Immigration and National Identity in the era of Globalisation

 The Case of Zimbabwean Migrants into South Africa


Photo by: Africa Check

By Gloria Nselle Mopotu

Bachelor of Honors


International Politics

At the

University of South Africa

Supervisor: Professor Josie-Ansie Van Wyk

20 November 2015

1. Introduction

South Africa has a long history of intra-regional migration dating back to the mid-nineteenth century (Crush, Chikanda & Tawodzera 2012:4). Specifically looking at migrants from Zimbabwe, there are a large percentage of migrants living in the Gauteng Province. Many of these migrants are women, children and young men where men are the majority. These migrants have fled their homeland mostly to seek better living conditions and others to contribute their acquired skills to South Africa’s economy. As a result, the phenomenon of Zimbabwean migrants who are currently living in South Africa has caused pandemonium amongst the receiving communities. This is because the receiving communities feel that their national identity has been infringed upon ans this has been a major contributor of globalization.

On 29 March 2008, Zimbabwe held presidential, parliamentary and local elections. It was at this very election that saw the ruling party, the Zimbabwean African National-Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), loses the majority of votes in the National Assembly. As a result of this, there have been reports of violence and political suppression by the ruling party of Zimbabwe African National-Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and over months these violence increased significantly to the point where; Zimbabwe’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) decreased over 40 percent, inflation has been estimated to be over 165,000 percent and unemployment over 80 percent (Palmberg 1999:9). Furthermore, the HIV epidemic rate increased drastically and finally the consumption of food was so limited that Zimbabwe requested  food aid in 2008. These tragic political, economic, health and social issues caused great trauma Zimbabweans by ZANU-PF and Zimbabwe soldiers. Even though the ruling party has denied allegations of performing such attacks on its citizens, Human Rights Watch has called the reports of violence “ a brutal campaign of torture and intimidation” (Ploch 2008).

These violence associated with the 2008 election, saw many Zimbabweans lose their lives and in fear of their lives, many Zimbabwe’s were forced to cross borders in increasing numbers to look for safety and security in Zimbabwe’s neighboring countries such as Mozambique and Botswana but above all South Africa. Up to this, more than one million Zimbabwean migrants live in South Africa but their welcome to the country has not been very warm and pleasant as these migrants from Zimbabwe has caused many economic, political, social and health issues for the South African government to deal with and these issues have not disappeared as they are still very much alive today (Ploch 2008).

National identity is a considered a phenomenon that brings people together (Smith 2004:125). It creates a sense of belonging, identity and unity usually among people who share the same ethnic values, culture as well as linguistic. South Africa is a country that has birthed an intermixture of different ethnic groups (Palmberg 1999). During Apartheid days where South Africa was ruled by minority white Afrikaner-speakers who divided the entire country into different ethnic group. Each ethnic group was given an extremely artificially constructed set of “homeland” territories, while the Indians and the Coloureds were accorded no territories (Palmberg 1999:8) but were provided with alternative set of rules that gave them more privilege then that of the black race. After Apartheid South Africa took an extreme turn by creating a new nation, declaring eleven official languages and setting up a new political system with a complex mixture of centralism and federalism (Palmberg 1999:9). In this new South Africa, language would become a symbol of the nation and the initial identity maker.

Throughout the years, South Africa’s progress to equality has indeed been a thistly process because when an independent and democratic state is born so does the challenges that come with the running it. One of these challenges is globalization and when this new region starts to reconnect with the global economy then doors of opportunity began to open up and this brings up another challenge, which is that of migration. Within the fastest globalizing world with all its contradictions (Bornman 2003:3), struggles for identity have emerged as one of the most striking characteristic of the social and, cultural and political scene (Bornman 2003:3). Furthermore, globalization opens up streams for the constant flow of international migrants from in the African region but more in South Africa, Gauteng to be exact, than anyway else and most the majority of these immigrants originate from Zimbabwe.

However, the constant flow of Zimbabwe migrants into South Africa has not been a welcoming experiencing for these immigrants. Through the violent attacks of South African violence as a form of xenophobia, Zimbabwean migrants have experienced a deep sense of exclusion as well as social dissimilation in South Africa and thus this presents a deep issue on the idea of national identity.

2. Literature review

The aim of the research is to discover how globalization is linked to migration which, in essence affects the idea of national identity of the receiving and home communities at large. This is particularly evident in the case of Zimbabwean migrants who have left their home communities, escaping the economic, political and social crisis, to settle in South Africa.

The first phase of the research highlights the significant influence that globalization has made on South Africa’s economy. This significance, has put South Africa on a global map and as a result, South Africa has attracted many tourists as well as immigrants. This however can cause challenges; one in particular is the challenge of migration. Some people lave their native homes for higher paying jobs or even just for change. This is known as pull factors. But others are forced to leave their native homes due to political, economic and social instability. This known as push factors. Moreover, when migrants leave their native homes to settle elsewhere, they set a illusion in their minds that the place which, the chose to settle in offers mass job opportunities, better living conditions and peace and stability.

Zimbabwean migrants living in South Africa have struggled to gain acceptance and thus living in South Africa has posed to be a great challenge on our lives.  Therefore the research attempts to discover what these particular challenges are, what the South Africa government is doing to address these challenges. The topic of attacks on immigrants in South Africa remains a sensitive topic until this day. New policies need to implement to protect these Zimbabwean migrants as well as make them feel safe and secure. And this is exactly what this research aims to achieve.

3. Statement of the problem, rational and objective of research

The influx of Zimbabwean migrants living in South Africa have caused problems for the receiving communities but it has also had an impact on the home communities of Zimbabwe as Zimbabwe also struggles to preserve their national identity (Polzer 2008:4). Through the forms of violent xenophobic attacks, Zimbabwean migrants have struggled to assimilate and fit into South Africa’s national identity. Therefore this research attempts to discuss how globalization has impacted the idea of international migration of Zimbabwean migrants into South Africa and how recent and past xenophobic sentiments have impacted national identity. The research will achieve by specifically involving undocumented migrants, asylum seekers, female and children migrants into the research in the pursuit of explaining why the migrate to South Africa and how they have struggled assimilate through the harsh response of South African nationals

4. Methodology

This research will use the Qualitative Case Study approach as a research method. According to Robert Yin (1984:32), a case study is ‘an empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context, when the boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident; and in which multiple sources of evident are used’. Moreover a prerequisite of the development of a caste study methodology is the focus on contemporary events characteristics of the social science (Johansson 2003:11).

It was important to use a case study with this particular research study because it gives one the opportunity to subtract information from these events and develop a combination of levels of techniques and theories that will assist in the research.

With the help of different sources and publications, this research study aim to critically examine the challenges that Zimbabwean migrants pose on home communities and receiving communities and how this essentially infringes on the ideals of national identity.

5. Conceptual clarification

In attempting to discuss migrants that leave Zimbabwe to come into South Africa, this study will attempt to specifically look at undocumented migrants, women and children migrants, asylum seekers and migrants who simply come into South Africa to look for work opportunity. Firstly, through the Zimbabwean context, it is explained why Zimbabweans have left their country to settle in South Africa. The concepts that will help to explain this is by looking at firstly, the election process, secondly, the bribing of votes, thirdly the insecurities that Zimbabwean people faced whilst being in Zimbabwean during its election period. Lastly, the advantages and the disadvantages  that Zimbabwean migrants face while living in South Africa will be discussed.

