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The need for multidisciplinarity – in order to adequately manage the complexity that Gauteng offers – is reflected in the Roadmap, quoted earlier, as it is in the 2019 White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation (DST, 2019), which states:

Interdisciplinary research teams, and the integration of knowledge from different disciplines, as well as from users, are necessary to deal with complex problems. Increasingly scholars and policy makers are viewing such approaches as “science for the future”, and as an opportunity to strengthen the relationship between science and society by putting social concerns at the core of scientific research. Open science is one avenue to realise the benefits of collaborative, transdisciplinary approaches to knowledge development.

This SAPRIN intervention in Gauteng is a key moment to try and realise some of these goals. So too the ‘Vision’ of the White Paper which talks to improving coherence and coordination; increased partnering between business, academia, government and civil society; increased human capabilities; and the promotion of transformation and inclusivity. These are as true of the team SAPRIN appoints to run the node, as it is for SAPRIN and DSI. The Roadmap (2016: 35) went on to argue for HDSS sites to collect data on all vital events but also “residence status and migration, household dynamics, socio-economic status, disease monitoring, labour and employment status, education status and social protection”. This talks very directly to our approach (reflected in the name we have proposed for the node) – locating vital statistics in the urban and socio-economic complexity from which they emerge.

This ambitious goal is the basis for our selection of three sites, rather than one, in order to cover a range of urban forms in which the poor live, and because we would hope in future (were this application to succeed) to expand the sites being monitored. Gauteng is a magnet for in-country and international migrants, both high and low-skilled. StatsSA predict net international migration to South Africa (2016-2021) of over a million people, 48% of whom will come to Gauteng. (By contrast, 12% went to the Western Cape.) Internal migration adds to the Gauteng population growth rate, with Stats SA predicting a million migrants 2011-2016, and another million coming to the province between then and 2021. Data from two recent ‘Quality of Life’ surveys in Gauteng give an indication of the nature of inner-city and Gauteng-wide migrancy: the SAPRIN intervention will allow all stakeholders to more accurately measure internal and cross-border migrancy, as well as length of stay, use of peri-urban areas as ‘springboards’ into city centres, and so on. The difference between migration to Melusi (see above) and Hillbrow (see table below) is stark – Hillbrow is attracting better educated, better paid, and employed migrants (internal and cross-border). The need to challenge easy definitions of migrancy and its effects is part of the complexity of the intervention proposed.

Migration coupled with the legacy of the past has demographic effects that make Gauteng look different to anywhere else in South Africa – it has more men than women, and almost 30% of all youth in the country live in Gauteng (5,10 million or 28,6%). Far fewer older people live in Gauteng than in other provinces. This suggests that the health and demographic profile of Gauteng will differ from other, less urbanised provinces. As such, we need to capture different urban forms, given that the province is a mix of old, established townships, large informal settlements that receive some services, new informal settlements that can appear within days and receive no services; post-apartheid RDP settlements, which nonetheless replicate the apartheid pattern of locating masses of people far away from centres of economic, social and cultural life; new massive settlements such as Cosmo City; backyard shacks, tents, traditional dwellings and others in every possible location (including the rooftops of Hillbrow flats and the yards of RDP houses), homeless and street sleepers (the latter may have a household in one part of the province but sleep rough in order to be near work – labourers, recycling waste pickers, etc.)[4] and so on.

The province has an estimated 1 million single person households[5], many of them long-term migrants and informal dwellers maximising benefits and remitting home; poorer suburbs are increasingly densifying and informalising (shacks, caravans and tents in backyards are common) as people seek to move closer to their place of work or school (thus using informality to undo apartheid spatial engineering), and so on. Since the end of apartheid, informality has also allowed households that were previously restricted to the main township dwelling to split and create multiple households in different dwellings – half of the 1-person households are people born in Gauteng, but splitting off to start afresh.[6] The densification that accompanies so many people in such a small space inevitably creates a complex range of urbanity, and also has a range of psychological, sociological, economic and health outcomes that SAPRIN wants to understand. We hope that our dispersed node will help begin to understand these outcomes.

[4] See for example Charlton, S. (2019) ‘Down by the river: park dwellers, public space and the politics of invisibility in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs’ in Transformation: Critical Perspectives on Southern Africa  Volume 101, 2019)

[5] GCRO, 2013 at

[6] See for example David Everatt, Graeme Gotz and Ross Jennings (2005) ’Living for the sake of living’: Partnerships between the Poor and Local Government in Johannesburg (UNRISD Democracy, Governance & Human Rights paper 16, Geneva)