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Inviting xenophobia? An examination of Ilanga and Isolezwe’s coverage of the 2015 xenophobic attacks in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

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Post-apartheid South Africa has become a prime migration destination for many foreign nationals. Previous research examines the way in which foreigners are represented in the press, particularly in the context of xenophobic attacks, but mostly with English newspapers as the case studies. This study examines the representation of foreign nationals in isiZulu vernacular tabloids, Ilanga and Isolezwe during the 2015 xenophobic attacks in South Africa. This is significant, as Zulu people are the target audience of these two tabloids and they are a local community that were reported to be involved in instigating and carrying out xenophobic attacks in South Africa (Dube, 2018). A total of 34 Ilanga and Isolezwe articles, from 1 April to 31 July 2015, were selected and examined. Content analysis is used in this study to examine the language used by these tabloid newspaper articles to determine how foreigners were represented during these 2015 attacks. The news articles about Isilo (King Goodwill Zwelithini) abantu bokufika (foreigners), abokufika (foreigners), ukuhlaselwa kwabokufika (xenophobic attacks), ukucwaswa kwabokufika (xenophobia) were selected for this study. The resulting themes are interpreted through the lens of the theoretical framework of representation theory that assists in understanding how certain representations connect meaning and language to culture. The study’s findings show that negative and othering representations are present in within both Ilanga and Isolezwe. These publications highlight the difference between foreigners and South Africans. Foreigners are represented as illegal immigrants, criminals and rebels by both Isolezwe. Ilanga had only two negative stereotypes and they are foreigners as illegal immigrants and criminals. However, both publications included a positive theme, where foreigners are represented as desperate people who have no place to go. Then Ilanga represented foreigners as better business people compared to locals. Although there were not many positive themes about foreigners but this was a great start towards a balanced coverage. This is different from the previous research that focuses only on negative representations of foreigners.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.