Insiders and Outsiders: Citizenship and Xenophobia in Contemporary Southern Africa

Insiders and Outsiders: Citizenship and Xenophobia in Contemporary Southern Africa

by Francis B. Nyamnjoh


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'A remarkable study? Among the many significant theoretical and empirical contributions that Nyamnjoh makes in this study, perhaps most incisive is the intensity with which Africa is incorporated into the consumption practices of global capitalism in that no object, territory or experience is beyond being a locus of often fierce struggle over their disposition and use.' - Professor AbdouMaliq Simone

'By an ethnographic focus on South Africa and Botswana, this book elegantly and convincingly illustrates the ills of bounded citizenship of the nation-state. Whether it is the Makwerekwere or the foreign maids, it shows how certain groups based upon race, ethnicity, gender, class and geography have been systematically constituted as strangers, outsiders and aliens of the nation-state. It is a lucidly written book with a purpose and passion. It should be read by all those concerned with modern citizenship and the inequalities it institutes.' - Engin F. Isin, Professor and Canada Research Chair, Division of Social Science, York University, Toronto

'Labour migration has been a major feature of southern African history for over a century. Yet in the last couple of decades, patterns of mobility in the subcontinent have changed radically. Francis Nyamnjoh's innovative and absorbing text illustrates the new forces driving mobility, their politics and their consequences. He brings a freshness of vision and a global perspective to the problems. He writes with sharp insight on domestic servants, refugees, on xenophobia and inclusion. This book will be a high priority/must-read for anyone interested in regional labour markets, in regional politics, and in changing identities.' - William Beinart, Professor of Race Relations, St Antony's College, University of Oxford

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781842776773
Publisher: Zed Books
Publication date: 04/03/2006
Series: Africa in the New Millennium Series
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 5.43(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Francis B. Nyamnjoh is associate professor and head of publications with the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA).

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Insiders and Outsiders

Citizenship and Xenophobia in Contemporary Southern Africa

By Francis B. Nyamnjoh

Zed Books Ltd

Copyright © 2006 CODESRIA
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-84813-104-0


Mobility, Citizenship and Xenophobia in South Africa

Combing the world for opportunities has historically been the privilege of whites, who have been encouraged by their imperial governments to settle foreign territories, and who have always benefited from fellow whites on the ground, from colonial officers to missionaries through businessmen, journalists and scholars (Cohen 1997: 66–81). Without necessarily being a homogeneous collectivity, whites have always managed to tame their differences in the interest of the economic, cultural and political hegemonies of the West vis-à-vis the rest (Chinweizu 1987). Thus, in South Africa for example, the Dutch who first landed in the Cape in 1652 actively encouraged immigration by whites from Europe and practically allowed them free access to the territory. The price for European domestication was the systematic insulation and subjection of the indigenous populations by freezing migration from elsewhere, except for slaves or labour zombies, and on terms defined exclusively by the interests of the settler whites (February 1991: 12–39; Cohen I997: 59–62; Elbourne 2003: 380–88). While 'virtually anyone with a white skin was welcome', non-whites, particularly from Africa, 'were unwelcome', and, when it suited 'apartheid's pernicious "homelands" strategy of co-optation', the state allowed entry to selected black skilled immigrants and 'honorary whites' from Asia (Crush and McDonald 2001a: 2).

Even when the need for devalued labour imposed upon whiteness the necessity of immigration by non-Europeans, migrant labour was heavily confined to life in the mines and hostels for men, and to the whims and caprices of farm and domestic service for women. None was allowed to feel at home by bringing their family with them (Crush and McDonald 2001a: 7–8). This was particularly difficult for foreign migrant labourers in the mines, as they were 'encapsulated in massive single-sex barracks and forced to work in degrading and inhumane conditions' (Crush and Tshitereke 2001: 50). 'Not one of the thousands of migrant workers from neighbouring countries who spent (and often lost) their lives on South Africa's mines and farms ever qualified for permanent residence in the country', as the system of contract labour compelled migrants to 'return home at the end of each contract and at the end of their working days' (Crush and McDonald 2001a: 3). Often they returned home 'physically maimed or crippled with lung disease' (Crush and Tshitereke 2001: 50). Recruited as labour zombies, they slaved away in ultra-subjection under the shadow of segregation, unable to claim belonging in South Africa, and often with little power to articulate meaningful citizenship back home.

