A better life through networks and support? Vulnerable people living in a new human settlement in Grahamstown
Keywords:social support, social networks, social capital, South Africa, urban context, social cohesion and poverty
This article considers the association between social networks, social capital and social support for a group of poor and vulnerable people. It is based on qualitative and quantitative research conducted in Grahamstown/Rini located in the Eastern Cape. The study reveals that most households do not rely on social networks as the primary means of survival but on grants and (to a lesser extent) wages. Social security networks are only accessible to those who can afford regular membership contributions, thereby excluding the poor. For those who can afford to be members of social security networks, the benefits are limited and they do not adequately address household needs, hence most households cannot rely on them alone. The study shows how those who cannot afford to be members of social security networks still have access to communal social support networks. Neighbours stand out as important networks in this regard. However, the informal neighbourhood support networks are restricted mainly due to issues of trust and the limitations on the poor's ability to reciprocate. Social networks make a small contribution towards strengthening neighbourly relations, trust, building community identity and promoting values of ubuntu - but when it comes to caring for one another, there is still a long way to go.