Double celebration for GCRO! Duo completes PhDs

  • GCRO
  • Date of publication: 27 October 2021

The GCRO is very excited to announce that two of its researchers, Darlington Mushongera and Mamokete Matjomane, have successfully completed their PhDs. The duo registered for their PhD in July 2015 in the School of Architecture and Planning (SoAP) at the University of the Witwatersrand both under the supervision of Professor Claire Benit-Gbaffou (Senior Lecturer, Aix Marseille University & visiting scholar at CUBES, University of the Witwatersrand) and Dr Richard Ballard (Principal Researcher at GCRO). They were part of the first cohort of students in a special programme called Practices of State in Urban Governance (PSUG). PSUG was an NRF funded programme for scholars interested in urban change in the post-apartheid city, the question of the state, its practices, representations, discourses, interventions, and their impacts on the city. The PSUG programme was an attempt to unpack practices of a local developmental state, through the lens of city making, and based on the case of Johannesburg and its city-region. As part of PSUG, Darlington and Mamokete had an opportunity to participate in the Newton PhD exchange programme between the University of the Witwatersrand and the University of Sheffield (UK).

The key question that the PSUG programme was asking was: how are state officials and politicians (re)structuring, (re)shaping and governing the city, and what are the effects/impact of their practices on inequality and social change in the city? Darlington and Mamokete extracted their questions in two different sectors, water and street trading respectively.

Having a passion for water, Darlington launched his PhD inquiry into water services governance in the City of Johannesburg. His question was ‘Who governs Johannesburg Water? Darlington deployed the Actor-Network Theory to explore the governance of water services in the City of Johannesburg combined with and ethnographic exploration. Darlington concluded that there are multiple actors and new Public Management (NPM), in particular, has created an amorphous governance landscape in the City’s water sector with an infinitely long list of controls that cannot be strictly followed, and hence either fade away or an implemented as a formality.

The examiners were impressed by Darlington’s thesis.

‘I believe Darlington has asked a really fascinating question regarding who governs Johannesburg Water (JW). He has provided a very rich and textured expose as to the complexity of urban management of an essential service. The layers of bureaucracy he has had to traverse, each with their respective alignment to relevant legislation has confirmed some of the major critiques provided against the New Public Management approaches to service delivery in the theory chapter’ (Examiner 1).

‘There is no doubt that it makes a significant contribution in the ways in which it explores the details of the relationships between the City of Johannesburg and JW. It provides rare nuance in this regard, indicating the complexities and ambiguities in answering the question ‘Who governs water services in the City of Johannesburg?’ It is also generally well written, revealing a good grasp of theory and based also on extensive empirical experience’ (Examiner 2).

‘The delivery of water services in Johannesburg has been highly contested, yet not fully understood. The focus of this PhD is an important contribution to our understanding of this topic. Its ethnographic approach to governance is not common and is a refreshing methodological innovation in the South African context’ (Examiner 3).

Mamokete on the other hand explored the role and influence of street trader leaders on urban governance with a particular focus on the everyday management of street trade. It was a comparative study between the three Gauteng metropolitan municipalities with reflections from Ahmedabad, India. The thesis reveals entangled formal and informal practices of state actors in the governance of street trading. It also reveals the active role of street trader leaders in the everyday management of street trading. The thesis explores the complex relations between street trader leaders, their constituents and state actors.

All three examiners applauded the thesis as a very strong research-based PhD.

“The research is impressively rigorous. The candidate undertakes deep fieldwork and pursues complex questions with persistence and courage. She faces considerable obstacles but persists with the research. And she complexifies the notions of governance beyond the representation and analyses of governance that are familiar in the South Africa research space around street trader management. Her deep investigation into the interface between trader leadership and the state illuminates an area of governance that is opaque and shrouded” (Examiner 1).

“What makes this thesis particularly important is its critical contribution to an incredibly important field of study in urban governance in the global South. Given the triple challenge of poverty, unemployment and inequality in South Africa, there is growing recognition of the role of the informal economy in sustaining urban livelihoods. Whilst there has been increasing research into street trading since the 1990s, insufficient attention has been paid to the unravelling the complexities of street trader leadership and what this means to urban governance. This research not only helps make a scholarly contribution towards filling this gap, but offers important lessons for practitioners working in this space” (Examiner 2).

“This is a very strong research based PhD. The PhD candidate demonstrates her ability to read and use academic texts, think through appropriate methodologies and methodological tools, navigate data collection and engage with the frameworks in the literature to analyse findings” (Examiner 3).

The GCRO wishes both researchers well in their future endeavors.


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