The impact of gentrification on the refugee community

Interfacing practical theology and human geography


  • Barnabe Masabah Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa
  • Nadine Bouwers-du Toit Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa


Any development project of a neighbourhood that leads to the forceful and involuntary relocation of existing residents is unjust and contrary to God’s desire for life in its fullness and human flourishing. This paper looks at the lived experiences of African refugees in the socially and spatially polarised South African cities as they attempt to find space for themselves and for their businesses in order to survive. The paper provides insights on the notion of plurality and urban public space by taking into consideration the practice of gentrification in South Africa vis-à-vis the wellbeing of displaced communities. From the analysis of data gathered, gentrification accentuates socio-spatial polarisation and residential segregation in major South African cities, which calls for the need to de-gentrify urban cities for the sake of holistic community transformation. This is evidenced in the hopelessness and the helplessness of displaced communities as well as the quality of life they lead. De-gentrifying the previously gentrified space could lead to the transformation that communities need. The way gentrification is practiced in South Africa does not promote social cohesion or lead to holistic transformation. Rather, it reinforces social exclusion and holds back people’s hope for improved wellbeing.






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