Wade Pendleton

In recent years, migration has steadily increased in Southern Africa. Along with this, a rise in intolerance and animosity towards migrants has been observed, right across all social classes, regardless of social status. Migrants are treated with great wariness, there are few contacts, and irrational fears of the "Other" are rife. Migrants are seen as intruders and enemies who are, for example, taking the jobs of people in the country of migration. Adult education can and must play a role here. Prof. Wade Pendleton, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at San Diego State University, lives in Cape Town, South Africa.

Migration and Xenophobia in Southern Africa


In recent decades, migration has increased throughout the SADC region (Southern Africa Development Community) due in part to the end of apartheid in South Africa, the integration of South Africa into the region's linkages to the global economy, increased rural and urban poverty and unemployment, the impact of HIV/AIDS, as well as a history of forced migration and the mass relocation of people. 1 The region has also experienced the presence of refugees and asylum seekers from within SADC as well as from outside the region. See the Global Commission Report on International Migration and especially the regional report on Southern Africa (www.gcim.org) .

For over a decade the Southern African Migration Project (SAMP) has conducted research on migration and related topics in Southern Africa. 2 Four major regional projects have been conducted: National Immigration Policy Survey (NIPS), Potential Skills Base Survey (PSBS), Cross Border Migration and Remittances (MARS), and Migration and Poverty Survey (MAPS). Copies of country and regional migration policy reports are available on the SAMP Website: www.queensu. ca/samp.

The recently completed Southern African Migration Project (SAMP) Migration and Remittances Survey (MARS) and the Migration and Poverty Study (MAPS) are the major sources for information about internal and cross-border migration across the region (countries surveyed include: Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe; information on South Africa 3 comes from previous SAMP work and other sources). With increased migration within the region, prejudice among citizens against foreigners has also become prevalent; xenophobic attitudes are reported from SAMP's National Immigration Policy Survey (NIPS).


The lifetime migration patterns across the region (where born and where living now) show that about 60 % of the population have never moved and live in the same rural area (47 %) or urban area (12 %) where they were born. Internal migration within rural areas accounts for a further 15 % of lifetime migration. About 11 % of the population have migrated from rural to urban areas, and 4 % have made urban to urban moves. Urban-rural migration accounts for about 4 % of lifetime migration. Cross-border migration accounts for 6 % of regional lifetime migration, with South Africa the major regional destination; cross-border migration from South Africa is primarily to developed countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and the United States. The decision to migrate is often influenced by multiple factors, the most important of which are economic and family concerns, living conditions and access to schooling. Most moves to different rural areas are influenced by family issues such as marriage, divorce and access to schooling. The most important rural to urban migration reason is economic (employment or to look for work), with living conditions and access to schooling also playing a part. Other reasons for migration such as environmental issues, health care access and security, are only minor in importance. Men and women migrate for the same reasons; however, the relative importance of the reasons varies. Economic reasons are more important for men, and family and living conditions are more important for women. There is some indication that women are leaving rural areas in search for alternative lifestyles where they are not under the dominance of men, as is often the case in rural villages.

Looking at migration history and likely future moves, certain trends may be seen. Moves to different rural areas will decline, moves to different urban areas will increase, rural/urban migration will remain strong (32 % of future moves), urban/rural moves will remain about the same, and foreign moves will increase to about 19 %.

About 19 % of people identified as members of the household were away at the time of the MAPS survey; countries with the largest number of people away were: Botswana (30 %), Zimbabwe (33 %) and Swaziland (28 %). The major reasons for being away were migrant work (72 %), going to school (13 %) and other reasons (15 %). Of those who were away from the household, the percentage who were migrant workers was, by country: Namibia (45 %), Botswana (81 %), Lesotho (66 %), Swaziland (80 %), Mozambique (62 %), Malawi (51 %) and Zimbabwe (88 %). Most migrant workers in Namibia (98 %), Botswana (85 %), Swaziland (62 %) and Malawi (87 %) were internal migrants working in their own country. In Lesotho (58 %), Mozambique (60 %) and Zimbabwe (73 %), over half the migrants were cross-border workers. The major destinations for cross-border migrant workers were South Africa (71 %), Botswana (7 %) - although primarily for Zimbabwean cross-border migrants - Europe/UK (9 %) and North America (3 %); the destinations for South African cross-border migrants were primarily developed countries. Migration was still dominated by men (65 %), but many women (35 %) were also migrants, and increased female migration is one of the characteristics of present and future migration patterns. Mozambique (26 %) and Malawi (25 %) had the smallest percentages of female migrants. Migrants were older than the general working population, with about the same number in the 35-60 age category (41 %) as in the 25-34 age category (43 %); about half of the migrant population had only primary school education or no schooling at all. Migrants were typically sons and daughters (56 %) of household heads, and household heads were frequently migrants (24 %).

