African Journal of Social Work

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Surviving hostilities in alien cityscapes: experiences of Zimbabwean irregular migrants at plastic view informal settlement, Pretoria East, South Africa

Owen Nyamwanza, Vupenyu Dzingirai


At a time when more and more migrants from the region and beyond are trekking to South Africa, demand for residential and livelihood spaces is high. This leads to vulnerable and desperate migrants setting up informal settlements in contested and controversial cityscapes-the range of mapped and unmapped places in the city. Such desperate moves have ignited the ire of the state, local authorities, real estate as well as host communities as in the case of Plastic View, an informal settlement situated on a piece of prime land bounded by the residential and commercial estates of Garsfontein in Pretoria East. Data was collected ethnographically with interviews, participant observation and secondary data sources being core instruments of enquiry. Drawing from African actor-oriented-approaches, the paper explores hostilities that migrants encounter - from criminalization to open marginalization - in the cityscapes they reside and pursue livelihoods. The paper further observes that in response to the hostilities they encounter, migrants undertake self-interested, transactionalist considerations in their effort to survive and ameliorate the said hostilities. Finally, the paper recommends that the state extends the formal protection of migrants by regarding them as legitimate as opposed to regarding them as dangerous strangers who don’t deserve protection.

Keywords: hostilities, South Africa, cityscapes, Zimbabwe, irregular migrants, Plastic View, transactionalism

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