Family Units to Address the Stigam of Hostel Life? A Study of Sethokga Hostel

Moloto, Shereen Tumelo
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University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
In the wake of the political transition in South Africa in 1994 and for some time preceding this time frame violence, squalor, overcrowding and socio-political strife had long become characteristic of some of the features associated with hostels and the stigma of hostel life (Thurman, 1997). Due to its history as systematically disempowered, yet, politically vocal enclaves, we have come to know or perhaps be familiar with hostels as highly contentious and antagonistic environments, with a burdened local identity (Ramphele, 1993; Benit-Gbaffou and Mathoho, 2010). The stigma of hostel life constitutes among a host of conditions, an innate reality where the residents of hostels inhibit isolated, destitute and unbecoming spaces (Segal, 1991). Built as single-sex labour compounds to accommodate African migrant labourers for the duration of their stay in South Africa’s white urban areas, hostels occupy a unique position within the country’s physical and mental landscape (Thurman, 1997). As sojourners in South Africa’s white urban areas, the law constructed a ‘legal’ person called a labourer who was ‘authorised’ to temporarily reside in the urban space but had to retreat to their rural quarters once their ‘service’ had been concluded (Pienaar and Crofton, 2005). Thus to draw attention to the unkindness of their living conditions many hostel dwellers have continued for the better part of South Africa’s democracy to ‘choose’ physical violence as a tool perceived to best serve and afford some attention to their troubles (Pienaar and Crofton, 2005). Within the context of this research report the term hostel/s widely refer to single-sex dormitory style labour compounds, which emerged in South Africa under the apartheid system and ideology of separate development (Pienaar and Crofton, 2005). The ideology of separate development and the resultant influx control policies were a distinctive trait of the government of a particular juncture in the country’s history - a government that as part of its mandate held to discourage the permanent settlement of the African populace in urban areas (Ramphele, 1993). This further translated itself in the government’s refusal to plan and consent to any sort of ‘meaningful’ investment into areas designated for the other who were primarily located in the townships on the periphery of the urban terrain (Ramphele, 1993).
Planning Honours Research Report 2015, Wits University
hostels, socio-political strife, family, migrant labour, violence, stigma, Sethokga Hostel,
Moloto, S (2015). Family Units to Address the Stigam of Hostel Life? A Study of Sethokga Hostel, Johannesburg