6. Contribution of research

In South Africa, xenophobia has been the response to the influx of majority Zimbabwean migrants, which are the implacable results of exclusion and individual categorization. In addition, this has an effect on national identity to both the receiving and home communities.

Therefore this study hopes to add to the research that issues such as xenophobia, which will be explained in greater detail further in the essay, has been a major contributor of migrants living in South Africa and although it is a phenomenon that gained momentum in South Africa in 2008, it returned and escalated significantly in 2014 right into 2015.

As a result of this research study hopes to fill a scholarship gap by focusing on the escalating challenges regarding Zimbabwean migrants in South Africa and how such factors like xenophobia is deeply connected with national identity.

7. Scope and limitations of study

The timeline of this research study will focus specifically on the period on Zimbabwe’s elections that were held in 2008 all the way to 2015. The reason why this particular timeframe was chosen is because the 2008 elections in Zimbabwe saw an influx of Zimbabwean migrants to South Africa all at the same time and this became a phenomenon in South Africa’s history and in addition it gained global attention. South Africa saw itself having to create new policies that involved these migrants and moreover, the receiving communities did not welcome these migrants with open arms and this too are challenges that South Africa is facing due a an influx of migrants on their soil. These challenges still exist today and have intensified greatly since 2008 so by specifically referring to this timeline, the study will be able to attempt to examine the impacts that these Zimbabwean migrants pose on the receiving communities, their own home communities as well as how these how national identity can still be preserved with such diversity in a world where globalisation has taken over.

9. Research Structure


Acts as the presentation piece of the entire study as it addresses exactly how this entire study will unfold. Therefore, Chapter One outlines the research problems and methodological aspects of the research.

Chapter Two (Globalization, national identity and migration)

Is the extension of the literature review with a particular focus on the theoretical framework for the analysis of globalization and how it impacts migration and national identity. This review particularly discusses globalization as a driving force for Zimbabwean migrants in South Africa and other African countries

Chapter Three (Zimbabwean migration to South Africa)

Chapter Four critically examines the impacts of migration on national identity focusing on the receiving communities (South Africa) and the home communities (Zimbabwe). Furthermore, it examines the South African policy on migration and discusses the mediums that the government has taken to address these issues.

This particular chapter reclaims the research problem by investigating and bringing to life the so-called challenges and impacts that Migration has in South Africa specifically referring to the Gauteng region and presents its findings.


Chapter Five (Conclusion, findings and recommendations)

Offers its findings as well as its recommendations.


Globalisation, National Identity and Migration

10. Introduction

Chapter One outlines the background of the research study and also heightened some appealing questions on the how globalisation lends into to the struggle for national identity in South Africa and how international migration of Zimbabwean migrants further contribute to these struggles and what other challenges do the influx of these migrants cause in the Province of Gauteng. The focal point of the discussion in chapter one was so simply to set the tone of the study for the reader and also to give the reader information as to where the study is going and what it hopes to achieve. There is an influx on Zimbabwean living in South Africa and this causes unique challenges. Moreover it infringes on the countries National Identity and this is all has moistly to do with the idea of globalization.

Chapter two focuses on three major themes of the research, which are globalization, national identity and migration. In this chapter this review is given weight by examining, the definitions of these concepts, what they mean to the study in International Relations, and how has it had its impact in Gauteng, South Africa. Finally the review will reveal how all these three concepts are related to one another and how globalization is the main concept that affects the other two themes.

11. Globalisation

Globalisation has become a major topic of discussion and concern in economic circles since 1990s as it became increasingly clear that the trend toward more integrated world market has opened a wide potential for greater growth and presents unparalleled opportunities for developing countries to raise their living standards (Ouattara, 1997). Having said this, it is difficult to give a legitimate definition on Globalization due to its complex and argumentative background. However, many definitions have come to surface concerning globalization. For example one definition suggests that globalization is the process of continuing integration of countries in the world and is a strong underway in all parts of the globe (Mrak 2000:3). Supported by the acceleration pace of technological change, by price and trace liberalisation, and by growing importance of supranational rule, globalisation has exposed national economies to much more intense competition then ever before (Mrak 2000:3). The idea of globalization or rather the process of this phenomenon encourages economic and political interaction amongst countries. The globalisation of the world economy is the integration of economies throughout the world through trade, financial flows, the exchange of technology and information, and the movement of people (IMF, 1997). Because globalization is liked to trade, it has been known that an increasing large share of GDP is invested into globalization activities to assist in international trade. This way, globalisation ensures that there are strong economic tides and links amongst countries. Moreover there has been a phenomenon growth in cross border financial flows, particularly in the form of private equity and portfolio investment, compared with the past (Ouatta, 1997). As a result, economic success in today’s world is less a question of relative resource endowments or geographical location than it used to be in the past (IMF, 1997).

11. 2 Characteristic of Globalisation

Globalisation is characterised by the fact that distance and national borders no longer matter, the ease with which business with a customer across the globe can take place, and that the nation state and geography are no longer relevant for economic purpose (Mapuva 2010:391). While the opportunities and benefits of opening of economies are emphasized by its proponents and supporters, disillusioned is growing among many policy makers and economists about the costs and risks involved in the globalization of national economies as well as the impact of it on future growth prospects (Loots, 2006).

11.3 The impact of globalization on South Africa

The rising living of standard that accompanied the rapid growth experienced in so many countries in the past few decades is tangible benefits of globalisation (Krueger, 2006). The change of the economic and political world has certainly not spared South Africa. Bring a member of the global community and the only African member of the G8, South Africa has been the focus of economic development in the Southern African region. Therefore South Africa is seen as the economic hub of Africa for it growing economic development with vast opportunities to guarantee one a better life and standard way of living.

Where there is economic development and growth, opportunities is available and this draws great attention to outsiders. It has been reported that in the year 2011 South Africa’s economy had grown over 3.1 percent (up from 2.9) in 2010. Although South Africa’s economy may be growing fast reports have also shown that these rates have dropped as poverty and social equality still remain a major factor in South Africa and this the country still remains one of the most unequal countries in the world.

Given South African strong economic role in Africa, it was drown the likes to of several migrants from South Africa’s neighboring countries as well as distant African states such as the Democratic Republic of China, Nigeria and Zimbabwe. In addition, because globalisation has thus given people liberty to further explore other regions through the movement of migration, this has affects national identities of a nation and erases nations idea of wanting to remain “a pure nation”. This is particular in the case of South Africa and further explanations as well as examples will be presented as the study progresses to substantiate that globalization does indeed have an impact on national identities and international migration.

12. Identity

In order to fully understand the concept “national identity” it is important to get a sense of what is meant by identity and why it is so an important aspect within communities and families. The term “identity” fist gained its popularity by Erik Erikson through his work of ‘The Psychologist’. With regards to Erikson, he considers identity with the association with parenthood with sameness and continuity of the self across time and space, other authors also emphasis uniqueness, that is those characteristics that differentiate a person from other people who or the whole of mankind (Baumeister 1986; Brewer 1991,19993; Rouse 1995). A sense of wholeness is greatly associated with the idea of identity as it allows for people to be identified with one another, which ultimately creates a sense of belonging and sameness.

Moreover, Erikson associates the term “identity crisis” with individuals who have lost a sense of sameness and continuity (Bornman 2003:2). He further explains that losing one’s identity is a normal thing as it is an event that passes over time during adolescent development. Rather he suggests that it should be regarded as a pathological in adults (Bornman 2003:2). Erikson describes identity development as an effective subjective awareness of sameness and continuity.

