Skip to content

Xenophobia-Induced Disaster Displacement in Gauteng, South Africa: A Climate Change Litigation Perspective


Jonathan Klaaren


The growing incidence of displacement caused by climate change impacts represents a particular risk area on the African continent. This article focuses on two global and local poles in an investigation of a provincial government’s response to disaster displacement due to xenophobic violence. In 2008 in Gauteng, South Africa the global frame of international human rights and refugee law clearly interacted with a national legal regime on disaster management which privileged local and provincial actions. This article explores the material and conceptual linkages between disaster displacement and climate change with particular attention to litigation and to legal support structures. Assuming a certain degree of familiarity with climate change litigation and its literature, the article explores and presents a specific cross-cutting perspective, for which there is only modest treatment in the existing literature, the linkage of disaster displacement litigation (and legal responses) to climate change litigation. The article outlines and briefly examines a short but intense period of litigation following the xenophobia-induced 2008 displacement in South Africa which has not been widely discussed or attended to in scholarly literature. Beyond demonstrating the gap between local institutional preparedness and the evident level of risk from disasters at all scales including those associated with climate change, the case study investigated here shows the importance of thinking about the local with the global, particularly with respect to the linkage between displacement and climate change.

Professor of Law, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. The author wishes to thank Kim Bouwer and Tracy Field for their assistance, editing, and encouragement. For correspondence: <>


Lx-Number Search

(e.g. A | 000123 | 01)

Export Citation