P 38

Controlling Mobilities: Border Policing in Africa

Panel abstract
This panel investigates the contemporary remaking of borders in Africa in light of the securitization of migration and mobility and the externalization of the European border regime. Whereas migration in and from Africa has been has been variously examined, made subject, and analysed from different perspectives, the policies and practices that attempt to govern, control, and manage migration and mobility across, within, and from the continent at borders and through related technologies have received much less attention. The rich literature on borders and borderlands in Africa has predominantly focused on the level of the local, often at the expense of considering rather distant actors and forces at play in shaping the policing, control, and management of borders. This panel seeks to explore and trace the various connections and disjunctures that emerge around much more ‘globalized’ processes of border policing in Africa.

Time: Friday, 29/06/2018, 4.30 - 6.30 pm
Venue: Seminargebäude, S 204

Julian Hollstegge (University of Bayreuth)
Martin Doevenspeck (University of Bayreuth)

Anusa Daimon (University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa)
Danielle Minteu Kadje (University of Yaoundé, Cameroon)
Olivia Klimm (University of Freiburg)
Daniel Tevera (University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa)
Julian Stenmanns (University of Frankfurt)


Paper abstracts

Anusa Daimon
Operation Vala Madi (Close the Tap) and Riverine Cross-Border Car Smuggling Between South Africa and Zimbabwe

Using largely ethnographic data, this paper discusses the joint state efforts by South Africa and Zimbabwe to police and curb criminalized mobilities, particularly the rampant car theft and smuggling across the Limpopo River borderline. Following an upsurge of car thefts in the last five years across the Limpopo River between South Africa and Zimbabwe, police on both sides of the border launched an operation in early 2017 to curtail such crime along the river. Dubbed operation ‘Vala Madi’ (Close the Tap), the authorities combined efforts to manage and control car smuggling that has seen regional syndicates stealing luxury vehicles from South Africa, mainly Gauteng and Kwazulu-Natal provinces, and sometimes using donkeys (mules) to hitch and pull the cars across the Limpopo dry riverbed for eventual sell in Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Tanzania. The paper examines successes and challenges that such processes of border policing have encountered. It also analyses the policing technologies that the authorities have adopted in the face of a porous riverine borderland as well as well-orchestrated and sophisticated smuggling syndicates. Likewise, the paper also assesses the indirect impact that such an operation has had on official forms of cross-border migration and mobility, particularly the resultant intensified scrutiny of vehicle movement across the Beitbridge Border Post and the associated inconveniences to innocent civilians.

Danielle Minteu Kadje
Cameroon-Nigeria Border Policing: Remaking Policies and Practices

Border, boundary, or frontier cover different meanings; a border is an imaginary line separating two sovereign states. Geopolitically, it is defined as a line of demarcation between states. This article analyses how people map the use of the state boundary as a socio-political resource between Cameroon and Nigeria. Cameroon and Nigeria share 1690 kilometres of border, extending from the Lake Chad to the Bakassi Peninsula, and borders in the Gulf of Guinea. Far North Cameroon is the poorest and lowest school rate region of Cameroon and vulnerable to the Boko Haram insurrection, due to geographical, cultural, and economic overlap with north-eastern Nigeria. The Nigerian Boko Haram group took advantage of these vulnerabilities to make Far North Cameroon a logistic base, a safe haven, and a source of recruitment. Apart from this, there is a political crisis in both English regions of Cameroon (Northwest and Southwest regions), which belonged before independence to Nigeria and that aim at establishing again a federal system as in Nigeria or secessionism. This paper highlights that the border between Cameroon and Nigeria is a resource for population, but this socio-political resource affects and weakens both states which remake the management of mobility and borders.

Olivia Klimm
Systematic Arbitrariness at (South) Africa’s Busiest Borders: Understanding the Seeming Paradox of a Lack of Rule of Law Despite Intense Executive State Presence

While the myriads of agreements on immobilization of Africans between the European Union and governments in northern, western, and eastern Africa have attracted public attention sensitive to the global trend of linking security issues to migration, the ways in which Europe externalizes both the control of its own borders into and its visions of bordering between African countries to southern Africa have not been sufficiently scrutinized. The case of South Africa in particular is however worth looking at: It is the porosity of the country’s, arguably the continent’s, busiest land border across the Limpopo River with Zimbabwe, negotiated by the quest of South African border guards for venal inclusion in the stratum of consumer citizens and contributing to the precarious existence of uncounted non-citizens further inland, which lends expedient legitimacy to German federal policemen at Africa’s busiest border with the world, the O.R. Tambo International Airport of Johannesburg, for executing Europe’s close suspicion against Africans when preventing passengers from travelling to Germany in cooperation with the Chinese HNA Group-owned Swissport company. A comparison with the purposes, means, and effects of the activities of the ground handlers of the Limpopo, based on ethnographic fieldwork there between 2013 and 2016 and drawing on participant observation at the airport of Johannesburg in 2017, may help to debunk the systematic arbitrariness of Europe’s border regime in South Africa and understand more precisely the seeming paradox of a lack of rule of law despite intense executive state presence characterizing borders around the world.

Daniel Tevera
The Dreaded Musina-Beitbridge Border: Another Look at the Border Experiences of Zimbabwean Informal Cross Border Traders

Recent literature on border studies and regional integration in southern Africa has highlighted the potential that borders have as hubs of connectivity between countries. This paper explores the experiences of Zimbabwean informal cross border traders passing through the Musina-Beitbridge border between South Africa and Zimbabwe. The aim is to understand how processes of current border control are influencing the geographies of mobility. A related aim is to shed light on the ways in which informal cross border traders construct their experiences of mobility across the border. The paper investigates what the overlapping processes of mobility/immobility and belonging/not belonging mean to informal cross border traders crossing the Musina-Beitbridge border between South Africa and Zimbabwe. The main finding is that increased border securitization is producing new geographies that are characterized by waithood/immobility rather than rapid transit/mobility. Despite the Southern Africa Development Community’s (SADC) protocol on free movement of people within the region, constant tension between greater openness of the borders and the reinforcement of controls at the border is producing a space that is largely an instrument of division rather than that of connectivity.

Julian Stenmanns
Policing the Seam: Ports and Ships as Contested Borderlands