The SA&CP is made up of a diverse group of staff, researchers, and students. Explore below to view profiles and learn more about our research team.
Prof. Philip Harrison
NRF Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning
Philip Harrison is the South African Research Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. He also serves on South Africa's National Planning Commission. He holds a doctoral degree from the University of Natal (Durban) and a masters degree in urban planning from the same institution. He is a registered member of the South African Council of Planners (SACPLAN) and the South African Planning Institute (SAPI).
Philip has worked in the field of urban planning for around 25 years, in the public, private and academic sectors. He worked previously as an Urban Planner for the Natal Provincial Administration (1988-92); for a private planning firm (1992-93); as a Lecturer and Associate Professor at the then University of Natal (1994-2000); as Professor of Urban Planning and Associate Dean at Wits University (2001-2006); as Executive Director: Development Planning and Urban Management for the City of Johannesburg (2006-2010); and, since March 2010 as South African Research Chair in Development Planning and Modeling at Wits. As Executive Director in the City of Johannesburg, Philip was the head of a department responsible for forward spatial planning for the city, the approval of development applications, spatial information systems, urban management programmes, and had administrative oversight over special projects such as inner city redevelopment, the Alexandra Renewal Programme, Cosmo City development. In April 2010, Philip was appointed by the State President as a member of the National Planning Commission, and has been closely involved in the preparation of a National Development Plan for South Africa.
Dr. Margot Rubin
Margot Rubin is a senior researcher and faculty member in the University of the Witwatersrand (South African Research Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning) in Johannesburg. Since 2002, she has worked as a researcher, and policy and development consultant focusing on housing and urban development issues, and has contributed to a number of research reports on behalf of the National Department of Housing, the Johannesburg Development Agency, SRK Engineering, World Bank, Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality and Urban LandMark.
Her PhD in Urban Planning and Politics interrogates the role of the legal system in urban governance and its effect on the distribution of scarce resources and larger questions around democracy. She also holds a Masters in Urban Geography from the University of Pretoria, an Honours degree in Geography and Environmental Studies and a Bachelor of Arts in Geography and Philosophy. Of late, Margot has been writing about inner city regeneration, housing policy and is currently engaged in work around mega housing projects and issues of gender and the city.
Dr Li Pernegger – now a postdoctoral fellow hosted by Spatial Analysis and City Planning and funded through the School of Governance – is a former official in city and national governments with over 25 years of project, programme and strategic management experience in complex built-environment and socio-economic initiatives. With her academic insights, she has a rare understanding of local governance processes, which she is now combining in a prospective book on city strife, forthcoming in 2019.
Before that, she was the Chief Director of the Neighbourhood Development Programme in the National Treasury, managing over R10 billion in 100 grants to 57 municipalities.
Prior to that, she was the Programme Manager for Economic Area Regeneration for the City of Johannesburg, focusing on areas in decline, at risk, or not fulfilling their economic potential. She has also undertaken strategic consulting work for core and non-core business development for government and private sector clients after obtaining her Executive MBA in Birmingham, UK.
She was the town centre manager for Dudley (UK), funded by local government and private sector, also in charge of driving regeneration visions for four town centres. Earlier, she was the manager of Economic Empowerment for Johannesburg, developing mainly the informal business sector, coming to those roles as a former Architect and Project Manager, also in Johannesburg.
Alex Halligey is a post-doctoral fellow with the South African Research Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning. Her PhD in Drama and Urban Studies through the University of Cape Town’s Drama Department and the African Centre for Cities used participatory theatre and performance methods to explore daily place-making in the suburbs of Bertrams, Lorenztville and Judith’s Paarl in Johannesburg. She holds a Masters in Performance Studies from New York University and a BA in Theatre and Performance from the University of Cape Town. She worked as a performer and theatre-maker for eight years before returning to academia for her Masters degree, with the intention of putting her practical craft to use as a method for researching the urban everyday.
Theoretically, she is invested in ontologies of becoming to understand place, people and things as co-constitutive through their daily actions in relation to each other. She uses theatre and performance alongside other more traditional ethnographic tools to research the ways in which city spaces are activated through daily use. Her interpretation of this research data is to understand something of the material as well as affectual consequences of these daily activations in making ever-shifting city places.
