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Our team

Professor Imraan Valodia, Director: Southern Centre for Inequality Studies, and Pro Vice-Chancellor: Climate, Sustainability and Inequality

Professor Imraan Valodia, an economist, is Pro Vice-Chancellor for Climate, Sustainability and Inequality, and Director of the Southern Centre for Inequality Studies (SCIS) at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (Wits). His research interests include inequality, competition policy, employment, the informal economy, gender and economic policy, and industrial development. Imraan has played a central role in establishing and leading the SCIS. The SCIS is a multi-disciplinary, cross-country initiative to promote research and policy change to promote greater equality in the Global South. Imraan has led and participated in a number of large national and international studies. He is recognised nationally and internationally for his research expertise in economic development. Imraan is a part-time member of the Competition Tribunal in South Africa. He is also a commissioner of the National Minimum Wage Commission and a member of the Academy of Science of South Africa (Assaf) Standing Committee on Science for the Reduction of Poverty and Inequality. In August 2016 Professor Valodia was appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa to chair the Advisory Panel on the National Minimum Wage. This led to the introduction of a National Minimum Wage in South Africa.  In early 2018, he was appointed to a Panel to advise the Minister of Economic Development on amendments to the Competition Act, which were introduced into law in 2019. He was also appointed by the Minister of Finance to a Panel of Experts to advise on Value-Added Taxes.

Dr David Francis, Deputy Director

David Francis is the Deputy Director at the Southern Centre for Inequality Studies. His research interests focus on labour market economics, the informal economy, and inequality. He was the researcher for the Advisory Panel on the minimum wage in South Africa. He has previously worked as a development consultant, and a policy and budget analyst at South Africa’s National Treasury, where he worked in health and social policy. He has a PhD in economics from Wits University, an MA in development studies from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and a bachelor of social sciences in economics and history from the University of Cape Town.

Stacey-Leigh Joseph, Head of Operations

Stacey-Leigh Joseph is Head of Operations at the Southern Centre for Inequality Studies. She is the former Executive Manager for Programmes at the South African Cities Network where she was responsible for leading a team of researchers developing content to support improved urban governance and management in South African cities. Her specific research focus areas over the past 15 years have been on issues related to land, human settlements, and urban development. She also has experience working in government and civil society and holds a Master of Social Science degree in International Relations from Rhodes University. 

Dr Ruth Castel-Branco, Senior Researcher: Future of Work

Ruth Castel-Branco is a Senior Researcher on the Future of Work Project. She has a BA in Geography and African Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2005), an MA in Development Studies from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (2012) and a PhD in Sociology from the University of the Witwatersrand (2021). Previously, Ruth worked at the International Labour Office in Mozambique on social and maternity protection. She first became interested in questions of labour as a student activist, eventually cutting her teeth as a labour organiser at DC Jobs with Justice. Ruth is an alumnus of the International Centre for Development and Decent Work and a fellow of the Open Society Foundations’ Inequality Fellowship. Her research interests include agrarian transformation and the changing nature of work, (informal) workers’ rights and organization, the redistributive role of the state and social protection.

Professor Michael Sachs, Adjunct Professor: Public Economy

Michael Sachs has worked for over twenty-five years in public policy, politics and government in South Africa. He is former head of National Treasury’s budget office. He spent nine years at the national headquarters of the African National Congress, where he coordinated economic policy and led the party’s research agenda. He holds an MSc in Economics from the University of London (SOAS) and a Masters in Public Admin (International Development) from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Aroop Chatterjee, Researcher: Wealth Inequality

Aroop Chatterjee leads the research agenda on wealth inequality at the Southern Centre for Inequality Studies. Aroop is currently developing a strategy to bring disparate streams of related research across disciplines and countries under the lens of wealth inequality. He is also focused on using new and existing data to develop wealth distribution in South Africa. Previously he was the senior economist on labour issues at the National Treasury of South Africa and was intimately involved in policymaking and analysis of the labour market, including the Employment Tax Incentive, and the National Minimum Wage. He has an MSc Development Economics with distinction from the School of Oriental and African Studies, a BSc Economics from the University College London. He is also a Chartered Accountant.

