Customary marriage: is the law working?


In a three part series featured in GroundUp, Elena Moore and Chuma Himonga (NRF Chair in Customary Law) unpack the thorny issues which arose from a national study on the implementation of the new laws on customary marriage, divorce and succession. They present the findings and outline what remains to be done to improve the implementation of these laws. See the first article:

Publication update

Rebecca Hodes has published an article in the Journal of Southern African Studies, 42, 1 (2016), pp. 79-93, as part of a special edition on 'South Africa in Transition'. The volume is edited by Jason Robinson, Jonny Steinberg and David Simon. Hodes's article is entitled 'The Culture of Illegal Abortion in South Africa'.

The article is available here, and the abstract is below:


Welcome, Alecia Ndlovu


Alecia Ndlovu has joined UCT as a lecturer in the Department of Political Studies, on a post funded through the CSSR. Alecia is currently completing her PhD in International Relations at Wits University. She holds a BA in International Relations and Applied Economics, as well as an MA (Cum Laude) in International Relations. Her main research and teaching interests are in political economy (comparative and international) and quantitative methods. Her thesis is entitled “Sustaining the unsustainable? Political institutions and development in sub-Saharan Africa’s resource economies.” It combines cross-national statistical research and fieldwork in four African countries—Ghana, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia. Alecia's appointment strengthens the university's teaching and research in both quantitative social science and comparative African politics.

What kind of a trade union is SACTWU?

In a new article, in the Review of African Political Economy, Nicoli Nattrass and Jeremy Seekings examine the business interests of the South African Clothing and Textile Workers Union (SACTWU). In the 2000s SACTWU has come to depend on its political alliance with the governing party not only for the regulation of wages and industrial policies but also for Black Economic Empowerment policies that helped it to acquire massive shareholdings, including in the largest clothing manufacturer. Nattrass and Seekings argue that the union acquired a stake in ‘casino capitalism’, both literally (through shares in casinos) and figuratively (through its financial investments), whilst relying on government to stack the odds in its favour. Nattrass and Seekings continue to work on the decline of South Africa's clothing industry.

Three research students graduate, December

Three CSSR-based research students graduated at the December graduation ceremony. All three received distinctions for their Masters (by research) dissertations. Nicole Daniels examined in her dissertation 'The gendered experiences of women, men and couples who plan, have and narrate homebirths'. Sam Telzak's dissertation was on 'Shifting economic perceptions in South Africa: The impact of migration'. Sam Hamer examined the role of social protection policy in electoral branding by presidential candidates in Botswana and Malawi. Congratulations to all three.

Discussing Divorce, Families and Emotion Work

Last week, Elena Moore discussed the findings of her manuscript on Divorce, Families and Emotion Work. The findings were presented at The Geary Institute at the University College Dublin, hosted by Dorren Mc Mahon. The second seminar took place at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth and was hosted by The Department of Applied Social Studies & The Department of Sociology with Dr. Jane Gray acting as the discussant. The qualitative longitudinal research which follows the lives of a group of 40 separated parents over a 10 year period presents the work involved in sustaining family life as separated parents remain deeply connected and committed to each other.

Customary Marriage Study: Disseminating the Findings


Prof. Chuma Himonga, NRF Chair in Customary Law and Elena Moore met with several members of the National House of Traditional Leaders in Pretoria last week. At the meeting, the authors discussed the findings of the research, in particular, the findings that relate to the role of traditional leaders in registering customary marriages and resolving family disputes. The representatives of the meeting welcomed the findings and a lively discussion ensued. For more information about the research findings, see

Poverty is a behaviour: An evaluation of Life History theory in Cape Town

17 November, 2015 - 12:45 to 14:00
Robin Smaill
CSSR Seminar Room 4.29, Level 4 Leslie Social Science Building, Upper Campus
Abstract / Description: 

Poverty and inequality are generational and increasing, and the implication is that they have immunity to intervention, or the current interventions.  These problems are better conceptualised as behavioural with the lack of wealth a symptom of that behaviour. Life History (LH) theory offers a biological perspective on human behaviour with a focus on resource allocation. The amount of resources that parents allocate to aspects of reproduction differs, resulting in different parenting and that has consequences for the life of the child. LH theory offers an explanation of resource allocation variation and this study uses the CAPS data set to evaluate the theory in Cape Town.

Educational achievement was the outcome variable in a multiple regression model.   The demographic and control variables were gender, race, age and ever pregnant. The variables were wealth and the themes of environment, school, school/parent, and parents. Between two and nine variables were used for each theme and many of variables were composite.