Erickson not only mentions the realization of sameness and continuity in the idea of identity but also that identity is deeply connected with ones social environment. He uses the term “psychosocial identity” to explain this. Within psychosocial identity, one is able to fully be aware of their identity both as an individual and the as a member of a particular society/community and family. Henri Tajfel, a wise contributor to the psychology of social identity theory) puts this in perspective by suggesting that, membership of social groups is internalized as part of the self-concept and as such a forms an integral part of the identity of an individual (Tajfel, 1981).

12.1 National Identity 

It has been mentioned that the ‘identity’ refers to a description or the definition of existence and belonging. It consists of two pillars: identifier and identified (Eralp 1997:19). In our concern, the individual is subjected identified as a ’self’ and the society is a man identifier as ‘other’. Jacques Derrida argues ‘all identities can possibly exist with their ‘difference’ (with an ‘a’). There is no culture or cultural identity which does not have its ‘other; of the ‘self’.  Therefore national identity refers to a nation as a cohesive whole, as represented by distinctive traditions, culture and language. Furthermore National Identity is linked to nation and is described as symbols that represent the nation in its entirety.

12.2 National Identity in South Africa

National identity is South Africa is an important element to the nation’s self-esteem and pride. Dubbed ‘The Rainbow Nation’ by Archbishop of the Anglican Church Desmond Tutu and then by President Nelson Mandela in his inauguration speech in Pretoria May 1994 (Zegeye 2005: 2), the idea of this rainbow stands as a metaphor that symbolized the nation’s diversity and unity in that everyone’s culture, ethnicity, culture and race are accepted and appreciated by all. However national equality still continues to plague the nation and therefore separation and inequality is still a huge burden that South Africa still has to overcome otherwise the concept of the Rainbow Nation is ineffective. In South Africa, progress toward equality is a thorny project (Zegeye 2005:1). Identity gives one the opportunity to recognized themselves as an individual and the community their particular communities and families, it is extremely important in this part of the study to highlight the fact that recent political arenas suffers under hesitation and contradictory trends between globalization and multiculturalism and between localization and ethnic identities (Bornman 2003:2). Within the fast globalizing world with all its contradictions, struggles for identity have emerged as one of the most striking characteristics of the social, cultural and political scene (Bornman 2003:2).

In Gauteng, there many different ethnics groups with different cultures, values and family dynamics. As a nation, the province of South Africa strongly represents South Africa pride and thus is responsible of ensuring that the national identity of the country is upheld. But with the immergence of globalization, it is becomes difficult for one to uphold and protect their national identity when you constantly have the flow of illegal immigrants living in the region. Automatically this causes a drift amongst people as individuals of immigration struggle to find their place in a community that is completely foreign to them as South Africa seeks to preserve their national identity.

Furthermore, and more to the point, because globalization has opened doors, with the influx Zimbabwean male immigrant that comes into South Africa it is easy for a an illegal immigrant to marry a South African female citizen. And when this happen, according to law, the infant adopts its fathers name and identity and thus the infant is considered a Zimbabwean. This example exemplifies exactly how the implementation of globalization intrudes on national identity.

In South Africa, there is a divide amongst the people that live in the country. Moreover racism, discrimination and prejudice and this is particularly evident in the case of the xenophobia attacks which forcedly revealed the extent that on would go in order to protect his/her national identity. Globalization does indeed affect national identities. Furthermore it opens doors for migration, which further dents the idea of identity preservation in South Africa.

13. International Migration

13.1 Migration defined

In its most simplified form, migration is an old phenomenon that describes the temporary or permanent move of individuals or groups of people from one geographic location to another for various reasons ranging from better employment possibilities to persecution. And although the concept of migration is an old concept, the theories that used to describe it are fairly new.

Three levels of analysis can outline theories of migration:

Micro level of migration is associated with migrants who move for individual purposes simply for an even better life and wealth. The main theories that contribute to this level of migration are Lee’s push and pull factors, behavioral models and theory of social systems.

Meso level is associated with the migration cause to move in a collective or social networks in hope of looking for better living opportunities and this falls under the new economic of labor migration theory as well as social capital theory.

Macro level is connected with migrants that move to seek for better opportunities in terms of income and employment. The main theories that best describes this are neoclassical theory and mobility transition.

These levels of migration offer a brief definition as to why people really migrate globally. Different reasons impact different people. But looking at the South Africa specifically, most migrants, especially those from Zimbabwe migrate to mostly Limpopo and Mpumalanga due to their geographical proximity (IOM, 2013). Most Zimbabwean are found in the provinces of Durban, Cape Town and mostly Johannesburg, which has the most numerous Zimbabwean migrants in the whole of South Africa (IOM, 2013).

13.3 Migration in South Africa

Migration has played a central role in the history and economic development of South Africa (IMO, 2013). The desire to control, contain and use the movement of large populations for the benefits of a few was a key feature of colonialism and Apartheid (IOM, 2013). After the democratic elections of the ANC in 1994, the influx migrants from neighbouring countries of South African began to expand greatly as a result of socioeconomic and political instability of the neighboring states. Most migrants, more Zimbabwean, Lesotho and Zambian migrants would cross borders and move to South Africa as it was the main economic and political power in the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

In South Africa migration is mostly characterized by; labor, poverty, health issues and external refugees. As a result, the South African government continues to struggle to address issues of the past particularly in the areas like education, housing and other social issues (IOM, 2013) and therefore having to consider the certainty of security for migrants has been and still is a major challenge for the government of South Africa.

Despite South Africa’s constitutional guarantee of basic rights and policy frameworks taking migrants into consideration implementation challenges impact negatively on migrant’s well-being (IOM, 2013). Although migration management, in South Africa is protected by, The Refugees Act (1998) and The Immigration Act (2004), several challenges still effect the management of economic and social migration IOM, 2013) which leads to great concerns. These challenges will further be explored in the study paying specific attention to Zimbabwe immigrants and challenges that their presents pose for the South African government as well as communities in the Gauteng region.


In this chapter, it has been established that globalization exists to form political and economic relationships between countries from all parts of the world. Through the increased pace of technology, economies has began to experience competition. As a result, many countries have benefited heavily from globalization including countries from the developing world including South Africa. As evidence, South Africa is the only African country to be represented in G8. Although, globalization has impacted South Africa tremendously, globalization has also caused problems for the country to find solid and sustainable solutions to. This is particularly evident in the case of mass Zimbabwean migrants who have left Zimbabwean’s economic crisis to settle in South Africa.

Migrants who have left Zimbabwean have come to South Africa to seek better living conditions as well as find work opportunities. This transition however has not been easy for Zimbabwean migrants who live in South Africa. It has affected South Africa’s national identity causing a great divide within South African citizens and Zimbabwean immigrants.

The next chapter dives into the experiences that Zimbabwean migrants continue face when coming to South Africa and attempts to show that these are daily struggles that need to be heavily addressed by the South African government as attacks and discrimination on these immigration continue to plague communities.


Zimbabwean migration into South Africa

15. Introduction

The pattern of migration in the Southern African region has changed dramatically since 1994 (Khan 2007: 1). By 1995 the New South African government region has lifted most of the aforementioned restrictions (Khan 2007: 1). Zimbabweans are currently the largest group of Africans that migrate into South Africa whether they are refugees, asylum seekers and documented migrants. This is usually the case because firstly South Africa and Zimbabwe are neighboring countries and separated only be a border (Khan 2007: 2). Secondly, South Africa is perceived as the one of the few countries in South Africa which, is economically prosperous (Khan 2007: 2) and therefore migrating to South Africa would be the answer to economic survival, job opportunity and better and healthier living environment where necessities like health care, shelter, education and food are at the disposal of people (Khan 2007: 2).

