Are We Not a Nation of Immigrants?

South Africa, much like the United States of America, is considered by its neighbors and a good portion of the African continent as the land of opportunity. Immigrants leave their homelands and pour into South Africa for the prospects of a better life for them and for their families. These immigrants come from all over the continent from countries like Zimbabwe, the Congo, and Nigeria, just to name a few. In the novelĀ Welcome to Our Hillbrow, African immigrants are viewed as criminals and are seen to bring very little value to society. These foreigners just bring their drugs and their diseases, especially AIDS. We have heard these very same sentiments many times before in our own country. The people of South and Central America and Mexicans in particular are viewed as a scourge to American society. Here is where some really interesting parallels can be made about xenophobia in both countries. The novel uses and discusses the derogatory term Makwerekwere which means foreign immigrants from Africa. But, interestingly enough South Africa was built on forced African migrant labor to supply the mines and farms of a burgeoning nation. Yesterday, as I talked to my Uber driver, who was from the Congo, the novel gained even more resonance as he told me about his harrowing journey to reach South Africa over ten years ago. He traveled through several countries just to reach South Africa but most of his companions did not reach their final destination. Just like this driver, most African immigrants, from shop owners to white collar professionals, have made tremendous sacrifices to try to improve their life circumstances. The driver noted that life is not easy in South Africa but he is more than willing to struggle to have a better life.


Posted by Maria Iordanov on

It is very interesting to see the parallels between the US and South Africa’s relationship with immigrants. I think that as we saw xenophobia in Welcome to Our Hillbrow, there is also a lot of xenophobia in the US as well. -Maria Iordanov

Posted by Quinn Sieja on

It is interesting that both South Africa and The United States were built off of immigrants, yet the thought of more immigrants is unwanted by a very vocal percentage of the population. Its a sad case of the ‘Us vs. Them’ mentality that is witnessed everywhere throughout life. Perhaps it stems from the fact that those living within the country have it better off, and they don’t wish to share that with the immigrants, or the Makwerekwere. Regardless, i believe the mindset to be selfish, and in a way, greedy.

Posted by Ben Tarpey on

I never thought there were other lands of opportunity – I always thought the U.S was the only one. It’s also then weird to think that both South Africa and the U.S have a lot of violence. How much of that is due to these so called “bad immigrants”? It’s terrible to think about because people immigrate in order to make more money and support their families but like this blog describes, there are some immigrants that are infesting the countries with drugs and diseases.

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