The fact that employers in other sectors were and still are denied the right to migrant labour from neighbouring countries enjoyed by the South African mines 'has led, perhaps inevitably, to greatly increased usage of undocumented or "illegal" foreign labor' by these other employers (Crush and Tshitereke 2001: 49–52), as well as to some of the excesses of citizenship catalogued below. Policies of selective migration have not changed much with the end of apartheid and the advent of an African National Congress (ANC) black majority liberal democratic government in 1994. Indeed, some would argue that attitudes to migration have stayed the same or worsened. The country's history of selective immigration has affected the way even South African blacks have tended to perceive migration as the natural right of whites, and to expect non-whites, blacks in particular, to stay in their own countries (Morris 2001a: 9–17, 2001b; Bouillon 2001a: 21–39; Landau 2004a: 5–7). As depicted in Zola Maseko's short film The Foreigner, blacks from the rest of Africa are desperately seeking economic freedom, a struggle against hunger that respects no borders, at the risk of ignorance and xenophobic attacks by citizens who are pleased to declare: 'I got the dog's wallet. He is dead.' Even when allowed in, migrants from Africa have been treated as autonomous units of production without ties of kinship. Discrimination against gender and households remains a feature of immigration policy that at best masks substantive and systematic inequalities with superficial gender-neutral language (Dodson 2001: 74–5).

The accelerated flow of information, images of availability, people and goods facilitated by globalization has inevitably accelerated the desire of those at the margins to migrate while bolstering the instinct to police the borders of opportunity (de Bruijn et al. 2001; Cohen 3:997: 155–76). 'In the mid-1990s Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 35 to 40 million of the 80 to 120 million estimated immigrants globally', and also 'for the largest number of refugees in the world' (Bouillon 2001a: 22), a clear testament of ferment in the continent's Eurocentric heritage of exclusionary citizenship. Far from articulating inclusion, narrow policies of nation-building have pushed Southern African governments to see in cross-border movements a critical challenge, and to seek ways of taming the flow of large and growing numbers of both legal (documented) and illegal (undocumented) migrants. Although statistics on the magnitude of migration are elusive — especially given the fact that most migrants are illegal, and given that in certain cases statistics are dramatically inflated for reasons of political expediency — governments are increasingly worried about the migration of people between and within states (Akokpari 1999a, 1999b, 2000; Crush and McDonald 2001b; Bouillon 2001a; Morris 2001b; Landau 2004a).

The end of apartheid coincided with intensified globalization to open up new opportunities for migration to South Africa, especially by Africans north of the Limpopo, long excluded or confined to migration to serve as labour zombies in the mines. It is estimated that between April 1994, when the first liberal democratic elections brought the ANC to power, and December 1996, at least 5 million mostly illegal immigrants entered South Africa from other African countries far and near (Akokpari 1999b: 79; Bouillon 2001a: 23–6). 'Other estimates put the number of foreign migrants (legal and illegal) between 500,000 – 850,000' (Landau 2004a: 5). These estimates, however, are 'extremely arbitrary' and often dramatically inflated by authorities (and in some instances research institutions) for political expediency. One consequence is that they inflame xenophobic tendencies among South Africans persuaded into feeling swamped by foreigners (Bouillon 2001a: 26; Landau 2004a: 5–15; Gotz and Landau 2004: 14). According to Crush and McDonald (2000), legal migration from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) — comprising countries that served South African mines as 'labour reserves' under apartheid — has grown almost tenfold since 1990. South Africa records over 4 million visitors yearly from the SADC countries alone, a trend that influences both attitudes and policies (see McDonald and Crush 2000; Landau 2004a).

The formal re-entry of South Africa into the world economy in the 1990s brought about the increased migration of people from outside the SADC region, most without legal documents. As Robin Cohen has noted, 'In the age of globalisation, unexpected people turn up in the most unexpected places' (Cohen 1997: 162), which in the case of post-apartheid South Africa has brought about 'new ethnic constellations' of migrant communities from all over Africa (Crush and McDonald 2000). In certain cases, whole parts of cities (e.g. Hillbrow in Johannesburg) have been appropriated by black African migrants — derogatorily referred to as Makwerekwere (Mpe 2001; Sichone 2001; Bouillon 2001a; Morris 2001b). The new migrants largely come in as long-distance traders, asylum-seekers, students, professionals, entrepreneurs, traditional healers and pastors of mostly Pentecostal churches.

