Quality of Life in Buffalo City: The Changing Position of African Women in a Post-apartheid City

  • Leslie BankEmail author
  • Ellen Kamman
Part of the Community Quality-of-Life Indicators book series (CQLI, volume 3)


One of the limitations of analyses of apartheid is that they tend to focus largely or exclusively on the issue of racial domination and oppression. What is less often appreciated is that this system also modernized and entrenched patriarchal rule in African communities, especially urban areas. In this chapter, we begin by exploring the impact of apartheid on women in the townships of the main urban areas in the new Buffalo City municipality, namely East London and King William’s Town, in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. The argument we make is that the social and economic marginalization of African women in Buffalo city gained a great deal of momentum under apartheid, with the government’s intolerance of female enterprise and property ownership by African women in the city. Although some gains were made by women in industrial employment in the middle to late apartheid period, we suggest that there was a definite decline in the social and economic power and opportunities for African women in the urban townships of Buffalo City during the second half of the twentieth century. We argue that many of these changes were linked to new institutional and legislative measures taken against women under apartheid. We then go on to argue, however, that many of the restrictive laws which undermined women’s rights as citizens were removed with the collapse of apartheid and creation of a new dispensation where gender equality was enshrined in the new constitution. But what have these legislative changes actually meant for ordinary African women in an ordinary South African city? This chapter explores this question directly by interrogating quality of life data collected for the Buffalo City Municipality Quality of Life Studies of 2001 and 2007. The chapter investigates the situation of African women in Buffalo City (see insert) in 2001, when the first quality of life survey took place in that city, compared to the situation of the rest of the population in that year, and then see how their situation has changed in 2007, when the second quality of life survey took place. Are the policies that aim at redressing the inequalities of the apartheid government having the desired effect in terms of service delivery? Has the quality of life improved for this category of the urban population? The chapter highlights important areas where lives and opportunities available to African women have changed over the past decade. The chapter concludes that positive and progressive state policies have changed women’s lives for the better but that there are still some worrying trends and struggles that lie ahead, especially finding ways to arrest deindustrialization and increase the involvement of African women in the productive urban economy.


Life Satisfaction Informal Settlement African Woman Life Survey Toilet Facility 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Fort Hare Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Fort HareEast LondonSouth Africa

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