Migrant workers in the South African hospitality sector: A consultative training workshop on organising strategies and tools

6 April 2017

The African Centre for Migration & Society and FES are pleased to invite you to a workshop titled Migrant workers in the South African hospitality sector: A consultative training workshop on organising strategies and tools. 

There are 1,2 million migrant workers in South Africa, representing 4% of the labour market, The majority of these are from the region and are employed in precarious and low incomes sectors such as domestic work, agriculture and construction (Statistics South Africa 2012). Although the national Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) has articulated a broad and inclusive vision for organizing workers, including migrants, in reality migrant workers, and more so migrant women remain amongst the most poorly protected in the labour market with disproportionate numbers being self-employed, in informal work or in vulnerable sectors of employment (Budlender 2014; Fauvelle Aymar 2014). Moreover, a unionisation rate in the country at 29% amongst all workers, which is already alarming, slips to just 12% amongst migrant workers (Budlender 2014:p32). This underlying precarity can be attributed to three interdependent factors: an insecure legal identity resulting from narrow provisions for entry and stay for low skilled regional workers, a weak labour movement that has seen increasing fragmentation and finally a national context fraught by persistent unemployment and xenophobic attitudes, and violence and rhetoric toward non-nationals in the country. This programme of work is animated by this reality and the broader principles of social democracy.

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Reflections on a Decade of South African Xenophobia and Violence


On 15 March 2017, the African Centre for Migration & Society and the School of Social Sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand convened an informal round-table discussion about what the continuation of xenophobic violence – and reactions to it – say about South African society, politics, and the academy’s engagement in public and political debate. Commentators included Maxim Bolt (University of Birmingham); Alexandra Hiropoulos (University of the Witwatersrand); Achille Mbembe (University of the Witwatersrand); Emma Monama (University of the Witwatersrand); Dumisani Moyo and Shepherd Mpofu (University of Johannesburg); Tara Polzer-Ngwato (Social Surveys Africa) and Eric Worby (University of the Witwatersrand). To listen to the podcast click here.

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Special Report: Xenophobic Attacks 2017

07 March 2017

This special report, prepared by Dr Alexandra Hiropoulos provides an update on xenophobic incidents across South Africa over the course of 2017. With a focus on events occurring between 24 February and 06 March, this report provides updated information on the sequence of events that took place.

See the Xenowatch special report for February for more detailed information on events in Gauteng between 05 and 24 February this year, when community raids of foreign-owned or occupied residences and businesses led to the victimisation of well over 60 individuals, including foreign nationals and South African citizens.

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An “NGOisation” of the Social Cohesion Policies between Migrants and South Africans? Initial Results of an Ethnographic Investigation of the Cape Town Migrant Cause

A seminar by Leo Fortaillier (University of the Western Cape and the Laboratory of Social Sciences of Politics, Sciences Po Toulouse)

There have been diverse answers from the “civil society” to xenophobic violence since the end of Apartheid. Over the years, more and more “specialised” Non-Governmental Organisations - involved in international “policy networks” (Le Galès, 2004) and using organisation and intervention principles imported from abroad - have emerged. The presentation will question this “NGOisation” (Falquet, 2003) of the migrant cause and its effects. From January to December 2016, the presenter conducted a participant observation in a Capetonian NGO, “implementing partner” of the UNHCR tackling social cohesion issues between South Africans and nonnationals in underprivileged communities. Building on the data collected during this fieldwork, and on the results of a second participant observation started in January 2017 within a similar structure, the presentation will analyse the impact of these NGOs’ intermediary position between different social worlds (funders, South African state, South African and non-national communities, university, social movements, other NGOs, etc.) on the activists’ work and on their individual trajectories.

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Reading and writing the city in relation to the politics of today

A panel discussion hosted by the Wits City Institute in collaboration with African Centre for Migration & Society

The Wits City Institute in collaboration with African Centre for Migration & Society is delighted to invite you to a panel discussion. This event takes place during the visit to Wits University by Professor Ayse Caglar, University of Vienna. Professor Caglar is a graduate of universities in Istanbul, Montréal and Berlin, and has worked in those cities as well as in Budapest. Her work focuses on migration to European cities and comparative exploration of the situation of migrants, particularly women, in such cities.  Her interests include writing the city in relation to its contemporary population changes. The panel will address changing and developing ways of reading and writing the city in relation to contemporary political developments. These include elections of populist governments in many countries, a rise in xenophobia and actions against migration.

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