It has been reported that the legal entries of Zimbabwean migrants has rapidly rose to from 500000 in the year 200 to 1.2 million in 2008 according to the Jonathan Crush, professor in Queens University. Zimbabweans have been coming to South Africa since pre 1994. During the 1990s, South African workers on their labour unions contented that immigrants were driving down and taking South Africa jobs but it is also important to remember that not only Zimbabwean migrants but other foreign migrants that live in South Africa not only take on minor jobs to make a living but they immigrants are also known for creating their own jobs also as a mean to survive. Therefore these are insecurities of South African citizens who don’t work.

In 2008, during what was supposed to be a peaceful election (Ploch 2008), Zimbabwe had completely turned upside down in the political, social and economic sense. The country, due to its economic and political violence and eruption, caused a great flow of Zimbabwean migrants to enter South Africa. Moreover the countries food shortage and health issues further invoked the transition (Ploch 2008). Therefore this chapter will aim to firstly, look at the Zimbabwean elections, which was held in March 2008 to determine the causes and impacts that this election period had on the migration of Zimbabweans into South Africa. Secondly, this chapter will discuss the advantages of leaving South Africa and how these advantages of remittance and women and children migrants benefits their families which they have left behind as well as how it contributes to Zimbabwe and South Africa’s economy. Finally, undocumented migrants, refugees and asylum seekers will be explained in the pursuit of showing the desperation of survival and opportunity for Zimbabwean migrants living in South Africa.

The main focus of this chapter is to explain and highlight the key reasons for the mass influx of migrants who come from Zimbabwe. Moreover this chapter further seeks to reveal the consequences that Zimbabwean migrants face when coming into South Africa. The purpose of this chapter to gain an understanding as why these migrants are considered ‘outcast’ in the South African communities and how very little is actually been done address these issues in a peaceful and sustainable manner.

16. The Zimbabwe Context

Zimbabwe has cast a powerful regional and international shadow since it became independent in 1980 and more recently, through the crisis of the first decade of the twenty first century (Derman and Kaarhus 2013: 1). The 2000s were a decade filled with political and economic crisis as well as social crisis in Zimbabwe irrespective of the triumphant years since the country first gained its independence. The scale, depth and severity of the crisis evolving since 2000 have been as dramatic as they have expected (Derman and Kaarhus 2013: 1). 2008 was without a doubt the escalation of the Zimbabwean crisis, which caused pandemonium and gained massive national as well as international attention. The crisis, which was stirred by the 2008 election, broke out from a political and economic state of commotion.

ZANU-PF’s longstanding assault on political freedoms and civil rights lied at the heart of Zimbabwe’s humanitarian crisis (Derman and Kaarhus 2013: 1). While political violence, enforced disappearances, and arbitrary detentions by the government and President Robert Mugabe peaked in the weeks leading up to the run-off presidential elections in June 2008, ZANU-PF continued to use oppression to back its dubious claim to power (Ploch 2008:2).

On March 29, 2008 Zimbabwe held its presidential elections. Within a month of this date the country had completely turned in a 360 direction and its future was left blunt. This was the result of the ruling party that had lost its majority voters in the National Assembly and as tensions starting to rise from this, chaos broke out. After a month of rising tensions, the result of the presidential race was belatedly announced on May 2 (Ploch 2008:1). It has been revealed the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai had received more votes than the occupier of the office, President Robert Mugabe, but had failed to appeal to the 50 percent votes needed to avoid runoff.

16.1 Election Process

Many domestic and international observers assert that elections since 2000 have fallen short of democratic standards (Ploch 2008:6). During the process of the elections in March 2008, it was reported by civil societies that the pre-election procedures were not being regulated in the correct way, shape or form. Critics had charged that Zimbabwean Election Commission (ZEC), which oversees elections, lacked independence, and that it was further crippled by limited administrative capacity and budget shortages (Ploch 2008:6). Justice George Chiweshe, a former military officer, led the electoral body and reports indicate that numerous former military personnel stuffed the Commission and its regional offices and thus complicating votes. Furthermore on the evening just before the election, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) accused the government of printing nine million ballots, as there were only 5.9 million registered voters. This high level of corruption during the electoral process strongly emphasizes the level of power and influence that ZANU-PF has in Zimbabwe and it allows scholars and political commentators to question the extent of Zimbabwe’s ‘democracy’. More ambiguously, the March elections that were held in Zimbabwe were supposed to be the country’s pursuit at holding peaceful elections in hope of avoiding violence and repression however the complete opposite occurred.

16.2 Bribing of votes

In addition to the allegedly partisan administration of the elections, many observers allege that government used public resource to buy votes (Ploch 2008:1). Just weeks before the elections took place President Robert Mugabe made huge announcement that promised to greatly benefit the citizens of Zimbabwe only if they vote in his favor. These forms of bribery on Mugabe’s part fully illustrated his desperation to win the elections, as he wanted to retain in power and in charge of Zimbabwe and her people so to speak. These bribes included; significant salary increase for the military and civil servants (Ploch 2008:7) and signed into law the Indigenization and Economic Empowerment Bill, requiring foreign-owned firms to transfer 51 percent of their shares to domestic investors (Ploch 2008:7). Furthermore, Mugabe’s administration also reported appropriated vehicles as well as agricultural equipment worth millions U.S. dollars to ZANU-PC supporters only. At the same time, in a country where 45 percent of the population is considered by the World Food Program to be malnourished (Ploch 2008:7), domestic groups reported numerous occasions of opposition supporters being denied access to state food supplies.

16.3 Insecurities 

What had been described as a relatively successful post-independence government with the indicators of education, levels of agriculture production, income, and life expectancy rising, now exhibits dramatic if uneven in all these areas (Ploch 2008:8). The political, economic and social crisis in Zimbabwe that gained momentum during the electoral process saw the state of Zimbabwe collapsing in a significant way as this particular crisis caused its people to suffer deeply where other citizens lost their lives. Zimbabwe had suffered from food insecurity, human rights insecurity and health insecurity. This ultimately left the country broken and in shambles.

The food security situation in Zimbabwe remains critical, with an estimated 4 million people in need of food assistance in the year 2008, because of Mugabe’s land seizure program, which was the main reason reduced food productions. Moreover the displacement of farm workers and vandalism that followed the March elections also contributed to food insecurity and this left the majority of Zimbabweans hunger and thus in pursuit of leaving Zimbabwe to a place where food is easily accessible to the public.

A Cholera epidemic broke out as of January 12, 2009, left over 39,000 people infected and at least 2,000 dead. This marks both the collapse of Zimbabwe’s healthcare system and the disregard for the welfare of Zimbabwean by the ruling ZANU-PF (Ploch 2008:7). The Cholera epidemic was a lethal disease and sadly it appeared in a time where Zimbabwe was already at its worse. As a result, Zimbabwe’s economy was beginning to deteriorate significantly and thus more and more Zimbabweans were leaving their home communities to embark on a better life in another country, mostly South Africa and Mozambique.

The overwhelming decline in living standards and physical security has meant the flight of large, if unknown numbers of its citizens into its neighboring county and more specifically into South Africa (Derman and Kaarhus 2013: 1).