Arabo Ewinyu, Researcher: Pre-Distribution and Ownership

Arabo Ewinyu is a Researcher on the Pre-Distribution and Ownership project at the Southern Centre for Inequality Studies. Arabo has a Master of Commerce in Economics Degree from the University of Witwatersrand. Her research interests include Labour economics, poverty and inequality studies, Competition and Regulatory Economics. Prior to joining SCIS, Arabo worked as a consultant for over ten years where she gained experience in collecting, evaluating and analysing data and qualitative economic information for clients across diverse sectors of the economy.

Kitso Kgaboesele, Senior Communications Officer

Kitso Kgaboesele is a Senior Communications Officer at the Southern Centre for Inequality Studies. She holds an MA in African Studies from the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and is currently pursuing a Master of Commerce in Inequality Studies at Wits University. Kitso has more than 15 years experience in the media and communications industry. She spent 11 years at the SABC where she worked as a news researcher and radio current affairs national copy editor.

Julia Taylor, Researcher: Climate and Inequality

Julia Taylor is a Researcher on Climate and Inequality at the Southern Centre for Inequality Studies. Previously, she was Researcher and Climate Policy Lead at the Institute for Economic Justice where she worked with labour unions on a vision for a Just Transition. Julia has previously worked at Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator on impact and research, sustainability consulting, and eco-education. She holds a BCom from the University of Cape Town, a PGD in Sustainable Development from Stellenbosch University, and an MSc in Environment and Development from Edinburgh University. Julia recently completed a Master’s in Applied Development Economics at Wits University.

Thokozile Madonko, Researcher: Public Economy

Thokozile Madonko is a Researcher with the Public Economy Project. She is a Rhodes University alumna. Using her Master's in political theory, she has worked in the areas of climate justice, development cooperation, public finance with a focus on health financing and gender-responsive budgeting, national, subnational, and parliamentary governance, transparency, and accountability. 

Comfort Molefinyana, Associate Researcher: Wealth Inequality

Comfort Molefinyana is an Associate Researcher on the Wealth Inequality project. She holds a Master of Public Policy (MPP) from the University of Auckland in New Zealand. Previously, she worked as a consultant conducting applied research in the public sector. She has contributed to implementation and impact evaluations including government management systems, public procurement, municipal tariffs, public employment programmes, agriculture, and health. Comfort has co-authored published work in public procurement (BBBEE) and the Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG). She has a Bachelor of Social Sciences degree in Politics and Public Policy, and an honours degree in International Relations, both from the University of Cape Town. Her research interests include social and gender policy, inequality, and social protection.

Pauline Dhlamini, Research Project Officer

Pauline Dhlamini is a Research Project Officer at the Southern Centre for Inequality Studies. She has a Bachelor of Commerce in Human Resources Management and an Advanced Diploma in Project Management. Pauline has extensive experience working in Human Resources, Operations, Finance, and Project Management. She previously worked for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), where she provided project management support for five years. She is currently pursuing a Postgraduate Diploma in Project Management at Cranefield College.

Siviwe Mhlana, Researcher: Inequality Studies

Siviwe Mhlana is a Researcher at the Southern Centre for Inequality Studies. She completed her MA in Social Policy and Labour Studies at the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) at Rhodes University. Her MA research explored the changing nature of labour-intensive production in post-Apartheid South Africa and the gendered individualisation of risk associated with non-standard, informal and precarious employment. In addition, Siviwe holds a Bachelor of Economics and a Bachelor of Economics Honours from Rhodes University. She has worked as a consultant for organisations such as the International Women's Health Coalition (IWHC) and Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing. Currently, Siviwe serves on the board of the Institute for Economic Justice (IEJ). She is also associated with the Neil Aggett Labour Studies Unit (NALSU) at Rhodes University. Her research interests include international development, labour economics, social policy and gender. 

Dr Ujithra Ponniah, Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Ujithra Ponniah, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Southern Centre for Inequality Studies (SCIS). She works with the ‘Wealth Inequality and Elites’ research stream at SCIS. Her research interests include economic elites, caste, race, and gender in India and South Africa. Her research in India, unpacks how a business caste called Agarwals reproduces in Delhi with a focus on the gender question. In South Africa, she has researched property elites (landowners and property developers) involved in the making of a Waterfall City. Currently, she is a Co-PI on an ESRC project titled ‘Transnational Elite Communities and the Reproduction of Inequalities’ in Mumbai, Johannesburg, and London.

