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‘They Don’t Want Foreigners’: Zimbabwean migration and the rise of xenophobia in Botswana

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Xenophobia is becoming an increasingly common response to migration within the Global South, often taking the form of collective violence against migrants and refugees. It has also permeated central and local state structures leading to systemic discrimination, denial of basic rights and constant harassment of migrants and refugees. For a decade or more, South Africa has been plagued by xenophobic violence directed at Zimbabweans living in the country. Botswana is another major destination for Zimbabwean migrants but has not experienced violent attacks motivated by xenophobia. This does not mean that Zimbabweans are welcome in that country. On the contrary, xenophobic attitudes are highly prevalent amongst the citizenry and within government and manifested in a range of negative stereotypes. This article documents the rise of xenophobia in Botswana and provides empirical evidence from research with Zimbabwean migrants in Gaborone and Francistown of how xenophobia is actually experienced by its targets. In order to explain the existence of xenophobia in Botswana, usually considered one of Africa’s most stable, economically prosperous and stable countries, the article draws on the literature on new nationalisms in Africa.

Keywords: Botswana; Zimbabwe; borders; migration; nationalism; remittances; xenophobia

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Independent Scholar 2: Balsillie School of International Affairs & University of Cape Town

Publication date: October 1, 2015

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  • The course of cultures at both local and global levels is crucially affected by migratory movements. In turn, culture itself is turned migrant. This journal will advance the study of the plethora of cultural texts on migration produced by an increasing number of cultural practitioners across the globe who tackle questions of culture in the context of migration. They do this in a variety of ways and through a variety of media. To name but a few relevant aspects of this juncture of migration and culture, questions of dislocation, travel, borders, diasporic identities, transnational contacts and cultures, cultural memory, the transmission of identity across generations, questions of hybridity and cultural difference, the material and oral histories of migration and the role of new technologies in bridging cultures and fostering cultural cross-pollination will all be relevant. Methodologies of research will include both the study of 'texts' and fieldwork.
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