17. Migration to South Africa

South African’s communities have become the homes and work places for significant numbers of Zimbabweans (Derman and Kaarhus 2013:156). As elsewhere in South Africa, newly arriving Zimbabweans come in search of employment, housing and an escape from suffering and insecurity. However, the realities of life in the communities provide a different context for obtaining shelter, security and work (Derman and Kaarhus 2013:156).

With the plight of the Zimbabwean crisis that left masses unemployed, poor, hungry and homeless, the majority of Zimbabweans chose to settle in South Africa and other Zimbabweans chose to settle in other African neighboring countries such as Zambia and Mozambique. Globalization, in a democratic world, allows you to be whoever you want to be as opportunities are endless and therefore where one place seems bad and tragic there is opportunity to move to another where opportunity exists. This is the notion that drives migration.

In 2013, The International Labor Organization (ILO) suggested for interconnected reasons for why African migrants, migrate into South Africa. The first reason is that the actual unemployment level in South Africa was actually lower than the official figure (Derman and Kaarhus 2013:213), especially with opportunities in the informal sector or else contact labor (Derman and Kaarhus 2013:213). Secondly, the size of South Africa’s economy and its diversity presented many more opportunities (Derman and Kaarhus 2013:213). Thirdly, pay levels for comparable work were much higher in South Africa than in surrounding nations (Derman and Kaarhus 2013:213) and finally, the South African economy could absorb immigrant because of its size (Derman and Kaarhus 2013:213). These factors greatly influenced the migration of Zimbabweans into South Africa and most chose male migrants chose to find work in the farming, mining and agricultural industry.

During the 1990s, South African workers and their unions contented that immigrants drove down wages and took South African jobs (Derman and Kaarhus 2013:213). In general, South African’s have a minimal foreign worker membership and try to maintain high wage levels in the face of labor over-supply and large numbers of unskilled and semi-skilled sectors (Derman and Kaarhus 2013:213).

Migrant workers were treated differently than other South African workers. The problem of job security, social services accesses, health and safety for migrants were not communicated in South Africa and more generally in the region. In addition, the mining industry is dangerous with high risks for illness and deaths and thus protection for these immigrants is vital. However, forestry and agriculture also have multiple risks (Derman and Kaarhus 2013:213). There was then and is now insufficient protection for migrant workers (Derman and Kaarhus 2013:213).

17.1 Remittances

One of the greatest opportunities of living in South Africa for most migrants living as immigrants in foreign countries such as South Africa is to be able to provide for their families that they have left back home by sending money. This is known as remittance. Like their counterparts, through South Africa, Zimbabweans who live in places such as Limpopo and Gauteng either send money or travel back to Zimbabwe with money and assets. In general, remittances have been a critical source of income for hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans, especially before dollarization (Derman and Kaarhus 2013:201). To earn currency was an important way to control inflation (Derman and Kaarhus 2013:201). Derman and Kaarhus (2013: 201) in their book titled ‘In the shadow of a conflict’ argue that “in a new report written for People Against Suffering Oppression and Poverty (PASSOP), a South African-based NGO representing immigrants David von Burgsdoff (PASSOP researcher) surveyed 350 Zimbabwean migrants in the Western Cape, of whom 210 were urban and 140 rural. Of these, 46 percent arrived after 2008, and 92 percent reported that they had sent remittances to their families in Zimbabwe” (Derman and Kaarhus 2013:201).

17.2 Zimbabwean’s Women/Female a Diaspora

The number of female migrants crossing for work has increased significantly in the last few decades-women make up almost half of the world’s 214 million international migrants (McDuff 2011:3).  In South Africa, women make up at least 15 percent of international or cross-border migrants, with the exception of Zimbabwe, where 44 percent of migrants crossing borders are women (McDuff 2011:3) Before Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980 women were confined to simply being housewives and doing household work. Women were not empowered to be independent, driven and with successful careers. But with independence aided by globalization, women are now allowed to leave their homes in the quest for better opportunity and means to feed their families. This signifies a phenomenal shift in society, as it reveals how male leaders are no longer the breadwinners in the family but that women also play their role in supporting the family on a financial basis as well as ensuring the survival of not only themselves but their children too.

Zimbabwe’s economic and political problems has an effect on both male and female Zimbabweans, nonetheless it is women who have experienced the most dramatic change in the level of independent migration. Before this shift, it was men who mostly emigrated for paid work on white owned farms as well as mines. However in the last two decades, Zimbabwean women have taken on the provider role and leaving their children as well as extended family behind in search of sufficient income that would guarantee the families survival. In order to achieve this, it was paramount that women stay away from their families for long periods of time. Probably also to raise enough money to send and also as constantly going in and out of South Africa was not an easy process if you did not acquire the right documents.

Just like male Zimbabwean migrants, women also migrated for similar political, economic and social issues that plague Zimbabwe. These issues include; the severity of Zimbabwean economic and political problems, the instability of marriages in Zimbabwe, women’s increased responsibility as the main providers and the so-called ‘normalization’ of women’s migration as a form of sacrifice for the good of the family (McDuff 2011:4).

The migration of Zimbabwean women into South Africa has gained great momentum over the past two decades, rapidly increasing in the 2000s. In 2005, it was reported that 7,7783 asylum applications were filed by Zimbabweans; in 2009 that number had increased to 149, 453 (Crush, Chikanda and Tawodzera 2012:23).

By 2012, women still made up about 44 percent of Zimbabwean migrants to South Africa, but the range of migrants ages, occupations, education levels, and points of origin in Zimbabwe had become quite diverse (Crush 2012). Almost every Zimbabwean family had at least one or two members seeking work outside the country (Crush 2012:25). However, with regards to these Zimbabweans and with the help of globalization aiding in the country’s fastest and leading economy in Africa, South Africa was the dream destination for a place to work in and send money back to Zimbabwe.

It has been established that male migrants are from Zimbabwe are no longer the only family members to do so and that today, women are also taking a stand to ensure the survival of themselves as well as their children. However many of these women and children who migrate to South Africa from Zimbabwe do not always get the opportunity to experience the best that South Africa has to offer in ensuring a better life. Rather, some of these female migrants are sexually assaulted and abused by the hands of South African nationals. Sadly, it is not just adult women who are sexually violated but young girls too and as a result get taken back to their home communities. This is proof once more of the severe dangers and brutality that Zimbabweans and surely other national migrants endure in the hands of South African citizens. Furthermore it reinforces the significance and importance of migration protection policy that South African government has to implement for the safety of migrants in the country (this will be further explained in the report).

17.3 Violence against Migrant Women

Musina is a northern town in the Limpopo province is well known as the boarder town for most Zimbabweans who are planning to travel to South Africa. For most of these migrants these border promises to be the gateway to a better life as it is also the migrant’s first stop when they arrive to South Africa from Zimbabwe.

Amongst the constant chaos that happen on the streets, children roam around the town selling candy and cigarettes and some even beg on the street corners (Dzimwasha 2014) in pursuit of surviving. Many of these children are Zimbabwean migrants who have entered South Africa unaccompanied by an adult or any family member. Female migrants no longer only partner men, or arrive as short-term migrants. Rather, women are increasingly moving to South Africa on their own, or with their children (Bernstein, de Villiers and Johnson 2008:9). Elsewhere in the world, rapid change of this kind are often correlated with the severe economic deprivation (Bernstein, de Villiers and Johnson 2008:9). Significant increases in the number of children are particularly unaccompanied minors have also been reported.

