‘When they come, we don’t send them back’: counter-narratives of ‘medical xenophobia’ in South Africa’s public health care system

Kudakwashe P. Vanyoro (2019). ‘“When they come, we don’t send them back”: counter-narratives of ‘medical xenophobia’ in South Africa’s public health care system‘, Palgrave Communications, 5: 101, DOI: https://doi.org/10.105/s41599-019-0309-7 [OPEN SOURCE].

Relying on the experiences of migrant patients, research on migration and health in South Africa has documented a particular concern with public health care providers as indiscriminately practicing ‘medical xenophobia’. This article argues that there is more complexity, ambivalence, and a range of possible experiences of non-nationals in South Africa’s public health care system than the current extant literature on ‘medical xenophobia’ has suggested. Based upon in-depth interviews with frontline health care providers and participant observation at a public health care clinic in Musina sub-District, this article demonstrates how discretion may play a crucial role in inclusive health care delivery to migrants in a country marred by high xenophobic sentiment. It finds that in spite of several institutional and policy-related challenges, frontline health care providers in Musina provided public health care services and HIV treatment to black African migrants who are often at the receiving end of xenophobic sentiment and violence. The article concludes that citizenship, nationality or legal status alone do not appear to tell us much as ‘bureaucratic incorporation’ and ‘therapeutic citizenship’ are some of the modalities through which migrants are constantly being (re)defined by some of South Africa’s health care providers.

About Kuda Vanyoro

Kuda is a Research Communications Officer and Doctoral Researcher at ACMS.

In 2013, Kuda was awarded an International Human Rights Exchange Programme special scholarship from Bard College and the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. There he acquired distinguished multidisciplinary human rights education and certification. During the course of the programme, he served as a Communications and Advocacy Intern at the Albert Street School for Refugees in Johannesburg where he became exposed as well as interested in migration and poverty issues due to his daily interaction with Zimbabwean refugees.

Kuda joined ACMS in February 2014 where he was appointed Research, Communications and Outreach Intern. ACMS nominated him for the Migrating out of Poverty Research Internship Scheme from April to July 2014. His internship involved supporting all ACMS communications work, preparing and packaging policy briefs, research data capturing, undertaking desktop research and blogging on contemporary issues related to migration and poverty in Southern Africa. Kuda has participated and presented at various international conferences and three years iteration of the Global Forum on Migration and Development.

He holds an MA in Migration & Displacement (Cum laude) from Wits University. His current doctoral thesis explores how crossborder migrants experience quotidian waiting events at the border and what various banal modalities of waiting say about belonging, subjectification and governmentality.