She teaches part-time at the Market Theatre Laboratory and the Wits Theatre and Performance Division and runs an ongoing participatory arts project with the residents of Bienvenu Refugee Shelter in Bertrams. Outside of her research, she continues to make her own performance work.
Thamy Jezile is the programme administrator for the SARChI Spatial Analysis and City Planning. She previously worked for the Yeoville Bellevue Community Development Trust, an NGO in Yeoville as an office administrator. Thammy is currently studying towards a BA in Politics and Public Administration with UNISA.
Alexandra Appelbaum is researcher at SA&CP who holds a Masters in Regional and Urban Planning Studies (with distinction) from the London School of Economics and Political Science, as well as a Bachelor of Arts Honours in Urban History (in the first class) and a Bachelor of Arts in Politics and History (with distinction), both from the University of Cape Town.
Her research interests are broad, meeting at the intersection of History, Geography, Urban Studies and Gender Studies. They include African urbanisms, discourse analysis, LGBT+ and gender issues, urban poverty reduction, informal trading, gated communities and urban governance. She is passionate about research that has impacts both within and beyond academia.
At SA&CP she is the project manager for the AFD-funded Corridors of Freedom project, in which she is working with a team of researchers to aid the City of Johannesburg in their ambitious plan to ‘restitch’ Johannesburg, level apartheid spatial inequality and forge a more public-transport-oriented city.
Before joining SA&CP, Alli worked in consulting and the NGO sector. She received a Commonwealth Scholarship through the Canon Collins Trust in 2014 to study for her Masters at LSE and she was a member of the South Africa Washington International Programme in 2012. She was recognised by the Mail & Guardian as one of South Africa’s ‘Top 200 Young South Africans’ in 2016.
Dr. Kirsten Harrison
Dr Kirsten Harrison is an independent urban development consultant and honorary senior researcher at SARChI. She works in the planning and strategy sphere with a wide range of experience in the public, academic and consulting sectors. She has a multidisciplinary interest in local government and city planning.
Kirsten has moved between policy and practice. Prior to 2010, she was the Executive Manager: Planning and Strategy at the Johannesburg Development Agency where she was responsible for initiating the development, feasibility and management of the design of strategic urban development projects.
Between 2010 and 2013, she was a visiting senior lecturer in the Faculty of Architecture and Planning, Wits where she developed and taught a Masters course on Urban Renewal as well as was involved in writing on public art and public space. She has taught post-graduate courses on qualitative Research Methodology as well as Public Policy at the Wits School of Governance. Kirsten also taught undergraduate courses on Government, Politics and Planning and Urban Sociology at the United Arab Emirates University.
Kirsten has a PhD in Social Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She also has a Masters in Management from the Wits School of Governance. She is currently pursuing an MSc in Real Estate Development and Planning through Heriot Watt University in Scotland.
Kirsten’s academic work centres on creative institutional approaches for dealing with significant urban development issues, the use of public spaces as an expression of city identity and urban culture and urban poverty and social issues affecting cities. While working in the office of the Executive Mayor at the City of Johannesburg, she authored the City’s first human development and poverty reduction strategy.
Kirsten is currently working with SARChl on the Corridors of Freedom project looking at Regulatory and Governance Practices.
Dr. Tanya Zack
Tanya Zack is an urban planner who holds a PhD from University of Witwatersrand for her work on Critical Pragmatism in Planning. Her core skills and work experience include policy development, research, writing, project management and facilitation of community participation. Her clients have included the City of Johannesburg, the Department of Housing (now Human Settlements) and Urban LandMark. She has operated as an independent consultant since 1991 and straddles academic research and practice. Tanya's recent consulting work, research, publication and creative writing centres on the inner city of Johannesburg. This includes work on migrant spaces and in particular on the spatial and economic shifts in an Ethiopian entrepreneurial location in the inner city.She is a visiting senior lecturer at the School of Architecture and Planning.
