Targeted programmes as a means of sustainable livelihoods for poor people, especially women : a case study of Zibambele Public Works Programme in KwaZulu-Natal.
This study investigates whether public works programmes are a means to sustainable livelihoods using the Zibambele road maintenance programme, a public works anti-poverty programme implemented in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The study is driven by the rising levels of unemployment and poverty that prevail in the country. Poverty has a spatial dimension with rural areas bearing a large proportion of the poor, particularly women. Sustainable livelihoods would rely at least in part on an improvement in women's positions. The focus of this study is to establish whether Zibambele has an impact on women's control over household resources, decision-making, power in the household and securing livelihoods. In addressing unemployment and poverty, the developmental reforms of the government in South Africa have gone against the argument that market driven reforms alone, render economic growth. The South African government has addressed poverty and unemployment through a wide range of options such as public works, which embody John Keynes' idea of the need for state intervention in the workings of the market. It has implemented a variety of social assistance programmes. Public works programmes are heralded as playing a dual role: providing employment to unemployed people who are economically active, and, on the other hand, creating useful economic infrastructure. Women are specifically targeted and approximately 95 per cent of contractors are women. Zibambele aims to improve their position by reducing their risk of poverty. The data was collected by interviewing contractors of the Zibambele programme who reside in Nkwalini in Umbumbulu (Durban region) and Nxamalala, in Sweetwaters (Pietermaritzburg region) in KwaZulu-Natal, and through focus group discussions. The interviews were supplemented with information from DoT officials and documentation from the department. The analysis shows that the Zibambele programme has significantly helped many women. Zibambele promotes livelihood activities of contractors and in some instances gives the women power to make decisions in their households. It also shows concludes that the programme gives women dignity, which further enables them to engage in activities that bring money to their households. Although Zibambele has positive benefits for short-term unemployment, this may not be applicable in the long-term and can create serious effects on the poor participating in the programme. In light of this, sustained employment is needed for poverty reduction. The South African government has realised that with the scale of unemployment and poverty that exists the market cannot simply be left to resolve these problems, instead an active state is needed. Therefore it has actively directed resources to the poor through the implementation of public works and social assistance.