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New Centre at Wits to tackle inequality

- Wits University

Wits launches first Centre for inequality in the southern hemisphere.

The Southern Centre for Inequality Studies, launched on 25 October 2017 at the Wits Club will adopt a multidisciplinary approach in understanding and addressing inequality in the global south.

Speaking on the politics of inequality at the launch, Wits Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Adam Habib said that inequality is one of the biggest challenges in the world and is detrimental to political systems.

South Africa faces a widening inequality gap, this problem is not unique to the country and has been linked to instability in communities and driving geopolitics. 

"The real danger of inequality is that it polarises our world. It socially polarises our world and when you have a socially polarized world, your political system gets inevitably paralysed,” said Habib.

"There is a real recognition that we are in a real dangerous situation and we need to know where to next.”

Professor Eddie Webster, Professor Adam Habib, Nicolette Naylor, Isaac Shongwe and Professor Imraan Valodia at the launch of the Southern Centre for Inequality Studies

According to Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Postgraduate Affairs, the Centre feeds into the Wits’ 2022 research vision.

“Research into the inequality in the global south, particularly in South Africa is central to our strategies,” said Vilakazi.

Professor Edward Webster, Interim Director of the Centre said that they will examine the various facets of inequality and will study both the rich and the poor.

“Our approach is to study how power reproduces inequality. It is not only how inequality is reproduced, but how it can be overcome, reduced or challenged.  We are looking at sources of power that could challenge inequality, countervailing power. We are interested in identifying what could count as the forces, the instruments, the policies, that would begin to develop a coalition that would begin to challenge inequality,” he said.

With over 24 research clusters and 80 researchers from across various disciplines, the Centre will pull together an alliance of practitioners and intellectuals across national boundaries who will collectively unravel the inequalities in our country.

"Wits was at the center of many of the struggles of the anti-apartheid. This project is about putting Wits as a critical thinker of a more egalitarian society post-apartheid,” added Webster.

The Centre is funded by the Ford Foundation which has an interest in advancing social justice.

Nicolette Naylor, Ford’s Southern Africa Director, said the Centre will enrich global knowledge and strategies.

The Centre fits in line with the Foundation’s mission and inequality themes.