Survival Strategies of Africa
Migrants in The Former Transkei
A case study of
Cameroonians, Ghanaians and Nigerians in Mthatha
Study Area and Methodology
Conclusions and Recommendations
 As Immigrants continue to enter South Africa, some earlier and
recent immigrants already in the country begin to migrated into
rural areas to secure their survival.
 Since 2000, large influxes of immigrants from big cities to
 Even though the province is among the least attractive
destination for foreigners.
 Since the early 90s, the informal economy has risen significantly
 The majority of its entrepreneurs are foreigners.
Nkwa (2007) notes that immigrants come to Mthatha in
search for employment, better wages and to escape from
persecution and violence from their previous places of
Yet African migrants in Mthatha face many challenges and
hence a need to survive.
The focus of this paper is to investigate their survival
strategies in Mthatha.
Categories of foreign Migrants
1. Earlier foreign migrants
 Those who arrived in Mthatha between 1990 and the year 2005.
 Already established in their socio-economic endeavours
 Have legal Documentation and a rented place of their own to stay.
Earlier foreign migrants (cont.)
Run their own small scale businesses and/or working in
an established organisation
Can speak the local language fluently
Have established complex social networks with the locals.
Categories of foreign Migrants (cont.)
2. Recent
foreign migrants
 Entered Mthatha after the year 2005.
Do not have a place of their own to stay
Unemployed or self-employed and actively looking for
Struggling to regularise their documentation
Recent foreign migrants (cont.)
Can barely speak the local language
Loose social networks with the locals
Strong attachments with earlier foreign migrants
Immigrants’ Experiences in Mthatha
 Not different from others elsewhere in South Africa
 Foreign migrants face similar adversities
 Experience deplorable treatment from state agencies,
organisations, communities
 Suffer from acute discrimination and xenophobic tendencies
 Similar reports of discrimination, harassments and violence
against foreigner nationals like elsewhere in South Africa
 Some examples
Notable Examples of News Paper Reports
 “foreign mum and baby gunned down’,
 ‘foreign shops looted’, ‘foreign national killed’, ‘…believes foreigners are
bad for South Africa’,
 ‘foreign man stabbed to death’
 “xenophobic” violence that has been stalking Gauteng has spread to the
Eastern Cape and the Free State Patel (2013).
 Attacks against foreign nationals in KwaZakhele & New Brighton in Port
Elizabeth, left several shops looted and burnt
 Due to the level of xenophobic violence, police had to relocate some of
the foreign nationals to temporary shelters (Human Rights Watch of 21
Jan 2014).
 Hence a need for Foreign migrants to devise strategies for survival in
Study Area
 Mthatha in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa.
 Mthatha was the capital town of the former Transkei
 The main town of the King Sabata Danlindyebo Local Municipality (KSD)
 Population of about 120,000 with 55% younger than 20 years
 The town is along the N2 road, 250 Km from East London and about 177
Km to Kokstad.
Reasons for the choice of Mthatha
1. The District Municipality is the poorest in the Eastern Cape
2. High percentage number of people living in poverty
3. About 11.8% of its households without any form of income
4. Unemployment rate a high of 65.5%,
Study Area (cont.)
5. Literacy rate of only 42% .
6. Experiencing high in flocks of African migrants.
7. Not much research has been conducted to find out the
survival strategies of African immigrants in smaller towns
around the country.
Study Area (cont.)
The study immigrants form a minority group which generally
faces prejudice and discrimination in their communities.
 The choice of Mthatha, a much smaller town in a typical rural
region in the province will add to the limited empirical
referents on immigrants’ survival strategies in noncosmopolitan cities
Study Methodology
 Both qualitative and quantitative research methodologies
 Techniques include: Questionnaires, Observations, Focus group
discussions and in-depth interviews
 But a more qualitative approach was adopted
 150 opened-ended questionnaires were administered
 Snowball sampling was used to facilitate the identification of
 Focus group discussion, in-depth interviews and observations were
conducted (places of work, homes and their social gatherings).