Across the region, about 22 % of migrant work is seasonal. The median number of years worked was about 5, about 75 % of the migrants had always had the same occupation, and the major reason for changing occupations was better pay (58 %). Migrants typically lived alone (36 %) or with co-workers (19 %) in a house (22 %), flat (18 %), hostel (13 %) or room (12 %).

Respondents were asked about the effect of migration on the household. Across the region about 75 % of households rated the migration impact positive/very positive. Households also rated the impact of future migration as generally making the household "better off" (68 %). However, migration does not happen without negative impacts: ab sent migrants are missed, long periods of absence affect the activities of the household, and migrants are often lonely and homesick.

Migrant workers leave home to work and earn money, and they contribute much of that money to maintaining their families back home. Most migrant workers bring the money that they have saved, and often goods that they have purchased, with them when they return home (59 %); less commonly used methods for money transfer are banks (9 %), the post office (11 %), having a friend/co-worker bring it (8 %), and money transfer agencies (6 %). Costly charges and theft were two problems mentioned. Some households send things to the migrant (13 %), the most common item being food (70 %) (the food item sent is often traditional food that may not be available where the migrant is working). Across the region, about 12 % of households receive visitors from their "home" household. Migrants from Namibia (22 %), Botswana (15 %), Malawi (19 %) and Zimbabwe (22 %) receive visits most frequently. The interaction between the household of origin and the destination helps to maintain the bonds of family and kinship during periods of physical absence.

How important are remittances to the receiving households? Data from both MARS and MAPS strongly demonstrates that remittances play a vital role in household economics. For the countries surveyed, cash remittances and wage income are the first or second largest sources of household income. The major use of remittance income is to buy food and groceries. With little or no use of remittance income for investment it may be observed that poverty alleviation is the major use of remittances. Households with cross-border migrants are consistently better off than average households.


Cross-border migration has brought foreigners to the region in far greater numbers than in the past. However, the National Immigration Policy Survey (NIPS) found that citizens across the region exaggerate the number of non-citizens in their countries, view the migration of people within the region as a "problem" rather than an opportunity, and scapegoat non-citizens. 4 The intensity of these attitudes varies significantly from country to country. The strongest sentiments were expressed by the citizens of South Africa, Namibia and to a lesser extent Botswana. The citizens of the other countries surveyed were consistently more relaxed about the presence of non-citizens in their countries. At the most basic level, there is therefore a marked difference between migrant-sending and migrant-receiving countries. The citizens of recipient countries tend to be considerably more intolerant. That the situation is very fluid and dynamic is illustrated by the case of Botswana. As the numbers of primarily Zimbabwean migrants has increased over the last few years, so levels of tolerance of all outsiders have dropped.

A second finding is that attitudes in South Africa, Namibia and Botswana are so pervasive and widespread that it is actually impossible to identify any kind of typical "xenophobe profile." In other words, the poor and the rich, the employed and the unemployed, the male and the female, the black and the white, the conservative and the radical, all express remarkably similar attitudes. This poses a significant problem of explanation because it runs counter to the more general belief that certain groups in a population (usually those who are or who perceive themselves to be threatened) are more prone to xenophobic attitudes than others. One way xenophobia manifests itself in South Africa is in the form of a nationalistic fear of non-South Africans, no matter what their origins. The most notorious form of post-apartheid xenophobia is hostility towards black Africans (the new immigration) who do not speak Nguni or Sotho languages and who are considered too dark. Thus the frequently heard derogatory term "makwerekwere" (dark skinned Africans who do not speak "our" South African languages). The hostility manifests itself most often against men at work or in the townships.

It would be incorrect to suppose that in the remaining countries attitudes are uniformly tolerant. But these countries tend to fit the more typical international profile. In other words, where there is intolerance it tends to be confined to identifiable socio-economic groups within the population. As might be anticipated, the socio-economically disadvantaged in these countries (the poor, the working class, the unemployed) tend to have more negative views about migrants, immigrants and refugees than their better-off and more secure fellow citizens.

In all countries surveyed it is remarkable how little personal contact citizens have with non-citizens, and therefore how little knowledge they have of them. Most face-to-face exchanges tend to be of the economic type. In other words, it would be fair to say that negative attitudes are held because there is no evidence to the contrary. Those citizens who do number foreigners amongst their friends and personal acquaintances tend to be far more accepting and tolerant than those who do not. Interaction, in other words, is a powerful antidote to xenophobia.

