Black and white workers on a South African mine.

ZIMSEC O Level History Notes: South Africa 1867 – 1910: Treatment of Mine Workers

  • The gold mine owners borrowed lessons from the Kimberly experience
  • Workers were employed on a contract basis as they would be easier to regulate and discipline
  • The labour force was divided discriminately into two:
  • Africans who were lowly skilled to semiskilled and
  • white settlers who were very skilled and experienced
  • The wages were also divided with Africans getting very little whilst whites demanded high wages
  • About 100 000 African men were contracted to do the hard labour
  • The mining groups put a low ceiling on the wages of natives
  • However there was no limit for the wages for whites as they had to compete with the wages of those in North America and Australia
  • The compounds were the gold mine workers lived were characterized by poor living conditions such as over crowdedness and poor sanitation
  • Men slept in male dormitories away from their families
  • Mine workers also worked in very poor conditions such as poor ventilation in mines, poor lighting and no running water
  • They were not given adequate protective gear and were exposed to many work related injuries and accidents
  • They also were not compensated for any injuries incurred at work
  • African workers were subjected to long waking hours of hard labour whilst Europeans had supervisory jobs
  • The workers were also subjected to harsh treatment such as whipping and other forms of punishment
  • African were burdened by heavy taxes and it forced them to seek employment in the gold mines so that they could pay taxes

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