Migrants in South Africa have access to healthcare: why it’s kicking up a storm


How serious is the problem in South Africa?

It’s a very serious problem. But the experiences of non-nationals aren’t all the same.

They differ according to geographic context, identity and the kind of treatment a person is seeking.

Take geographic context. Discrimination may be more widespread in metropolitan spaces like Johannesburg where there’s increased political scapegoating of migrants. In this context health simply becomes an extended site for these tensions.

But it’s different where undocumented non-national patients seek to use primary healthcare services in towns on the border of neighbouring countries. Take Musina, the northernmost town in South Africa, just a few kilometres away from the border of Zimbabwe. Here non-nationals access healthcare services with relative ease, partly because of cross-border, intergenerational kinship. This lends a different political meaning to the issue of migration.

The kind of treatment people are seeking also affects the response. Non-nationals with different health conditions have different experiences and outcomes.

This points to the need to avoid generalisations. It’s important to break down where the pressure points are and how healthcare providers respond. My research shows that not all South African health providers are hostile to all African migrants.

Continued next page


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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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