Living in: Johannesburg, South Africa
Nationality: South African
Masana is Research Manager at the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation. At the Centre, she oversees a 12-country project exploring transitional justice in the continent, an in-depth analysis on innovations in peace-building in South Africa, and an exploration of social contracting in the post-Apartheid era. Masana works with a diverse multi-disciplinary team of researchers on issues of urban, collective, state and interpersonal violence as well as looking at the processes of horizontal and vertical reconciliation and sustainable peace in society. She also serves on the Steering Committee for the national Department of Social Development’s Integrated Social Crime Prevention Strategy.
She has worked at the Robert F Kennedy Centre for Justice and Human Rights in Washington D.C., the Poverty and Inequality Initiative (UCT) as a senior researcher and as the first Machel-Mandela Fellow at The Brenthurst Foundation in Johannesburg, where she has been involved in multi-country studies on economic development, international relations, studies in development practices and conflict analysis.
With a multi-disciplinary background in African Studies, politics, economics, international development and law, Masana has an MSc in Political Economy of Late Development from the London School of Economics and Political Science, a BA (honours) in African Studies and a B.Com. in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from the University of Cape Town.
She is also a frequent blogger for Mail & Guardian’s Thought Leader and an alumnus of the South African Washington International Program and the David & Elaine Potter Fellowship. Masana is a Chevening Scholar from 2012–13, and is currently a fellow at the Leading Causes of Life Initiative.
Having grown up in the mining towns across South Africa, I have been directly exposed to the effects of inequality on the social fabric of the country. Particularly when the mine that was the bedrock of the economy in the town in which my family stayed eventually shut down - forcing us to relocate into urban areas. That same town, Blyvooruitsig is now a hotbed of conflict as zama-zamas (illegal miners), police and security forces engage in a small-scale conflict, compounded by threats to access to basic services. These experiences of conflict related to economic activity are not unusual in South Africa, as the case of the 2012 Marikana massacre demonstrates.
My decision to study economics was to better understand the linkages between the economy and well-being, but I found that, much like for my home town, these experiences are inalienable from experiences of violence faced by a number of South Africans. Therefore, I have been working the drivers of violence in post-Apartheid South Africa. This work, involving multi-country studies on conflict and peacebuilding in the global South has increasingly pointed to the salience of the economy, and specifically inequality, in relation to conflict. In a country like South Africa, where the Gini coefficient and violent assaults are some of the highest globally, it is pertinent to understand how these factors affect each other and how South Africa’s experiences differ from that of other countries.
A number of research papers have begun to explore the impact of the political economy on conflict, but not at a sub-national or comparative level. It is also concerning that a number of papers on conflict mediation, transitional justice and peacebuilding refer to the economy in abstract terms – but thereafter make policy recommendations for a versatile and adaptive political economy. Being a part of a Fellowship devoted to innovative and in-depth research in inequality that would allow scope for multidisciplinary and activist research, would help to inform my work that speaks to policy and practice in South Africa at a time when the country’s unemployment figures have reached a 13-year high. Linking the experiences of South Africa to that of other countries across the world would mean that not only can my research on conflict speak to national economic trends, but also those of the international political economy – affecting small mining towns like Blyvooruitsig in ways that are not fully understood.