13 to 17 March). This was the first of two planned International Collective Workshops to be held by partner organisations, as part of the new British Academy work recently awarded. SLF represents the South African partner and the new funding allows for the important PMA work that the Delft Safety Group (DSG) helped to achieve in 2016, to continue for another year. The workshop brought together partner organisations from South Africa, Egypt, Ghana, India, Uganda and the UK, all working on citizen-led accountability. The process was also supported and co-coordinated with the help of the Participate initiative at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) at the University of Sussex (UK). The meeting provided an important opportunity for all project partners to participate in both the learning of a new participatory research method, but also in an important project peer review and learning process. The workshop aimed to unpack and discuss key issues such as ‘the role of public communication in community safety’ and culminated in a roundtable dialogue discussion that brought together members from partner countries, duty bearers such as members of the South Africa government/local councillors/key decision makers, academics and other civil society stakeholders, each of whom have committed to fostering on-going dialogue between highly marginalised groups such as the Delft Safety Group. The timing of the Cape Town workshop was ideal, as it coincided with a period in South Africa when key actions were being taken to implement laws, in accordance with the vision and objectives of the new White Paper on Safety and Security.


Our international guests learn about the SLF PMA power analysis process from the Delft Safety Group.

Developing Effective School Dropout Interventions

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Contributor: Andrew Hartnack


Since late 2016, SLF has been part of an exciting and important pilot project, funded by the DG Murray Trust, to examine which kinds of approaches aimed at reducing the drop out of at-risk teenagers from school can be most effective. SLF has a grant from the DGMT to play the role of a knowledge partner to nine organisations working at schools and with teenagers around the country. The work, led by Dr Andrew Hartnack, involves understanding what model of intervention each organisation is developing and what the potential impacts of such models can be over the course of the 18-month pilot and beyond.


Of the nine interventions, six are based around the Western Cape, with one each in East London, Pietermaritzburg, and Tzaneen. Some projects focus on academic support to struggling learners, others focus more on psycho-social support, while a number offer both forms of support. One project focuses specifically on after-school programmes, while another tries to improve the school’s support of struggling learners through the strategic analysis of data on school performance.



In February and March Hartnack visited all the projects to observe their activities and learn about the contexts in which each is operating. He interviewed many school principals and teachers, as well as project staff and young people involved with the interventions. Besides gathering information on each intervention, SLF’s role as a knowledge partner involves helping each organisation to reflect critically on their intervention, and incorporate lessons emerging during the pilot into their practice. Lessons and insights from all nine projects are also passed between the organisations to foster the best possible approach, as well as a ‘community of practice’ as an outcome of the pilot phase of the project.


Hartnack will be visiting all nine projects again in May/June, as well as towards the end of the year to learn much more about their exciting and crucial work.

Eveline Street Exhibition Series

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Contributor: Andrew Charman


The SLF ULMEG Project (Unlocking Land for Micro-Enterprise Growth) seeks to investigate and engage with policy makers on land related constraints which hinder the development and growth of micro-enterprises in the township context. One aspect of this project has been to examine the potential of redeveloping high streets to enable enterprise regulation and formalisation, particularly for those enterprises that confront onerous regulatory requirements. To learn about the outcomes from different high street redevelopment approaches, the project undertook a study of Eveline Street in Windhoek, Namibia, where the City of Windhoek initiated a scheme to rezone township high streets, a measure which benefited the many leisure related businesses operating along Eveline Street. The research provides a retrospective insight into the spatial, social and economic transformations which occurred subsequent to the rezoning initiative.


The findings from the Eveline Street study were presented in a series of exhibition events under the title: Transformative Leisure Economies. The events took place in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Windhoek. Over 200 people attended the three events, including political leaders, policy advisors, government officials, academics and business leadership. The feedback was extremely encouraging, with stakeholders referring to the research as ‘game changing’ and deserving of ‘serious engagement by city politicians and offices’.  A technical report detailing the main research findings is available on the SLF website. We are currently re-analysing the Eveline Street case material to explain how high street redevelopment can contribute towards Transit Oriented Development outcomes, an emerging outcome in South African metros. This component of the research is been supported by the South African Cities Network.



