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Mines and Labour Migrants in Southern Africa

Synopsis About this title Thousands of Mozambican workers tramped to the sugar plantations, diamond fields, and gold mines of South Africa. Review : "A wonderfully interesting book that announces clearly that there is a major new voice to be heard in Southern African studies. He focuses on the causes and consequence "About this title" may belong to another edition of this title. Create a Want. Other Popular Editions of the Same Title. Search for all books with this author and title.

Rigorous reforms improved record keeping. Staff salaries were improved and better training in fingerprinting and detection inaugurated. Rules governing all aspects of port control were standardised across the departments. Administrators secured record sets and circulated information across all departmental offices.

In theory, every arriving Asian migrant was henceforth connected to a single name, a number, a set of finger impressions and a biographical file. Less sophisticated and less integrated filing systems also sought to monitor the arrival of European and African migrants: the thousands of biographical files housed in the archives of the Department of the Interior serves as a kind of monument to the paper mania surrounding South Africa's points of entry in the early twentieth century.

The reform of the Immigration Departments made it increasingly difficult for the Union's undesirables to land at the ports after Here, a traffic in permits developed as schemes evolved to help migrants avoid the paper regime entirely.

Work, culture, and identity : migrant laborers in Mozambique and South Africa, c. 1860 1910

The attractions of the East Coast option were clear. Most steamship companies calling at South African ports had also began to stop at the Mozambican ports, whose carrying capacity had rapidly increased following a post-South African War investment boom. For travellers hoping to reach the Highveld from the coastal plains of southern Mozambique, there were ways and means. The building of regional rail links in the s and the beginnings of a serviceable road network in the early twentieth century had further integrated the two regions.

Neighbouring colonial administrations worked to further encourage - in some cases compel - regional mobility through a series of treaties and agreements designed to ease labour shortages and improve railway profitability. One of the unintended consequences of the closure of the ports to Asian migration had been a proliferation of identity documents to the small numbers of admissible Asians.

Smith also began to issue 'visiting passes' and 'transit passes' to migrants claiming to be en route elsewhere. The numbers were not large compared to the number of applicants who were simply turned away, but the permits were sufficiently common to lead to a proliferation of documents and give them a certain currency among migrants.

By far the most valuable were the domicile and registration certificates because, unlike temporary permits whose validity might last only a year, they offered much longer, sometimes indefinite, stays. Over the next two decades, categories of Asian exemptions extended to servants, demobilised soldiers, pilgrims, 'educated entrants', condonees 39 and Japanese and Chinese merchants and students under various gentlemen's agreements.

Peter Delius

As we shall see below, temporary permits were ultimately extended to migrants of all backgrounds, and they became a prominent feature of the South Africa-Mozambique borderlands. Temporary permits were deliberately ambiguous. For the colonial states, they proved a flexible solution to a range of intractable contingencies. They also helped to raise revenue because there was often a financial deposit required though it was not always enforced. The department was also satisfied that a temporary permit conferred no permanent rights of citizenship; in effect, it injected a flexibility, even a kind of radical uncertainty, that allowed officials to seduce, defuse and eventually disable overt resistance.

The permits were inconsistent in their precise formatting; the often confusing proliferation of documents meant that even state departments could not easily keep track of the variety: the plethora of these permits included registration certificates, travelling passes, certificates of relationship, visitors' permits and so on. But the differences were largely superficial: each permit sought to abstract the identity of the individual traveller from the Indian Ocean social world that appeared so opaque to South African colonial officials.

Towards the sharing of South Africa

The permits insisted on a single name in roman script 'in full', and sometimes 'name known by'. The permits required that the holder be embedded with some larger, identifiable collective, identified as an occupation, family, nationality, tribe, headman, caste, sect or race, among others, that were sometimes difficult to translate into migrants' own languages and which lead to further uncertainties.

Significant too was that the place of departure and arrival were clearly stated, as if this might simplify a linear journey out of the bewildering number of circulations, returns, transits and stopovers which migrants' lives invariably involved. The permits were also fixated but also frustrated by some means of linking the document to the flesh-and-blood being to whom they applied: sometimes the permit required a physical description, a thumb-impression or a photograph.

But rarely was there an efficient, fail-safe way to ensure the holder was authentic: descriptions were vague and subjective, thumb impressions required novel skills to decipher, photographs came loose or migrants changed appearance. In short, the permits, for all their apparent banality, were dynamic, ambiguous and unpredictable see Figures 1, 2 and 3. For migrants, the temporary permit allowed some limited opportunities for entry. Because Indian travellers were the earliest group of migrants targeted by the new border regime, Konkani and Gujarati merchant houses took a leading role in the East Coast permit trade.

