BOOK REVIEW: Migrant Women of Johannesburg

Life in an in-between city
Author:Caroline Wanjiku Kihato

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJohannesburg is filled with many migrants from across Africa and the world, seeking opportunities in the ‘city of gold’. In this book, Caroline Wanjiku Kihato, who began her life in South Africa as a street trader, uses narratives and images to explore the lives of women from Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo Brazzaville, Nigeria, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe, now living in Johannesburg. Using their stories of love, illness, fears, children, violence, family and money, she explores women’s relationships with host and home communities, the South African state, economy and the city of Johannesburg.

Rather than ask how political forces and global capital shape Johannesburg, this book turns the dominant urban question on its head, and interrogates how cross-border women shape Johannesburg’s politics, regulatory systems and local economies. It explores migrant women’s fluid lives against the backdrop of a city that is also in flux. It looks at what it means to live in Johannesburg, yet remain dislocated there; what it means to be in the inner city, yet aspire to live elsewhere; and what it means to be both visible and invisible in the city.

Kihato poignantly illustrates how populations living in society’s margins influence urban practices. As we follow migrant women through the city’s streets, the boundaries between legality and illegality, formal and informal, official and unofficial collapse – rendering these categories inaccurate descriptors of the city or their lives. Kihato argues that transformation within urban planning and governance structures a redefinition of these terms for twenty-first century African cities.

This insightful ethnographic study is a must-read for those working in urban planning, gender and migration studies and governance and service delivery.


Source:Wits University Press


Lilah PictureMy name is Lilah Byrne and I’m a new intern working with Unite as One. I am originally from Zimbabwe but have lived in South Africa for the last 10 years. I recently graduated from University of Cape Town with a degree in anthropology and history of art. Unite as One is Scalabrini’s outreach programme. It was set up a few years ago, in response to the burst of xenophobic violence, and it aims to spread cultural awareness. As the Unite intern, I go into the four different high schools and help conduct development workshops. It’s been a really great and eye-opening experience working in the schools and I’ve already learned so much. At the end of Unite’s term, I will be travelling for 2 months, and will return to Scalabrini in August and work with the Employment Access Programme. I’m looking forward to working on the Employment Help Desk and very thankful for my time with Unite as One!

“From the Same Soil”

Film Poster“From the Same Soil” is a recently released documentary film produced by the Scalabrini Centre, in conjunction with the Scalabrini Institute for Human Mobility in Africa (SIHMA) and Amnesty International. It portrays the lives of three LGBT-individuals who have left their home countries because of discrimination and persecution to apply for refugee status in South Africa on the base of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Despite the fact South African laws protect LGBT-individuals; the individuals portrayed encounter several challenges in their new communities.

You can watch the entire documentary film here:


10314730_10152220208204563_5047654375644542286_nWe take pleasure in announcing that our Cultural Orientation Programme, which aims to help orientate students to Cape Town`s culture, and to life in South Africa in general, is the subject of a television programme on local TV station, CTV.

We would like to urge all those who live in and around the Mother City to tune in and watch if you are able to do so. The programme airs at 4:00 AM on Sunday, 25 May. If you are interested in becoming a host in the programme you can contact the Programme`s Coordinator Daniela Cohen on and tell us what you thought of the show!


Katja PictureMy name is Katja Jaeger and I just joined the Scalabrini team as an all-rounder intern. I am from Viernheim, Germany and studied at the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart. I love to travel and volunteer and I am very excited to start my time here at Scalabrini. I arrived in South Africa in January, and spent time traveling the country as well as volunteering in Port Elizabeth. As an intern at Scalabrini, I will help Eve at reception, conduct follow-up surveys for the Employment Access Programme, and teach an elementary class for the English School. I applied to this internship after reading about the organization in Cape Town Magazine; I had always wanted to volunteer with adults and I was very impressed with the Centre’s mission and work. So far, I love working at the Centre and I am so excited to spend the next two and a half months volunteering here!


DHAThe Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has introduced new Draft Regulations for the Immigration Amendment Act of 2011 for public comment. Once the regulations are formally passed, the Immigration Amendment Act will enter into force. The regulations will affect foreign nationals already in the country and those who will be arriving in the future.

Some features of the proposed regulations are as follows:

  • Life partnership visa changes: individuals who are in a life partnership will now have to prove that their relationship has been ongoing for five years; the previous requirement was three months. For relationships that began in a foreign country, documentary proof from the authorities will be required. This requirement will make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for some individuals to apply for this permit such as who have been in a homosexual relationship in country which bans homosexuality.
  • Asylum transit permit changes: the changes to the transit permit, which is issued to asylum seekers who express an intention to apply for asylum at border posts, gives immigration officials greater latitude regarding the issue of the permit and potential denial of the right to asylum. For example, the officials may deny asylum seekers entry if they ‘are a fugitive from justice’ or have already been granted refugee status in another country. In most instances, it will be difficult if not impossible for officials to accurately assess these criteria and some individuals may be considered ‘fugitives’ in their country of origin but those charges could be politically motivated and form a part of that individual’s valid asylum claim.
  • ‘Undesirable persons’ changes: a person who is deemed ‘undesirable’ by DHA for overstaying the expiry of their visa may be declared undesirable for a period of two to 10 years depending on how long the individual overstayed. Given the delays in visa application processing and lost applications, these changes have the potential to severely affect those individuals who have followed the required procedures.

The Immigration Amendment Act Draft Regulations were published for public comment in February 2014 and are not yet in force; it is not yet clear if DHA will adjust the regulations after receiving public comment. The Advocacy Programme submitted comments to DHA on the Draft Regulations and will follow developments and provide further information as it becomes available.