Migrant Labour in South Africa's Mining Economy

Migrant Labour in South Africa's Mining Economy: The Struggle for the Gold Mines' Labour Supply, 1890-1920

Copyright Date: 1985
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Migrant Labour in South Africa's Mining Economy
    Book Description:

    In tracing the development of the recruiting system, Alan Jeeves shows how a large proportion of the labour supply came to be controlled by private labour companies and recruiting agents, who aimed both to exploit the workers and to extract heavy fees from the employing companies. The gold indusry struggled for years against the internal divisions which created the competition for labour, until at last the Chamber of Mines, with the support of the state, succeeded in driving out the private recruiters and centralizing the system under its control. This study of the interests involved in the struggle for control of the black labour supply reveals much about the forces which created and now entrench racial domination in South African's industrial economy.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6092-5
    Subjects: Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Tables
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-2)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 3-34)

    For almost a century gold mining has dominated the South African economy. Even today, after many years of rapid economic growth and diversification, the gold mines remain the principal source of foreign exchange and a major contributor of state revenue through taxation. They continue to be one of the country’s largest employers of both white and black labour. In the early years of this century, the industry’s dominance was, if anything, even greater than in the 1980s. Secondary manufacturing was only beginning to develop. Farming although extremely important was still struggling and had yet to receive the massive state subsidies...

  8. PART ONE Foundations, 1890–1910
    • CHAPTER ONE Mining Capital and the State under Kruger and Milner
      (pp. 37-58)

      The decade of the 1890s saw an enormous expansion in gold mining on the Witwatersrand. The industry developed the first of the deep-level mines at this time, which required very large capital investment. Expansion resulted from two main factors. The boom conditions in the share market in 1894–5 and to a lesser degree in early 1899 offered an advantageous time to seek new capital. Companies emerged which never would have been launched in ordinary circumstances.¹ Moreover, the financial houses on the Rand were enabled, through their market operations, to take profits which probably exceeded–at least for some of...

    • CHAPTER TWO Toward a Racial Division of Labour on the Witwatersrand
      (pp. 59-84)

      The political upheavals which accompanied the shift from “Milnerism” to self-government in the Transvaal brought serious new complications to the Johannesburg gold industry, as it struggled to restore prewar levels of profitability. Most of these involved, directly or indirectly, the labour supply situation. In Britain, the election of 1906 confirmed in power a hostile Liberal party, avowedly suspicious of Randlords and determined to deny them further supplies of Chinese labour. Even before its election victory, the Campbell-Bannerman government announced major constitutional initiatives designed to devolve responsible government on to elected assemblies in the Transvaal and Orange River colonies within a...

  9. PART TWO The System at Work
    • CHAPTER THREE The Making of a Labour Pool: Recruiting in the Eastern Cape
      (pp. 87-120)

      Despite the important efforts which were made to extend more effective government control over mine labour recruiting in the period 1907–9, growing competition for labour produced near anarchical conditions in many districts.¹ As the Chinese labourers were repatriated, labour demands on the mines increased and the collapse of the wnla in South Africa (though not in Mozambique) at the end of 1906 removed the industry’s own controls on destructive competition for labour. The establishment of the Transvaal’s gnlb and the resulting development of interstate cooperation on labour matters did little at first to curb abuses. In most colonies, labour...

    • CHAPTER FOUR The Native Recruiting Corporation and Its Rivals
      (pp. 121-152)

      As a result of the collapse of wnla operations within South Africa, the mining groups had condemned themselves to several years of unrestrained competition for labour. This represented a return to the anarchical conditions of the 1890s with many of the same undesirable consequences. Recruiting costs increased sharply; independent labour contractors and recruiters captured a larger share of the business; the system of cash and cattle advances developed and cost the groups large sums; finally, the spectre of wage competition returned and differentials opened both for basic rates and for the bonuses paid principally to “drill boys.” This was a...

    • CHAPTER FIVE The Recruiting Nexus: Touts, Headmen, and Their Recruits
      (pp. 153-184)

      In the Chamber of Mines’ campaign to cut labour costs and to bring maximum efficiency to the management of the migrant labour supply, the establishment of the Native Recruiting Corporation at the end of 1912 marked a long step forward. Important as it was, however, this was only part of a larger plan to reorder the industry’s labour system. Over the longer term, Charles Villiers and his staff counted on voluntary labour to bring recruiting costs down dramatically.¹ They hoped that, increasingly, the mineworkers would simply “gravitate” to Johannesburg, as the president of the Chamber of Mines had earlier expressed...

  10. PART THREE Mine Labour in the Subcontinental Economy
    • CHAPTER SIX The wnla’s Mozambique Connection
      (pp. 187-220)

      In developing a recruiting network in southern Mozambique which quickly made Portuguese East Africa an unrivalled source of black labour for the gold mines, the wnla built on patterns of southward migration there which reached back at least to the 1850s. Large numbers of Tsonga migrants crossed Zululand into Natal in the late nineteenth century to find work on sugar and other estates. Tsonga were also prominent on the diamond fields from the early 1870s. Chamber Of Mines recruiters located their stations and camps along the routes established by these early migrants. They involved themselves in the liquor traffic conducted...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Tropical Recruiting and the Bid for the Labour of the Hinterland
      (pp. 221-252)

      During 1902, the Chamber of Mines began to consider development of a recruiting network in central and east Africa, particularly northern Mozambique, Nyasaland, and northern Rhodesia. Before the war, tropical migrants in some numbers had found work on the mines, but apart from the activities of independent labour touts no recruiting had been undertaken by the Rand Native Labour Association, the official arm of the Chamber of Mines until the wnla came into existence in 1900. Consideration of recruitment north of 22°sl reflected the same motives which led to the decision to import Chinese labour in 1904. With the restart...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 253-264)

    This investigation of the origins of the gold-mining industry’s labour systems has suggested a pattern of development very unlike that depicted in earlier accounts. From Sheila van der Horst writing in the early 1940s to Norman Levy in 1982, historians and social scientists of the mining industry have seen in its early policies an inexorable drive to monopsony.¹ Despite some important differences in interpretation, writers of both a liberal, centrist perspective and those taking the newer, radical approach have shared a view which stressed the monopoly power of the gold-mining industry. Eventually, a highly centralized recruiting system under Chamber of...

  12. Appendixes
    • Appendix 1 Average Number of Africans Employed on Mines and Works, Transvaal, 1903–20
      (pp. 265-267)
    • Appendix 2 Mine Workers Received, wnla Member Companies, 1902–20
      (pp. 268-268)
    • Appendix 3 “Voluntary” Labour on Transvaal Gold Mines, 1905–20
      (pp. 269-269)
    • Appendix 4 Territorial Analysis of Desertion, wnla Member Companies, 1909–20
      (pp. 270-270)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 271-308)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 309-318)
  15. Index
    (pp. 319-323)