Phakathi – Soweto’s Middling Class

Two-thirds of adult Sowetans describe themselves ‘middle class’. But less than a third of the township’s adults have regularemployment of any kind, and the proportion of professionals and business owners is tiny. So why do so many say they are ‘middle class’? This film follows Mosa Phadi, a researcher from the University of Johannesburg, in her quest to find an answer. She looks at the lives and lifestyles of five self-identified ‘middle-class’ residents – all from different backgrounds – but draws a blank. Eventually, she films a furious argument between two of them, both women, one owning substantial businesses and the other living in a shack settlement. They both contest the other’s right to call themselves middle-class, providing Phadi with part of an answer. But it is not the full story, and the film concludes with a question to the audience: ‘What do you mean by middle class’?

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