Brian Murahwa is a PhD candidate in the School of Architecture and Planning at the University of the Witwatersrand. His research explores the spatial dimension of religion, particularly how transnational religious flows (Pentecostalism in this case) have transformed space in the city of Johannesburg. This study attempts to provide insights on spatial policies and planning decisions. He holds a MA in Labour Policy and Globalisation from the Global Labour University at the University of the Witwatersrand. His research interests include among others, migration, urban resilience, religion and precarious labour. He has been a part of the National Minimum Wage Research Initiative team at Wits and has contributed a policy document on Enforcement and Monitoring of Wages in South Africa. He has worked with other research institutes at Wits (African Centre for Migration and Society and Society, Work and Development Institute) as a research assistant.
Irene Ngunjiri is currently pursuing a PhD in Urban and Regional Planning at the School of Architecture and Planning, in the NRF’s South African Research Chair in Spatial Analysis & City Planning Centre. Her PhD research explores Everyday Water Governance in informal settlements in Nairobi and Johannesburg under the supervision of Dr. Margot Rubin and Prof. Daniel Irurah. The study will involve a micro-level analysis of the everyday practices and negotiations of water access, use and disposal of denizens in informal settlements.
She has published a number of journal articles, presented papers in several international conferences and is a co-author of Entrepreneurship and Communication a book published by Focus Publications.
Previously, she was the Deputy Registrar Academic and Student Affairs at Strathmore University in Kenya and lecturer in the Strathmore Institute of Public Policy and Governance (SIPPG) and at Strathmore Business School (SBS). She holds an MBA and a BCOM degree (First Class Honors) from the University of Nairobi. She is a Certified Public Accountant of Kenya (CPA)K.
Miriam Maina is a doctoral student at the University of the Witwatersrand, with a special research interest in the use of geospatial data and analytics to support policy making and urban development. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Town and Regional Planning at the School of Architecture and Planning, within the NRF’s South African Research Chair in Spatial Analysis & City Planning hosted at the school. Her PhD research is on the influence of spatial planning in shaping the City of Johannesburg’s urban space economy, under the supervision of Prof. Philip Harrison and Prof. Alison Todes.
Her research interests include urban planning policy in Africa. For her Master's research, she explored the challenges facing informal settlements policy shifts in South Africa and Kenya. Prior to this, she worked as a research associate at the Urban Innovations Project at the University of Nairobi. Her work research on informal settlements and housing policy in Nairobi. She has worked as a cartographer and GIS assistant in numerous research projects in Nairobi and at the University of the Witwatersrand. More recently, she has expanded this portfolio to include quantitative and spatial data analytics using business intelligence software, and applied these skills as a Tableau consultant to the Center for Affordable Housing Finance.
She obtained an MSc in Town and Regional Planning (Distinction) in 2013 from the University of the Witwatersrand, and a BA Degree in Urban and Regional Planning (Hons) from the University of Nairobi in 2008.
Patricia Theron (1987, Marseille, France) is a designer, editor, writer and researcher, currently registered for a PhD in Architecture and Spatial Planning at the University of the Witwatersrand. She completed her Master’s Thesis in Architecture in 2015 at the University of Pretoria, entitled ‘A New Political Landscape at the Union Buildings’. Her background within the field has involved a combination of practice and study, but her work within a variety of architecture, heritage and urban-focussed practices began to take shape around the written communication of the spatial design disciplines, eventually leading into publishing. In 2017 she worked in the capacity of Managing-Editor, within the Domus Africa Bureau, on the production of the ‘Future African Cities Supplement’ to the July/August edition of Domus International, Issue 1015. The Supplement, which featured six African cities and their futures, was released worldwide to Domus’ 100 000 print subscriber-base in 89 countries. As a lead researcher and major contributor to the publication, she conducted research into the following areas: smart cities, knowledge economies, city-regions, and the benchmarking of African cities. Since 2016, she has been teaching design and theory at different institutions across Gauteng, and working in practice, most recently at GAPP Architects and Urban Designers, on a range of architectural and urban projects, including two property assessment projects for the Gauteng Department of Infrastructure Development. Her doctoral research is a study of the city of Lagos, focussing on the paradox between formal mechanisms of planning and the informal processes which are driving development in that city.
