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Coal Miners in Southern Africa/West African Comparisons

A dialog from AfrLabor list, March 1995

Date: Sun, 26 Mar 1995 21:44:20 -0500 (EST)
From: CBROWN@zodiac.rutgers.edu
Message-ID: <01HOLUKECZNY9JI47O@zodiac.rutgers.edu>

I'm preparing my manuscript on the Enugu coal miners (Nigeria) from World War I to 1949 and have focused one chapter on the unusually fragmented labor process as introduced by the first managers. Unlike miners in Western\Europe and the U. S. Enugu miners (the hewers) were not allowed to have the full range of skills usually exercised in a craft-like manner by miners elsewhere. That is the hewer only undercuts the coal, blasts and shovels it into the buts. Then "tub boys" push it to the roadways. "Timber boys" timber the roof in the "rooms". This division of tasks usually attributed to the hewer represents a deskilling but was an "original state" for these miners. I was curious about the labor process in Wankie in Zimbabwe, and the Natal mines. Could someone suggest material on Natal. I have Phimester's and van Onselen's work on Wankie but nothing on Natal. Also as Natal mines used Indian labor and African (i believe) can someone refer me to material on the role of mining in creating ethnic conflict? Or did workers achieve any unity in this type of divided workforce.

Carolyn Brown
Department of History
Rutgers University

From: Peter Limb <plimb@uniwa.uwa.edu.au>
Message-ID: <199503270323.LAA00512@uniwa.uwa.edu.au>
Date: Mon, 27 Mar 1995 11:23:56 +0800 (WST)

Carolyn, I have read a few articles by Ruth Edgecombe and Bill Guest on coal mining in Natal, some of it dealing with the segmented labour market [there is a wide literature on the concept of labour market segmentation], conditions, and work accidents. One is:

Ruth Edgecombe and Bill Guest, "Labour conditions on the Natal collieries: the case of the Dundee Coal Company, 1908-1955" (African Studies seminar paper; 1986: Johannesburg: African Studies Institute, Univ. of the Witwatersrand, 31 pp.

I think that this paper, or a similar one, was also pub. in the South African Historical Journal, but I will have to check. There is another paper of theirs called "Black Heart of the Colliery". I am sure Bill Freund will be able to help you on Natal. Do you have Ian Phimister's new book on Hwange, or only articles?

Peter Limb, Reid Library, University of Western Australia
email: plimb@uniwa.uwa.edu.au
fax: (09) 3801012 ; phone (09) 3802347

Date: Sun, 26 Mar 1995 23:06:52 -0500 (EST)
From: CBROWN@zodiac.rutgers.edu
Message-ID: <01HOLXIV9QDE9JI3O7@zodiac.rutgers.edu>

Peter - I don't have Phimister's book but I have seen a recent article in Social History, I believe, on Wankie. Are there any dissertations on Natal mines from South African universities? If so, how does one get them?

carolyn Brown, Rutgers, University
(908- 932-8030 ; FAX 908 932-6763

From: Peter Limb <plimb@uniwa.uwa.edu.au>
Message-ID: <199503270708.PAA29675@uniwa.uwa.edu.au>
Date: Mon, 27 Mar 1995 15:08:14 +0800 (WST)


Has your library got: Thuli Radebe (ed.), Natal and Zululand history theses 3rd ed. (Pietermaritzburg: Univ. natal Library, 1992)?

There are several entries on coal miners/workers. I will list a few, in case you havent got the work, and for the interest of others:

Neville Mbatha, "Labour unrest on the Natal coal mines, 1913-1914" BA Hons UNatal 1989;

M. S. Pillay," The Dundee Coal Company with emphasis on the closing years 1950-62." BA Hon. UDurban-Westville 1986;

see also: F.P. Christensen, Pondo migrant workers in Natal: rural and urban strains MA UNatal 1988.

Quite a lot has been written on Natal sugar industry workers' history as well, which may offer insights for comparative purposes. e.g. by David Duncan. Bill Freund's work on Indian workers will fill you in on the details of the Indian workers: Insiders and outsiders: the Indian working class of Durban, 1910-90 (London: Currey, 1995).

To obtain copies of theses, get your library to order, possibly by email, as we are now ordering theses from Univ. Cape Town by email, and if you specify microfiche you may get it in a flash!

Incidently, can we ask for some colleagues to suppress their "message received" emails? Subscribers in third world countries have to pay for this junk : there is the story of the Chinese professor who had to pay a whole month's salary to receive an email - I hope it didnt turn out to be a "message read" letter!

Peter Limb, Reid Library, University of Western Australia
email: plimb@uniwa.uwa.edu.au
fax: (09) 3801012 ; phone (09) 3802347

Message-ID: <MAILQUEUE-101.950327101210.304@superbowl.und.ac.za>
From: Prof William Freund <FREUND@superbowl.und.ac.za>
Date: Mon, 27 Mar 1995 10:12:10 +0200 SAST

Dear Carolyn,

The person who has written on coal in Natal is Prof. Ruth Edgecombe of the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, History Dept. She produced some good papers and articles but no book and she is the one person who could probably give you a sense of the labour process. During the indenture period, Indians were very important on the coal mines (i.e. up to WWI).