Tribalism and Ethnophobia Among Black South Africans

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apartheid, blacks, ethnophobia, South Africa, tribalism


The paper examines the consolidation and implications of tribalism and ethnophobia among black South Africans. South Africa is considered a xenophobic country. With the demise of apartheid and the subsequent increase in undocumented migration, tensions began to develop, not only against black foreign nationals but also among black South Africans themselves. This paper focuses on how tribalism and ethnophobia have divided black South Africans and removed the need for unity and social cohesion in a post-apartheid era. This paper employed a qualitative research approach where a literature review was undertaken. The othering theory was used as a theoretical lens. Findings reflect that although South Africa is recognized as a rainbow nation because of its many different cultures and customs, it is hidden beneath ethnic and tribal emotions that have stifled the idea of unity and social cohesion. South Africa is still far from eradicating tribalistic and ethnophobic sentiments amongst its black population. Apart from ethnicity and tribalism, race continues to divide South Africa. The political transition of 1994 lacked effective frameworks to unite the various ethnic groups that were for decades segregated by apartheid; instead, the focus was on building a new South Africa. However, this approach missed the mark by not focusing on the importance of ethnic unity and tolerance among black South Africans. Unless these tribalistic and ethnophobic sentiments are addressed, unity and social cohesion in the South African black community is unlikely.


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Author Biographies

Victor H Mlambo, University of Johannesburg

Victor H Mlambo is a Lecturer at the University of Johannesburg, School of Public Management, Governance and Public Policy. Victor’s research interests include Conflict and Migration Studies; Political Geography; Regionalism; Security Studies.

Mfundo Mandla Masuku, University of KwaZulu-Natal

Mfundo Mandla Masuku is an Associate Professor in the School of Built Environment and Development Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. His research areas include Inclusive Education, Food Security and African Studies


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How to Cite

Mlambo, V. H., & Masuku, M. M. (2023). Tribalism and Ethnophobia Among Black South Africans. Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Studies, 10(1), 125–140.



Original Manuscript
Received 2022-07-01
Accepted 2022-11-20
Published 2023-02-02