Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

The Social Grants and Black Women in South Africa: A Case Study of Bophelong Township in Gauteng

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

The Social Grants and Black Women in South Africa: A Case Study of Bophelong Township in Gauteng

Article excerpt


In post Apartheid South Africa 12.4 million people receive a social grant. This paper discusses the significance of the grants, and black women's role through the prism of the grants. The paper is based on a case study in Bophelong township near Johannesburg. The methodology draws on primary and secondary sources, a small socio economic survey, indicative interviews with black women grant recipients, and the relevant literature. The principle of 'triangulation' is used to validate research findings. For a substantial number of families, especially single women with children, the grant is their sole income. Black women provide the necessary (unpaid) labour and care for children on a 'hand to mouth existence', but the grant does not assist recipients to break the cycle of poverty. The patterns of social reproduction in post-apartheid South Africa reinforces patterns of patriarchy inherited from apartheid, and reinforces the surbordinated position of women in society. The role of women as carers hampers black women's mobility to seek work and/or educational opportunities. Despite far-reaching Constitutional rights, the state, through the nature of the social grants, inadvertently reinforces the subordinate and unequal position of black women, structurally responsible for the caring for the young and the aged. This is indicative of neoliberal accumulation and social reproduction in post apartheid SA.

Keywords: Neoliberalism, social grant recipients, social reproduction

The Research question and Methodology

There are two aspects to the research question:

1. What is the significance of the social grants in South Africa and

2. What is the specific position of black women in South Africa with regards to social reproduction as viewed through the prism of the social grants?

The four main grants discussed in this paper, paid monthly in 2007, include the old age pension grant (OAP), the child support grant (CSG), the disability grant (DG) and the foster care grant (FCG)

The research is based on a case study of Bophelong, a black township near Johannesburg, in South Africa. The paper draws on primary and secondary research: snowball interviews with grant recipients between March-July 2007; a socio economic survey in December 2007 (Van Driel: 2007a), and relevant literature. Thirty-one interviews were completed, twenty-five with grant recipients and six with key township informants. The recipients included 2 on OAPs, 4 on DGs, 2 on FCGs and 17 on CSGs. Only one male recipient (DG) agreed to be interviewed, hence the paper focuses on the 24 women recipients (Van Driel: 2007b). Interviews were conducted in English and Afrikaans (iii) and a fluent Sesotho/ English/Afrikaans translator was present in all interviews, to assist if needed.

A random Survey (2007) of 5% of the population was proportionally drawn from the three housing types in Bophelong to ensure a representative sample. An official town-planning map (iv) of Bophelong was used to calculate the 5% questionnaires needed for each geographic section (counting each house-stand). The informal settlement shacks were counted manually during the Survey. The housing types include:

i) The (1 054) four-roomed township houses built during apartheid, with an inside toilet, piped water in the kitchen and bathroom and municipal electricity.

ii) The (10 000) tiny two-roomed RDP houses with one inside tap in the toilet, and one outside, and prepaid electricity meters, built in post apartheid SA.

iii) The informal settlement (488 shacks), built by occupants in post apartheid SA have no water, electricity and toilet facilities.

The Survey (v) was completed with the assistance of sixteen local 'volunteer workers' (vi) from the Department of Social Development (DSD), from the African Skills and Development Initiative (ASEDI). Interviewers were trained to use the questionnaire and understand the survey. …

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