South African Cultural Observatory


Meet the team behind the South African Cultural Observatory (SACO), where academic expertise meets administrative excellence to drive cultural and sports research forward.

Our dedicated internal team, hosted by Nelson Mandela University (NMU) and in collaboration with partner universities Rhodes University and the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), forms the cornerstone of our mission to advance understanding and innovation within the cultural, creative industries, and sports development.

Our diverse leadership team combines varied skills, experiences, and academic backgrounds, united by a passion for cultural inquiry. From seasoned researchers and industry professionals to emerging talents, we are committed to excellence.

Beyond our internal team and university partners, SACO fosters a vibrant research community spanning creative industries and academia. Through collaborative efforts and knowledge-sharing initiatives, we harness the collective wisdom and innovative spirit of researchers, practitioners, and stakeholders from diverse backgrounds. This dynamic network ensures that our research remains at the forefront of industry trends and addresses the evolving needs of the cultural landscape.

Together, we uphold the highest standards of scholarship, while facilitating meaningful engagement and collaboration across disciplines and sectors.

Say hi to key members of our team!



Unathi Lutshaba

SACO Executive Director

Ms. Unathi Lutshaba has directed the South African Cultural Observatory (SACO) since 2018. Under her leadership the research project of the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture has grown from strength to strength producing a significant body of work on the cultural and creative industries and arts, culture, and heritage sectors. Under her guidance, South African policymakers, government and the private and civil sectors have a tangible grasp on the value of the creative economy and its impact on the economy. This makes  Ms. Lutshaba one of South Africa’s most recognised creative economy experts.

Ms. Lutshaba has an MA in Development Studies from the Nelson Mandela University and spent year tenure as a lecturer in the university’s Economics and Sociology departments. She is an Erasmus Mundus Scholarship recipient and an Alumni of the University of Antwerp.

Ms. Lutshaba’s research interests are multi-disciplinary and they include economics, business management, sociology, strategy, development policy, theory and project management. She has also leveraged her academic and entrepreneurial skills to secure and run a range of small, medium-scale and large projects.

She is passionate about the creative economy, the promotion and development of young people in the workplace, women in leadership and social solidarity.

Executive direction

Get to Know Our Team

Unathi Lutshaba Profile Image

Unathi Lutshaba

Executive director

Tabisa Mbanjwa Profile Image

Tabisa Mbanjwa

Assistant to the executive director

Rene Derrocks Profile Image

Rene Derrocks

Operations manager

Zureena Bloew Profile Image

Zureena Bloew

Finance manager

Titus Chuene Profile Image

Titus Chuene

Marketing and communications manager

Amy Shelver Profile Image

Amy Shelver

Senior researcher and strategist

Lutho Mxosana Profile Image

Lutho Mxosana

Marketing and communications coordinator

Masilakhe Njomane Profile Image

Masilakhe Njomane

Junior Research Fellow

Prof Richard Haines Profile Image

Prof Richard Haines

Research associates

Prof Jeannette Snowball Profile Image

Prof Jeannette Snowball

Research associates

Prof Urmilla Bob Profile Image

Prof Urmilla Bob

Research associates

Sport, arts & culture NNMU University of KwaZulu-Natal Rhodes University