The model accounts for 35% of the variation in educational achievement and the significance is such that the results can be generalised beyond the sample. Parents and school/parents are the dominant factors. The environment and school alone are minor coefficients and wealth is important but with a low significance. There are also important interactions between variables.

This research offers a new perspective on the educational crisis, improving skills, improving health and reducing crime. Biology and particularly life history theory is shown to be a productive tool in understanding poverty and inequality. 

The Effect of Public Opinion on Legislator Behavior: Evidence from the Ugandan Parliament

10 November, 2015 - 12:45 to 14:00
Gabriella Sacramone-Lutz ,Ph.D, Candidate Department of Political Science Columbia University
CSSR Seminar Room 4.29, Level 4 Leslie Social Science Building, Upper Campus
Abstract / Description: 

In many African states, voters and civil society typically play only a minor role in policymaking. Information about constituent preferences reaches politicians infrequently and unsystematically. This could mean that elected politicians are underinformed and/or under-incentivized to act in the interest of constituents. This project uses an experiment to estimate the impact of new information about voter’s preferences on their representatives’ stated preferences and legislative behavior. In June 2014, the Civil Society Coalition to Stop Maternal, Newborn, and Child Mortality in Uganda polled voters around the country on the extent to which they supported budget increases in health, and the extent to which they were likely to hold their elected representatives to account for failure to deliver adequate health services. The poll revealed that health was the most salient issue for voters and had grown in importance relative to other issues over the past years. Unsurprisingly, a majority of Ugandans felt that their representatives were doing lessthan they should to address systematic failures in service delivery, and reported that this fact was likely to drive their future voting decisions. This information was then distributed to some randomly selected Members of Parliament (MPs) and not others ahead of the final vote on the health budget. Using a petition, we are able to show that learning about citizen priorities pushed MPs, when contacted, to publicly support budget increases for health service provision at a higher rate than their colleagues without this information. Interestingly, treated (informed) MPs were less likely to respond to the petition at all. When it came to the budget, however, it passed unamended and without increases in spending. We interpret this result as illustrative of the extent to which politicians feel their actual actions in Parliament are hidden.

The democratizing force of multi-party elections: it does not work in Africa, does it work in Asia?

13 October, 2015 - 12:45 to 14:00
Matthijs Bogaards ,Van Zyl Slabbert
CSSR Seminar Room 4.29, Level 4 Leslie Social Science Building, Upper Campus
Abstract / Description: 

Does the simple repetition of multi-party elections help to expand civil liberties and political rights? Do multi-party elections, no matter how unfree and unfair they may be, over time help to bring about a transition to democracy? In a series of influential publications, Staffan Lindberg has argued yes, based on his African data. Other scholars have been unable to find the same pattern in Latin America and the postcommunist states of Eastern Europe and Eurasia. Moreover, Bogaards (2013, 2014) has recently cast doubt on the African evidence. The one region where the thesis of democratisation through elections has not been tested, so far, is Asia. This presentation seeks to fill that gap by explicitly engaging in "comparative regional democratization" or the application of comparative area studies to the study of democratization. Concretely, the paper asks whether the causal mechanisms and outcomes that Lindberg claims to have found in Africa can also be demonstrated in Asia. The answer to this question will help us with the identification of possible regionally specific processes of democratization.

About the presenter:

Matthijs Bogaards is the Van Zyl Slabbert Visiting Professor in the Department of Political Studies at UCT. He studied at the universities of Leiden, UC Berkeley, and the European University Institute in Florence and has taught at the University of Southampton, Jacobs University Bremen, the Central European University in Budapest, and the University for Peace in Costa Rica. His research interests include democracy in divided societies, deliberative democracy, comparative area studies, and African politics.

Can Donors Build Social Capital? Civil Society Assistance and Civic Engagement in sub-Saharan Africa

6 October, 2015 - 12:45 to 14:00
Sohyeon Kim
CSSR Seminar Room 4.29, Level 4 Leslie Social Science Building, Upper Campus
Abstract / Description: 


Donors have been using various strategies to promote democracy in developing countries. In the mid-1990s, building civil society came to the fore amongst donors influenced by Putnam’s publication, Making Democracy Work, on the importance of social capital for good governance. Putnam concluded that horizontal networks of civic engagement strengthen the performance of a polity. Donors have been stressing vibrant civic engagement since then. This research is to find a correlation between donors’ assistance to foster civil society and civic engagement in 18 sub-Saharan African countries using Afrobarometer survey data