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street level

This project sits at the nexus between communities affected by street level addiction, the addicts themselves and the various institutions responding to drug addiction in the city of Durban. It is a trans-disciplinary research project, bringing together those trained in sociology, criminology, education, art and drama. As a participatory action research project it will also include city officials, police officers and civil society actors in designing the research and in developing strategies. The purpose of this initiative is to gather nuanced narratives from all those affected and begin investigating appropriate responses both at grassroots and policy levels. While this project educational focus might help caution, dispel speculation and assist in presenting practical skills and solutions, we also feel it would be a highly valuable space to explore emancipatory social learning praxis in complex learning environments, and offer real tangible research outputs for those different departments in the city aiming to respond to the drug crisis. A major purpose of this project is to provide the very human and embodied face of this drug, and enabling a more enriched and grounded way of coping with this issue. We see this project as acting as a nexus point or a hinge in the cross-sector citywide response to the degrading effects of Whoonga. While this project will focus on Whoonga drug use and its negative effects on individuals and communities in Durban, the results of this project will have very real outcomes for other cities dealing with the dilemma of the harmful effects of street level drug use. Ways of reducing harm for all affected persons is a fundamental of this project.

Project Partners: Centre of Criminology, University of Cape Town; HIV/TB Care; Durban Metropolitan Police; Safer Cities Department, eThekwini Municipality; Dennis Hurley Centre; Big Brotherhood Community Theatre Group; Central Drug Authority; UNODC (Pretoria Office); doctors in private and public practice.



The Imagining a City Without Walls project was initiated in April 2014. The aim of this project is to bring together key network actors to interrogate the relationship between home security and defensive boundaries, particularly walls. Through working closely with policing actors as our key partners, the roles that walls play in suburban spaces is being investigated. This has already opened pathways for fresh deliberations and imaginings about suburban boundary design. The approach of Crime Prevention through Environmental Design is critical in framing this project and its design outcomes. The basic assumption and dominant design ‘imperative’ that high walls make suburban residents safer will be questioned through a process of conversations, ethnographic explorations and incident reports. This research is already well underway and the first paper resulting from this has already been published in a volume on sustainable cities. In addition, the Alliance Francaise in Durban has decided, as a result of this project, to break down their boundary wall and in its place create a boundary that is more transparent, welcoming, aesthetically pleasing while at the same time optimising safety through natural surveillance. This complex project with the Alliance Francaise will be completed by mid-2016.

Key partners: Alliance Francise Durban; DUT Architecture Department; Council for Scientific and Industrial Research; Blue Security; ADT; Durban Metropolitan Police; SAPS Umbilo and Westville; Morningside Residents’ Committee; dala Architects; eThekwini Safer Cities.


  • dreaming

This research projects aims to explore how young people, in this case Grade 11 students in Durban, imagine a socially just and more equal future South African society. Specifically, in this project we are interested in how young people imagine a future society in relation to ideas of race, racism and non-racialism. Existing studies on non-racialism indicate that for many older South Africans the realisation of non-racialism is best left to the younger generations who do not carry the historic baggage of their own generation. Romanticising ‘untainted’ youth as able to transcend a troubled past is not an unusual response in transitional societies. However we need to be cautious of displacing responsibility for change onto the young in society particularly given the various ways in which inequality is reproduced in South Africa. Acknowledging this we do think it is important to listen carefully to the imaginings of young people’s dreams of a more socially just world. To do this we use a methodology of Dreaming Workshops, these sessions not only offer a space for utopian dreaming but importantly then use these dreams to identify and reflect on practices and power relations in the present that create obstacles or enablers to these future trajectories.

Partners: Dr Kathryn Pillay (UKZN Sociology); Selected Durban High Schools

Funder: Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Studies



Kenneth Gardens Community Project is a joint DUT/Community partnership that focuses on the Kenneth Gardens estate, Durban’s largest municipal subsidised low-cost housing estate. The project has both research and community engagement components, and sees these components as integral to each other rather than as separate spheres of interaction. The primary research components include a 3 year Oral History project that will cumulate in a book titled: Voices of Resilience: A Living History of the Kenneth Gardens Municipal Housing Estate in Durban South Africa. Research project also include evaluation on engagement activities as well as a range of smaller research projects on various aspects of the community life such as youth narratives and Health. The established engagement projects include a free homeopathic and food nutrition clinic run every Wednesday in the estate, as well as capoeira, dance and digital media programmes for younger residents and youth.

Partners: Senzokuhle Community Based Organisation (NPO); Carrots and Peas (NPO); DUT Homeopathy and DUT Food and Nutrition, Glenridge Church; Glenmore Primary School; Rotary Club Morningside and Isipingo; Turquoise Harmony; Flatfoot Dance Company, Maria Cristina Giampietri

Funder: National Research Foundation (NRF) Community Engagement grant


Blue skies

With increasing urbanization and increasing levels of poverty and disparity within urban spaces there is no better time than the present to ask how we can do better in regard to urban planning and design? This project brings together a diverse range of scholars and practitioners to deliberate on unexplored and alternative practices of urban design and planning within the context of South African cities.

