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UKZN emeritus professor co-authors book on social work policy

'Social Welfare Policy in South Africa: From the Poor White Problem to a "Digitised Social Contract"' is the title of a book co-authored by UKZN Emeritus Professor Fikile Mazibuko, which was launched last week at Durban's Ike's Books and Collectables.

Co-written with UKZN alumnus and Associate Professor at the Centre for African Studies at the University of Cape Town, Professor Horman Chitonge, its nine chapters examine government's response to social welfare challenges from the point of view of its social contract with citizens.

Mazibuko said the chapters explore different social welfare policy interventions over time, aimed at addressing different challenges, from the "poor white problem" in the 1920s and during apartheid to current challenges. The "poor white problem" integrated intervention is a critical milestone, where race becomes the keystone in crafting special dispensation for white people to live heavily subsidised by the state and enjoy a comfortable life. Also central in that intervention is the entrenching inequality.

Chitonge explained the book seeks to unravel the rationale behind the responses that the state adopts in dealing with social welfare problems. Turning to why governments fund social welfare, he said this is either due to a moral stance that holds that people should not suffer hardship, or political reasoning that the state should prove its worth by taking care of the poor.

The launch, which was attended by academics, social welfare practitioners, former social work students, authors and members of the public, raised a number of questions that need to be addressed by the government and highlighted the need for a multidisciplinary approach to deal with social welfare challenges.

UKZN's Professor Donal McCracken congratulated the authors and said the book speaks to both experts and the lay person.

Academic leader in the School of Applied Human Sciences, Discipline of Social Work, Professor Johannes John-Langa said the book will no doubt be a meaningful contribution to the human rights-based critique of the South African social welfare policy. It will be very useful to the teaching of social welfare policy in the Bachelor of Social Work Programme. He noted that he would not hesitate to recommend it as a prescribed text for Social Work.

Chitonge and Mazibuko will be working on a second book that will focus on beneficiation, the digitisation of the social contract, and alternative approaches to social grants. It will also explore the categories of people that make up the approximately 17 million beneficiaries.

Words: Sithembile Shabangu