That the new and ever surging waves of migration are linked to the accelerated globalization of consumer capitalism is all too obvious (Papastergiadis 2000; Castles and Miller 1998; Castles and Davidson 2000). Although formal unemployment rates in South Africa are staggeringly high – 'statistics ... range from just over 30% to as high as 42% (although actual unemployment is considered higher)' — they do not appear to act as a deterrent to foreign workers, who are frequently more educated and better qualified than their South African black counterparts, in whom apartheid invested too little to be useful beyond service and servitude. The new emigrants are often ready to settle for less than their market value and for more exploitation than their 'liberated' South African counterparts can stomach (Akokpari 2000: 78–86; Bouillon 2001a; Morris 2001b). This is made possible by employers' preferences for cheaper non-South African labour in almost all economic fields, including the construction and agricultural sectors. Migrants appear to work less in sectors commensurate with their skills and qualifications, and are more willing to take up short contracts with few benefits (if any), limited security and meagre pay. They are also more helpless in the face of the residual racism of whites reluctant to let go of the good old days of the impunity of abuse.

The population of female oscillating migrants from neighbouring countries is on the rise, and appears to be taking over from male migrants (Dodson 1998, 2001: 80; Mate 2005), creating, as we shall see in subsequent chapters, an even greater devaluation of labour in the domestic service economy of South Africa and Botswana. Also common are refugees fleeing cultural or political persecution from other African countries, or economic refugees seeking better opportunities. In the 1980s about 350,000 refugees from Mozambique alone entered South Africa, and few have returned even with a more stable situation back home (Crush and McDonald 2000; Akokpari 1999a, 1999b, 2000). This reality, together with relentless campaigning by human rights advocacy groups, has forced post-apartheid South Africa to abandon the state's initial indifference to refugees, albeit reluctantly (Handmaker 2001; Gotz and Landau 2004; Gotz 2004).

Under apartheid, international migration in Southern Africa was strictly disciplined and dominated by the whims and caprice of racialised capitalism. It largely involved the harvesting of labour by South Africa from 'labour reserves' such as Lesotho, Botswana, Swaziland and Mozambique to work in South African mines (Wilson 1972; Sachikonye 1998; Manghezi 1998; Crush and Tshitereke 2001; Maloka 2004). In the post-apartheid era, the government of South Africa, threatened by the prospect of large numbers of migrants beginning to feel at home in their host country, has adopted draconian immigration policies. Severe as they may seem, such policies are not peculiar to the South African state, even if the ANC government should have more reason than most others to be compassionate with fellow Africans, who were supportive during the years of struggle during exile, and especially given President Mbeki's rhetoric of Africanness and African renaissance (Landau 2004a: 6).

Most African states do not generally promote immigration and though they may invite tourists and foreign investors, they do not generally welcome immigrants. Indeed roadblocks and checkpoints constantly remind citizens that even mobility within national borders, which is their constitutional right, is only grudgingly tolerated by the postcolonial state. (Sichone 2001: 2)

Stiff visa regulations for fellow Africans are readily dropped for Westerners by African states that behave as though every mobile African is a political subversive or economic refugee. In the case of South Africa, mass arrests and deportations increased from 44,225 in 1988 to 180,713 in 1996, with over 700,000, mostly Mozambicans and Zimbabweans, deported (Bouillon 2001a: 30–32). Home Affairs Department statistics indicate that 41,207 Zimbabweans alone were repatriated in the first nine months of 2003, up from 17,000 for all of 2001, and in 2002 a total of 151,653 non-citizens were deported, numbers which are unlikely to decrease in the near future despite protests from human rights groups (Landau 2004a: 13–14). Migrants are precluded from accessing low-cost housing subsidies, although a recent high court case has ruled that permanent residents are now eligible for social grants that are the entitlement of citizens. From panhandlers to professors, migrants are feeling the verbal and sometimes physical disadvantages of flexible mobility as labour (Crush and McDonald 2000; Morris and Bouillon 2001; Landau 2004a).