The next phase of UMLEG will examine land related constraints in the case of Ivory Park, one of the FIME sites situated in Johannesburg.

Competition Commission Research on the Road

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Contributor: Andrew Charman (on behalf of Leif Petersen)


As announced at the end of last year, SLF has been contracted by the Competition Commission to undertake research across all nine provinces on competitiveness within the spaza sector. The study aims to interview 1800 business owners and operators, using (where possible) a modified version of SLF’s small area census approach methodology.


As of the beginning of 2017, the field research team has been on the road, surveying urban, peri—urban and rural sites across all nine provinces in South Africa (as of the beginning of May, only KwaZulu Natal and the Eastern Cape sites remained to be surveyed). Some of the research has taken place in previous FIME sites, providing an opportunity to compare the study results with the data collected during the FIME process from 2010 – 2013. One aspect of the research aims to understand value chains in the spaza sector, identifying the different business models, distribution systems, and studying linkages between shops on wholesalers. Another component of the research will examine product integrity, seeking to identify and gain a measure of the role of grey market, illegal and contraband products within the sector (already, very interesting results have been found in this regard). In the course of the research, the team has systematically photographed the research process and taken photographs of interesting business dynamics and products. A selection of these images have been displayed on the SLF Facebook site. For more information on the project, contact Leif Petersen.


Community Careworkers Organise Stakeholder Engagement Event

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Contributor: Miriam Waltz


“We clock in and out under a tree whether it rains or is hot… we are like goats or dogs,” says Nozuko Fos, a Community Care Worker (CCW) in Nyanga. She adds: “They are playing games with us,” referring to the Department of Health, with whom the CCWs have repeatedly tried to address their working conditions. CCWs do important work by delivering primary health care to communities, but they are systematically underpaid and receive inadequate support from the Department of Health and the NGOs that they work for.


Citizen action and government responsiveness were the focus of the Making All Voices Count initiative, a global partnership to research and promote accountability that SLF has been involved in from September 2015 until May 2017. SLF’s engagement in the initiative included four thematic streams. The health case study started in October 2016 and included a CollectiveVoice process (a combination of photovoice and collective filmmaking) with a group of CCWs from Nyanga.


The group of CCWs organised a stakeholder engagement event at the Endlovini community hall in New Crossroads on 4 April 2017 and invited care workers and other allies from a number of organisations. As Nozuko puts it: “The first thing to do is to show people who don’t know we work under these conditions and to expose the NGOs.” About fifty people from community and various organisations came together to watch a screening of the movies the CCWs made. This was a very moving gathering that led to mutual support and a call for action to create further awareness of the conditions in which CCWs work. Many of the attendees who worked in primary health care shared their own experiences and the afternoon was filled with tears and songs.


For the CCWs involved in the filmmaking, this was encouragement to continue their activities. They have worked to articulate a clear message supported by the short films, which they will use to take their campaign forward and hold government accountable. As they put it: “We are proud, but we are tired. We are the superheroes, because we assist those who cannot assist themselves.” And they want to be recognised as such.


A New Mall in Delft South: Good or Bad for Local Businesses?

This case study was included in a collaborative submission by SLF, PLAAS, the University of the Western Cape, and the Centre for Excellence in Food Security, in response to the Competition Commission’s inquiry into South Africa’s grocery retail market. The full submission is available here.


Some years ago, the City of Cape Town sold off a 9.7 ha site adjacent to Delft, to Shoprite Checkers (Pty) Ltd (whose co-founder and Chairman Christo Wiese has a personal fortune estimated at R93 billion). In 2016 it was announced that a shopping mall would be constructed on the site, with a proposed investment of R170m. According to an article in The New Age, “The City’s property management department has been facilitating the development of this site over the past few years and has been informed that the construction of the bulk services was due to commence soon”. In terms of broader investment, it is claimed that the developer will make a R2m contribution to developing a facility of the City’s choosing, create 240 “housing opportunities” (in a private property development), and employ local labour in the “different stages of development” of the mall.


