Understanding the process of exclusion in South Africa: Xenophobia In this essay I will discuss the process of exclusion in South Africa with regards to Xenophobia. I will be looking at three case studies that focus on Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. These are important cities to look at as they are the renounced and very influential and well known cities in South Africa.
Cape Town currently the legislative capital of South Africa and historically a pit stop of the slave trade route is a very important city to look at because the history of foreign refugees and immigrants run deep. Johannesburg is currently the business hub of South Africa however historically known as the hub of violent freedom protest against apartheid. I will also be speaking about Pretoria because of its historically value as a place where refugees would come and live however there were times they were forced to move. South Africa is known its harsh discriminatory forms of exclusionary processes. Apartheid is worldwide known as one of the most intense exclusionary processes in the history.
To spite what South Africans have been through today we as South Africans are faced with a very similar form of exclusion however this time we are the ones that are included and we are excluding other Africans on different grounds ranging from job security to fear for the spread of disease. In this essay I will be using the three case studies based on the cities that have been mentioned as platform to explain the process and reason behind the exclusion both on a social and a geographical level in some cases.
This exclusion has been labelled Xenophobia. This essay has been divided into four sections to ensure that there is a detailed breakdown about this every complex social tragedy that has befall South Africa. The first section discusses what xenophobia is and how it is a mechanism of exclusion within society. The second section will focus on xenophobia in the different places based in the case studies. The third section will focus on how xenophobia has effect society and the upgrading of the forms of exclusion that has now been places or more enforces in our daily society. The Fourth section will combine all the three sections to simulate in writing the experience of migrants in South Africa.
One needs to understand the underline means and process of xenophobia before there is an adequate platform to do justices to the experience of migrants as I am writing from the perspective of a South African. Not a South African that has first-hand experience of discrimination of this level but a post-apartheid South Africa that has only witnessed the effects of discrimination in society by observing things like bum benches and the result of dislocation of people from their homeland.
Xenophobia is on many levels very similar to apartheid and the effects might be the same as the ones that I have observed as a post-apartheid South African. Xenophobia is “an unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers which is foreign or strange” (Dictionary.com, 2012). According to the dictionary the word coined from a combination of two Greek words and was added to the dictionary in 1903. The two Greek words are ‘xenos’; which means strange or foreign and ‘phobia’; which means fear.
The ‘unreasonable fear’ of things and people that are strange to one’s self is the fear that governs the treatment that other Africans receive from South Africans. The fear and discrimination is deeply imbedded in the mentality of many South Africans and this mentality is governed by an apartheid system of thinking. An apartheid system that looks for markers of difference, based on what those markers are difference say determine one’s reaction toward someone. “ A politics of belonging is at the heart of the post-apartheid xeno-racism against refugees and migrants black Africans, who are derogatorily referred to as makwerekwere”(Erusmus, 2008: 176).
The process of identifying markers of difference can give rise to stigma. This is the case with the rise of xenophobia, immigrants from elsewhere in Africa faced discrimination and in some cases extreme violence in South Africa. Much of the differentiation markers stemmed from the institutionalized racism that was created during the apartheid era. Many of these markers are racially based and based on stigma. Examples of these racial markers and stigmas are; Africa’s from outside South Africa are generally darker in skin colour and have the stigma attached to them that they carry diseases like AIDS and Malaria because the country they come from have many diseases associated problems.
Many South Africans attach negative meaning to these markers based on the reasons like unemployment of South Africans, disease and crime, according to Landau (2004). Xenophobia was a problem during the apartheid era, contrary to what was believed after democracy was attained the xenophobic violence increased dramatically. Those who were not South African were excluded from the rest of South Africa. The exclusions directly linked to stigmatization. D. Abrams says in his book that “exclusion is an essential aspect of stigmatization” (2000: 25).
