n Journal of African Foreign Affairs - “For peace sake” : African language and xenophobia in South Africa

Volume 6 Number 3
  • ISSN : 2056-564X
  • E-ISSN: 2056-5658



The paper argues that apart from socio-economic and political factors, attention should be paid to language as providing the supporting armoury for Afrophobia in South Africa. The identification of African foreign nationals as the undesirable other is coined in indigenous languages. This paper will draw from SeSotho-SeTswana and IsiZulu to show the rootedness of such discrimination in indigenous languages. Ubuntu philosophy is perceived in this paper as important in unearthing the roots of Xenophobia in South Africa because it is the basis on which local indigenous people construct what it means to be human and belong to a community. Ubuntu has traits of safeguarding peace by uniting people as a unit. On the other hand, it dehumanises the 'other' as implicitly 'different', 'alien' and 'un-belonging'. The article draws on Ubuntu philosophy and Africanist discourse, revealing how the concepts of closeness and remoteness are manipulated in the service of threat construction in the quest of who is a South African? It demonstrates how some local indigenous South Africans manufacture and discursively perpetuate the atmosphere of fear and hatred by using stereotypes embedded in the indigenous languages (IsiZulu, SeTswana) conflating the issue of refugee migration into South Africa with the problem of crime, terrorism and economic decline. Ameliorating Xenophobia, necessitates peace making by destabilising this basis by relooking at language and deconstructing through assumptions embedded within policymaking processes, down to public education.

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