An interesting result to emerge from the NIPS survey is the virtual absence of any sense of solidarity with other countries in the SADC. Given the longevity of the SADC as a formal institution, this is a significant indictment. The absence of any real sense of "regional consciousness" (of participation in a regional grouping whose interests are greater than the sum of its parts) has very direct implications for migration issues. Citizens of SADC countries make very little distinction between migrants from other SADC countries and those from elsewhere in Africa, and even from Europe and North America. Where attitudes are negative, they are uniformly negative; where positive, uniformly positive. An urgent challenge confronting the SADC and migration-related organizations is therefore to develop strategies to build a new regional consciousness amongst citizens and policymakers.

Given the attitudinal profile revealed in the NIPS surveys, it is not surprising that most citizens would prefer national governments to "get tough" with migrants and refugees. There is enormous suspicion that refugees are not genuine and there is significant fear that migrants are an economic threat. Perhaps the most significant and consistent finding is the fear - certainly not confined to Southern Africa - that migrants steal rather than create jobs. And yet, when citizens are pressed on the issue, it is clear that this belief is generic rather than being born of personal experience. Hardly anyone in our representative sample had ever lost a job to a foreign citizen, and very few had personal experience of this happening to their family and friends. Not many could cite instances of it happening at all.

When migration is viewed as a "threat" (as it clearly is amongst significant portions of the population and amongst virtually everyone in some countries) it is not unusual for citizens to prefer draconian policy solutions. Rather shocking is the degree of support for border electrification. But citizens also want to see armies at the borders, tough internal enforcement and curtailment of basic rights.


Some observations may be made based on the SAMP data presented on migration and xenophobia. Within Southern Africa, internal and rural to urban migration will continue and increase, as will cross-border migration. Adult education could make many contributions. For the migrants themselves, educational issues could include basic skills (literacy and numeracy) training and job training (semi-skilled and skilled vocational training) to make migrants able to qualify for better employment. Education about workers' rights and responsibilities would also be useful. At the household level, opportunities for the investment of remittance (and wage) income should be explored; if households were able to invest rather than spend resources on poverty alleviation, some sustainable impact on quality of life might be made. A need exists for safe, low-cost methods for the transfer of remittances. Regarding regional policies, it is essential that policies such as the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) and Poverty Reduction Strategic Planning Strategy (PRSPS) take the important role of migration into account. 5

Regarding xenophobia, the primary challenge is educational, and adult education has a role to play. Citizens need to have accurate information (rather than myths and stereotypes) about migrants, immigrants and refugees as people through the media. A greater sense of continentalism and internationalism could be developed in the population through adult education and curriculum reform at schools, through the media, and through the public pronouncements of opinion-makers. One of the findings from the NIPS project is that across the region, citizens are prepared to accept and welcome noncitizens if their economic impact is demonstrably positive. Hence, skills-friendly and investor-friendly immigration policies would not be difficult to sell to citizens. Since such policies are inevitable if countries are to be and remain globally competitive, it is important that policy and opinion-makers begin to build a broad public consensus on this issue. There is nothing more off-putting to new immigrants who want to put their skills to work in and for a new country to find that they are the object of scorn and vilification simply because of their accent or the colour of their skin.

1 Jonathan Crush, Vincent Williams and Sally Peberdy. "Migration in Southern Africa." Regional report on Migration in Southern Africa available at www.gcim.org

2 More information on the SAMP projects mentioned may be found by consulting the various reports which are available on the SAMP website (www.queensu.ca/samp), where they may be downloaded. SAMP was funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the UK Department for International Development (DFID). The references for the reports mentioned are: NIPS Report: "Regionalizing Xenophobia? Attitudes Towards Immigrants, Migrants and Refugees in the SADC." The Southern African Migration Project, Migration Policy Series No. 30. IDASA, Cape Town and Southern African Research Centre, Queen's University, Canada. 2003. Jonathan Crush, Wade Pendleton and Daniel S. Tevera. MARS Report: "Migration, Remittances and Development in Southern Africa." The Southern African Migration Project, Migration Policy Series No. 44. IDASA, Cape Town and Southern African Research Centre, Queen's University, Canada. 2006. Wade Pendleton, Jonathan Crush, Eugene Campbell, Thuso Green, Hamilton Simelane, Daniel S. Tevera and Fion de Vletter. MAPS Report: "Draft Regional Migration and Poverty Report." Submitted to Southern African Migration Project for publication in the Migration Policy Series. Wade Pendleton. Not yet available on the website.

3 Information on migration in South Africa may be found in: "Migration in South and Southern Africa: Dynamics and Determinants." Edited by Peter Kok, Derek Gelderblom, John O. Ocho and Johan van Zyl. HSRC Press, 2006.

4 Major findings from the NIPS project are taken from the Executive Summary in the NIPS Report.

5 "Migration in Southern Africa." Jonathan Crush, Vincent Williams and Sally Peberdy. A paper prepared for the Policy and Research Programme of the Global Commission on International Migration. 2005 (see pages 26-35).

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