'Legal Mobilization for Socioeconomic Justice'

Development Southern Africa

In this article, ‘Analysing legal mobilisation’s potential to secure equal access to socioeconomic justice in South Africa’, Dr Jeff Handmaker and Thandiwe Matthews discuss to what extent civic-based, legal advocacy aimed at securing access to social grants advance socioeconomic justice and inequality for South Africa's poor.

From the moment South Africa became a liberal democracy, the government promised to deliver on social security for the poor.

However, South African NGOs have reported that several barriers prevent poor South Africans, and black women in particular, from accessing the country’s social assistance system. Government inaction has compelled NGOs to approach the Courts. As reflected in a series of court judgements, many problems faced by the system relate to the administration of payments by South African and multinational corporations. But is this the complete story?

Published in Development Southern Africa, this article applies a critical, analytical lens of legal mobilization to explain the potential of legal mobilization to secure progressive structural change. It assesses the extent to which civic-based, legal advocacy aimed at securing access to social grants, and challenging the manner in which these grants have been administered, has the potential to more strategically advance socioeconomic justice and inequality for South Africa’s poor.

About the authors

Jeff Handmaker is a Senior Lecturer and researcher and Thandiwe Matthews a PhD researcher. Both are affiliated with the International Institute of Social Studies and the University of the Witwatersrand through a joint PhD programme that Handmaker is coordinating.

Associate professor
PhD student
More information

The online version is now available; the article will be included in Issue 6 of Volume 36 (2019) of Development Southern Africa as part of a Special Issue onInequality in South Africa, edited by David Francis and Eddie Webster of the Southern Centre for Inequality Studies, which is based at the University of the Witwatersrand.