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Migration: challenges and experiences of the Ethiopian diaspora in the city of Johannesburg (2000-2015) and the role of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church’s ministry.

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Migration is a fact of international life as people continuously move from one place to another, have different experiences, and must react to new society and their cultures. Following the 1994 dispensation, South Africa became one of the destinations of choice for many African nationals, including Ethiopians. The migration of Ethiopians is a part of the migration phenomenon which has embraced much of the world in the 21st century. This study examines the multiple challenges related to the social, economic, cultural, political and religious lives of the Ethiopian migrants and the experiences that they face in Johannesburg, their responses, and the role of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (EOTC) in their survival strategy. Using a qualitative research method, it focuses on the analysis of the data collected from Ethiopian migrants in Johannesburg, indigenous South Africans who are members of the EOTC, and some Ethiopians in Ethiopia who reside in migrant-sending communities. The findings revealed that Ethiopian migrants have a set of social realities with their cultural and identity differences that foster their distinctiveness. This is coupled with problems that are associated with immigration documentation from the Department of Home Affairs in South Africa. They are also blamed for a range of socio-economic problems in South Africa and therefore, are scapegoated which results in some members of the host society engaging in xenophobic attacks. Furthermore, in the case of Ethiopians, their entrepreneurial talents and undertakings make them “soft targets” for robbery in Johannesburg. In coping with these problems, they seek solace in their Church and use a set of their cultural traits for their survival. In general, Ethiopian migrants face the range of problems in Johannesburg which have contributed to the existence of social distance between members of the host society and themselves. However, the study also found that there are common values that have the potential to contribute to social integration and social cohesion between both constituencies which would reduce the existing hostility. In addition, this study makes number contributions to the discipline. It also makes recommendations for the undertaking of further research that may be of assistance to policy makers, to the EOTC’s apostolic mission undertakings, as well as to the Ethiopian migrants themselves, and to the members of the host society.


Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2017.