An exploration of the survival strategies of the poor in the Makause community in Primrose (Germiston), Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality.
Ngonyama, Luyanda George.
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Poverty remains a global challenge, particularly in developing countries like South Africa, where there is an increase in the total number of people affected by urban poverty. Despite economic growth and numerous poverty alleviation programmes, the urban poor in South Africa experience high levels of poverty, exacerbated by inequality, unemployment, macroeconomic policies and global politics. The magnitude of poverty is highlighted by poor access to housing, water and sanitation, electricity, health care and education. The latest Census report shows that 13.6 percent of people live in informal settlements in South Africa, 1.3 million households have no access to piped water and 8,242,924 people living in 748,597 households have no toilet at all (Statistics South Africa, 2011). The primarily objective of this study was to understand people’s understanding of poverty in the community of Makause – an informal settlement situated in Primrose (Germiston), Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality. A purposive sample of 32 participants was selected and field data were collected over a period of two months using in-depth interviews, observations, focus group discussions, documentary reviews and participatory learning and action processes (social maps and ranking). A combination of data collection methods was employed in order to explore different perspectives. This methodology was used to explore poverty and the survival strategies employed by poor urban households in the Makause community within the Sustainable Livelihoods Approach. The framework creates space for local people to explore their own views in relation to the conceptualisation of poverty and its impact, and to examine their survival strategies based on available assets in their community. Emerging data illustrate that people’s livelihoods in the community of Makause were adversely affected by forced removals. While the new community of Tsakane was better off in terms of access to basic resources and better quality housing, the people of Makause preferred their informal settlement with its limited resources and services. It was established that, while people were exposed to crime, homelessness, poor health, and a lack of water and sanitation, etc., the community of Makause is physically closer to amenities and job opportunities. Moreover, people have lived in Makause for many years; thus strong social capital exists in the community. Therefore, the case of Makause depicts poverty as a paradox in a context where people have learnt to live with uncertainty and messiness in the eyes of outsiders. This situation depicts poverty as a complex and multidimensional phenomenon in a context of vulnerability. The findings further suggest that people resist top-down development even when it is accompanied by the promise of a better life. Active community participation is required to tackle the correlation between underdevelopment and poverty. Overall, the study indicates that perceptions of poverty in Makause relate to a lack of access to basic needs such as proper housing, security, employment and food. The coping strategies adopted by the community reiterate that, despite challenges, people have strengths and assets that can be used to improve their lives. The study concludes that policy reforms and people-centred approaches are required to address systemic poverty.
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