This paper is concerned with organisational responses of residents in one low-income urban community located in the Province of KwaZulu-Natal. The area concerned is Mpumalanga Township near Durban, and it is an area that has had a difficult history of political violence. This has meant that, despite a coterminous history of trade union militancy and high levels of community mobilisation, social networks have been severely fractured. Firstly, this paper explores the tenuous process of rebuilding community level trust and collective action in the wake of political transition. A process of democratic consolidation has been made more difficult by economic recession and workplace restructuring. The general lack of trust in politicians and popular representatives in the contemporary period has meant that people are retreating into families and kinship networks, a response reinforced by poverty. In contrast to previous modes of trade union organisation in the area, problems of poverty and efforts towards enhancing livelihood opportunities are treated as private issues. Thus poverty and suspicion undermine community engagement and limit collective action responses to widespread problems. Secondly, the family is seen as a site of stability, but this is only realisable if the institution is supported by government policy. State transfers, such as pensions and child maintenance grants, are critical to relieving the enormous pressures and demands made upon the household. The argument advanced here is that it is on the stability of families, and particularly of older women within them, that the production of future citizens rests. However, due to the enormous burden placed on family networks and unequal power relations within households, the stability of family networks is seriously undermined. A crisis of reproduction surfaces as incidence of alcohol and drug abuse and domestic violence become common features of most households. Thirdly, the crisis of representation has informed the emergence of alternative forms of community organisation. The link between household survival and urban services has also given rise to popular responses so that engagement with metropolitan government becomes another site of emerging citizenship. Finally, the consolidation of democracy is emerging out of conflict as citizens demand accountability from politicians. It is argued that this constitutes a potential faultline in the process of democratic consolidation.
Mosoetsa, S. Working Paper No.49. The Legacies of Apartheid and Implications of Economic Liberalisation. (2004) 19 pp.