Reimagining ‘Kwerekwere’

By: Khaya Gqibitole  

South Africa is regarded as the most unequal country in the world, despite its appeal to scores of refugees into the country. The lack of jobs, homelessness, and inferior education, more often than not, pits the locals against the refugees – often resulting in bloodletting. The locals’ perception of refugees sometimes leads to the latter’s caricature as kwerekwere, drug-pushers, spousal thieves, and many other derogatory labels. This study examines the representation of African refugees with a view to laying bare the often negative perception created about them in the country. The emphasis on African refugees presupposes that refugees from somewhere else are spared some of the mistreatment. The paper further argues that these representations reflect the Afrophobia that often results in the flare ups of xenophobic attacks that have been witnessed in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng recently. Interviews will be conducted with some of the affected refugees. The paper further observes that the caricature of refugees is an indictment against the locals’ lack of appreciation of the volatile political climate in sister countries that force refugees to run away from their birth places and seek refuge in far flung lands. Finally, the paper argues that, despite the attendant economic challenges in the country, it is chosen as a safe haven, which shines light on its real or perceived peace and stability – something that the country should be proud about.

Refugees, Caricature, Kwerekwere, Afrophobia, Xenophobia
2019 Special Focus—Border Crossing Narratives: Learning from the Refugee Experience
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Dr. Khaya Gqibitole

Dr, English, University of Zululand, South Africa
KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Dr Khaya Gqibitole is an English lecturer at the University of Zululand. He has written a handful of radio plays for a radio station and published papers on the subject. Apart from his interest in radio plays, he also writes short stories. One of his short stories, 'Fresh Scars', won a writing competition in 2004 and his novel, Tutaishi: The African Tale, was published in 2006. Some of the themes of the novel are xenophobia, love, HIV/AIDS and loss.