The stigma and exclusion of the foreigners are based on the idea that tribal stigmas are based on non-membership in hated racial, ethnic or religion groups. Hence if you are not part the ‘tribal membership’ of a group one could be stigmatized and heavily discriminated against like in the case of xenophobia attacks. Stigmatization is easier re-enforced in places where there has been discrimination of a similar nature, according to Jetten, Spear and Manstead “exclusion and discrimination are most likely to occur when such behavior is perceived as justifiable” or normal.
Apartheid was the behavior before that resulted in the institutionalization of violence to remove people that one did not want in certain places. The removal happens both symbolically and physically; thus resulting in them moving to a different area that could potentially be very dangerous and much more crime ridden and being treated as if they are sub-human. Abrams, Hogg and Marques argue that people owe are stigmatized against resulting in their social and geographical exclusion are seen as inhuman and subhuman because of their difference to the group that is stigmatizing them.
Johannesburg is the business central of South Africa and the effect of xenophobia is has had a negative impact on city as it strives “to achieve a shared vision, amongst all sectors of our society, for the achievement of our goal of improving the quality of life for all citizens” (Gauteng Provincial Government, 2005: 3).Gauteng provisional Government has a clear stance to improve and protect the citizens of the country. However there is no mention on how they will better the lives of those who are non-citizens.
The Refugee Act, passed in 1998, looks at how the lives of refugees and the boundaries they have in this country. It has been a document that has currently been welcomed as a required piece of legislation that is used as the guiding document that addresses some of the needs of forcibly displaced persons coming to South Africa in search of asylum. “It states that refugees are allowed to seek employment and to access education, as well as being entitled to the rights enshrined in Chapter 2 of the Constitution (with the exception of political rights and the rights to freedom of trade, occupation, and profession, which do not apply to non-citizens)” (Palmary, 2001: 1).
The immigration Act provide “for the regulation of admission of foreigners to their residence in and their departure from the Republic and for matters connected therewith.” (Government Gazette, 2001: 1). The Immigration Actaims at laying the foundation for a “new system of immigration control which ensures that temporary and permanent residence permits are issued as expeditiously as possible and on the basis of simplified procedures and objective, predictable and reasonable requirements and criteria, without consuming excessive administrative capacity” (Government Gazette, 2001:
1). South African economy may have access at all times to the full measure of needed contributions by foreigners. Even though there are these rights that protect refugees and migrants there is nothing that emphatically states said their right to access other basic services such as housing, water, sanitation and safety.
However many of these rights are met through services delivered at a local government level to some. Local government plays a vital role in the provision of services to refugees even though some of the rights have not been clearly spelled out in the Refugee Act or in other policy documents. Therefore the provisional government take particular interest in the way society treats and treats refugees. In addition, Johannesburg need a society that functions in such a way that it promotes the growth of business and xenophobic violent does the opposite because violence results in people having fear to go to some places resulting in the loss of money to some business.
Even though there is legislation in place the potential barriers are very unclear to many with regards to refugees and immigrants access to local serves. In spite of the enabling legislation being in place very little people know about it and this result in violating the rights of refugees and migrants that are found in the arrears. There is no system in place that is there to govern and empowers society to know the rights of refugees and immigrants therefore there is a need to begin to identify the role of refugee and immigrants within communities.
There are underlying tensions throughout many of the countries. The tensions in this country are the reason there are currently informal systems in place preventing needed investment by the country’s foreign-born population: immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and other migrant categories. The thinking behind many of these systems is rooted in a prevailing ideology of dehumanises foreigners and opens space for abuse at the hands of citizens and government agents. According to Landau and Polzer research (2007) “in 2003 Wits University study finding that 64.8 per cent of South Africans living in the inner city thought it would be good if most foreigners were to leave the country.
Justifications for such sentiments include perceived connections between a non-national presence and the country’s most visible social pathologies: crime, HIV/AIDS and unemployment. In Johannesburg, among the 85 per cent of South African respondents in a Wits survey who thought crime had increased in recent years, almost three-quarters identified immigrants as a primary reason” and “In May 2008, South Africa experienced an outbreak of violence against foreign Africans living in the country. Political leaders expressed shock and surprise, but there has in reality been long-standing and well-documented hostility toward African immigrants in South Africa. Several competing explanations have been put forward, with debate gaining urgency and polarization since the xenophobic attacks of 2008” (Dodson, 2010: 1).
