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The new ‘diaspora trap’ framework: Explaining return migration from South Africa to Zimbabwe beyond the ‘failure-success’ framework


  • Divane Nzima

    (Department of Sociology & Anthropology University of Fort Hare, South Africa)

  • Philani Moyo

    (Department of Sociology & Anthropology University of Fort Hare, South Africa)


This article explores how South Africa-based Zimbabwean skilled migrants are dissuaded from returning home permanently. The study was conceptualised against the background that return migration has often been explained based on migrant failure or success in the host country. This failure-success dichotomy stems from the neo-classical economics theory of migration, the new economics of labour migration and the structuralist approach to return migration. Using a qualitative methodological approach, this article challenges the failure-success theoretical position through an exploration of socio-economic factors in Zimbabwe and South Africa that deter permanent return migration. The article contributes to return migration theorising by introducing a new ‘diaspora trap’ framework which argues that permanent settlement is not always voluntary. Central to this involuntary permanent settlement is the social construction of migrants as successful in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwean skilled migrants are thus entrapped in South Africa because of failure to live up to the ‘success social construct,’ and their inability to mitigate adversities in the host country.

Suggested Citation

  • Divane Nzima & Philani Moyo, 2017. "The new ‘diaspora trap’ framework: Explaining return migration from South Africa to Zimbabwe beyond the ‘failure-success’ framework," Migration Letters, Transnational Press London, UK, vol. 14(3), pages 355-370, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:mig:journl:v:14:y:2017:i:3:p:355-370

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