07 September 2020 | Story Leonie Bolleurs | Photo Supplied
With the research grant awarded to Dr Thulisile Mphambukeli, she has the opportunity to make a difference in society, especially in terms of the incorporation of social justice into planning.

The Joint National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS) and Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) research projects have awarded a R500 000 research grant to a team led by Dr Thulisile Mphambukeli, the principal investigator (PI). 

Within the parameters of the theme of social justice, sustainable development, and quality of life, Dr Mphambukeli’s team will focus their research on exploring the land policies in BRICS that inform agricultural practices. They will also document the policy approaches and strategies adopted by China and South Africa respectively to support the agriculture-land-water-labour nexus; additionally, they will propose a common agricultural land policy for China and South Africa. 

The title of the research project is: Exploring the Situated Political Ecology and Economy of Agricultural Land Policies in BRICS: A Case Study of China and South Africa. 

Dr Mphambukeli, who is passionate about social justice, is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of the Free State (UFS). With this project, she has the opportunity to make a difference in society, especially in terms of social justice. 


We don’t want to see the next generation suffer because we did not use our voice.- Dr Thulisile Mphambukeli

The human factor is crucial

“We need to understand the dynamics of local communities. The incorporation of social justice in planning is crucial! We cannot claim that we ‘plan for people’ and ignore them at the same time. People must be at the centre of what we do. No one must be deprived of their fundamental basic human rights.”

The team consists of Dr Mphambukeli (PI), Prof Peliwe Lolwana (University of the Witwatersrand), Dr Victor Okorie (Enugu State University of Science and Technology, Nigeria), and Dr Abraham Matamanda (UFS).

For this initiative, the China Africa Institute (CAI), which is part of CASS, joined hands with the NIHSS. Together, they will oversee the research projects of researchers and academics from South Africa and China. The research project, running from 1 April this year to 31 March 2021, will bring forth publications/research outputs, advocacy policy briefs, and proceeding reports.

The programme aims to strengthen research in the field of the humanities and social sciences between the two countries. 

Support the fight against climate change

She believes that although the BRICS countries are not geographically connected, it is a functional community with the same interests. “As BRICS countries, we need to cooperate in the fight against climate change. It affects so many components, including water, food, agriculture, land, and quality of infrastructure,” says Dr Mphambukeli. 

Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, researchers will meet online to discuss how China and South Africa can collaborate and cooperate. “We don’t want to see the next generation suffer because we did not use our voice,” she says. 

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