Skip to main content

This week marks the launch of the South African Research Chair in Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies which is funded by the National Research Foundation.

The chair is held by Professor Ruth Hall, who has initiated a five-year research programme (2020-2024) on dynamics of agrarian change and rural transformations in Africa. The Research Chair will include work on the character of smallholder agriculture and accumulation dynamics in agriculture and the rural non-farm economy, and will address questions of changing agro-food systems; resource access; land redistribution; land commodification and concentration; rights and governance; land use and production; class formation; racial politics; gender and generational relations; social differentiation; and the broader politics of land and agrarian reform. As well as supervising 17 postgraduate students in this programme, the SARChI programme has seen the creation of an Agrarian Politics podcast and a JPS Writeshop in Critical Agrarian Studies for PhD and post-doctoral candidates in the Global South.

Emeritus Professor and founder of PLAAS, Ben Cousins, previously held this SARChI chair from 2010-2019.

From a competitive pool of approximately 150 applicants, here are the selected SARChI scholars in the new cohort, starting August 2020.

Post-doctoral fellows


Dr George Mudimu holds a PhD in Public Management (Rural Development and Management) from China Agricultural University in Beijing, a Master’s in Public Administration from Tsinghua University, also in Beijing, and an Honours in Public Administration from the University of Zimbabwe. He researches land politics, rural politics, livelihoods, agrarian change, and political economy. His PhD thesis was on Understanding Land Leasing, Livelihoods, and Capabilities in Post-Land Reform Zimbabwe. George’s current research is on counter-agrarian reform, capitalism, and rural politics in the countryside. He was a Research Fellow for the International Poverty Reduction Center in China, Beijing (August 2017-September 2018), a research intern with the Sam Moyo African Institute of Agrarian Studies (January 2018-August 2018), and is a member of the Emancipatory Rural Politics Initiative and the Collective of Agrarian Scholar-Activists of the Global South. He has published in leading international journals such as the Journal of Peasant Studies, Agrarian South: Journal of Political Economy, Review of African Political Economy, Journal of Contemporary African Studies and GeoJournal. George regularly writes opinion pieces in newspapers in Zimbabwe and is editor of the blogsite Peasants Corners that focuses on agrarian change in the countryside.

Dr Arnold Chamunogwa holds a DPhil in International Development from the University of Oxford, and his thesis focused on explaining the remaking and transformations of order and authority during the fast track land reform in Zimbabwe. Arnold’s post-doctoral research will focus on interrogating how state bureaucratic institutions are reconfigured during land reforms, in ways that shape the trajectories of agrarian change. Broadly, his research interests are on the configurations of power and authority, as well as state-society relations, at the margins of post-colonial states in Africa, and how they shape the dynamics of agrarian change and rural transformations. He also holds a Master of Arts in Governance and Development from the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex in the United Kingdom, a post-graduate diploma in Governance, Public Policy and Democratization from the International Institute of Social Studies, in the Netherlands, and a BSc (Hons) in Agricultural Economics from the University of Zimbabwe.

PhD students


Katlego Ramantsima holds a MCom in Development Theory and Policy, a BCom (Hons) in Development Theory and Policy and a BA in International Relations and Sociology all from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. Katlego is an experienced researcher who works in the field of land reform at PLAAS and has worked in the Mining and Rural Transformation in Southern Africa (MARTISA) programme and the Society, Work and Politics Institute (SWOP) at Wits University. She has conducted field research across five provinces on the elite capture of land reform, and is currently involved in research on equitable access to land. She has developed an interest in pursuing political economy of redistributive land reform questions for her PhD thesis on farmworkers, agribusiness and the South African state. Her research interests include questions on gender, resource-based development, strategic partnerships, gender politics, communal land rights, land reform, political economy, urban regeneration, and rural social change.

Sithandiwe (Stha) Yeni holds a Master’s degree in Development Studies from the International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam and an MPhil in Land and Agrarian Studies from PLAAS. Stha was previously the national coordinator of Tshintsha Amakhaya, a network of 10 civil society organisations working on land, water and food justice, where she ran policy advocacy and campaign and worked to strengthen critical consciousness of rural activists. Prior to that, she was rural transformation programme manager at Oxfam South Africa and a researcher at the Land and Accountability Research Centre (LARC) at the University of Cape Town, looking at mining rights and land rights violations by traditional leaders in rural villages. During her time at LARC she was a lead researcher and narrator in the documentary film This Land, which highlights land rights violations by chiefs and resistance by the villagers. She is also a doctoral fellow at the Centre for Humanities Research (UWC), member of Young African Researchers in Agriculture (YARA) and Collective of Agrarian Scholar-Activists from the South (CASAS). She occasionally writes opinion articles for the Daily Maverick, Mail and Guardian and The Witness.

Nduduzo Majozi holds a Master’s degree in Development Studies from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Welfare Sciences from the University of South Africa (UNISA). He has worked at the Centre for Civil Society (CCS) at UKZN as a research fellow, as well as with social movements including Abahlali baseMjondolo. His previous works explored the effects of housing systems, formal and informal, on people’s personal and social relations in Cato Crest communities.


Shane Phiri holds a Master’s Degree in Development Studies from Rhodes University. His areas of interest are land reform, citizenship, dynamics of poverty, environmental racism, deep ecology, population growth and human rights-based approach to development.

MPhil students

Constance Mogale is an experienced South African land activist who has played leading roles in several campaigns and initiatives. She currently coordinates the Alliance for Rural Democracy (ARD), a loose network of organisations campaigning for land rights and livelihoods in South Africa. Her work with ARD has involved leading a national campaign to proposed laws dubbed the ‘Bantustan Bills’ which would affect the tenure, governance and rights of nearly 20 million people living in South Africa’s communal areas. She has established a proven record in mobilisation and participatory research, and for many years led a grassroots movement called the Land Access Movement of South Africa (LAMOSA), a federation of communities claiming land through restitution, which successfully challenged the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Act of 2015 and obtained a favourable judgment from the Constitutional Court. She already holds a post-graduate diploma in Land and Agrarian Studies, also from UWC, and is currently an Atlantic Fellow.

Sienne Molepo holds an Honours in Public Management and Governance and a Bachelor’s degree in Humanities, both from the University of Johannesburg. Her areas of interest include land restitution research and post-settlement support, security of communal tenure and mining on communal land. She worked as a researcher with Khanya African Institute for Community Driven Development (Khanya AICDD) on 54 successful land claims across five provinces, and has tackled complex cases such as lost rights under nominee systems, labour tenants, share croppers, and the creation of homelands.


Tetelo Maila holds an Honours in Development Studies from University of South Africa and a Bachelor’s degree in Development Planning and Management from University of Limpopo. He has conducted research in the Eastern Cape on livelihood outcomes of land restitution, he also undertook research on the impact of livelihood diversification on income poverty alleviation in Limpopo. He was a member of the Black Management Forum (BMF), which drove its focus towards savings and investment, grooming young women and men, law and policy advancing transformation. His research interests are centered around political economy of land, poverty and inequality, rural development, agrarian reform as well as governance.

Ashley Fischhoff holds an Honours degree in Justice and Transformation and a Bachelor’s majoring in International Relations and Economics, both from the University of Cape Town. She secured a place on the Dean’s Merit List for three consecutive years and has published work in collaboration with the Human Sciences Research Council. Her independent research to date is focused on resource access, land rights, accumulation dynamics, gender and social differentiation and participatory action research within the political economy of South African land reform.