Struggle for Swazi Labour, 1890-1920

Struggle for Swazi Labour, 1890-1920

Copyright Date: 1987
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Struggle for Swazi Labour, 1890-1920
    Book Description:

    Although the results of colonial expansion have been described in other general studies of the region, this is the first book to take a close look at the case of the Swazi in Swaziland. Jonathan Crush shows that while the Swazi experienced many of the classic problems of underdevelopment, there were also a number of significant differences. For example, traditional relationships between chiefs and commoners showed much greater resilience than elsewhere. This considerably affected the pace and nature of Swaziland's incorporation into South Africa's notorious migrant labour system. As well, because of the country's proximity to a number of alternative labour markets, the Swazi had a greater choice of employment than did many other groups in the region. Crush shows how the Swazi were able to use the system to their own advantage and how this helped shape the patterns of early Swazi migrancy.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6118-2
    Subjects: Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  7. Glossary of Swazi Terms
    (pp. xix-xix)
  8. Illustrations
    (pp. xx-2)
  9. Introduction
    (pp. 3-10)

    The discovery of gold in the central Transvaal in the late 1880s hastened the emergence of a regional political economy in southern Africa dominated by capitalist interests. Flows of labour, capital, and trade were redirected towards the new mining complex of the Witwatersrand which, a mere twenty-five years after the first discoveries, was the site of over fifty working mines and the home of over 200,000 people. The vast majority of these were migrant labourers drawn from throughout the sub-continent. Their experience on the Rand exercised, in turn, a profound influence on those districts from which they came, transforming peasant...

    • CHAPTER ONE Homesteads, Chiefs, and Kings
      (pp. 13-32)

      The nineteenth-century Swazi state has recently been called the principal collaborator of southern Africa.¹ There is justification for this claim. The regiments of Mswati i raided the Tsonga peoples to the north and east of Swaziland to supply slaves for Boer communities in need of labour; alliances were made (and broken) with particular factions in the Boer Republics to provide insurance against the powerful Zulu forces to the south; Swazi regiments were dispatched to assist both Boers and British in a series of operations against the fiercely independent African peoples of the northern Transvaal.² In 1879, some 8,000 Swazi soldiers...

    • CHAPTER TWO Cattle, Capital, and Commodity Production
      (pp. 33-48)

      Swazi participation in the developing regional economy was desultory for much of the nineteenth century. Before mid-century there was a limited traden in iron goods and calico cloth with the Portuguese at Delagoa Bay. Thereafter, white hunters and traders from the Transvaal, bartering cattle, ivory, and skins for horses and guns, periodically traversed Swaziland. Although theses visit occurred with increasing regularity in the 1860s and 1870s, European commodities did not become integral to homestead reproduction or the reinforcement of chiefly or aristocratic dominance in the country.¹ Merchant capital did not, in fact, establish a significant presence in swaziland prior to...

    • CHAPTER THREE Coercion, Co-optation, and Taxation
      (pp. 51-65)

      At a point known as Makosini, nine miles south-east of Mahamba on the southern border of Swaziland, lie the remains of the two great Swazi kings of the nineteenth century, Sobhuza i and Mswati. The official caretaker of these graves during the early years of British rule was chief Nzama Mdhluli. Nzama was also the acting head of a branch of the Mdhluli clan during the minority of the heir to Nlulini the previous chief. He was one of the more important chiefs in the area with a following of over 300 homesteads. Only six other chiefs in the heavily...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Rulers, Regiments, and Recruiters
      (pp. 66-89)

      As the Anglo-Boer War drew to a close, South African employers in urgent need of black labour moved quickly to exploit any areas of potential supply, Swaziland included. In late 1901, John Major applied for a licence to introduce 300 labourers from Swaziland for twelve months’ service at St George’s Colliery, Dundee, in Natal. In early 1902, recruiters sought official permission to recruit 500 Swazi for work at Durban docks for periods of three to six months.¹ In late 1902, Thuys Grobler and Helgard de Jager attempted to resuscitate Grobler’s 1899 monopoly recruiting agreement with Bunu, but were blocked by...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Traders, Runners, and Recruits
      (pp. 90-115)

      After 1908 the number of male Swazi leaving Swaziland for work in South Africa each year varied between 7,000 and 10,000.¹ This is clear evidence that the South African economy was consolidating its hold over Swazi society. There was still one major change in spatial patterns of Swazi migrancy before the 1920s, however.² Prior to 1910 there were always fewer than 2,000 Swazi working on the Witwatersrand goldmines. Within three years this figure doubled and from then until the late 1920s fluctuated around 4,000 to 5,000, rising to over 6,000 some years and falling in years of particularly good harvest...