These children who travel unaccompanied from different parts of Zimbabwe are at huge risk of abuse and exploitation by men known in the African term as ‘malaisha’ who are usually said to be taxi driver and smugglers or even both. These malaisha steer them into a cycle of debt and forced labor (Dzimwasha 2014). As evidence, in 2014 in the Limpopo province a young Zimbabwean girl at the age of 16 years old left her home to look for work in South Africa. According to an article by Taku Dzimwasha for The Guardian, this young girl left her home to look for domestic employment in South Africa to care for her ill mother as well as afford to pay school fees for her younger siblings. However this girl fell in the hands of a malaisha and thus was constantly tortured and sexually abused by the man that supposed to be her employer. In far of not getting beaten, she would engage in sexual relations with this man.

Netty Musanhu is the director of ‘Musasa Project’, which is a non-profit organization that supports people who have experienced domestic abuse in Zimbabwe, and she strongly believes that there are protection issues for young girls with no documentation and she adds that it is common for them to disappear completely due to this violence. Furthermore, according to the Marija Nikolvska, project manager of irregular migration programs for IOM South Africa said “ migrants unaware of their rights and are afraid to go to the police because they don’t want to get deported” (Dzimwasha, T. 2014).

Many girls are also coerced into sexual relations with older men who exploit their lack of experience by promising wealth or South African citizenship (Dzimwasha, 2014). Some enter pseudo-marriages in which their ‘husbands’ lie to the authorities and community and pretend the pair has wed (Dzimwasha 2014). Girls that are caught up in these exploitations and false promises are said to be greatly exposed to domestic abuse, sexually transmitted diseases and some even disappear without a trace.

According to ‘Save the Children of Zimbabwe (pdf)’ recent figures released by the South African authorities show that the 2,000 illegal migrants repatriated each week, up to 20 percent are unaccompanied children. About 350-400 Zimbabweans cross the border each day without passing official checkpoints (Dzimwasha, T. 2014).

The South African government has taken steps to combat and prevent human trafficking. In 2013, President Jacob Zuma passed the Human Trafficking Bill in South Africa. Offences of this law will get a maximum sentence of life in prison as well as a 100 million rand. Moreover, the president strongly emphasized that the new legislation also created offense regarding debt bandage, tampering with or destroying documents and using services of trafficking among others.

17.4 Undocumented Migrants

Through the process of globalization, economic transitions have occurred around the globe stimulating inequalities (Sanez 2012:1). Mass undocumented migration results from these processes as individuals lose jobs in their countries of origin due to neo imperialistic policies (Sanez 2012:1).

The migrant stream that attracts most public and official attention is ‘undocumented’ or ‘illegal or ‘unauthorized’ migration (Paton 2015). Carol Paton, bests describes the idea of undocumented migrants “Firstly, it is essential to highlight the fact that covert border crossing is nothing new in the context of migration to South Africa. Secondly, while there has been a significant spread of migrants in the past two decades, it certifies the floating imagery that is associated with this phenomenon. Third, migration is mainly influenced by economic issues, which as a result lead to agony. Finally, the enforcement in all countries tends to focus on identifying and deporting violators with the minimum of due process”. In terms of volume alone, South Africa is the regional leader and has thus deported over one million people since 1990. Significantly, the vast majority of deportees are sent home to only two countries; Mozambique and South Africa (Paton 2015).

The numbers of undocumented migrants in South Africa have raised great concerns in the country. Estimates of the numbers of undocumented migrants in South Africa have grown from barely plausible to the outrageous (Paton 2015). According to the Rand Daily Mail (30 April 2015), South Africa is sitting on a time bomb that no one has found a way to defuse. It has been nearly 10 years and the Southern African is still struggling to put together a new and well concise migration policy that will ensure the safety, protection, equality and opportunity for all migrants who reside in South Africa. The African National Congress (ANC), which passed resolutions, as its conferences in 2007 and 2012 that migration policy should be revisited, is growing impatient (Paton 2015).

The responses by the South African government towards migrants has not been an effective and efficient respond and therefore with regards to changing the current migration policy, the new policy needs to deeply emphasize on putting pressure to stiffen up the flows of migrants into the country. There is anecdotal evidence that the interview process is getting tougher and that it is harder to get refugee statuses (Paton 2015).

The Refugee Act of 1998 clearly states that arrival in South Africa, any “person-no matter where he or she is from-can go to home affairs and apply for asylum” (South African Refugee Act 1998). As a signatory to the UN’s Geneva Conventions on refugee rights, which find expression in South Africa’s refugees Act, the immigrant person must be given an interview with a refugee-status determined officer (South African Refugee Act 1998). There is a lengthy waiting for this procedure nevertheless all asylum seekers are legitimate until their application is adjudicated (Business Day 30 April 2015.

While migrants from across the world are drawn to economic opportunities in South Africa, by far the largest number are from Zimbabwe (Paton 2015). The spokesperson for the UNHCR, Tina Ghelli, advocated “South Africa’s asylum seeker system was successful until the people Zimbabwe began to see its economy collapse right before them” (UNHCR Daily 2015). Ms. Ghelli further added “in about 2008, we recommended that South Africa set up a special program for Zimbabweans in order to avoid the asylum seeker from being overwhelmed” (UNHCR Daily 2015).

The South African government attempted to declare a special dispensation for Zimbabweans in 2010 however with the new government in place, declarations to shut down refugee reception centers in coastal cities and move these to the borders and ports of entry were made. According to the government, it seemed as though this plan to shut reception offices was implemented to keep Zimbabweans out of South Africa by forcing them to wait at the borders from Zimbabwe and Mozambique to be adjudicated. For the government, the pursuit of all of this was to decrease the about of Zimbabwean migrants from flowing into South Africa.

However, what the South African government fails to realize is that by choosing not to go about this issue in the right way will only make matters worse. The IOM’s Richard Ots who was appointed Chief of Mission for the IOM mission in South Africa in July 2014, recommended “an active labor migration policy as people in the region inevitably feel the pull of the South African economy”. He further rein enforced the fact that because attempting to migrate to South Africa legally is a tedious and challenging process and as a result of this people rather choose to come in illegally. As a goal to eradicate this Mr. Ots mentioned “if the government was to allow some legal economic migration then it could get a better grip on who is the country” (Paton 2015).

Unlike other economies that are regional magnets, South Africa has an oversupply of labor in the lower-skill categories, which means migrants compete with locals for scarce opportunities (Paton 2015). The evidence is that migrants frequently outcompete locals in the low-skill, low-pay arena (Paton 2015) as these migrants take out upon themselves to do whatever it takes to survive since the South African government’s policy on immigration does not offer much opportunity and protection for immigrants coming into South Africa. An analysis of South Africa’s labor force done in 2014 by Christine Fauvelle-Aymar, an economics professor at the University de Tours, France, found that foreigners had a greater chance of being employed, which included discouraged work seekers, foreign migrants hold 81 percent rate of employment, compared to South Africans, whose rate of employment was 65 percent. She explained that according to people that she had interviewed, “foreigners’ superior language and communication skills makes them preferred for jobs in the services and hospitality sector” (Paton 2015).

In 2014, a study by the Gauteng City Region Observatory concluded that 40 percent of foreign shopkeepers employed people not of their own families but more than half were locals. These reveals that irrespective of how migrants especially those coming from Zimbabwe are treated by the South Africa government and locals, they still show support by giving South African locals jobs to survive. This act of kindness and non-prejudice should alarm the South African government to implement a migration policy that will put the needs, protection and security if migrants first.

