Bruce Frayne and Wade Pendleton

Southern African Migration Project

Migration Policy Series No. 10

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this article as long as appropriate acknowledgments are given.


The history of relations between South Africa and Namibia has profoundly affected cross-border migration between the two countries. Within the Southern African region, Namibia's relationship with South Africa is unique due to the fact that Namibia was basically a South African colony for more than 70 years. Namibians did not have to got to South Africa; South Africa came to Namibia, bringing with it people, language, religion, ideology, politics, trade, and commerce. South Africa also fought a major war on the Namibian/Angolan border for more than 20 years that seriously affected the lives of many Namibians, especially those resident in the northern parts of the country. This history has influenced the migration and visiting patterns of Namibians.

This report presents the findings of interviews conducted with 600 Namibians between May and June of 1998 about their experiences with, and attitudes towards, cross-border migration. The sample was selected from the major geopolitical regions of Namibia and, although the sample was intentionally biased towards urban areas due to budget and time considerations, it is broadly representative of Namibia's heterogeneous and widely dispersed population. The questionnaire used for the interviews was the same instrument used by SAMP to interview 2,300 people in Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Mozambique in mid-1997, meaning that the results from the Namibian survey can be directly compared to these other three countries.

The key findings from the surveys are as follows:

These attitudes help to explain why approximately half the Namibian sample felt that there should be no preferential treatment for SADC citizens (Namibians included) when it comes to entry into South Africa, and why the same number of respondents said that "illegal immigrants" should not be granted amnesty in South Africa.

In fact, of the four countries surveyed, Namibia had the highest percentage of respondents who said that the South African government should try and send "illegal immigrants" back home to their own countries. These attitudes suggest that the implementation of government policies, which are at variance with these attitudes, may meet opposition from the Namibian population.

Namibians generally agreed that non-South African citizens in South Africa should have the same rights as South Africans when it comes to employment, education, housing, and access to medical services, and most are supportive of basic human rights and civil liberties for migrants in South Africa. However, Namibians generally did not think that non-South Africans should have the right to vote in South Africa.

Namibians are concerned about uncontrolled and undocumented migration. While supporting basic human rights and civil liberties for migrants, they are also concerned about the negative aspects of migration.

And while there is support for regional integration, it is felt that integration must be done legally and with respect for national borders.

The key policy implications emanating from the findings of the surveys are as follows: