Inaugural Lecture Tackles Poverty in South Africa
Holder of the SARChI Chair in Applied Poverty Reduction Assessment within the School of Built Environment and Development Studies (BEDS), Professor Sarah Bracking, recently delivered her inaugural lecture titled “Poverty in South Africa: residual, performative or structurally reproducing”?
In her lecture, she talked about the extent of poverty in South Africa and some characteristics that define what it means to measure. ‘The importance of measurement is to try and catalyse social change by giving citizens and policy makers the knowledge they need to act and spend wisely for a better South Africa,’ she said.
‘However, measurement in itself tells us nothing about the causes of poverty, and little about what policy makers may in fact do with the evidence, particularly when it competes with other spending priorities,’ explained Bracking.
In her lecture she examined what the category of poverty does in public policy discourse, and how poor people sit at the bottom of a social order which often produces wealth for others because of their poverty.
The lecture then progressed to asking whether poverty is a small residual problem of cleaning up conditions for a small group who have somehow been left behind, like waiting for growth to do its job, or whether the macro-economy of South Africa and global financialisation are producing the same conditions that will continue to cause poverty into the future.
‘Poverty in the present is being co-produced by two things. First, the regulatory choices made by the government of South Africa and its continued privileging of mining and the minerals energy complex over and above other policy priorities; and second, the investment and project finance structures that emanate from the global economy, which can be conceptualised as financialisation. There are some senses in which poverty itself has been financialised with “poverty” performative of its own conditions of reproduction,’ she argued.
Bracking shared statistics and previous research, in line with her lecture topic, that allowed for a greater in-depth discussion amongst the lecture attendees. ‘There is the potential for a reformed development studies to help design a better future,’ she said.
DVC and Head of the College of Humanities Professor Cheryl Potgieter pointed out that Bracking’s topic is crucial and relevant on a national and global level, while also welcoming her to the professoriate of the University.
‘Sarah is passionate about issues of poverty and social development and we are glad to have her within our School,’ said the Interim Dean for the School Professor Betty Mubangizi while College Dean for Teaching and Learning, Professor Nobuhle Hlongwa, said: ‘Sarah has touched on an important issue of poverty which is a challenge that South Africa is experiencing. And it’s something that we need to talk about.’