Sarita Pillay Gonzalez
Sarita Pillay Gonzalez
Sarita Pillay Gonzalez is currently pursuing her PhD at the South African Research Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning based at the Wits School of Architecture and Planning.
She has research experience in urban planning and housing policy, urban regeneration and displacement, and civil society and state relations.
She previously worked as a community organiser and researcher at Ndifuna Ukwazi, where she conducted research for land and housing campaigns and led the development of popular education materials.
She is a Fulbright Alumni and Masters of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) graduate from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, at the University of Minnesota. Prior to that she completed her BA (Hons) (with distinction) in Geography and Political Studies at the University Currently Known as Rhodes (Rhodes University). She has previously interned at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS) in Bangalore.
Previously based at the Wits Education Campus, Busi Nkosi now works as clerical assistant for SA&CP, assisting with event organisation, document management and liaising with students.
Caroline Wanjiku Kihato
Dr. Caroline Wanjiku Kihato
Dr. Caroline Wanjiku Kihato is an Independent Researcher and Writer. She currently serves as a board member for Mistra Urban Futures and is a nominated expert for UN-Habitat’s, Habitat III’s Urban Economic Development Strategy Policy Unit. Dr. Kihato is also Visiting Researcher at the School of Architecture and Planning at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg and a Global Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, Washington DC. In 2011, she received a MacArthur grant on Migration and Development and spent a year as a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for the Study of International Migration (ISIM), Georgetown University, Washington DC. Her career has involved both teaching and conducting research in the academy and the non-profit sector in South Africa. Between 2006 and 2013 she worked for Urban LandMark as its southern African program coordinator. She was previously a Policy Analyst at the Development Bank of Southern Africa and a Senior Lecturer in the School of Architecture and Planning at the University of the Witwatersrand. She worked for six years as a Policy Analyst at the Centre for Policy Studies. Her research and teaching interests are migration, gender, governance, and urbanization in the global South. She holds a MSc in Development Planning (University of the Witwatersrand) and a PhD in Sociology (University of South Africa). Caroline writes and has published widely on urbanization for both academic and popular audiences. She is the author of Migrant Women of Johannesburg: Life in an in-between City (Palgrave Macmillan & Wits University Press) and co-editor of Urban Diversity: Space, Culture and Inclusive Pluralism in Cities Worldwide (Johns Hopkins).
Dr. Ilaria Boniburini
Ilaria Boniburini is an architect registered in the UK and a scholar with trans-disciplinary experience in public spaces, the right to the city, and African urbanism. She started her career as an architect in London, working as a conservation consultant on conservation and re-use plans, urban design guidelines, and environmental impact assessments for historical cities, Unesco sites and buildings. In the meantime, she completed a EU sponsored MSc in cooperation and development at the Milan Polytechnic in 2005 and a PhD in Urban planning at the Florence University in 2011.
While working four years as a Senior Lecturer in urban design and planning at the School of Architecture of the University of Rwanda, Ilaria established a research by design group with a group of her students for developing the masterplan of the first designated public space of the City of Kigali and other related municipal projects. In September 2015, she joined the University of Witwatersrand as a post-doc fellowship in Spatial Analysis and City Planning. Her research explores the production of public spaces in Africa, by comparing the variations in the narratives for rationalising and legitimatising projects and everyday life practices of open public spaces in Johannesburg, Nairobi and Kigali. The aim is to understand the reasons that foster or impede the creation of innovative, inclusive and democratic public spaces and to contribue to develop the under-theorized discursive domain of urban planning.
Ilaria is also the co-founder of an Italian no-profit organization and member of the Italian think tank eddyburg.it, for which she coordinates networking events at Social Forums, Urban Forums and other international events. She has been contributing to the Policy Unit on Urban Governance in the process towards the New Urban Agenda for Habitat III.
Khangelani Moyo is a Migration, China-Africa and Urban Studies Research Specialist with academic training in Sociology, Urban Studies, Anthropology and Migration Studies. He has worked in various research capacities at the University of the Witwatersrand since 2009 and is a published academic author in the fields of migration and urban studies. He is currently completing his PhD at the School of Architecture and Planning, University of the Witwatersrand. His PhD research looks at Zimbabwean migrants' mobility in space and how their spatial identities are negotiated in the city of Johannesburg.