Sky Konrad, Finance Accountant

Sky Konrad is a Finance Accountant at the Southern Centre for Inequality Studies. Driven by a passion for people, numbers, and systems, she works strategically with the goal of improving workplace systems and increasing efficiency in operations. Through her work, she provides deep insights that aid good governance and corporate citizenry for improved decision-making in organisations. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting Sciences (Unisa) and a Postgraduate Diploma in Business Administration (Wits Business School). Sky also has a keen interest in Monitoring & Evaluation.

Katrina Lehmann-Grube, Associate Researcher: Climate and Inequality

Katrina Lehmann-Grube is an Associate Researcher on the Climate Change and Inequality Project at the Southern Centre for Inequality Studies. She holds a BSc in Applied Biology, Ecology and Evolution from the University of Cape Town, and an MSc in Environment, Politics and Development from the School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London). She has also recently started a Ph.D. at the Environmental Humanities South research unit at the University of Cape Town. She has worked in a range of civil society and research roles at the intersection of environment and social justice, including at the Wild Law Institute, the Institute for Economic Justice, and the Independent Redress Mechanism of the Green Climate Fund.

Nina Layton, Personal Assistant

Nina Layton is appointed Personal Assistant to the Director of SCIS, Prof Imraan Valodia.  She has extensive experience in administration in government and is striving to ensure that the office is providing efficient services to all its stakeholders.

Niall Reddy, Researcher: Pre-Distribution and Ownership

Niall Reddy is a Researcher on the Pre-Distribution and Ownership Project. He has a BSc in Economics from the University of Cape Town, a Master's in Political Economy from Kingston University and Paris13. In addition to this, he holds a Master's Degree in Sociology from New York University, and he is completing a Ph.D. dissertation in the same department. Prior to undertaking graduate studies, Niall worked as a researcher and educator for the Alternative Information Development Centre in Cape Town. He has worked on a diverse range of topics in the field of political economy including financialization, growth models and demand regimes and the politics of elites. His work has appeared in Socio-Economic Review, The Review of Keynesian Economics, Jacobin Magazine, among others.

Dr Eddie Cottle, Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Dr Eddie Cottle is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Southern Centre for Inequality Studies. Eddie's scholarly focus and interest is on the theorisation of labour strikes, which remains an under-researched area globally in the labour studies field. He is particularly interested in strike theory, labour history, strike statistics and comparative studies in social conflict. He is currently an executive board member of the International Association Strikes and Social Conflicts and the editorial board of the Workers of the World Journal. He is a former trade unionist and was the policy and campaign officer for Building and Wood Workers International (BWI), Africa and Middle East Region. He also served as head of collective bargaining support at the Labour Research Service (LRS) in Cape Town.

Asanda Mbhele, Associate Researcher

Asanda Mbhele is an Associate Researcher on the Wealth Inequality project. Previously, she worked as a Quality Assurance Officer at the Human Sciences Research Council. Before that, she was a Researcher at Moses Kotane Institute under the National Development Plan (NDP-2030) project; and Researcher at Wits Health Consortium, respectively. Asanda holds a Master’s degree in Social Sciences, Honours degree in Sociology and Bachelor of Social Sciences in Sociology, all awarded by the University of KwaZulu Natal. Her research interests include inequality, international development, social protection and social justice.

Sonia Phalatse, Researcher: Climate and Inequality

Sonia Phalatse is an economist with experience in the private and public sectors. Previously, she worked as the Economic Justice Lead for the largest women’s rights organisation in Africa, the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET). Prior to that, she worked as a researcher concurrently in the Climate, Energy and Infrastructure and Feminist Economics programmes. She has a Master’s degree in Economics from the University of Witwatersrand and received both her Bachelors and Honours degree in Economics from the University of Cape Town. Her research interests are in feminist economics, feminist political ecology, energy economics and the role of the state in development.