Spotlight on CHI Research

Chris Hani Institute was established by COSATU and SAPC as a research think tank that would seek alternatives to neoliberalism. As such, researchers are central to the activities of CHI.

Gadi Malatsi profiles two of CHI researchers, Musawenkosi (Musa) Hamelton Malabela and Dr Nomkhosi Xulu-Gama:

Comrade Musa, whose background is in Industrial and Political Sociology started work at CHI in November 2017. He graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand with a BA (2009), BA Hons (2010), and MA in 2011. Between 2009 and 2011 Cde Musa worked as a tutor in the Wits Department of Sociology, tutoring first-year and third-year students.

His first job after completing his Masters was with SWOP (Society Work and Development Institute), as an associate researcher (SWOP also funded his Masters’ studies) – where he was involved with the NUMSA Workers’ Survey, and coordinated the activities of the NUMSA Survey. Because of his extensive involvement with the unions, and the fact that he had maintained contacts with the unions, towards the end of 2013, NALEDI (the National Labour Education Development Institute) offered him a job as a researcher. In his own words, “then I was tip-toeing between doing a PhD and getting work.” Musa started at NALEDI just when COSATU was preparing for the 12th National Congress, and stayed with the Institute until June 2015. In January 2017 the University of Johannesburg (UJ) offered him a job as assistant lecturer in the Sociology Department. His big break came in 2018, when CHI offered him a job as a researcher.

CHI working with NALEDI

Like CHI, NALEDI is a research institute, which is also known as a Labour Service Organisation (LSO), established by COSATU and the SACP. However, NALEDI focuses more on labour issues, and assists COSATU with research. Its activities are even funded by the Federation. But Comrade Musa mentions that the research that CHI does overlaps with the kind of research that NALEDI does – for instance, CHI is currently doing research on worker education, while NALEDI is working on a report on worker education. For instance, in the recent COSATU Congress COSATU approached CHI to request that the Institute assists with research work related to the Congress.

However, the focus of NALEDI and CHI differs, as even their mandates differs. For instance, CHI focuses MAINLY on Marxist-Leninist research (creating alternatives to neo-liberalism), scholarship and public engagement, while NALEDI focuses on policy research, aimed at capacitating the labour movement. Therefore, NALEDI does work that supports COSATU. However, CHI does assists when approached by COSATU to conduct research on a specific aspect – but on the whole CHI does more political and ideological research. CHI is also about preserving the legacy of Comrade Chris Hani – his values and principles – that is creating a just society and finding alternatives to neo-liberalism as already indicated.

Current activities of the CHI

Chris Hani Institute is currently involved in two projects outside worker education:

Nehawu book
Musa explains that CHI is currently writing a book focusing on the 30-years history of Nehawu (Nehawu turned 30 years in 2017) – so it is important to document the first 30 years of the union. The book needs to be launched during 2021, which is the congress year for Nehawu. According to Musa, CHI is so excited to be working on this project.

The Chris Hani Brigade
Another project that CHI is involved in, Cde Musa says, is the Chris Hani Brigade (CHB), which is linked to the Worker Education Research that CHI is busy with. The Chris Hani Brigade is a COSATU programme, and is an induction programme for shopstewards – as such, it is a COSATU-driven project. The gist of the Chris Hani Bridgade, Cde Musa says, is political education that includes the political economy, trade union education, and some aspects of the labour law. COSATU wants to roll out this programme, and CHI has been tasked with reviewing the material in this regard.

What are the Highlights of Cde Musa’s Work?

Musa finds the Nehawu book project quite interesting. Musa also mentions that as a researcher he enjoys interacting with people – for instance he found the 4 October Roundtable that CHI held interesting – which included stakeholders such as COSATU, academics, activists and worker leaders.

CHI held the first Roundtable in Johannesburg – the main aim was to concretise the research agenda of the Institute, and establish what other institutes working on Worker Education are doing, in order to avoid duplication of the research work. CHI also needed the federations to indicate if there were gaps in research related to worker education. Other LSOs such as worker colleges, NALEDI and DITSELA (Development Institute for Training, Support and Education for Labour) found that NALEDI was already working on the Worker Education Project, funded by the HRDC (Human Resource Development Council), which is more about the funding model and defining worker education – namely what worker education is. In essence, CHI has adopted some of the definition on worker education employed by NALEDI. For instance, CHI and NALEDI concur that worker education is not about giving one the skills to be productive, so that one can be employed; but is more about political consciousness. Thus, the Roundtable defined worker education, who should be funding it, and defined the funding model as well. That is why CHI brought together the LSOs, to avoid duplicating studies. Musa found the Roundtable interesting in the sense that the unions brought together people for extensive engagement, because the purpose of having a roundtable is to share ideas, unlike a seminar. Thus, the Roundtable helped CHI to concretise the research project, Musa says.

The second Roundtable that CHI organised was held on 4 October at the Parktonian hotel, including community health workers, who shared their experiences and spoke about their livelihood strategies.
Musa also says that he and Aisha Logart (another CHI Researcher) are also working on a special edition, featuring proceedings of the SASA Conference, which is scheduled to be published in one South African Review of Sociology (SARS), an official journal of the South African Sociological Association, published by Routledge/Taylor and Francis, with the University of South Africa Press (Unisa Press) representing the publisher in the region. CHI is guest editing the special edition, and Musa and Aisha are contributors in this edition!

Dr Nomkhosi Xulu-Gama

Dr Nomkhosi Xulu-Gama (CHI Senior Researcher) published her first book titled Hostels in South Africa: Spaces of Perplexity. She has launched the book in the country’s three major cities (Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town). The first launch was co-hosted by Durban University of Technology on her birthday (17 October 2017). Professor Gillian Hart; Prof Ari Sitas, and Prof Monique Marks took turns in speaking about the value of the book in the scholarly, historical and journalistic field.

The second book launch took place on 16 May 2018, and sparked too much excitement from the different spheres of society – evidenced by the fact that it was co-hosted by a couple of institutions, including Chris Hani Institute (CHI), UKZN Press (the Publisher) SWOP (the Society, Work and Development Institute), and the History Workshop (NRF Programme in Local Histories & Present Realities). Dr Bhengu, CHI Director was a discussant during the launch, and provided a very rich and critical engagement with the scholarship, which he argued, emanated from labour studies.

The third book launch took place at the University of the Western Cape during the annual South African Sociological Association (SASA) on 2 July 2018.
Dr Xulu Gama was featured in the Isolezwe Newspaper (17 May 2018), and has received invites from various radio stations for interviews regarding her ground breaking work on hostels. She has given talks to a variety of audiences about hostels in South Africa – these include the South African National Book Fair; the National Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences; University of Pretoria, and the University of Witwatersrand. This provided an opportune moment for Dr Xulu-Gama to engage with scholars who have a particular interest in hostels, who are mostly, also currently doing research on the different aspects of hostels in the various parts of the country.

The book is available from all reputable bookshops, including online stores.

As the CHI we are proud to be associated with Dr Xulu-Gama, great work MaXulu!

Chris Hani institution 2018 Frontier Theme