Violence, Inequality and Transformation: Apartheid Survivors on South Africa’s Ongoing Transition

Despite its lauded political transition in 1994, South Africa continues to have among the highest levels of violence and inequality in the world. Organised survivors of apartheid violations have long maintained that we cannot adequately address violence in the country, let alone achieve full democracy, without addressing inequality.

Based on five years of participatory action research with members of the Western Cape branch of Khulumani Support Group, this project looks at apartheid survivors’ understandings of the links between the high levels of violence and inequality in South Africa more than two decades after the political transition.

Pointing to the continuities between apartheid oppression and post-apartheid marginalisation in everyday life, survivors detail ways in which the democratic dispensation has strengthened barriers to social transformation and helped enable violence. They also present strategies for effecting change through collaboration, dialogue and mutual training and through partnerships with diverse stakeholders that build on local-level knowledge and community-based initiatives.

The lens of violence offers new and manageable ways to think about reducing inequality, while the lens of inequality shows that violence is a complex web of causes, pathways and effects that requires a big-picture approach to unravel. The survivors’ narratives suggest innovative strategies for promoting a just transition through people-driven transformation that go well beyond the constraints of South Africa’s transitional justice practice to date.

In line with the ethics of the project, all of the publications are open access.

Running from 2015 to 2020, this project was funded by the Heinrich Böll Foundation Southern Africa, the DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence in Human Development and the Foundation for Human Rights.



Jasmina Brankovic, Brian Mphahlele, Sindiswa Nunu, Agnes Ngxukuma, Nompumelelo Njana and Yanelisa Sishuba. 2020. Violence, Inequality, and Transformation: Apartheid Survivors on South Africa’s Ongoing Transition. Johannesburg: DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence in Human Development.

Book chapter:

Jasmina Brankovic. 2018. ‘“People’s Power” in the Age of Human Rights: Victims’ Contributions to Education in Post-Apartheid South Africa.’ In Transitional Justice and Education: Engaging Young People in Peacebuilding and Reconciliation, ed. Clara Ramírez-Barat and Martina Schulze. Göttingen: Vandenhoek and Ruprecht.

Practice report:

Yanelisa Sishuba, Sindiswa Nunu, Nompumelelo Njana, Agnes Ngxukuma, Brian Mphahlele and Jasmina Brankovic. 2017. Conducting Participatory Action Research with Apartheid Survivors: Lessons from ‘Addressing Socioeconomic Drivers of Violence in Khulumani Communities.’ Cape Town: Khulumani Western Cape and Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation.

Opinion pieces:

Jasmina Brankovic. 2020. ‘Socioeconomic Oppression and the Need to Rethink Transitional Justice.’, 24 February.

Jasmina Brankovic. 2020. ‘Inequality is the Primary Driver of Violence, Say Apartheid Survivors.’ Daily Maverick, 6 February.

Brian Mphahlele, Agnes Ngxukuma, Nompumelelo Njana, Sindiswa Nunu and Yanelisa Sishuba. 2016. ‘Apartheid Survivors Need State Assistance to Redress Inequality.’ Cape Times, 26 October.

CSVR staff members on project:

Jasmina Brankovic


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