We are pleased to present the year-end newsletter of the Mandela Initiative, a multi-sectoral platform to investigate and develop strategies to overcome poverty and inequality.

2017 was a busy year for the Mandela Initiative as we moved into the final phase of starting to consolidate the past five years’ work. In this newsletter, we bring you some highlights of the past few months, including:

  • exciting progress in the development of a proposed Basic Package of Support for Youth, led by our partners at the Poverty and Inequality Initiative, University of Cape Town (in partnership with a powerful multi-sectoral coalition);
  • explorations of the potential of section 27 of the Equal Employment Act to address the large pay gap between the highest and the lowest income in companies in South Africa, discussed on the first day of our action dialogue on proportional income differentials; and
  • growing global concerns over new forms of labour that are emerging in the “gig economy” and the consequences for workers’ rights and pay structures, which were also foci of the proportional income differentials dialogue.

We announce the availability of reports on action dialogues and other events from earlier this year, including the community of practice workshop of research chairs involved in the Mandela Initiative, policy-makers and civil society organisations, to discuss the findings of the studies.

We are looking ahead with excitement to 2018, when our associates will gather in February to discuss the consolidated outcome of the Mandela Initiative’s work, with complementary inputs by other academics from several universities and the Human Sciences Research Council. We also anticipate a vibrant discussion at another gathering, also scheduled for February, when the findings of a research project on social cohesion will be presented in partnership with the Agence Française de Développement, UCT’s Poverty and Inequality Initiative and the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation.

As the year draws to a close, we wish to thank our partners, contributors and associates for their ongoing collaboration and support. Wishing you well over the festive season and also a prosperous New Year.

Francis Wilson
National co-ordinator
December 2017


   Action dialogues

Defining a basic package of support for youth

The coalition to identify the necessary components for a package of support for South Africa’s youth held its second Youth Conversation for Action, in October, to consolidate the evidence necessary to outline a package. The coalition is led by the Poverty and Inequality Initiative, University of Cape Town together with UCT’s Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the Government Technical Advisory Centre, the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, the Centre for Social Development in Africa, University of Johannesburg, and the Mandela Initiative. The gathering again brought together an excitingly diverse group of contributors, including participation by Nelson Mandela Foundation board member, Dr Mamphela Ramphele. Read more

Proportionate income differentials: A long walk to social justice

The Global Wage Report 2014/2015 of the International Labour Organisation highlights that the pay gap between the highest and the lowest income in companies in South Africa is double as high as in India, and three times higher than in Brazil. However, a legal provision to correct this is in place: As a legacy of Nelson Mandela’s presidency, South African law includes a provision that calls for the reduction of disproportionate levels of income between the top and the bottom earners. This goal, however, still seems to be invisible in the everyday workplace reality of South Africa. For this reason, the Mandela Initiative earlier this year hosted an action dialogue on proportionate income differentials, with the first day focusing in particular on the available legal framework to address pay inequalities. Read more

Gig economy, crowd work and new forms of labour

The relationship between Uber and its drivers has been receiving much attention around the world, including in South Africa, where the company also has been facing legal challenges from drivers who claim that they are ‘employees’ and thus entitled to the protection of labour law. The Uber drivers are one example of the new forms of labour that are emerging in the “gig economy” associated with the fourth industrial revolution. This topic, and its consequences for workers’ rights, were also a focus at the “Proportionate income differentials: A long walk to social justice” action dialogue earlier this year. Prof. Wilma B. Liebman, an international expert on new forms of labour, reflected on why this is a topic of growing global concern. Read more


   Upcoming events


Consolidating the Mandela Initiative’s work

Five years have passed since the Initiative started its work – the first phase being the Towards Carnegie3: Strategies to Overcome Poverty & Inequality conference hosted by the University of Cape Town and supported by the National Treasury and the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Since then, the Nelson Mandela Foundation joined the Initiative as strategic partner in 2016, while 23 multi-sectoral action dialogues and other workshops were hosted to share experience, research and innovations on poverty and inequality topics. Over the same period, bi-annual Think Tank meetings provided leadership and strategic guidance to the Initiative, while eight research programmes, funded by the Department of Science and Technology and the National Research Foundation, were set up to probe key themes that emerged from conference. The outcomes of these work streams and related evidence by other academics from several universities and the Human Sciences Research Council are now being consolidated for discussion at an event in February 2018. More details will be made available in due course.



Conference on social cohesion in South Africa

The Poverty and Inequality Initiative at the University of Cape Town partnered in 2016 with the Agence Française de Développement and the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation to work collaboratively on a major research project which addresses issues on inequality and social cohesion in South Africa. The research aims to measure the degree of social cohesion in different communities by using an objective set of indices which include levels of inequality, perceptions of crime, interpersonal violence and others in a bid to track where we are in terms of a socially cohesive society. The project aims to help policymakers identify the factors that can improve social cohesion. In February 2018, the partners and other participants will gather to discuss the key findings of the research.


New reports and articles

Outcome of community of practice workshop

Earlier this year, Research Chairs of the South African Research Chairs Initiative who are also members of the Mandela Initiative gathered with government policy-makers, non-governmental agencies and other academics to discuss the results of studies undertaken for the Mandela Initiative, and debate their policy implications. The programme was shaped by engaging with the research knowledge as a Community of Practice, which is defined by the NRF as “research-led alliances, in which established researchers collaborate to produce solution-oriented research findings with an intention to translate research outputs into tangible outcomes, and influence policy development and implementation through communication of the necessary research findings”. The outcome of the workshop with feed into the consolidation of the Initiative’s work, for discussion in February 2018. The workshop summary is now available. View research summaries

4th Build Ubuntu - Close the pay Gap workshop

The Mandela Initiative partnered on the fourth workshop in this series in collaboration with the Labour and Enterprise Policy Research Group and the Institute of Development and Labour Law (UCT), and the Social Law Project (University of the Western Cape). The dialogue was aimed at debating pro-poor and pro-equality policies on disproportionately high-income differentials, as well as associated challenges that come with the new forms of labour of the “gig economy”. It was supported by the Hans Böckler Foundation and the Programme to Support Pro-poor Policy Development, Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation. Read report



This newsletter was written and compiled by Charmaine Smith, with much-appreciated contributions from:

  • Ariane De Lannoy, Poverty and Inequality Initiative, UCT
  • Ruediger Helm, Institute of Development and Labour Law, UCT
  • Wilma Liebman, School of Management and Labour Relations, Rutgers University

Thank you to the MI Secretariat members Murray Leibbrandt, Francis Wilson and Haajirah Esau for fact-checking and peer review.



For feedback or more information about the Mandela Initiative,
contact the communication manager, Charmaine Smith,
on 021 – 650 1816 or at charmaine.smith@uct.ac.za.