    • CHAPTER SIX Brewers, Workers, and the Local Mines
      (pp. 116-128)

      The mines of Swaziland were an integral component of the labour market confronting Swazi migrants during the first two decades of the twentieth century.¹ The local mining industry had recurring problems with labour mobilization and worker control, even with a large potential labour supply. The mining companies’ attempts to get enough labourers and to discipline and control them, were constantly undone by the nature of the labour process on the mines, the growing domination of the Witwatersrand in the regional labour market, and the demands of the Swazi ruling class on local mineworkers.

      All the small-scale mining syndicates of the...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Land, Labour, and the Settler-Estate
      (pp. 131-154)

      On 12 July 1905, a young Swazi man was arrested by a Swazi police sergeant, brought to the Mbabane Magistrate’s court, and charged with arson. The charge related to an incident the week before at the Swaziland Corporation’s experimental cotton plantation at Loch Moy on Mawalawela Island on the Usutu River. R.M. Cauvin, the plantation manager, was away in Mbabane on business and his wife, four children, and a missionary guest were left behind. Two men appeared on the island at night and, after failing to gain entrance to the Cauvin residence, razed the building in which they were sleeping...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Policy, Partition, and Protest
      (pp. 155-166)

      In the early years of British rule in Swaziland, the administration began a careful search for local collaborators. They compiled a detailed register of the chiefs and asked the opinions of white settlers of long standing.¹ Not that it mattered. Between 1904 and 1909, the politics of divide-and-rule largely failed, and the chiefs became united as they rarely had been in Swazi history. Under the common threat, all chiefs – central and regional, Dlamini and non-Dlamini – came together to guard their interests within Swazi society. White settlers and colonial officials were convinced that there were potential collaborators among the...

    • CHAPTER NINE Landlords, Tenants, and Farm Workers
      (pp. 167-188)

      Settler-estate production in Swaziland experienced aw slo and halting process of expansion after the land partition. White immigration fell short of the vision that had sustained both colonial official and landowner through the disturbed partition years. By the early 1920s, the number of farms in the country had increased to over 300 and the number of whites involved in agriculture to around 500. The major farming areas were in the south of the country and around Bremersdorp, but large tracts of land remained unoccupied and uncultivated by white landowners. Farming was small-scale, undercapitalized, and labour-intensive, characteristics of settler agriculture not...

    • CHAPTER TEN Continuity, Conflict, and Change
      (pp. 189-200)

      The confrontation between August Muller and Mantinta Nsibande described in the previous chapter had a lesson for their contemporaries. For the white settlers of Swaziland, frustrated by their continuing inability to exploit fully the country’s rich natural and labour resources, here was further proof (if any were needed) of the errancy of colonial policy. The verdict itself was irrelevant: the real case had been fought, and lost, ten years earlier when Milner first declared his intention to partition the country between white and black. Selborne’s “climbdown of expediency and nervousness” in 1907–8 and his failure to reduce the Swazi...

    • Conclusion
      (pp. 201-216)

      Although South Africa’s industrial revolution failed to match the scope and scale of Europe’s, it was just as destructive of the earlier social and economic order and as devastating in its impact on the lives of its victims.¹ The British and Portuguese colonies of the subcontinent were profoundly influenced by their economic incorporation into the emerging capitalist system of South Africa. Swaziland was no exception. One cannot examine the historical development of Swazi society outside the broader context of this regional political economy. Today, when external influence and determination are so transparent, this is obvious. Yet the literature on Swaziland...

  13. Appendixes
    (pp. 217-224)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 225-270)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 271-284)
  16. Index
    (pp. 285-292)