18. Conclusion

This Chapter focused the push and pull factors that enables Zimbabwean migrants to settle in South Africa. It has been established that the main driver of Zimbabwean migrants into South Africa was the overwhelmingly economic affliction-the unavailability and non-affordability of food as well as other basic goods. As the introduction of the Zimbabwean context is presented, it highlights to a great extent the event that eventually put the keys into the ignition and drove Zimbabwean migrants out of Zimbabwe. It has also greatly emphasized on ZANU- PC’s greed for power and sovereignty, which led to their devastating tactics of ‘punishing’ ZANU-PC supporters. Moreover by the leading governments selfish and dehumanising acts on the opposing Zimbabwean people, food shortage as well as other necessary commodities lacked in Zimbabwe. As a result outbreaks of hungry, which eventually led to some deaths, occurred. This decriminalizing behavior by President Mugabe and his cabinet caused global media frenzy and sadly left masses of Zimbabwean people seeking refuge and comfort in other neighboring countries and especially South Africa.

This chapter further analyses the pull factors of Zimbabwean migrants coming to South Africa and this is due to the country’s strong economy and thus the opportunity to create low skill work is available. Moreover benefits like remittances and women Zimbabwean migrants coming to look for work in South Africa indicate that families can be taken well care of through remittances and women that also send money back for their families and children. It also signifies the importance of the role that females are beginning to play in their families. Women no longer sit around and look after the house like they use. Today women, for the sake of their families, are taking on ‘patriarchal’ roles in order to survive and offer their families better lives.  However women in this capacity also suffer a great deal of violent and sexual abuse my local South African taxi drivers and this calls for a serious call to attention. These are unfortunate incidents that happen to Zimbabwean women and children migrants from the border and this is further an issue that the South African government has to strong publicize and eradicate. But although some women get violence and treated badly, it doesn’t seem that this will stop the influx of Zimbabwean migrants into South Africa.

With regards to undocumented migrants in South Africa, better policies need to be implemented by the South African government and there are far too many of these migrants roaming the streets of South Africa seeking asylum, work and protection. It is important that the South African government is not oblivious to these migrant challenges but rather creates policies that will firstly teach the South African public about the real reason why there is an influx of Zimbabwean in South Africa and secondly government needs a legitimate and cohesive policy to ensure equality, protection and opportunity of these migrants as it is stipulated in the IMO.


Migration and National Identity

19. Introduction

Globalisation has made a huge impact on the impact on the idea of  ‘multiple cultures’ within a state (Sanez 2012: 191). Globalization has made it easy for people from all cross the world to move around and settle in foreign countries in the pursuit of finding better paying jobs as well as escaping the economic and political issues that plague their place of origin. Therefore through globalization, the world has become more connected as globalisation affects daily livelihoods at international, national and regional level. The world has become more connected through global technology, transnational business, and international trade (Sanez 2012: 191). However, as a result of this economic transformation, social divide and inequality have raised to the surface. Mass undocumented migrants has been a result of this divide as individuals as well as their families are overflowing in countries to look for work and means to survive. In addition, from these undocumented migrants, second generation immigrants, the children of immigrants born in South Africa, which are the children of these immigrants which are forced to confront both covert and overt discrimination daily.

Xenophobia has become a phenomenon in South Africa. According to The Guardian (21 April 2015) 62 foreigners died in 2008 and at least 7 more deaths were added to that during a xenophobia eruption in 2015. Moreover more than 50,000 foreigners were displaced from their communities due these attacks and migrant children came into immediate connect with these attacks as they experienced it face hand leaving room for despair, anxiety and traumatisation.

The decision to migrate to another countries only makes you outsider and thus the transition is never easy. Zimbabwean immigrants who live in South Africa have undergone social, economic and political challenges and struggles since their migration into South Africa. These struggles include language barrier in the education system, marriages between different ethnic groups and xenophobia. The implications of not just national identity but also citizenship become complex reflections of discrimination within the receiving country. Although South Africa and Zimbabwe have differences in their national identities, migrants from Zimbabwe that come into South Africa have greatly affected the national identity of both countries.

20. Language barrier and the right to an education 

The transition from a region based on a racial oppression and authoritarianism to a multiracial democracy has produced a multitude of new democratic and social rights for South African citizens (Gordon 2010:5). One would hope that this new transition would lead to an integrated nation where all who reside in South Africa are seen as equal and thus are granted the same opportunities as everyone whether foreign or national citizens. However this new transition has actually created some sort of collision between South African nationals and migrants that come from all over the African continent but more specifically at Zimbabwe migrants. Immigrants have become the target of violence, exploitation and discrimination (Gordon 2010:5). This is particularly evident in South Africa’s education system where a) not every Zimbabwean student or child is given the freedom and right to a basic education and b) second generation immigrants face language barriers and discrimination in schools.

There is an obstacle to access schools and tertiary institutions in South Africa for Zimbabwean children and students (Crush and Tawodzera 2011:1). Jonathan Crush who is the director of the Southern African Centre at Queens University and fellow researcher Godfrey Tawodzera referred to this obstacle in their series ‘Right to the classroom: Education barriers for Zimbabweans in South Africa’ as an assumption. And they refer to this an assumption by clarifying that “we know that this is an assumption because; at the regional level, it is inconsistent with the SADC Education. At a national level, it violates the South African Constitution as well as legislation and stated government policies concerning the access of all children in the country to education (Crush and Tawodzera 2011:2).

As further evidence and emphasis to what Crush and Tawodzera were referring to, in the SADC Education Protocol Article 2(h) clearly highlight that member states shall take all steps possible to act together as a community in the gradual implementation of equivalence, harmonization and standardization of their education and training under these protocols (SADC Education Protocol). In addition and with regards to the Bill of Rights Chapter 2(29a) on Education that everyone has the right to basic education, including adult basic education; and to further education. Which state, through reasonable measures (South African Chapter 2 Bill of Rights), must make progressively available and accessible (South African Chapter 2 Bill of Rights).

The South African Community Survey of 2011 released results in their findings that greatly adds to the blockade of Zimbabwean children and adults not being able to access education in South Africa. According the survey, it was reveled that 53,524 children aged 7-15 who originated from another country, 6,438 were no in school. The equivalent figure for the 8.5 million South African born children was only 4.5 percent (South African Community Survey 2011).

Moreover there are language barriers in schools for Zimbabwean migrants. Most of the Zimbabwean migrants that leave their home to come settle in South Africa often see their children struggle to progress successfully in primary and secondary schools due to the compulsory two main languages being Afrikaans and IsiZulu (in some cases Sesotho). As most Zimbabweans only speak English, Ndebele and Shona, adapting to the South African education system in this regard, can be challenging. Furthermore, in local areas, where most Zimbabwean and other black migrants are frowned upon and xenophobia still exists, it is difficult for these children to get the sympathy and remorse of their teachers.

21. The migration experience

Xenophobia 2015 

Ever since the beginning of migration into South Africa by foreign black immigrants, South African local citizens have experienced or rather felt xenophobic against these foreign immigrants. The transition from a regional oppression and authoritarianism to a multiracial democracy has produced a multitude of new democratic and social rights for South African citizens (Gordan 2010: 1). The issue of the recent xenophobic attacks in South Africa is the crux of this research study as it greatly reveals South Africa’s deep hatred for black foreigners but more so Zimbabwean migrants as they are the majority migrants living in South Africa communities. The fact that up to five people were killed in the recent attacks, to far away from the 2008 xenophobic attacks, illustrates the government of South Africa lack of concern for these Zimbabwean immigrants as well as other immigrants that originate from other African countries.

