Geography & Environment Publications

Another Lost Decade: The Failures of South Africa's Post-Apartheid Migration Policy

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Tijdschrift voor economische en sociale geografie

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Despite the political and social transformation set in motion by the collapse of apartheid and the advent of democracy in 1994, South Africa's migration policy remained mired in the past. The Aliens Control Act of 1991 continued to govern the country's policy until the passage of the Immigration Act of 2002. After amendment in 2004, the Act finally came into force in July 2005. This paper focuses on the implications for South Africa and the SADC region of persisting with a policy framework devised in the apartheid period. First, the mine migrant labour system has remained intact despite a prolonged economic crisis in the mining industry. Second, the national introspection of the first democratic government led to a major decline in legal migration and immigration to South Africa. Third, apartheid-era tactics of migration enforcement intensified through a process of 'violent othering'. Fourth, the old framework was sexist as well as racist, and while the new policy is gender neutral in language, it is not gender equal in effect. Finally, for a decade, South Africa successfully resisted SADC attempts to develop a regionally harmonised approach to cross-border migration. Recent changes in South African Government policy, particularly the new JIPSA initiative, suggest that the 'lost decade' may finally be over. However, without major policy transformation, the unseemly history of post-apartheid migration policy will continue.