A Mixed Reception Mozambican and Congolese Refugees in South Africa

"This monograph reviews existing literature on two episodes of forced migration to South Africa. The first is the flight and reception of between 250,000 and 350,000 Mozambicans during that country’s civil war in the 1980s. The second is an influx of people to South Africa from what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) beginning in the early 1990s and continuing to this day. The reception of the Mozambican refugees of the mid-1980s was shaped by a subtle and variegated cocktail of national apartheid politics and local interests and sensibilities. On the one hand, the apartheid government did not offer Mozambicans forced to leave their country by war refugee status. Until the mid-1990s, their presence in South Africa was de jure illegal. Yet, in a somewhat complicated gesture of ethnic solidarity, the Shangaan speaking homeland administration of Gazankulu accepted all Mozambican refugees in its territory and provided them with land and assistance. The refugees thus occupied an ambivalent legal space. Within the borders of severely poverty-stricken homeland territory their presence was de facto legal. Yet the moment they crossed the border into South Africa proper, they risked arrest and deportation. In this twilight existence, many joined the very lowest ranks of the (illegal) labour market, working for commercial farmers in the northeastern lowveld, for their Shangaan-speaking neighbours as field labourers and domestic workers, and in the industrial economy of the Pretoria-Witwatersrand-Vereeniging region."