Academics and students are not spared the humiliation of stiff and often impossible controls, and many have lost out on vital conferences, teaching engagements and research meetings, just because of the reluctance by states to recognise and facilitate mobility for their own scholars. In South Africa, international students encounter stringent visa and study permit regulations. According to Ramphele, writing as vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Town, the situation is made worse by the fact that all foreigners are increasingly being perceived as actual or potential 'illegal immigrants'. In this climate, immigration policies affecting international students are indiscriminately and unnecessarily punitive. Application for a study permit may only be made from outside South Africa, and prospective students are not allowed to enter the country without a valid permit. The failure of universities to negotiate better immigration deals for their international students is perceived by foreign students in South African universities as collusion with the Department of Home Affairs (Ramphele 1999: 11–12). Apart from stringent immigration controls, the subsidisation of fees for international students by the South African government has become a critical issue now that the government has embarked on 'massification', the opening up of higher education opportunities to a wider section of the South African population. At issue is the extent to which the government should continue to subsidise students from other Southern African countries when some of its own citizens cannot afford to pay full fees because of grinding poverty (see Hendricks 2004).

Given the magnitude of flow of migrant labour to its borders, South Africa has opted to puncture a 1995 draft protocol on free movement of persons in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region (Oucho and Crush 2001: 142–55), preferring instead to conclude separate agreements with individual SADC member countries to regulate migration (cf. Crush and Tshitereke 2001: 53–8). As a case in point, the Mozambican and South African labour ministers, Mario Sevene and Mebatsisi Mdadlana respectively, signed a memorandum of cooperation in Maputo covering such areas as migrant labour, job creation, professional training and social security. The agreement also laid the institutional framework for shared studies and research into labour matters, and employment statistics. After the signing ceremony, Sevene declared: 'with this agreement the conditions have been established for better performance by our institutions, particularly the two labour ministries, in solving the problems that affect Mozambican workers in South Africa, particularly those in the mining industry and in the agricultural sector.' Sevene stressed that the current agreement did not replace any of the previous labour agreements between the two countries, such as the 1964 agreement on the recruitment of mine labour, and the agreement between Rand Mutual Insurance of South Africa and the Mozambican National Social Security Institute on the payment of pensions. He described the new agreement as 'a working instrument' which would contribute effectively to solving workers' problems, taking into account the socio-economic conjuncture in the two countries. He said it reflected the concern of both governments to protect the rights of Mozambican workers, particularly in the fields of training and social security, and responded to the desire of South African companies to recruit more Mozambicans.

According to official statistics, over 75,000 Mozambicans currently work in South Africa legally, around 60,000 of them in the mines; yet Mozambicans working illegally in South Africa, mostly on farms, vastly outnumber those who are legally employed. Talking to reporters, Snuki Zikalala of the South African Department of Labour said the memorandum was intended to try to find a solution to the employment of illegal immigrants, as well as to the abuse and repatriation of Mozambicans. Among concerns were allegations that South African employers force Mozambicans to undergo compulsory HIV/AIDS testing as a prerequisite for obtaining employment. The head of the Refugee Research Programme at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, Herman de Valle, estimated that there are about 220,000 Mozambicans working (legally and illegally) in Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces alone. A more historically grounded analysis of policies and the impact of labour migration from Mozambique demonstrates how South Africa has traditionally favoured racialised capitalism to the detriment of rural communities, especially in Southern Mozambique (Manghezi 1998).


Excerpted from Insiders and Outsiders by Francis B. Nyamnjoh. Copyright © 2006 CODESRIA. Excerpted by permission of Zed Books Ltd.
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Table of Contents

Introduction: Globalisation, Mobility, Citizenship and Xenophobia in Southern Africa
1. Mobility, Citizenship and Xenophobia in South Africa
2. Citizenship, Mobility and Xenophobia in Botswana
3. Gender, Domesticity, Mobility and Citizenship
4. Maids, Mobility and Citizenship in Botswana
5. Madams and Maids: Coping with Domination and Dehumanisation
6. Conclusion: Requiem for Bounded Citizenship

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