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"You can't just step from one place to another": The socio-politics of illegality in migration from Zimbabwe to South Africa

Shannon Morreira


Drawing on anthropological fieldwork conducted in Musina and Cape Town, South Africa in 2010 and 2011, in this paper I present a qualitative analysis of the (largely illegal) means of entry of Zimbabwean research participants into South Africa, and their attempts to seek legal status once in the country. I present an ethnographic consideration of one woman’s experiences crossing the border, augmented with quantitative data gathered from a sample of 45 migrants, in order to discuss the socio-political construction of ‘illegality’ in South Africa. I argue that while migrants may have entered the country illegally, this was in a large degree dictated by structural pressures. Migrants’ attempts to legalise themselves are also structurally constrained: I, thus, argue that there is a need to unpack the socio-political process by which a category of illegality is made.  


Migration; Illegality; Zimbabwe; South Africa

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