Academic journal article Journal of Community Positive Practices

Understanding the Social Exclusion of Zimbabwean Migrants in Johannesburg, South Africa

Academic journal article Journal of Community Positive Practices

Understanding the Social Exclusion of Zimbabwean Migrants in Johannesburg, South Africa

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

The concept of social exclusion has been used in relation to people belonging to the same nation. European studies of social exclusion have taken this stance in studying multiple levels of deprivation and weakening social bonds among different groups of a nation. However, there are studies that have attempted to use the concept of social exclusion to understand migrants in 'foreign countries'. This paper contributes to the growing literature on the social exclusion of migrants. This approach to studying migrants is crucial for various reasons; there are growing numbers of migrants in almost every country now, these migrants do not seem eager to return to their countries - some are applying for citizenship in their host countries, the economic recession and global restructuring processes taking place are affecting rates of employment and poverty and globally there are increasing levels of xenophobia. At the same time, there has been a growth of the influence of supra-national bodies that are raising awareness regarding the rights of migrants. All these factors have a bearing on the extent to which migrants can be integrated, thus raising the need to understand the possible processes of social exclusion of migrants who are ordinarily viewed as economic liabilities and outsiders.

This study broadens the concept of social exclusion to understanding migrants as citizens of the global world. In this view, we make use of the concept of cosmopolitanism which explains migration as one of the consequences of globalisation. The international bodies such as the United Nations and the International Labour Organisation have also come up with legal instruments (for example, the United Nations Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their families (1990), which define the rights of migrant workers and human beings in a broader perspective that transcends national boundaries. This sets the scene for the understanding of social exclusion from a global perspective.

In conceptualizing the social exclusion of Zimbabweans the paper raises five main arguments: (a) social exclusion is about competition and distribution of scarce resources, (b) it is about lack of social cohesion and bonds, (c) it is about disadvantaged participation, or inclusion on unfavourable terms, of members belonging to devalued groups. Social exclusion is about inequality and having a devalued identity, (d) the Zimbabwean identity is a devalued identity. This explains why some migrants are motivated to quickly shed it off or conceal it and (e) social exclusion is facilitated by activities of individuals and institutional processes. These are agents of social exclusion.

1.1. Research participants, methods and setting

The research involved fifty eight (58) migrants; both documented and undocumented, who had been in South Africa for more than six months on a continuous basis. The migrants studied specifically lived in Kempton Park and Tembisa areas that are approximately 25km north-east of Johannesburg central. Research methods used were mainly semi structured and in-depth life history interviews based on a sample that was purposively selected. These were supplemented by moments of participant observation by the researchers as one of the researchers stayed with the participants for the duration of the study. The research was based on life history interviews/narratives and participant observation. Life history interviews are geared towards understanding the migrants' whole life course (Van Nieuwenhuyze 2009). The use of the word narratives here is to emphasise the focus on how migrants create 'their stories' in explaining their life courses. In order to adhere to proper ethical standards pseudonyms are used to refer to migrants in the study.

The sampling methods were purposive as attempts were made to approach knowledgeable individuals such as those who had been in Tembisa for a long period of time (for example, more than 10 years) or those with special circumstances such as being entrepreneurs, or those who had successfully changed their identities and citizenship to South Africa through naturalisation and other methods. …

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