Delft Enterprises by ZoneDelft South (population ~40,000) had over 1,600 microenterprises in 2015. The City’s land use zoning regulations render the great majority of these enterprises as illegal or at least extra-legal (shown in the map alongside), hindering their potential for formalising. Despite the enthusiastic response by the City of Cape Town as to the positive impacts of the mall, there is no evidence that this development will bring about economic opportunity to any of the resident microenterprises within the Delft community. There is no mention of the mall being compelled to make space for Delft township businesses of any nature. Moreover, researchers working with township entrepreneurs (such as SLF) have not been consulted by the City of Cape Town in the approval of the mall vis a vis their assessment of the socio-economic impact that the mall could have on local businesses.


Based on the parent company ownership, it is most likely that the tenanted businesses will include some or all of the following outlets that fall within their group: Shoprite, Checkers, Checkers Hyper, Usave, Computicket, OK Furniture, MediRite Pharmacy, LiquorShop, and Hungry Lion. Supermarkets and shopping malls virtually always include high street supermarket, liquor and take-away businesses within their tenants and services. These three kinds of business outlets alone directly compete with over half the township economy.


By actively facilitating development of shopping malls in the vicinity of the township, yet making no allowance for informal business, local government and big business form a highly effective partnership to outcompete and dominate the township retail grocery sector. Further to this outmanoeuvring, the new mall will form a localised monopoly of formal retail businesses – against which no township grocery retailer can ever expect to prosper or grow beyond its current informal status. In South Africa’s economy of entrenched inequality this scenario is highly problematic.


Much of the change required to level this playing field and limit the unfairness of structural conditions falls to government. Firstly, there is a critical requirement to ease the legal and technical processes for formalisation of informal businesses to take place. This includes activities such as amending and relaxing town planning laws to incorporate the residential reality of township informal grocery retailing, and easing the requirements for permitting and licensing in order to bring township business into a regulatory framework. Furthermore, future shopping mall developments must be compelled to incorporate (eg) 25% or more space for local township businesses. Explicit provision for secure, hygienic and appropriately-sheltered trading facilities ought to be incorporated in all planning and design for retail spaces in malls, as well as around key transit nodes like bus and train stations and along high streets and similar transit corridors. Without such and other similar actions, township enterprises will never have the opportunity to legitimise and grow in the face of market dominance by formal retail chains.


Words by: Leif Petersen

Editing by: Caitlin Tonkin

A Right to Economic Inclusion (Final Livelihood Struggles Blog)

  “Everyone has inherent human dignity and the right to have their dignity protected and respected.” Bill of Rights, the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (1996)
 “The ability of people to earn money and support themselves and their families is an important component of the right to human dignity. Without it they faced ‘humiliation and degradation’…” Constitutional Court Judgement in Cases CCT 173/13 and CCT 174/13 (Operation Clean Sweep Case, 2013)


This ‘Livelihood Struggles’ blog series has highlighted the experiences of humiliation, hardship and exclusion which many South Africans face, when they try to earn money and support themselves. From Gideon du Toit’s account of living in a cave in Mosselbay, as a result of being blocked from informal trading, to Louise’s telling of the loss of her take-ways and shebeening businesses, to the harassment and negativity described by Big Issue sellers Tinzi and Xolani, a number of different voices from a number of different informal sectors (street trade, shebeens, educares, spazas, and traditional healing) have shown that economic exclusion is widespread. Poor South Africans face great difficulty in gaining access to formal markets and building livelihoods for themselves, regardless of how they are trying to earn an income.