The DUT has already completed the process of putting together a proposed Master plan for creating an educational precinct around the university that incorporates neighbour city spaces. The proposed plan links its various city campuses in a walking corridor through the Curry’s Fountain and Warwick Junction. This DUT proposal acts as a live testing site for three small pilot projects that incorporate and make use of alternative methodological practices that lead to design proposals. Once completed the data and findings from the pilots will be contrasted with the original Masterplan to see whether these findings raise critical questions about how we go about planning and design spaces. The pilot findings will present alternatives that work with and enhance everyday livelihoods and experiences rather than design them out of the plan. The pilots will enable reflection on, and possibly redevelopment of, the methodologies we imagine would benefit students and staff practicing in the field of urban design and planning. In this way the first year of the project becomes a laboratory for developing radical new concepts within a disciple and for testing these alternatives within a live project.

Partners: Glen Robbins (UKZN); Peter Robinson; Soobs Munsamy; MILE; Bridget Horner (UKZN); Miranda Young-Jahangeer (UKZN); Doung Jahangeer; Abigail Knox; Jonathan Edkins, Vicky Sims

Funder: National Research Foundation (NRF) Blue Skies Grant


Projects In The Pipeline



In recent years the Durban Metropolitan Police have gained a fair degree of negative publicity resulting in what is most likely a loss of confidence from the general public. Media reports revealed allegations of maladministration, abuse of powers, conduct that demonstrates a lack of respect for human dignity in the course of policing, sex scandals, leadership battles, and a problematic labour relations environment. This is a cause of concern to the City Manager who is well aware of the importance of the police to the good governance of the city of Durban. As a result he has requested that Prof. Monique Marks from the Urban Futures Centre lead a comprehensive review of the Durban Metropolitan Police. This review would lead to a process of redefining a vision/strategy for the Durban Metropolitan Police. Such a strategic engagement could well require definite shifts in the organisational structure and culture of the Durban Metropolitan Police. The review will primarily be an organisational health appraisal. This approach is far more open than a review that is directed at more legalistic issues such as corruption and maladministration.

The review will conclude with a programme for strategic change and intervention. This might involve adjusting the mission and vision of the organization, management styles, systems of accountability, career structuring, and so on. The goal here is to improve the overall wellbeing and effectiveness of the Durban Metropolitan Police. In addition, a series of dialogues will be set up with members of the Metropolitan Police, particularly at the middle and top leadership levels. The reason for this is to create a space for harmony from the top-down, which will hopefully have a positive impact on the organisational culture and command system more generally.

This project is commissioned by the office of the eThekwini City Manager. Finalisation of the budget for the project is still under review.

Review team: Prof. Monique Marks; Antony Altbecker (policing expert and researcher); Dr Todd Wuestewald (Criminal Justice Program, University of Oklahoma and retired police chief); Peter Neyroud (Founder of the National College of Policing in England and previous Chief Constable of the Thames Valley Police); Dr Rama Naidu (CEO of the Democracy Development Programme and Gestalt Organisational Development Practitioner).



The history of South Africa is a history of migratory flows; in the long view of history we are in one way or another all migrants to the modern geographic borders of South Africa. Under apartheid discriminatory segregation policies created a large black migrant labour force to supply the urban areas, radically shaping the urban landscape and rural and urban networks. Partly due to past colonial and apartheid ideology, there is in democratic South Africa a continued emphasis on different social, cultural and even moral spheres associated with spatial geographies and categories of people. The most recent of which (although hardly new taking a historical lens) is the discourse around the flows of migrants, immigrants and refugees coming into South Africa from other African countries. In April 2015 there was large scale violent attacks on people seen as “foreign” around and in the Durban city centre, and then spreading to other parts of the country. These attacks mirrored the earlier 2008/2009 attacks in South Africa and yet we still lack a responsive local policy framework or proactive educational and awareness campaigns.

This project uses a gendered lens to collect the oral history of migrant women in Durban. This project moves the diverse stories of women and other migrants in Durban directly into strategically planned educational dialogues with key stakeholders. The aim here is not only to focus on the diversity within this constructed group but to highlight unexpected commonalities with many South Africans, migrants or otherwise, who share the same everyday contexts of trying to build a ‘good’ life. The project brings together experienced academics, civil society activists as well as a collective group representing migrants from 15 African countries that live and work in Durban. It is innovative in that it uses creative methods of storytelling (oral histories, radio scripts, short documentaries and community participatory theatre) to directly influence government knowledge on their own practices and policy discussions around social integration and inclusion of migrants in the city.

A related potential project will focus on migrants, city planning and peace building. Should funding application be successful, this project will compare the cities of Belfast and Durban. The project emerged from a concern with what is termed xenophobia in the Durban context and hate crime toward migrants in the Belfast context. Underlying this antagonism toward migrant populations in both countries is deficits in regard to urban planning for migrant groupings, incomplete or non-existing peace making and peace building projects; and non-inclusive notions of national identity. A funding application for this project has been submitted to the NRF/ESRC.

Partners: Democracy Development Program (DDP); African Solidarity Network (ASONET); Queens University, Belfast.



  • Democracy Development Program (DDP)
  • Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)
  • Alliance Française de Durban
  • African Solidarity Network (ASONET)
  • Centre for Criminology- UCT
  • African Centre for Cities (ACC) @ UCT
  • Centre for Urbanism and Built Environment Studies (CUBES) @ WITS
  • Dennis Hurley Centre (DHC)
  • Big Brotherhood