Njogu Morgan is a PhD candidate in the School of Architecture and Planning at the University of the Witwatersrand. His research explores changes in societal acceptance of everyday bicycle use from a historical comparative perspective. This research project seeks to add to our understanding of the cultural dimensions of urban sustainability by focusing specifically on bicycle usage and attitudes to cycling in a Amsterdam, Beijing, Chicago and Johannesburg. This research is co-supervised by Professor Philip Harrison, University of the Witwatersrand and Professor Simon Joss, University of Westminster. He also has a Masters degree in Public and Development Management from the University of the Witwatersrand and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and International Studies from Northwestern University, Chicago. Njogu has extensive professional experience in social-environment research and policy. His broader research interests include sustainability transitions and diffusion of innovations. In his spare time he is a volunteer with the Johannesburg Urban Cyclists Association - an organisation that aims to transform Johannesburg into a more cycling friendly city. He blogs on the global urban cycling agenda and its relationship with politics and social change at http://cyclefriendlycities.org/
Dr. Romain Dittgen
Postdoctoral Fellow (hosted jointly with the African Centre for Migration Studies)
Romain Dittgen holds a PhD in Human Geography from the University of Paris 1 (Panthéon-Sorbonne), and is currently a Post-doctoral Fellow (Life in the City Research Grant) jointly hosted by the African Centre for Migration and Society (ACMS) and the South African Research Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning (SA&CP) at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa.
In his research, often comparative, he has mostly been interested in studying the effects of various forms of capital on economies and societies in Africa. His main focus has been centred on understanding the spatial dynamics of Chinese actors in African contexts, stretching from company behaviour in the extractive sector (both oil and mining) to the unfolding of business activities by small-scale entrepreneurs. Prior to his current fellowship, he held positions as Senior Researcher at SA&CP, the South African Institute of International Affairs (both at Wits University), as joint post-doctoral visiting fellow at the African Studies Centre and the International Institute for Asian Studies (both located in Leiden, the Netherlands) and as Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Geography at the University of Paris 1.
Having conducted research in several African countries (Chad, Ethiopia, Gabon, South Africa and Senegal) as well as in China, his areas of attention range from urban imaginaries and perceptions of foreign actors (primarily Chinese), transnational urbanism and adaptive capital, governance of future cities to the comparative study of large-scale developments in Africa and in China. His current research/book project, conducted in collaboration with Dr. Gerald Chungu and photographer Mark Lewis, explores the Chinese influence in shaping the built environment and urban practices in Johannesburg and in Lusaka
- Serge Ntamack
Dr. Tatenda Mukwedeya is a sociologist with interests in politics, development and the state. His current role as research associate in Sheffield’s department of Urban Studies and Planning involves work on the “Living the urban periphery” project which seeks to understand how transformation in the peripheries of African cities, (specifically related to infrastructural investments and economic change) is shaped, governed and experienced with a view to informing urban governance and strategies for urban poverty reduction.
Tatenda completed his undergraduate degree in Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Zimbabwe and my masters in Development Sociology from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. His PhD, also from the University of the Witwatersrand traced the trajectory of intra-party politics in South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC) during the post-apartheid era.
For Tatenda's most recent publications and other projects, see:
Tsepang Leuta is currently undertaking her PhD under the “Resilience Assessment for Sustainable Urban Development Programme” funded by the DST-NRF. Her research “Reconceptualizing cemetery planning in South Africa: Assessing the potentials for approaches informed by social-ecological resilience principles” is supervised by Professor Alison Todes. The research uses a case study methodology to understand perceptions towards the old dominant and newer approaches to cemetery design and provision, and explores whether cemeteries can contribute to the social-ecological resilience of urban spaces despite the institutional and social barriers constraining their development and management.
Tsepang holds a Masters Degree in Geography from the University of Pretoria. Before pursuing her PhD studies, she worked as a researcher in the Spatial Planning and Systems Competency Area at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). Her experience spans across spatial planning and analysis, policy research in housing, land and urban development. Her interests explore among others, the meaning of urban sustainability and resilience, and how these can be employed in the mitigation and adaptation of environmental and climate change impacts.