27 March 2017
Were you ever told by your parents that ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me’?
In recent months, the South African slang word makwerekwere has become a powerful example of how words can, indeed, be very hurtful. For those caught up in its reach, it can attract deadly consequences. In its narrowest form, it serves as a pejorative description of black African migrants to South Africa. The targeting of migrant black Africans does not distinguish between those who might be refugees and asylum seekers, and those who could have arrived as legal or illegal immigrants. Sometimes other minority groups, such as migrant Bangladeshis, have been caught up in its violent grip. It is a blunderbuss of a word.