n Africa Insight - Hegemony or survival - South Africa's soft power and the challenge of xenophobia

Volume 44, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 0256-2804


The literature on South African politics makes widespread reference to the culture of xenophobia. There is also a small but growing body of literature on South Africa's soft power currencies. However, no study has attempted to comprehensively examine the nexus between South Africa's soft power and its culture of xenophobia. Thus, the major question this study seeks to address is: what impact does South Africa's prevailing culture of xenophobia have on its soft power and, ultimately, its regional hegemonic credentials? This article explores this lacuna through the lenses of hegemonic stability and scapegoating theories. The study used both primary sources (interviews and focus group discussions) and secondary sources to solicit dependable data on the subject matter. It found that South Africa's pervasive xenophobic posture has the tendency to erode the efficacy of its rising soft power as well as to constrain its capacity to play a hegemonic role within Africa. South Africa has the potential to achieve regional hegemony in Africa, but in order to do so it must address phenomena such as xenophobia, which imposes severe limitations on its credibility and legitimacy. The article concludes that consciously framed policies as well as constructive and positive media reporting are required to mitigate the possibly devastating effects of xenophobia on South Africa's soft power within its region and globally.

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