Academic journal article Journal of Community Positive Practices

Survival Strategies of Zimbabwean Migrants in Johannesburg

Academic journal article Journal of Community Positive Practices

Survival Strategies of Zimbabwean Migrants in Johannesburg

Article excerpt

Abstract: The study analyses Zimbabwean migrants' strategies of survival in a largely xenophobic environment. The paper argues that exclusion of Zimbabweans in the labour market and other spheres of South Africa is largely a product of attempts by South African institutions and officials to draw boundaries separating insiders from outsiders. This inevitably limits the opportunity structure of most Zimbabwean migrants, pushing them from the formal to informal sector and further underground. Zimbabwean migrants survive by mainly concealing their identity. They adopt South African languages, ways of dressing bribe the police and some engage in friendships, relationships and marriages with locals. Migrants ario engage in self-employment, crime and church activities. The study however reveals that migrants mainly use their ethnic and religious networks, which largely promotes bonding rather than bridging social capital. Such social capital may not really help them to be integrated into the local South African community. This study is based on qualitative research conducted among Zimbabweans in the Kempton and Tern bisa anas of Johannesburg South Africa in 2012.

Keywords: Social networks; South Africa; Sunival strategies; Xenophobia; Zimbabweans.

1. Introduction

This study was carried out at a time when the South African economy and society and indeed the global economy was going through a lot of challenges (increase in unemployment, poverty, deindustrialisation, increase in the number of undocumented foreign migrants, demand for skilled labour and the increasing participation of South African leaders in Zimbabwean politics). This research analyses the survival tactics of Zimbabweans in the South African labour market and society in light of the following facts:

* The potentially changing official policy towards Zimbabweans (Polzer, 2009). This is evidenced by the agreements that happened between the Zimbabwean and South African governments leading to the Zimbabwe Documentation Project (ZDP) carried out by the Department of Home Affairs in 2010. The project was meant to enumerate Zimbabweans in South Africa while providing those that qualified with the opportunity to apply for general work and business permits. This study analyses the situation of Zimbabwean migrants after the Zimbabwean Documentation Project.

* The high rate of poverty and unemployment among South Africans themselves (Adepoju 2008, South Africa, Department of Labour 2011).

* The tendency of locals to blame foreigners for 'job-snatching' (Danso and McDonald, 2000; Harris, 2001; Poseí, 2003; Mosala, 2008; Kalitanyi and Visser, 2010).

* The high level of crime and violence in South Africa (Harris, 2001).

* The high level of xenophobia and general frustration among most South Africans in South Africa (Human Rights Watch 1998; Mattes, Taylor, McDonald, Poore and Richmond 1999; McDonald, Mashike & Golden 1999; Danso and McDonald 2000; Harris, 2001; Crush, Williams & Perberdy 2005; Adepoju, 2006; Crush and Tawodzera 2011). This xenophobia is expressed to all migrants regardless of whether they are documented/regular/legal or undocumented/irregular/illegal. Up to now, Zimbabweans still face xenophobia on a daily basis (Harris, 2002; Dumba and Chirisa 2010; Crush and Tawodzera 2011). Zimbabweans have also had problems accessing accommodation, health and educational facilities.

* That Zimbabweans are estimated to be the largest group of foreigners in South Africa (Harris, 2001; Muzondidya, 2008; Polzer, 2009).

* The active participation of certain government departments and local government authorities in deciding who gets excluded from or included into the South African community. This is supported by the reluctance to assist migrants by certain government personnel (Harris, 2001; Palmary, 2002; Solidarity Peace Trust, 2004; Human Rights Watch (HRW) 2006; De Guchteneire, Pecoud and Cholewinski 2009; Vigneswaran, Araia, Hoag and Tshabalala 2010). …

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