 Data analyzed using excel
 Findings presented in tables, charts and diagrams
Literature Review
 Abundance of literature on immigrants’ survival strategies in South
Africa (e.g. Petkou, 2005; 2010).
 Not much has been done in rural areas of South Africa
 Much of what has been done is focus on urban immigrants as
crime perpetrators, immigrants as entrepreneurs and better than
those from SADC countries, and/or immigrants as drug dealers
and in prostitution.
Literature Review (cont.)
 Previous and recent literature focus on urban immigrants with
similar patterns of survival
 In Johannesburg for example, studies show that because of
discrimination and xenophobia, immigrants used various
strategies to adapt themselves to the prevailing situation.
 Strategies include: bogus documentation, adopting the social
culture, forming social organisations, engaging into marriages
of convenience, learning the local language, opening up small
scale businesses and others engaging in activities beyond the
margins of the law.
Literature Review (cont.)
 Studies elsewhere have shown that, discriminated immigrants
with the ambitions of improving their lifestyles, developed an
economic consciousness, which act as a motivating factor for profit
making (MacGaffey and Bazenguissa-Ganga 2000).
 acquiring legal documentation is crucial for immigrants’ survival in
South Africa hence, many immigrants who entered the country
Literature Review (cont.)
with visitors visa apply for Asylum Seeker permits which give them the right to stay
and look for employment (Mluleki, (2003).
 Others conspired with corrupt officials to secure legal documentation (Yawlui,
 Studies have identified the formation of social organisations as survival strategy
(Muzondidya, 2008; Mluleki, 2003; McDonald et al, 2002; Ojong, 2007).
 Learning the local languages (Yawlui, 2009; Mluleki, 2003; Nkwa, 2008; Ojong,
 Adopting the South Africa dressing and hair styles (Nkwa, 2008).
Literature Review (cont.)
Little empirical referent exist which discusses the survival
strategies of foreign migrants in rural South Africa.
This study form an addition to that gap
Yet to know if African immigrants in Mthatha pursue
similar strategies like urban immigrants in South Africa
If not, then it creates new grounds for comparative study
Studies indicate the absence of original and up-to-date
empirical data on migration patterns in the Eastern Cape
Literature Review (cont.)
 But, two broad patterns of migration can be observe in the
1. Movement of people from one part of the province to others
2. Movement of people from the Eastern Cape to other
provinces (Makiwane and Chimere-Dan, 2010).
 Golooba-Mutebi & Tollman (2004) observe similarly that,
many refugees have consciously refrained from going to live
or work in urban areas where living costs are high.
 They have opted to live in rural areas because of the
opportunities for livelihood diversification and the wider scope
for securing support when in difficulties.
Literature Review (cont.)
 Studies have also shown that the pattern of internal migration in the province
is a pressing development challenge: “large volumes of people move to other
parts of the country and other parts of the province in ways that on balance
do not encourage broad-based development of the province” (Makiwane and
Chimere-Dan, 2010: 101) .
 International migration into the province has not been a major policy
 White emigration and brain drain have been observed as some of the
potential undesirable outcomes since 1994: But there is a possible reverse
 Amongst these reverse migrants are foreign migrants who would take
advantage of the prevailing gaps caused by out migration and brain drain in
the province.
Literature Review (cont.)
 Wundow (2011) study in Mthatha reported similar findings with studies
conducted in urban South Africa.
 Namely, acquiring legal documentation, organising marriages of convenience,
learning the local languages and adopting the social culture
 For Golooba-Mutebi & Tollman (2004) , Mozambican refugees in rural South
Africa have managed to move on from initial short-term survival strategies to
achieve long-term livelihoods.
1. For one reason or another depend on their own ingenuity
2. Take advantage of freedom of movement in the country to search for places
of permanent settlement.
3. Relatively stabled previous immigrants paved the way for new comers and
played an important role in looking for paid employment at their own places
of work.
Literature Review (cont.)
