Log in

Create a user profile using your existing professional profile on LinkedIn, Academia, or ResearchGate.

Alternatively, register a username and password to start an account.

By creating an account you will be able to contribute articles, engage in discussion groups, network with fellow professionals and businesses, and receive interest-related alerts.

Forgot Password

Please enter your email address below and you will receive a temporary link to re-activate your account

Social Differentiation, Conflict and Development in a South African Township

Article image

Owen Crankshaw

01 March 1996


Township Studies Librarian Two

Journal article

Township Studies Group

South Africa

Over the past few years, mainstream South African development has embraced the concept of community participation as developers have shown a new commitment to negotiate the design and implementation of development projects with 'the community'. However, as Friedman argues, the term 'community' is shorthand for a collection of many different interests: 'The claim that development is being negotiated with "the community" cannot, therefore, be taken at face value' (Friedman 1993:2). 


In spite of this recognition, however, development policies tend to conceptualise 'the community' in homogeneous terms. This tendency is reflected in the literature on community participation which does not go much further than distinguishing between local leaders, neighbourhood organisations and political parties. When further disaggregations are made, they are based on differences in tenure and household income and, until very recently, did not even distinguish woman-headed households from man-headed households (Moser 1989:86).


In South Africa, the heterogeneity of urban African society has been downplayed by both racist and African nationalist discourse. South African developers have learned through bitter experience, therefore, that social division within African settlements are extremely volatile and quite capable of derailing upgrading and other development projects. The most well-known development failure on the Witwatersrand was the attempt to upgrade the Phola Park squatter settlement which was thwarted by the assassination of local leaders and the massacre of residents (Bremner 1994:34-35). That this outbreak of violence came as a surprise to the developmental agencies at Phola Park is an indication of 'how little the social, political and economic dynamics of informal settlements in South Africa are understood' (Bremner 1994:36).


This article is an attempt to fill this gap in our knowledge by examining some of the social and political divisions in the African township of Bekkersdal (Westonaria) on the West Rand. It is only a partial analysis of social divisions because it is based principally on the results of a household questionnaire survey. Although in-depth interviews were also conducted with key witnesses and residents, they were aimed mostly at informing the design of the questionnaire rather than identifying social divisions beyond the reach of the survey method.


Abstract based directly on the original source


Website References

Built environment

Community participation


Human settlements

Poverty & inequality

South Africa


Township Studies Group


View Contributors:


No comments available