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Mining & Rural Transformation in Southern Africa (MARTISA)

Project Leader: Dr Gavin Capps


Southern Africa’s countrysides are rich in ‘new’ high-demand metal and energy minerals, like platinum and uranium, as well as vast, untapped reserves of industrial staples, above all coal and iron. Yet, these areas are also characterised by deep rural poverty and legally insecure systems of ‘customary’ tenure, under the local administrative control of traditional authorities. At the same time, governments in the region are seeking ways to ensure that the new wave of extractive investment can be harnessed to wider social and economic objectives, and comprehensive resource-based development strategies are being formulated for this purpose.


Mining and Rural Transformation in Southern Africa (MARTISA) is a major new research project funded by the Ford Foundation that will engage with these issues from a pro-poor perspective. Drawing on SWOP’s growing expertise in this area, it has four strategic objectives:

  • To develop new analytical approaches capable of grasping how complex processes of mineral-driven social transformation are differentially impacting on communal land, traditional authority and rural community by creatively combining the concepts and methods of political economy, social history and rural sociology;

  • To contribute to public policy debate by considering the implications of the research findings for new resource-based development strategies, with particular reference to the unequal social effects of extractive expansion in dynamic and conflictual rural settings, and the consequences for current legislative and regulatory efforts to promote rural development around and through large-scale mine investment;

  • To assist the rural poor to realise their land, livelihood and other constitutional rights in the face of adverse extractive expansion by generating high quality field-based evidence that can inform public interest litigation, advocacy and grass-roots organisation and mobilisation; and

  • To strengthen civil society’s strategic response to the new rural challenges of the global resources boom by building regional research and monitoring capacity, and contributing to the development of emergent networks and alliances at the local, national and international levels.


It is anticipated that MARTISA will run for six years and be comprised of three (two-year) phases. The core empirical focus of Phases I-II is the South African platinum industry, but Phase II will also broaden geographically to include platinum in Zimbabwe, and sectorally to another strategic mineral in a different regional jurisdiction (e.g. coal in Mozambique, or uranium in Zambia). Phase III will fully expand the project’s geographical and sectoral scope to other prominent examples of mining and rural transformation in Southern Africa.


The first phase of MARTISA commenced in February 2013, and involves the comparative investigation of three key cases on the platinum belt in the North West Province. The research will primarily be conducted by Dr Gavin Capps and Dr Sonwabile Mnwana, assisted by two research interns. Other SWOP staff and research associates will also contribute during the first phase of the project.

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