4. Survival was ensured by the combined efforts of the Gazankulu
government, churches, charitable organizations, local villagers and, in some
cases, the refugees’ own efforts.
5. But time, and as resources dwindled, immigrants start to practice
subsistence agriculture and animal husbandry
6. Others work in the commercial farming sector either as seasonal or
permanent labourers
7. Others in formal and informal non-agricultural activities
8. mining and construction, petty trading, commuter taxi owners, domestic
services and traditional medicine.
9. Others acquired citizenship through marriages with South Africans
10. Others Bribe civil servants or paying South Africans to claim them as
Findings and Discussion of Results
 Ages of respondents: 15 and 54 years old
 But, the majority between 30 and 39 years old (63%)
 Males (65%) Females (35%)
 Christians (80%) Muslims (16%) Atheists (4%)
 72% speak English and only 2% could not speak the English
 Up to 92% can speak some amount of IsiXhosa and IsiZulu
 All the study immigrants have had formal education (Table 1 below)
Table 1: Educational Status of Foreign Migrants
Level of Education
Secondary school Certificate. 11
Higher national diploma
Bachelor’s degree
Postgrad (Masters) Degree
Findings and Discussion of Results (cont.)
 Others have upgraded their educational status
 30% have obtained higher diplomas
 20% honours degrees
 5% masters degrees: (“the only way to get a job is to get their
 45% were teachers
 Rest were employed or self-employed as (Street vendors, Tailors,
beauty salons, Electricians, motor-Mechanics, Computer
technicians, restaurant owners, bar services).
Findings and Discussion of Results (cont.)
4% of the study immigrants claimed that they are unemployed.
60% were single and 40% were married with children.
56% were married to South Africa and 44% married to same
nationality with their wives.
Earlier Foreign migrants in the study constitute 45%
Recent foreign migrants were 55% of the total.
Findings and Discussion of Results (cont.)
 Majority came from Major cities as shown in Table 2 below.
Table 2: Previous Residence in South Africa
Previous Residence
Cape Town
Port Elizabeth
East Landon
Form Home Country
Livelihood Strategies of Foreign Migrants
 Obtaining Legal Documentation
Engaging in Small family gardens
Small business endeavours (internet café, small shops,
restaurants, beauty salons, etc.)
Learning the local languages
Adapting to the social lifestyle (dressing and hair styles,
walking etc.)
Livelihood Strategies of Foreign Migrants
Organising Social get together (organisations)
Social Interactions with South Africans
Creating a Strong Social Network
Growing a large family
Organising Part-time work (teaching)
 Survival strategies of foreign migrants in Mthatha are to some
extend similar to those of urban migrants elsewhere in the country.
 Studies elsewhere have identified the strong educational
background of African Immigrants in the country
 Small business endeavours, adapting to the lifestyle, creating social
organisations and strong social networks are similar survival
practices of urban migrants elsewhere.
Conclusions (cont.)
Other practices observed in this study appears to be
more livelihood strategies than just survival strategies.
These include:
1. Obtaining legal documentation
2. Engaging in small family farms/gardens
3. Learning the local language
4. Increasing the family size
 Equal accessibility to education especially to children of foreign
migrants in the country
 Educate the community and officials dealing with foreign
immigrants to respect and uphold the the constitutional provision
which carters for the rights of all who live in South Africa including
that of immigrants
 Open up more opportunities and facilities for foreign migrants to
boost up the local economy
 Support business endeavours of foreign migrants to curb down
high unemployment in the region
 Encourage the revisiting of immigration policies in the country
Recommendations (cont.)
 Create structures that monitor and sanction defaulters of human
rights especially with foreign migrants
 Encourage foreign migrants to live and consider South Africa as a
home. In this way, local development will improve
 Continue the fight against discrimination and xenophobia in the
 Accommodate and assimilate immigrants especially in areas of
employment and education.
 See the presence of foreign migrants as an opportunity rather
than a problem.
Thank You
Dr. CL Petkou
Department of Sociology and Population
Development Studies, WSU Mthatha

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