Based on what has been mentioned I will now focus on explaining the experience of migrants by using case studies about their exclusion as refugees and migrants. I will focuses on the experiences of refugees and immigrants in South Africa with relation tis a settlement close to Centurion to the southwest of Pretoria, Johannesburg and Cape Town. The attacks mentioned at the end of the previous paragraph are greatly based on the stigma that is attached to being foreigner to South Africa.
Unfortunately this stigma and fear of people from outside South Africa ‘taking over our land’ has led to countless violence and even deaths of many both South African and other Africans. An example of this that trace back to before the violent outburst and attack in 2005, “from 25 December 2005 to 4 January 2006, groups of South Africans chased foreign Africans living in the Choba informal settlement in the township from their shacks, shops and businesses.” (Launda and Polzer, 2005: 11) Several people were killed in the burning and destruction of homes, work places etc. To understand the violence in Olievenhoutbosch and elsewhere, it is important to identify wider methods of transformation and tension, like apartheid and stigma.
“Olievenhoutbosch is a relatively new settlement area close to Centurion that, until the late 1980s, was an almost purely white area. In the mid-1990s, in tandem with political negotiation and a relaxation of movement controls, there was a large and sudden influx of black South Africans to the area, including many from rural areas and nearby smallholdings.” (Launda and Polzer, 2005: 8) Conveniently this settlement is located close to several of the major urban and manufacturing hubs in Gauteng and is therefore an attractive place for job-seekers and people working in the various industries of Pretoria, Centurion, Midrand and Johannesburg. Given the apartheid thinking of the community the foreigners are easily identifies using the racial marker of skin colour and thus resulting in them being marginalized and stigmatized with regards to getting jobs.
They are often given a very low rate of payment for their services because they are not citizens of South Africa they get exploited and they are often mistreated by citizens because there is the believe that they have ‘stolen the employment of a South African’. In Cape Town there was a similar outburst of anger and violence because of job security. However in Cape Town it is based more on the success of informal shops that the foreigners have that are a success rather than they attaining formal jobs. This thinking is based on the idea that many migrants are taking the job of a South African because they are getting employed to work low paying jobs or their own small business to help support them.
As they interact, citizens and non-nationals have developed competing idioms for relating to one another and the space they share. Immigrants in Cape Town are normally forced directly or indirectly to live in informal settlements where crime is rife. As formal settlements are constructed for South African members of the informal settlements who have been on a waiting list, so comes the arrival of new members of the informal settlement.
In conclusion there have been many attempts by local governments to ensure that the rights of refugees are preserved but there have also been very subtle symbolism that ensures the exclusion of refugees and migrants like the extensive process of getting a passport. If refugees and migrants are asked for a passport and they fail to produce one, according to Government Gazette. (2001) they can be removed from the country.
This treatment of migrants are a clear sign that the effects of apartheid have not warn off nor is the treatment of refugees and migrants improving as they are still socially exclude by the citizens of the country and physically excluded by the administrate government and by the lack of access to basic services like housing and safety and security. This essay has discussed the reasons for the exclusion of migrants and refugees on a social and geographical level. Migrants are excluded from South Africa because of the past experiences South Africa’s have with regards to Apartheid. This is exclusionary process is not likely to end because of the deeply institutionalized othering that was caused by apartheid and that fuels xenophobia.
City of Cape Town. (2002). By-law for the Promotion of a Safe and Secure Urban Environment. Cape Town. Government Gazette. (1998). The Refugee Act of 1998, No. 1558. : Government Printers. Pretoria Palmary, I. (2001)
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Refugees, Safety and Xenophobia in South African Cities: The role of local government. Research report written for the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation. Access online : [http://www.csvr.org.za/wits/papers/papalm4.htm] (Accessed on the 29-09-2012)
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