Community development in South Africa

Collective action for social change

Authored by: Lambert Engelbrecht , Mornay Pretorius

The Handbook of Social Work and Social Development in Africa

Print publication date:  November  2016
Online publication date:  October  2016

Print ISBN: 9781472468512
eBook ISBN: 9781315557359
Adobe ISBN: 9781317029380


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Despite over two decades of reconstruction and development, almost half of South Africa’s population lives on or below the poverty line. There is chronic poverty in the rural areas, peri-urban areas, and urban informal settlements, where the bulk of the poor reside. In fact, approximately 72% of South Africa’s poor live in rural areas (Republic of South Africa (RSA), 1997), where they face the harshest conditions of poverty, illiteracy, food insecurity, and lack of services on a daily basis. Community development has become central to poverty eradication and a cornerstone of social development in South Africa (Gray & Mubangizi, 2010; Hart, 2012; Hölscher, 2008; Kaeane & Ross, 2012; Mubangizi, 2008; Patel, 2005; Ruiters, 2007; Triegaardt, 2008). As a result, there has been a proliferation of state-led community work and community development initiatives. Examples include the National Community Development Workers Programme (CDWP), Community Works Programme, and Community Development Practitioner Programme (Westoby & Botes, 2013). This chapter provides an overview of community development policy and praxis in South Africa as a response to the unique and complex challenges of poverty, and considers their implications for social work.

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