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Xenophobia in post-apartheid South Africa: a case study in the nelson Mandela bay metropolitan municipality, Eastern Cape

The central thesis pursued in this study is that xenophobia and its violent manifestation thrive in post-apartheid South Africa owing to contextual dynamics chiefly characterized by normlessness and weak law enforcement. The scourge of xenophobia and its attendant violent reaction to the presence of foreign citizens in immigrant receiving countries, such as post-apartheid South Africa, is not only a threat to global peace and security, but also an impediment to achieving our full humanity and a common future. Therefore, this study aimed to investigate the contexts and manifestations of xenophobia in post-apartheid South Africa. The study endeavoured to achieve the following objectives: to explore the underpinnings of xenophobia in contemporary post-apartheid South Africa; to expound the manifestations of xenophobia in post-apartheid South Africa; to investigate the effectiveness of agents of social control in dealing with xenophobia; to suggest interventions to address xenophobia in contemporary post-apartheid South Africa, and to discuss, if any, integration deficits experienced by foreign nationals. The overarching theoretical framework that was utilised in this study was constituted by the following frames: labelling theory of deviance; social control theory of deviance; learning theory of deviance; and social construction theory – these are theoretical frames situated in the theoretical field of sociology of deviance. The multi-faceted and complex nature of the phenomenon under investigation evidently necessitated a methodological approach and design strategy involving the utilisation of a qualitative research approach and methodology.  Qualitatively, the data was collected through in-depth interviews, focus group discussions, key informants’ interviews, and secondary data sources. The study revealed, amongst other things, that: the expression of the xenophobic sentiment and associated violence in contemporaneous post-apartheid South Africa was underpinned and driven by a potpourri of factors, amongst which are negative attitudes, perceived competition, perceived fear and illusions, inflammatory xenophobic rhetoric from government representatives, national identity, and afrophobia; and that xenophobia manifested itself through violent behaviour, prejudice and discriminatory behaviour, hatred, labelling, and impunity. Another revelation of this study was that immigrants (particularly black African immigrants) were socially constructed as deviants by society and official agents for social control purposes. Once labeled, the label sticks with disastrous and violent consequences. This situation is exacerbated by the liminal status that immigrants, particularly Black African immigrants, occupy in the post-apartheid South African context. Additionally, the study revealed that law enforcement agents were perceived to be ineffective in dealing with xenophobia, and violence. In response to the findings the following recommendations are made: training and capacitating agents of social control; conscientising society about migration policies vis-à-vis the rights of foreign nationals; coming out with novel strategies to job creation; inculcating the spirit of Ubuntu in young children; embracing the pan-African spirit ; making immigration policies more humanising; mainstreaming xenophobia in social and learning institutions’ curricula; and engaging in perennial research on xenophobia.

Full Name
Dr Vusumzi Duma
Programme