Changing the narrative of the migrants and migration patterns in South Africa

The role of the media in the construction of society is multifaceted; as it provides the facilitation and understanding of issues that affect migrants and also locals in host countries

By Tulani Ngwenya


Apart from administrative aspects of dealing with migrants and new arrivals in South Africa, established narratives centering on security threats, nationalism and economisation are given prominence.

Narrative frames on humanitarianism and background contexts on migration mobility including migrant issues are broadcast to a lesser extent in both public and private media.

According to a new report from the African Union and International Organization for Migration; the Africa Migration Report: Challenging the Narrative (AMR) released on 15 October, established that portrayals of migration flows in Africa are most times mischaracterized and or misconstrued.

Migration experts have said that media frames and or false perceptions of migration have a detrimental impact on policies. Hence the need for them to be challenged and or changed.

The Africa Migration Report: Challenging the Narrative (AMR) reveals that there is need to share information better and data on migration between countries in Africa so that policies can be better targeted and become more relevant.

Negative sides of nationalism were witnessed in South Africa during the hard-lockdown especially in media coverage and framing patterns on issues to do with migrants and migration.

Random analysis and monitoring of reports during the hardlock-down also indicated a predominance of stereotyped interpretations of refugees, asylum seekers and migrant issues in general.

These negative potrayals and peddling of exclusionary discourses continue to fan xenophobic attitudes and wrong views of migration and migrants in South Africa.

The role of the media in the construction of society is multifaceted; as it provides the facilitation and understanding of issues that affect migrants and also locals in host country.

This ensures that issues that reflect established behavioral norms, frames and institutions’ perceptions on migration are challenged and changed to reflect the true nature of migration and migrants that come to South Africa.

Thus, with the increasing anti-immigrant sentiment in South Africa and in SADC, contemporary South African mainstream media and new media need to re-construct the discourse around migrants.

While other media narratives have improved portrayals and presentation of migrants affairs in South Africa, a lot still needs to be done for media coverage that fosters unbiased perceptions of migrants among the general public and refugees’ positive integration within South African society.

Tulani Ngwenya is a freelance Editor/Journalist, and also Media and Communication Manager for Luthando Migrants and Refugee Centre and runs the Luthando Voices project in South Africa; he writes in his own capacity. This article was produced as part of Internews’ Journalism Training Workshop on Reporting on Migration; “Changing the Narrative on Migrants in South Africa.”


He can be contacted on +27715575110 or via email on



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