The kinds of difficulties faced by poor South Africans, and illustrated in this series, include legal restrictions around where businesses can operate and in what kinds of places and spaces, access to licences and permits, lack of ability to absorb unexpected financial shocks, harassment from law enforcement, and negative perceptions from the public. In our understanding, these case studies highlight three inter-related concerns. Our first concern is the apathetic, impassive, and/or negligent response of local government, which has the effect of denying people access to opportunities to earn an income. The failure of local municipalities to provide basic infrastructure for street-based businesses is one example of this; another example is the failure to reduce the complexity of licencing processes. Our second concern is misguided development approaches and government policies which impact negatively on livelihoods. The impact of inappropriate policies is amplified when government agencies are incompetent, wrongly-or-under informed, or corrupt. The cases of both informal liquor retailers and street traders provides an example of how repressive actions impact on people at the margins of society who, in pursuit of a life of dignity (not lawlessness) engage in informal businesses in response to poverty and economic marginalisation. This second concern highlights state action rather than inaction.


Our third concern is pervasive and negative perceptions of informality. Tinzi and Xolani (Big Issue sellers) both experience this when motorists roll up their windows and refuse to engage with them, and Neville, a Rasta herbalist, similarly feels that part of the harassment and hardship he faces is because people are ignorant about what he does. While at first glance negative perceptions of participants of the informal economy seems a less severe challenge than state action/inaction, it in fact becomes part of the rationale for a social and political system which supports systemic economic exclusion.


From this perspective, systemic economic exclusion as an issue is about the denial and fulfilment of rights.


The South African Constitution, one of the most comprehensive and progressive constitutions in the world, promises that the human dignity of all South Africans will be respected and protected. In 2014, in a judgement relating to the illegal removal of street traders from Johannesburg city centre, Constitutional Court judge, Justice Moseneke, explicitly stated that being able to earn a living and provide for one’s family is an important part of having human dignity. The stories shared through this series certainly show that without this ability, many South Africans do experience great indignity, and do not enjoy the right to protection of their dignity. From this perspective, systemic economic exclusion as an issue is about the denial and fulfilment of rights.


What this series has highlighted is the need to see economic inclusion as a right due to all South Africans, and to see informal economic activities as a way to realise that right for the poor and marginalised. Furthermore, the series has exposed the failure of both local governments and broader society to act in the spirit of our Constitution, and makes clear the need for a systemic change in how informality is seen and approached. As our Constitution makes imperative for us in its founding provisions, we need to strive to “improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person.”


Additional essays and references to some of the SLF research can be downloaded here.

Words by series editor, Caitlin Tonkin, with editing and writing support from Andrew Charman.

Everliving Film Screening at the Labia

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Contributor: Miriam Waltz


On 16 November a group of Rastafarian bossiedokters (herbalists), in collaboration with SLF, hosted a film screening at the Labia Theatre in Cape Town. Titled ‘Everliving’, the stories showed how bush doctors face police harassment, exclusionary conservation polices, lack of access to land, and mistrust. The stories also explored the bush doctor’s identities as healers, fathers, sons, and community elders, and their relationship with nature. The stories were created through a personal storytelling for transformation (PST) process facilitated by SLF in April this year, and were part of the Making All Voices Count (MAVC) project.


The event drew an audience of about 35 people interested in conservation and social justice. After a short introduction of the MAVC project by Joanna Wheeler, Elder Neville introduced the first four stories, which showcased films reflecting aspects of everyday life, of biography, and how the storytellers came to live and believe and do what they do. A brief discussion after these four films addressed questions from the audience around how the bossiedokters became Rastafarians and how they obtain their knowledge about medicinal plants. Leif Petersen spoke about the Herbanisation project, which some of the bossiedokters were previously involved in and which was the focus of his story.


Elder Reuben introduced the second set of movies, centering around ‘persecution’. These three stories directly addressed experiences of oppression or occasions where the freedom of the bossiedokters was constrained. Part of the ensuing discussion focused on the question of permits. While some audience members suggested that the bossiedokters should lobby for better permit conditions, as other groups of mountain-users have done before, some of the bossiedokters objected that this is against their belief-system and their views on nature and private property. The conversation went to common objectives of bossiedokters and conservationists and the challenges the latter group faces in doing their work. In the end, it was clear that for the Rastafarian herbalists, it was their spiritual need and right to go to the mountain and laws and regulations were seen as radically constraining, not just on their physical bodies and their livelihoods, but also on their identity and spirituality.