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Prof Sonwabile Mnwana

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Professor Sonwabile Mnwana


E-mail address:  sonwabile.mnwana@ru.ac.za

Office number:  +27 (0)46 603 8813

  • PhD (University of Fort Hare)
  • M.Ed (University of Fort Hare)
  • ACE (Rhodes University)

General Profile

Sonwabile Mnwana is Professor of development studies in the department of sociology at Rhodes University. He is also an honorary fellow at the School of Social and Political Science (SPS), University of Edinburgh (UK).

Prior to joining Rhodes University, he held several positions at various universities, including:

  • Head of Department of Sociology and associate professor and at the University of Fort Hare, East London.
  • Deputy Director and senior researcher at the Society, Work and Politics Institute (SWOP), University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

Professor Mnwana is also a National Research Foundation (NRF) rated researcher. He is also a recipient of several prestigious fellowships and awards, including a Visiting Fellowship at Stellenbosch’s Institute for Advanced Studies (STIAS) in 2019, a Residential Fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (IASH), University of Edinburgh (UK), the inclusion of his research report in the Wits Exceptional Research category (Wits University, 2016), and the Vice Chancellor’s Awards for Research Excellence at the University of Fort Hare (in 2019 and 2021).

His teaching and research experience is vast. He has raised research funds and served as the principal investigator for several research projects. Broadly, his current research focuses on land, extractives, and local politics of distribution in rural South Africa. For several years, Sonwabile have led a number of studies that investigate the impacts of mining on land, livelihoods and rural communities. He has published extensively. Sonwabile is also a politically engaged scholar, whose research contributes towards social justice causes.

Between 2016 and 2017, he served as the President of the South African Sociological Association (SASA).


Research and Teaching Areas

Land and local politics of resource extraction

Custom and traditional leadership

Agrarian change

Rural development theory

Environment and society

Theories of development


Recent publications (Selected)


Bezuidenhout, A, Mnwana, S and von Holdt K. (Eds). 2022. Critically Engaging Public Sociology: Perspectives from the Global South. Bristol University Press.

Journal articles and chapters in books:

  • Mnwana, S. 2022. Antinomies and opportunities of critical engagement on South Africa’s rural mining frontier. in Critically Engaging Public Sociology: Perspectives from the Global South, in Bezuidenhout, A, Mnwana, S and von Holdt K. (Eds).
  • Bezuidenhout, A, Mnwana, S and von Holdt K. 2022. Critical Engagement in South Africa and the Global South: An Introduction. A chapter in an edited book volume Critically Engaging Public Sociology: Perspectives from the Global South, in Bezuidenhout, A, Mnwana, S and von Holdt K. (Eds).
  • Mnwana, S. and Bowman A. 2021. Land, conflict and radical distributive claims in South Africa's rural mining frontier. The Extractive Industries and Society https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2214790X21001374.
  • Mnwana, S. 2021. When Custom Divides ‘Community’? Legal Battles over Mineral Rich Land in Rural South Africa. in Contested Histories, W. Beinart, R. Kingwill, G. Capps (Eds.). Wits University Press.
  • Beinart, W., Mnwana, S. and Wotshela, L., 2020. Land reform, rural inequality and agrarian change: the case of Isidenge, Stutterheim, Eastern Cape. Transformation: Critical Perspectives on Southern Africa, 102(1), pp.27-48..
  • Mnwana, S. and Bowman A. 2018. Mine mechanisation and distributional conflict in rural South Africa. Resources Policy, 59(C), 227-237.
  • Mnwana, S. 2018. Private property? The historicity of village struggles over land and mining revenues in Rural South Africa. in S Valiani (Ed): The Future of Mining in South Africa. The Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (MISTRA).
  • Mnwana, S. 2018. Mining, rural struggles and inequality on the platinum belt, South Africa. A chapter in the New South African Review 6. Wits University Press, Johannesburg.
  • Mnwana, S. 2015. ‘Between ‘Locals’ and ‘Foreigners’: Mining and rural politics of belonging in North West province, South Africa. Labour, Capital and Society 48:1&2:7: 158-181.
  • Mnwana, S. 2015. Democracy, development and chieftaincy along South Africa’s ‘Platinum Highway’: Some emerging issues. Journal of Contemporary African Stu 33(4) 510-52.
  • Capps, G., Mnwana, S. 2015. Claims from below: Platinum and the politics of land in the Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela traditional authority area. Review of African Political Economy 42 (146), 606-624.
  • Mnwana S., 2014. Mineral wealth – “in the name of morafe”? Community control in South Africa's ‘Platinum Valley’. Development Southern Africa, 31:6, 826-842
  • Mnwana S., 2014. Chief’s Justice? Mining, Accountability and the Law in the Bakgatlaba-Kgafela Traditional Authority Area, North West Province. South African Crime Quarterly, 49, 21-29

Last Modified: Tue, 19 Jul 2022 12:19:35 SAST