The forged documents would not often be able to withstand a rigorous examination, but the only place where this was very likely to happen was at the border post, and Komatipoort officials, as we shall see below, faced some bizarre logistical challenges once in the Transvaal, Indians would need to produce their documents to authorities from time to time, but because the checking of thumb impressions required a certain amount of time and expertise, the check was often superficial.

Cases reveal how 'native guides', game wardens and borderland merchants both European and Indian were in the employ of syndicates offering to help migrants cross the border in this way. He wrote that. Indian community leaders estimated one to two thousand had already succeeded.

Work, culture, and identity : migrant laborers in Mozambique and South Africa, c. - edoc

Cousins called for a 'vigorous effort on every side' to suppress syndicates in southern Mozambique, but the latter proved remarkably resilient. Five years later a follow-up report on southern Mozambique found 'illicit immigration is by no means on the decrease. The small station at Komatipoort see below had few of the resources available to immigration police at the large seaports, and migrants took full advantage.

Travellers simply impersonated the registered holder since there was little on the document itself to prove the identity of its owner conclusively.

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Periodic cases emerged throughout the s and into the s where schemes detailed above remained largely unchanged on the Bombay-Mozambique-Transvaal route. The south-east African permit market was hardly a monopoly of South Asians; a similar set of schemes developed among African migrants.

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Most migrants were so-called Tropicals, or machona 54 as they were known in Nyasaland, heading southwards to work on Transvaal and Natal farms and mines and in towns. The majority were from Mozambique, Nyasaland and the Rhodesias, with a small percentage from Tanganyika, Kenya, Congo, Madagascar' and north-westerly routes, not dealt with here, brought migrants from Bechuanaland, South West Africa and Angola.

Most African migrants were technically prohibited immigrants under the Immigration Regulations Act, but a system had evolved to capture 'wandering natives', channel them into onerous contracts with settler employers, and ultimately repatriate them at the end of a contract. Despite the rationalisation that the formal recruitment systems had brought to the borderlands by , in later decades desertion and 'clandestine' travelling remained a major issue at all stages of the journey and at all places of employment in the Union.

With this in mind, the Immigration Department also developed instructions through the s for border officers who confronted African migrants irregularly travelling through the borderlands. Consider a sheet of instructions. If a traveller had documents proving he or rarely she had employment, was on a visit, had 'definite business to transact', had special authority from any government official, or was a servant, the instructions counselled leniency. Rhodesians and Swazis, as 'Protectorate Natives', should 'suffer no drastic action'; Mozambicans with intendicia curator's passes should not be interfered with; those without any documentation at all were allowed to stay in the Union with a stern warning that they register with the Portuguese curator in Johannesburg as soon as possible and obtain an appropriate permit.

To these were added allowances for migrants found crossing the border 'on foot', those 'in small groups' and those 'travelling for educational purposes'. The immigration department awarded all such interlopers a variety of temporary travelling permits. In the borderlands of Mozambique, the Transvaal and Swaziland, local police, villagers, headmen, and game wardens bought and sold permits, much like the Asian syndicates.

The scale of these movements grew during the s. In , the police post at Bushbuckridge irregularly issued Union passes to about African immigrants a month; a year later, NAD officials at Louis Trichardt noted a trend where many travelling passes had been made out in pencil, erased and modified. That year, police in northern Natal wrote of a 'regular system' involving storekeepers, headmen and farmers that allowed prohibited Africans with false papers to enter the Union through Swaziland and Maputaland.

After interviewing inhabitants of the Pafuri triangle, another investigation estimated that 95 per cent of Africans passing through Pafuri into the Transvaal did so on fictitious papers. At the end of, the principal immigration officer of the Transvaal surveyed the scene in an important letter he circulated through the Union's bureaucracy.

He admitted that the kid gloves and laissez-faire system of exemptions followed in previous years had been a 'fatal' mistake. As he set off on a tour of the Lowveld borderlands, he left his colleagues to mull over the fact that 'only one in ten [African immigrants] is dealt with and the remaining nine report to their relatives that they have safely reached the Union and are earning, for them, big wages. Despite attempts to bring by some order to the borderlands discussed below through the s, north-eastern Transvaal police noted how difficult it remained to identify African migrants' nationalities with any certainty; border control was still 'very largely in a state of chaos' a decade on from the tour.

He reported the widespread destruction of documents and mass desertion, up to rates of 99 per cent. The inspector also pointed the finger at white recruiters with elaborate cross-border networks linking Southern Rhodesia, Mozambique and Swaziland with the Transvaal.

These recruiters were now even recruiting lorry loads of females.