n Journal of Public Administration - Assessing the Ecohealth and well-being of the Bekkersdal informal settlement in South Africa

Volume 54 Number 1
  • ISSN : 0036-0767


This article forms part of a National Research Funded (NRF) project on community engagement in South African mining communities. The research was undertaken to specifically investigate the Ecohealth and well-being status of mining communities, with a research emphasis on the Bekkersdal Township, nowadays located in the Rand West City Local Municipality (RWCLM) as part of the West Rand District Municipality (WRDM), Gauteng Province. Bekkersdal inhabitants in this once thriving mining region remain prone and vulnerable to extreme poverty and unemployment that affect the well-being of the community, thus necessarily threatening the Ecohealth status of the area in which all community members live. After nearly 80 years of active mining operations in the region, the gold mining industry remains the major employer, and all indications are that most mines will be able to continue business as usual for 60 to 70 more years. The purpose of the discussion is to review the perceived levels of poverty, unemployment and broader community inequality, especially in the informal section of Bekkersdal. A mixed methods approach (quantitative and qualitative data collection procedures) was adopted for this investigation. In 2013, ten disciplines developed a survey instrument according to a model coined the Integrative Multidisciplinary Baseline questionnaire. This model entails 14 sections covering 17 pages that trained fieldworkers administered by means of face-to-face interviews with 503 households. An interview lasted about 90 minutes. The base-line questionnaire probed households regarding their Ecohealth and well-being status by inquiring about, among others, poverty, unemployment, inequality and levels of access to resources such as basic services within the municipal boundaries. Significant findings included features of an irreversible, historically created land-locked scenario, poor literacy levels and dependency on social grants as perhaps part of a continuous poverty-trapped existence. Substance abuse, possibly owing to poverty and other constraints, seems to remain as but one barrier towards creating sustainable community environments. This happens in other mining regions of South Africa as well.

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