South African nationals mistreat undocumented migrants, refugees and asylum seekers and thus it becomes extremely difficult for these immigrants to be safe and worry free whilst living in South Africa. It is unacceptable that xenophobia has resurfaced in the year 2015 and therefore the South African government has to attempt to promote the idea of multiculturalism in South African communities so that the idea of ‘rainbow nation’ is not ambiguous.

21.1 The Injiva identity

South African authorities and locals create ‘spoilt identities’ for non-South Africans though the makwerekwere image (Hungwe 2012:1). It shows how Zimbabweans and other non South Africans try to resist such claims creating their own strategies and moral defences against such stereotyping (Hungwe 2012:1). Therefore Zimbabwean migrants who live in South Africa feel the need to remake their own identity of South African inn order to assimilate and thus become accepted in South African communities. The creation of these new identities is referred to, in the African language, as ‘Injiva’. The pressure that comes with the need or wants to transform one’s identity largely requires symbolic resources and economic material for the identity transformation be successful. And still even if Zimbabwean migrants who wanted to assimilate through the Injiva ‘culture’, the transformation would not be enough and that hatred and potential violence in the hands of South Africa would still pervade.

The Injiva, are regarded by locals as irresponsible, violent and troublesome (Hungwe 2012:3). In addition, many Injiva who attempt to go out of their way to ‘copy’ the luxurious lifestyles of some South Africans, go as far as hiring flashy cars from South Africa and show it off to their families during the short Christmas holiday period.

By Zimbabweans wanting to transform their identity into one that best fits the idea of being ‘South African’ greatly impacts the national identity of their home community in the sense that these Injiva’s are willing to throw away who they really are in order to fit in a community that does not accept nor even want Injiva’s to even be considered one and the same with South African locals. It further illustrates the damage of Zimbabwe’s economy and the corruption of their political leaders as Zimbabwe nationals are fleeing the economic collapse in Zimbabwe and making a living in South Africa in hope of ‘becoming’ South African for acceptance, belonging and unity to eventually feel ‘at home’.

Finally, Injiva’s do not get any remorse or sympathy fro other Zimbabweans. Murray C. (author of Families Divided) maintains that migration causes serious problems for families as it divides them and prevents men from fulfilling their roles as fathers, husbands and community members (Murray 1981:449).

21.2 The Makwerekwere identity

The Makwerekwere identity derives from local South African who ‘graced’ black foreign migrants with that time. It simply means ‘foreigner’ and is mostly seen as a derogatory term against black foreigners in South Africa. This term further highlight the fact that non-South African are not welcome in South Africa as there is a deep rooted hatred for them. In addition, and more to the point, Maggie Maunye, ANC Member of Parliament and Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs observed,

“…For how long is South Africa going to continue tolerating this influx of people…here we have people living in poverty, people who are unemployed. We have never enjoyed our freedom as South Africans since 1994 since we got independence”.

This xenophobic speech goes to show the extent to which politicians have also contributed in creating a ‘spoilt identity as diseased, hungry, selfish, depraved, alien and animals(Hungwe 2012:4).


This chapter strongly emphasizes on the how Zimbabwean migrants living in South Africa have faced a great deal of challenges from the South Africans. Such struggles, which come with being a Zimbabwean migrant in South Africa, like xenophobia, language barriers and the makwerekwere term reveal that in South Africa migrants are seen as outsiders and thus are not received pleasantly. These are key issues that Zimbabwean migrants, along with many other migrants whom reside in South Africa.

Migration does have a great effect of national identity on receiving and home communities as illustrated in this chapter however, the fact that Zimbabwean migrants have been given their own names by South African clearly shows that there is a deep rooted dislike for these migrants.

The issue of attacks on Zimbabwean migrants needs to be a matter that is attended to immediately. Migrants in South Africa should be given the right attention and should also feel apart of this ‘Rainbow Nation’, which is the new democratic South Africa. There the South African government cannot just afford to sit back and take makes lightly, sustainable policies need to be created to not only help and protect Zimbabwean migrants in South Africa but also to help South African nationals understand why these migrants are living in South Africa so that they may learn to treat migrants differently.



Zimbabwe immigration to South Africa brings to light complex unresolved problems in South Africa’s policy toward mainly undocumented Zimbabwean migrants living in the country. The South African government has overlooked the depth and extent the economic and political crisis that has taken place in Zimbabwe. As a result of this, the South African government has lacked in the notion of publicizing the major reasons for Zimbabwe’s departure from their home community and ‘receiving’ South Africa. This is sad on the part of the South African government has they have economic and political ties with Zimbabwe but have chosen to ignore these facts. The Zimbabwean crisis represents failed governance from the part of President Mugabe and the entire Zimbabwean government. Challenges such as food shortage and political suppression were supposed to issues that grab the attention of the South African government in hope of uplifting and helping Zimbabwean migrants living on South African soil. In short, Zimbabwean migrants who are living in South Africa are products of economic and political crisis.

The amount of Zimbabwean undocumented migrants, refugees and asylum seekers looking for protection through the right paper documents, are substantial. The attention that the South African government has given this issue is extremely minimal. The South African government to improve the immigration has done no further attempt. The IOM recommends that for those countries that have the strongest economy in the region, bilateral arrangements be put in place. He adds, “For example, the form of circular labor migration permits. These should allow quotas of both skilled and unskilled migrants, based upon the labor supply of the host country”. As far as the South African government is concerned, they are ‘lukewarm to this idea’. This further highlights how the crisis of migration in South Africa is not a serious issue for the government. If these challenges were priority for the South African government then further step would have been taken to ensure equality, opportunity and protection for these Zimbabwean migrants and others. These issues need to be addressed as soon as possible to avoid future torture and violence against these migrants in the hands of South African nationals.

Xenophobia has greatly been the response to Zimbabwean migrants in South African communities. In most aspects of these migrants lives, xenophobia permeates. In the classroom, Zimbabwean migrants and looked upon and oppressed by their difference, in public Zimbabwean migrants have been given discriminatory labels and further other Zimbabwean migrants have attempted to hide their true identities in the pursuit of mirroring a South African identity to feel a sense of belonging and assimilation. Therefore this has a great impact on national identity as South African attempt, through the use of violence, to protect their national identity and by not allowing Zimbabwean migrants to feel at home in the receiving community.

When South African nationals are frustrated with being unemployed, they often take their frustrations out of Zimbabwean foreigners. Xenophobia symbolized the idea of ‘Zimbabwean migrants and other black foreigners have taken our jobs’ and thus in attempts to get rid of this idea, violent out breaks by South African against Zimbabwean migrants has been a huge problem in South Africa. The mere fact that South African national are not willing to connect and assimilate with Zimbabwean migrants further highlight the idea of a ‘spoilt identity’. In addition, xenophobia is still very much alive, predominantly in South Africa. In less than 10 years, South Africa has already under gone two brutal xenophobic attacks and this strongly emphasizes that the South African government has to put the immigration policy on the top its list by creating a concise policy for immigrants so they as well as the public are fully aware of where their rights and responsibilities.

Globalisation has influenced and is still continuing to influence migration all over the world. As long as South Africa is the strongest economy in Africa with great opportunity for work, health care and shelter, influxes of migrants from all over Africa will continue to flock.


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The Guardian: Monday 13 January 2015

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