The University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Centre for Civil Society celebrated the success of seven students who graduated with postgraduate degrees from the Discipline of Development Studies.

Centre Director, Dr Shauna Mottiar, supervised the students who researched various areas relating to civil society.

Dr Kennedy Mugochi’s PhD research focused on the Save Zimbabwe Campaign, a democracy advocacy initiative that explores how democracy advocacy results are measured and how requirements of upward accountability affect the organisational behaviour of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs). ‘The findings will be of interest to those involved in civil society and advocacy studies, development practitioners, donors and evaluators of development interventions,’ said Mugochi.

Ms Slindile Mbatha’s masters research investigated solid waste management practices together with perceptions and attitudes about waste in Cato Manor, Durban. The study showed that sustainable solid waste management was dependent on people’s practices and attitudes, with local government playing a major role.

Mbatha is hopeful that her study could be used as laying foundations to assist decision-makers in their efforts to improve management in the municipal waste sector in South Africa.

‘There should be a bottom-up approach to waste management (involving the community in the solid waste management decision-making process) to evoke a sense of environmental responsibility. The promotion of reduction reuse and recycling needs to be extensively taught and practiced, increase environmental education, capacity building, improved legislation implementation, responsible bureaucracy and lastly monitoring and compliance on the part of local authorities to develop a sustainable solid waste management system for the future,’ she said.

Mr Nonkululeko Zondo and Ms Sihawukelwe Luthuli masters research was on self-help economic empowerment among women in Blaauwbosch in KwaZulu-Natal and stokvel groups, as a poverty reduction strategy in rural communities in the uMlalazi Municipality.

Findings of Zondo’s study revealed that despite minimal income gains from the projects, those who participated in the income-generating projects improved their household income and their living standards. Findings also indicated that participation in these projects improved women’s self-confidence and their ability to engage in decision-making processes that involved economic development within their communities.

‘Projects such as the Vuka Uzenzele Gardening Project and Blaauwbosch Craftwork Club have not only benefited the members but they have contributed positively to the local economy. Women expressed various challenges that they encountered in their projects including limited access to resources such as water and land. Other challenges included the lack in youth participation and poor support from government,’ said Zondo.

Two masters students, Mr Sizakele Mtshali and Ms Jana Rogoll, examined the issue of water in KwaZulu-Natal. Mtshali focused on how the lack of water and sanitation impacted on women in Nongoma, while Rogoll examined ways in which Chatsworth community activist strategies shape hydro politics in Durban.

Rogoll’s main findings were that while the decentralisation of local government was meant to bring democracy closer to the people and actively involve them in local government, there were still many challenges.

‘This was evident in the rather narrowed approach to “invited” spaces and a general denigration of community activism in “invented” spaces which has undermined the ability of meaningful citizen engagement in hydropolitics. This has been the case of the Westcliff Flat Residents Association (WFRA) that led to the creation of distrust of municipal authorities and the ward councillor amongst the community and a general feeling of not being taken seriously by government,’ said Rogoll.

She argued that hydropolitics in Durban has to become more sensitive to community challenges as well as everyday protest and the potential of local communities as agents of change. ‘Even though active citizenry is important in a modern government, strong community advocacy may lead to an increase in governmentalisation of civil society shifting responsibility away from the state onto communities,’ said Rogoll.

While Ms Sibahle Mkhize’s masters research focused on early childhood development (ECD) programmes in Maphumulo examining the perceptions around ECD and levels of participation in these programmes by parents.

Words: Melissa Mungroo