Original Research

Second-generation Mozambican migrant youth narratives of being born in Limbo in South Africa

Betty Chiyangwa, Pragna Rugunanan
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 20, No 1 | a1429 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/td.v20i1.1429 | © 2024 Betty Chiyangwa, Pragna Rugunanan | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 15 December 2023 | Published: 02 July 2024

About the author(s)

Betty Chiyangwa, Department of Sociology, Faculty of Humanities, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa
Pragna Rugunanan, Department of Sociology, Faculty of Humanities, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa


Second-generation migrant youth studies are under-researched in South Africa. Often their views are marginalised in social science research. Our article draws on the intersectionality approach to understand the daily experiences of this ‘disadvantaged group’. This article explores the complexities of second-generation Mozambican migrant youth’s lived experiences when constructing their identities and developing a sense of belonging in post-apartheid South Africa. The study was conducted in a rural area in Bushbuckridge, South Africa approximately 100 km from the Mozambican border. This case study is informed by semi-structured interviews and narratives from 22 second-generation Mozambican migrant youths aged 18 to 34 years. Views of two key informants are also provided. We found that undocumented migrants struggle to integrate into host communities and have to be creative in navigating social challenges in creating an identity and a sense of belonging in South Africa. They shared feelings of living in limbo since childhood and fear of possibly dying in limbo with no clear sense of belonging and identity. There is a strong association between documentation status, feelings of identity, sense of belonging and levels of social integration. We recommend the development of a multilayer comprehensive model to uphold the lives of vulnerable groups in South Africa.

Transdisciplinary Contribution: In exploring the interdependency and interconnectedness of social categories and social systems, the article revealed that participants’ experiences of identity formation and sense of belonging were marginalised in complex, intersectional and precarious ways where they constantly (re)negotiated their experiences, shaped by their paradoxical migrant status in South Africa.


intersectionality; limbo; Mozambican migrants; rural Bushbuckridge; second-generation

JEL Codes

I12: Health Behavior; J24: Human Capital • Skills • Occupational Choice • Labor Productivity; O35: Social Innovation

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 10: Reduced inequalities


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