A hustle for profit and protection: What informal mining reveals about governance in South Africa

As part of the Lunchtime Seminar Series, the African Centre for Migration & Society invites you to a seminar titled A hustle for profit and protection: What informal mining reveals about governance in South Africa by Zaheera Jinnah (African Centre for Migration & Society, University of the Witwatersrand).

This lecture builds on an in-progress book proposal which explores the lives and livelihoods of an informal community in Johannesburg, South Africa. In doing so it raises questions that cut to the core of post-apartheid South Africa’s economy, society, and politics. It dismantles a rights-based, rainbow coalition in which men and women embrace independence from colonial and apartheid oppression, living freely as democratic and equal citizens of a proud land. Rather it points to pervasive informality, inequality, and risks to rights and democracy. But mostly the book attempts to paint a portrait of the everyday struggles of survival for the urban poor.

What happens when the poor remain poor? What happens when they are ignored and mistreated, especially by the authorities meant to protect them? How do people work in an economy strained by slow growth, jobless growth, and a labour market marked by patronage? How do we explain the relationship between land, and its riches and the poor who are denied access to it except for their labour?

The narratives of the various agents in this story point to an order that is ‘upside-down’, where police rob and lawyers cheat, when ‘illegal’ miners rescue comrades underground while medical officials report the dying and injured to the police for arrest, when race, gender, and history collide to create classes and categories of power that are wielded in extraordinary ways, under extraordinary circumstance.


Zaheera Jinnah joined ACMS as a researcher in 2009. Her research interests include diaspora studies, labour migration and livelihoods.  Her PhD in anthropology was an ethnographic account of agency in Somali women’s migration and settlement in Johannesburg. Zaheera teaches the labour migration module on the MA programme, and supervises graduate students. She is the recipient of a Volkswagen Stiftung fellowship in humanities (2017-2020).

Date: Tuesday 7 August 2018

Time: 12.30 -13.30

Venue: ACMS Seminar Room 2163, South East Wing, Second Floor, Solomon Mahlangu House, University of the Witwatersrand East Campus