Review Article

Attitudes towards migrant workers in South Africa: A critical discourse analysis

Vongai S. Ruzungunde, Sindiso Zhou
Journal of Local Government Research and Innovation | Vol 2 | a36 | DOI: | © 2021 Vongai S. Ruzungunde, Sindiso Zhou | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 15 April 2021 | Published: 10 December 2021

About the author(s)

Vongai S. Ruzungunde, Department of English and Comparative Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, Fort Hare University, Alice, South Africa
Sindiso Zhou, Department of English and Comparative Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, Fort Hare University, Alice, South Africa


Background: The influx of migrants from neighbouring countries has contributed to diversity in South Africa. This has caused on-going clashes between local residents and migrants. This article explores the role of discourse towards enabling a cohesive society. There has been much focus on migrants working in South Africa over the 2020 December festive season as many faced challenges in travelling to their respective countries because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This limelight exposed the underlying discrimination towards migrants in South Africa remain regardless of the South African progressive Constitution that values and respects individuals as well as protecting them from discrimination.

Aim: This article adopts threat theory and uses critical discourse analysis to highlight the existing and continued discrimination towards migrant workers. The article exposes the causes of social inequalities, which can assist the government in decision-making towards reducing the inequality gap in service delivery.

Setting: Public viewer comments on the news updates on migrants’ travel that were posted on the national news websites over the 2020 festive season were analysed.

Methods: Critical Discourse analysis (CDA) was employed as a method of analysis in this article.

Results and conclusion: The article intends to add to the existing body of knowledge and to also inform local government towards canvasing agenda that incorporate all human rights and enable a cohesive society by considering the role of discourse as an enabler of the problems experienced in societies. The results show that discourse contributes to negative attitudes, hate speech, discrimination and stereotyping towards migrants in South Africa.


migrant workers; critical discourse analysis; diversity; attitudes; labour migration


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