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Centre for Policy Studies (CPS)

Pan-African citizenship and identity formation in Southern Africa:
An overview of problems, prospects and possibilities

Research Report 107

Francis Kornegay

Centre for Policy Studies (CPS)

January 2006

SARPN acknowledges the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) as the source of this document:
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Executive summary

Citizenship and identity are important attributes that peoples throughout the world draw on to give their lives meaning. Southern Africans and the broader African communities on the continent are no different. This surveys different historical and political dimensions of regional citizenship and identity in southern Africa. Such issues as are highlighted in this paper assume a prospective expansion of equality of citizenship, in a sub-continent where citizenship was once defined on a stratified basis of race and phenotype. This involves a search for an as-yet-undefined transnational understanding on equal citizenship rights and duties, benefits and obligations, which reflects a pan-African identity transcending the nation-state. Surveying these issues entails three areas of focus aimed at informing a more exhaustive research agenda beyond the scope of overview of this paper.

Firstly, the issues of free movement of people and migration into South Africa, the sub-region’s economic powerhouse, are explored. Secondly, the Free Movement of People Protocol is examined at the level of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Thirdly, the case of Zimbabwe, which has in recent years become a contributor to patterns of forced migration into South Africa and other neighbouring countries, is introduced. An overview of these issues is prefaced by a review of South and southern Africa’s historical and contemporary ethnography and demographic dynamics which has contributed to what has been conceptualised as the ‘trans-nationalisation’ of the sub-continent; trans-nationalism reflecting the phenomenon of those who leave their home country but retain important social ties even as they reside in their new host country within the region.

Southern Africa’s contemporary regional identity has been strongly shaped by the liberation struggles against minority racial dominance. This generated a political culture of solidarity largely reflecting a state-centric agenda of mutual support among the region’s leaders. Migratory flows from poorer to richer and/or more developed countries – principally South Africa, Botswana and Namibia – that may result from governing crises within the SADC, has complicated issues of immigration and the free movement of people. This created a situation wherein regional citizenship and identity prospects are increasingly caught in issues of democracy promotion and the need for a ‘bottom-up’ civil society driven participatory trans-nationalism that balances and complements state driven regionalism within the SADC. South Africa’s post-apartheid efforts to cope with growing immigration from the rest of the continent and Zimbabwe’s crisis driven forced migration are surveyed against this backdrop.

In terms of nurturing an environment favourable to promoting the free movement of people, a trans-frontier approach to regional integration – transfrontierism – is discussed. Also discussed is a trans-national option for promoting political integration to advance regional citizenship and identity as a prodemocratic force: the revival of the Pan-African Freedom Movement for East, Central and Southern Africa (PAFMECSA). These options would complement another potential force for trans-nationalism within SADC: the SADC National Committees.

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