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PhD Students


Thesis title: Understanding and responding to maritime trafficking off the East African Rim: do the measures against piracy of the Horn of Africa provide a model?

Supervisor(s): Prof Elrena van der Spuy and Dr Mark Shaw

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Description of research: Carina’s research looks at transnational organized crime with a maritime element and explores ways of responding to ivory and heroin trafficking to and from East Africa, specifically Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique. In order to inform possible responses, she draws from the international counter-piracy response to Somali piracy. Africa is increasingly becoming a major role player in illicit organized criminal activities undertaken to supply demand in other world regions. This is having adverse effects on security, governance, and development in the implicated regions. To counter this, there needs to be an international concerted effort by various stakeholders, private and public. The effective international response to Somali piracy provides valuable insights into a multi-stakeholder approach to address a transnational threat in the same geographic region. Subjects addressed include organized crime, law, governance, development, state failure and law enforcement. The research is informed by interviews and participant observation undertaken in East Africa and elsewhere in order to compliment the secondary data.

JANE CHINONYEREM DIALA (BL LLB Madonna University & Nigeria Law School resp., LLM  UCT)

Thesis title: ‘The interplay of Structure and Agency: The negotiation process of bridewealth payment in South-East Nigeria’

Supervisor(s) Prof Dee Smythe & Dr. Kelley Moult

Contact details:
Email: or
Cell: +27 61 661 0032

Description of research: The negotiation process of bridewealth payment in South-East Nigeria’ seeks to understand the relationship between structure and agency using the negotiation process of bridewealth payment in South-East Nigeria. The interaction of institutions with human behavior has, in varying degrees, engaged academic interest for centuries. A key arena of this interaction is the institution of marriage. In most African countries, bride wealth is the legitimising symbol of a customary law marriage. Due to socio-economic changes, bride wealth’s significance and form have changed over the years. Indeed, it became so commercialised that the defunct Eastern Nigerian government adopted legislation limiting amounts payable as bride wealth. Changes in bride wealth reflect the activities of cultural actors within the marriage institution. These actors present an intriguing relationship, one in which ‘structure’ through culture, and ‘agency’ through the actions of intending couples, influence one another. Jane’s thesis argues that the interaction of structure with agency is more complementary than diametric; it draws attention to how this complementarity alters perceptions of the structure-agency discourse.

ANNEKE EICHSTEDT (BA Sociology Bremen MPhil UCT)

Thesis title: An attempt to achieve what is already denied: A Bourdieuan analysis of adolescent rape survivors’ police reporting choice in South Africa

Supervisor(s): Dr. Kelley Moult

Contact details:
Cell: +27 63 601 5806

Description of research: Anneke is setting out to gather comprehensive data on the decision-making process of adolescent survivors of sexual violence who contemplate to report their victimization to the South African Police Service. Crime reporting is referred to as the trigger event for the entire criminal justice system and non-reporting decisions can have profound consequences for both the victims and the system itself. With a specific focus on young South African rape survivors, Anneke is concerned with issues around their legal consciousness, notions of justice, the mobilisation of the law as well as community-driven policing. So far, little research exist that directly engages with adolescent rape survivors thus, leaving a gap in our knowledge about this highly vulnerable group. She is planning to conduct interviews with adolescent rape survivors, key-role players working in the sector as well as focus group discussions with trained adolescent peer educators.

INGRID HOLM (LLB LLM Lund University)

Thesis title: Separating the persecutor from the persecuted - duress as a defence to exclusion from refugee status

Supervisor(s): Prof Danwood Chirwa

Contact details:
Cell: +27 76 274 2042

Description of research: Ingrid’s thesis focuses on the issue of duress in the commission of international crimes, and how this defence plays a part in the refugee status determination assessment. The research highlights the exclusion mechanism in the international refugee law regime and how exclusion marks the intersection between rights and punishment. Furthermore, the availability of defences to exclusion triggers questions regarding the increasingly blurred line between victim and perpetrator in highly coercive environments such as territories of conflict. The interrogation the current approach to refugee exclusion and the possibility for refugee claimants to raise the defence of duress in the exclusion assessment is important because of a gap in doctrine, and perhaps more importantly, the global political climate surrounding refugee law.  

Thesis title: Fashioning judicial remedies that work in a constitutional society – Establishing a framework for a functional approach to the awarding of constitutional damages in South Africa (and developing democracies)

Supervisor(s): Prof Hugh Corder

Contact details:
Email: or
Cell: +27 74 552 2089 or +263 773 973 968

Description of research: In South Africa, constitutional damages are a less understood remedy both by practitioners and the courts, with the latter producing conflicting jurisprudence and largely engaging in avoidance when such relief is invoked. In spite of the few cases in which the relief has be granted, there exists an uncertainty as to when constitutional damages are appropriate, the acceptance of the remedy as law, approach and process, as well as quantification. A two-part question forms the basis of this research: Should constitutional damages be granted by South African courts, and if so, under what circumstances and process? The thesis defines constitutional damages and the significance thereof; examines the distinctions in this public remedy vis-à-vis the private delictual action; examines how courts in and outside South Africa have approached the relief; examines co-existence with delictual remedies and judicial discretion in the awarding thereof, and examines the quantification of the damages. The thesis argues for a streamlined, functional framework to the relief in order to guide the courts in vindicating constitutional rights and exacting public accountability. At a theoretical level, the research seeks to develop understanding of the theoretical, philosophical and academic underpinnings of the constitutional damages remedy. Practically, the development of a framework for the granting of the remedy furthers ongoing legal reform and aids to constitutional vindication and state accountability.

