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09 November 2005

Factsheet 3: Popular perceptions of poverty and migration

Press Release

Participants in three focus group interviews perceived people migrating to Gauteng as a threat to the settled populations. While in-migrants in general were seen to be benefiting from social and infrastructural opportunities planned for Gauteng residents, those from other countries were often seen to be taking jobs that actually belong to South Africans.

Furthermore, some cross-border migrants were seen to be committing various types of crimes.

The focus groups were interviewed in February 2005, and were from members of the public in Nellmapius (Tshwane), Slovoville (Johannesburg) and Lindelani Village (Ekurhuleni). All three focus groups comprised eight members between the ages of 20 and 50 years. There were five male and three female participants in Lindelani Village, four men and four women in the Nellmapius focus group, and five women and three men participated in Slovoville.

Some participants mentioned that the people prefer to move to Slovoville, Nellmapius and Lindelani in order to have a house of their own: People will choose settlements that they know will not require money from them because most people in the informal settlement are not working. Those who are working earn very little. Others indicated that they settle in these areas because they can’t afford to pay for water and electricity in formal settlements.

Others prefer to move to informal settlements because they want to gain some form of independence from landlords or parents. They indicated that tenants renting shacks in the backyards of landlords prefer to move to RDP houses or informal settlements where they know that they would have a house of their own and be able to exercise some independence. Furthermore, young people were also seen to move to these areas in order to assume a sense of independence from parental control and, consequently, if you want to leave your parent’s house and settle in an informal area, you can easily get a cheap stand and then erect your own shack.

Whereas most participants felt that it is easier for migrants to find work because they tend to accept almost any type of work, some said that in-migrants find it difficult to find work in Gauteng: Migrants from other province struggle to find jobs. These days, it is very difficult to get a job, whether you have qualifications or not. I have a teacher’s diploma but I am not employed. I keep myself busy by volunteering to do home-based care with a hospice. In another group it was said that this also applied to the settled population: You might have a degree, but because you have been looking for work for some time and could not find it, you will have to take any work that comes along.

While some participants focused on poor urban South African families, others referred to migrants from other countries as also being among the urban poor populations. Some participants stated that migrants from abroad often prefer to stay together to save money and to protect themselves against people with xenophobic sentiments. As was mentioned in one group, those from other countries…stay in a group. You will find that more than 10 people occupy a shack or flat. This helps them to share rental payment. The other thing is their safety because when they are in a group they can protect themselves from people who want to attack them, as some South Africans do no like foreigners.

Some cross-border migrants were seen to be committing various types of crimes: Migrants are a threat to us, they sell drugs, they hijack cars, they forge documents so that they can have a South African citizenship, they involve young girls in prostitution, they sell fake clothing, etc. There are so many bad things that they do. However, other cross-border migrants were seen as entrepreneurs: Migrants from other countries own businesses…You will find that all the hair salons in this area belong to them.

Note: These observations and expressed sentiments cannot be generalised to the population of Gauteng or even to the populations of the three settlements where these interviews were conducted.

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