The languages of xenophobia in post-apartheid South Africa: Reviewing migrancy, foreignness, and solidarity
by Camalita Naicker, Agenda: Feminist Magazine
This open forum piece argues that the language and discourse of xenophobia is a shared experience among people who are seen and constructed as being from ‘elsewhere’ in four different provinces in South Africa. It suggests that use of xenophobic discourse and language, the precarious nature of living conditions, labour conditions and restricted access to citizenship rights from the State, are experienced by all people who are categorised as ‘migrants’
internally, and those described as ‘foreigners’ or ‘refugees’ by Government officials.
What this open forum piece will also show is that the Pan-Africanism and collective ideas of freedom, struggle and resistance or ‘bonds of solidarity’ among migrant labourers, both from other countries as well as the former Bantustans during the struggles against apartheid, should not be confined to a nostalgic past, but seen as very much present in South Africa today. This solidarity is perhaps not so much about a shared history of struggle against colonialism and apartheid, although this too may be extant, but is rather informed by a shared present
where some are seen as citizens with freedom of movement and access to services from the State, while others are excluded. The notion of citizenship, then, becomes refracted, not merely through the making of the new categories of ‘foreigners’ through labour migration, but also through deeply raced and classed discourses which inform who is viewed as a migrant and who is not.
Thinking an African Politics of Peace in an Era of Increasing Violence
It should be apparent to all that violent approaches to resolving popular contradictions are today (again) seemingly all-pervasive on the African continent. The patent inability of the (new democratic) African state to resolve popular contradictions has led to more or less vocal calls for ‘foreign help’, with consequences which are often too ghastly to contemplate. It is not simply here a question of state deployed violence but also of popular violence (e.g. of an ethnic or xenophobic kind). In South Africa at least a ‘culture of violence’ has been systemically produced by specific forms of political thought and practice and not simply inherited from a colonial/apartheid past. In Nigeria the state’s insistence on addressing the Boko Haram phenomenon militarily has (predictably) completely backfired leading to the kidnapping of teenage children à la (originally Ugandan) Lords’ Resistance Army. The only popular response on offer seems to be a moral one: ‘free our girls’. The absence of alternative politics should be evident. This paper attempts to think a political alternative to violence founded upon concepts and categories inherent in African traditions; i.e. in in actually existing (although often subterranean) popular practices. These cannot be understood as mere survivals but have been imaginatively altered and reconstructed to different extents and in different ways because of the necessity of people to cope with ongoing crises in their lives from the slave trade onwards. The paper then is fundamentally conceptual and methodological in order to redirect analyses and to begin to make alternatives thinkable.
This chapter provides an account of some of the contestation around a landoccupation in Cato Manor, Durban. It shows that none of the actors aspiring toexercise control – party structures, the local state, the courts, NGOs and popularorganisations – were, in the period under study, able to exercise full control over thepeople or territory in question. It also shows that actually existing forms of contestationfrequently operated outside the limits established by liberal democratic arrangements
This article examines the informal housing practices that the urban poor use to construct, transform, and access citizenship in contemporary South Africa. Following the election of Nelson Mandela in 1994, the provision of formalized housing for the urban poor has become a key metric for ‘non-racial’ political inclusion and the desegregation of apartheid cities. Yet, shack settlements—commemorated in liberation histories as apartheid-era battlegrounds—have been reclassified as ‘slums’, zones that are earmarked for clearance or development. Evictions from shack settlements to government emergency camps have been justified under the liberal logic of expanding housing rights tied to citizenship. I argue that the informal housing practices make visible the methods of managing ‘slum’ populations, as well as an emerging living politics in South African cities.
Haunted by the Rebellion of the Poor: Civil Society and the Racialized Problem of the (Non-)economic Subject
Intrigued by the so-called “rebellion of the poor,” this paper traces back the cur-rent South African concern with popular protest to its reconfiguration during the last years of the apartheid order. Focusing on the discourse around grassroots resistance in the mid- to late-1980s, I begin by showing how, in juxtaposition to an ideal notion of civil society, popular mo-bilization had been largely delegitimized and the emancipatory politics of ungovernability recast as antidemocratic by the first few years of the post-apartheid regime. In deploying par-ticular notions of violence and culture, this discursive shift, I suggest, fed into reconstructing the ungovernable subject as the racial other of the new South Africa’s citizenry. The second part of the paper mobilizes Foucault’s genealogy of liberalism to draw parallels between this process and the liberal effort to resolve the potentially conflicting principles of governing the economic subject and the subject of rights within the realm of civil society. Finally, via the postcolonial critique of liberal notions of civility and their rootedness in racial thinking, I sug-gest that civil society secures the governability of the population through rendering the poten-tially disruptive freedom of the people as the excess freedom of the racialized other.