VICTORIA MELKISEDECK LIHIRU (LLB MZumbe LLM Univ. of Dar es Salaam and Univ. of Bayreuth)

Thesis title: Participatory Constitutional Reforms vs. Realization of Equal Representation between Men and Women in Electoral Politics: A Study of Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania

Supervisor(s): A/Prof Waheeda Amien

Contact details:
Cell: +255 71 308 5139
Skype: victorialihiru

Description of research: Victoria’s research is about the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs as enshrined in various international, regional and national laws. In particular, it considers the constitutional reforms of Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania, and determines how the reform processes in those countries facilitated the participation of men and women in shaping and obtaining gender sensitive constitutions. The study also determines the extent to which the new constitutions have incorporated the right to equal representation of men and women in political decision-making positions. Finally, the study analyses the impact of the reformed constitutions in the realization of the right to equal representation in decision-making through changes in legislation, rules, regulations and guidelines governing political parties and electoral monitoring bodies as key organs in accessing decision-making positions.

MELISSA MEYER (BA BSocSci(Hons) UFS BSocSci(Hons) MPhil UCT)

Thesis title: What is in a Life? A deconstructive critique of the right to die through assisted suicide in South Africa

Supervisor(s): Dr Simon Howell

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Email:  or

Description of research: Allowing individual citizens to choose to end their own lives – the “right to die” – remains a contentious issue in South Africa, and is subject to both past, ongoing, and future court cases. The proposed research will aim to undertake a critique of the hubris of concerns that are highlighted by the topic and which find realisation in the moral dilemmas and ethical concerns the courts are only just beginning to sift through.


Thesis title: Towards Conceptualizing a Witness Protection Framework in Nigeria.

Supervisor(s): Prof Elrena van der Spuy and Dr Hannah Woolaver

Contact details:, or

Description of research: Suzzie’s research seeks to investigate how Nigeria can engage in global discourse and practices on witness protection to develop a framework best suited for it in reforming its criminal justice system. Nigeria has no established framework for protecting witnesses. Preliminary desk review reveals that there are semblances of witness protection captured within the text of several legislative provisions in Nigeria. This has created a system of ad hoc practices in witness protection in Nigeria. Also there is paucity of empirical research on witness protection within the Nigerian context. It is therefore expected that the proposed research fills the existing gap in knowledge about the modalities of witness protection in Nigeria. The research adopts a combination of doctrinal and empirical research. The empirical component adopts a qualitative methodology comprising semi structures interviews of key individuals in Nigeria.

GRÁINNE PERKINS (MPhil Queen's Univ, Belfast MPA Ulster)

Thesis title: ‘Lest we forget’: Trends in and Organisational Responses to the Murder of Police Officials in the Western Cape Province, South Africa (2002-2014)

Supervisor(s): Prof Elrena van der Spuy

Description of research: Gráinne’s research deals with the homicide of police officers and how these killings influence the practices and actions of other officers. The research involves participant observation within the working units of the South African Police Service in some of Cape Town’s most violent townships.


Thesis title: “Land Acquisition and Compensation in the Petroleum Communities in Tanzania: Resource Conflicts Mitigating Approach.”

Supervisor(s): Prof Danwood Chirwa

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Description of research: The motivation behind Aloys study is a phenomenon quite trite in most of African peace and security or economic and political literature in general, which confirms that petroleum exploitation in Africa, is the cause of major civil wars fought in the continent. This phenomenon has been dubbed ‘resource curse syndrome’ with some economic and political scholars such as Paul Collier and Stilgiz. Some skeptical views have gone far to argue that Africa either trundles with the rhythms of violence or appears perpetually bound to violence. The point of departure in this study is that human rights methods can be used to avoid conflicts in the petroleum communities in Africa. The study uses Tanzania as a case study.


Thesis title: ‘The Illegal Organ Trade in Africa: Rhetoric, Reality and Policy Solutions’

Supervisor(s): Prof Mark Shaw and Prof Elrena van der Spuy

Description of research: Faith’s doctoral research seeks to explore the incidences of organ trafficking in Africa, the involvement of Africans in the global organ trade both as organ sellers and buyers, and the policy issues around a proper regulation of organ transplant systems in Africa, which could serve as a contributing factor to the occurrence and growth of illicit organ trade.  It seeks to answer the core question of the extent to which the illegal organ trade and organ trafficking is a problem in Africa. She considers the research to be of utmost importance at this time because organ trafficking is one of the least profiled forms of human trafficking, particularly in Africa. The research seeks to explore the variations of organ trafficking as it obtains in Africa ; variations such as cases of kidnapping for the removal of body parts, use of body parts for vodoo or African traditional medicine, lack of transplant technologies contributing to the exploitation of people’s organs in Africa, and so on. It also seeks to analyse the exploitation of migrant population in the global organ market and more particularly, in Africa.