Academic journal article Social Development Issues

Lost in Translation-Reflections on Developmental Social Welfare Services in an Integrating Community

Academic journal article Social Development Issues

Lost in Translation-Reflections on Developmental Social Welfare Services in an Integrating Community

Article excerpt


In the early to mid 2000s, a few researchers attempted to understand the living situations of selected poor white communities in South Africa, specifically in Gauteng and the Free Sate. A common conclusion was that poor white recipients of social welfare services in South Africa were informed by their history, race, and ethnicity (Matjeke, 2001; Naidoo, 2011; Peens & Dubbeld, 2013; Pharoah, 2008; Scheurmans & Visser, 2005). This observation intersected with and confirmed that social welfare service delivery throughout most of the twentieth century was based upon racial lines: whites received the lion's share and everyone else received the bare minimum if anything at all (Patel, 2015).

During the early 1980s, progressive welfare services and developmental programs were conceived by grassroots organizations. This resulted in a report called Uprooting Poverty: The South African Challenge (Wilson & Mamphela, 1989), which revealed and documented the full truth about poverty, inequality, and underdevelopment in South Africa and all related manifestations within the South African context. This report led to a more community-based, participatory, and peoplecentered approach to social welfare service delivery in South Africa and was the tipping point for fundamental changes in thinking about and delivery of social welfare services to alleviate poverty (Gray, 2006; Patel, 2015).

The White Paper for Social Welfare (Department of Welfare, 199 7) that restructured South Africa's social welfare system is securely rooted in a rights-based approach to social welfare service delivery. Despite these changes, poverty and socioeconomic inequality are enduring phenomena and the two largest challenges in the South African society. Poverty and inequality go hand in hand and leave members of society vulnerable and open to exploitation. This is an ongoing problem because South Africa continues to be rated as one of the most unequal societies worldwide (World Bank, 2014).

The removal of racial constraints has led to discourses at different levels within the South African context. The notion of reverse discrimination or reverse racism (Peens & Dubbeld, 2013) is prevalent in public discourse. Sentiment expressed by some portions of the white population allude to perceptions of exclusion and discrimination. In addition, there is limited research on the similarities, differences, or characteristics that can be ascribed to various racial groups who find themselves in the lower socioeconomic bracket.

This article will provide background on the evolution and transformation of social welfare from colonialism and apartheid to developmental social welfare in a democratic South Africa. Poverty and inequality within the South African context will be described, two discourses emanating from the removal of racial constraints will be debated, and reflections will be offered on developmental welfare services provided by a nonprofit organization in an integrating community.

Evolution and Transformation of Social Welfare in South Africa

During precolonial times in South Africa, community members took care of the social welfare needs of individuals and families in their communities. With the arrival of the Dutch settlers with their Calvinistic convictions about predestination during the mid-seventeenth century, behavior and attitudes of racial and social hegemony were evident. Once the British came into power in 1814, the traditional and colonial conduct of social welfare provision became conflictual and indigenous people were intimidated to force them to adhere to the world views of the colonialists. It can be argued that the abandonment of traditional practices started and laid the foundation for the discrimination and inequality that skewed the development and nature of social welfare policies and practices and distorted welfare service delivery in South Africa (Patel, 2005).

The discovery of minerals marked the start of industrialization in 1860. …

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