VIDEO: Borders, mobilities and immobilities in southern Africa

maHp/ACMS doctoral researcher Kuda Vanyoro was recently part of the Migration Policy Centre webinar on ‘Borders, mobilities and immobilities in Southern Africa’. In his presentation Vanyoro argues that waiting is a component of both governing Zimbabwean migrants as well as them seeking agency through the relationship between time, space and humanitarianism in the Zimbabwe-South Africa border regime.

He conceptualises the Zimbabwe-South Africa border as an ambivalent ‘time-space’ that facilitates both care and control, which leads Zimbabwean migrant men to experience temporal limbo as well as cope by developing a tolerance for contradictions and ambiguity as well as ‘temporal strategies’ of sustaining these contradictions. The spatio-temporal ambiguity, ambivalence and multiplicity of this border regime is seen in the kind of humanitarian action we find at the Zimbabwe-South Africa border, which is not necessarily a challenge to the power and authority of the South African sovereign state but an extension of the policing, management and governance of Zimbabwean migrants.

Vanyoro also picks up on a certain ‘politics of life’ at the Zimbabwe-South Africa border maintained by the disembodied funding regime of humanitarian organisations responding to migration in Musina that keeps Zimbabwean migrants in waiting. At the same time, he unravels how Zimbabwean migrant men use their waiting to turn their (im) mobility into a resource for action. Vanyoro uses these intersections and interactions of (im)mobility and temporal agency to contribute to a growing body of work that shows that the relationship between resistance and domination in waiting is ambivalent.

He concludes that this scenario has implications on the ways we read the African state and African borders. Hence, instead of reading borders from either below or above, or from any singular analytical or theoretical perspective, this suggests that we should incorporate temporal methodologies that examine the border from multiple perspectives to better understand how agency and structure, over time, interact to produce hybrid political subjectivities. This endeavour also warrants an expansive conception of statehood, borders and (migration) governance in Africa.

About Kuda Vanyoro

Kudakwashe Vanyoro is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the African Centre for Migration & Society (ACMS), University of the Witwatersrand, in South Africa interested in migration, temporality, borders, humanitarianism and governance in Africa. His doctoral research explored how temporal disruptions at international borders shape (im) mobile bodies’ experiences and modes of waiting by focusing on irregular Zimbabwean migrant men at the Zimbabwe-South Africa border who have arrived in South Africa but are restricted in moving further into the interior. Through this inquiry, his work reveals how waiting is a component of both governing Zimbabwean migrants as well as seeking agency through the relationship between time, space, and humanitarianism in the Zimbabwe-South Africa border regime. He has also been conducting research uptake work for ACMS since 2014. As part of this role, Kudakwashe is responsible for stakeholder engagement in South Africa and is regularly called upon to brief decision-makers in government and civil society, including the creation of synthesis documents and other communication products to make evidence more accessible and applicable.