Language as a Tool of Divisive Politics: Perspectives on Foreign Nationals in South Africa




xenophobia, poisonous pedagogues, foreign migrants, immigration, hate speech, freedom of speech


The role of language in a diverse and democratic society is critical for many reasons: first, it serves as a vital tool for the realisation of the right to freedom of expression. Secondly, it brings into confluence two other rights: the rights to dignity and equality. When language has the potential to cause hurt or harm, or incite others towards hatred, discrimination, or violence, then law as an instrument must be relied upon to regulate it. Political rhetoric uttered by top politicians in South Africa does not reflect the truth from a policy perspective; it incites hatred towards foreign nationals, shatters communities as fear and suspicion fill individuals who target foreign nationals and is counterproductive when one thinks of nation-building. The rhetoric exceeds the limits of legally protected speech. In addition, scapegoating foreign nationals for the country's socio-economic woes is not only dishonest but is a form of political corruption.


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Author Biography

Avitus Agbor, North-West University

Research Professor of Law, Faculty of Law, North-West University, Mahikeng Campus, South Africa




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How to Cite

Agbor, A. (2024). Language as a Tool of Divisive Politics: Perspectives on Foreign Nationals in South Africa. Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal, 27, (Published on 29 February 2024) pp 1–23.



Special Edition: Language and Law

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