1960s >> 1960 >> no-672-august-1960

News from Africa: South African Notes

The fight between the major political parties of South Africa takes the form of Afrikaner Nationalism versus English South Africanism. The Nationalist and United Parties are really, however, struggling over the control of the labour-power—more truly, over the surplus-value to be realised from the utilisation of the working-power—of the vast African proletariat. More simply, it is a squabble over which group, land-owning or industrial and finance capitalists, shall benefit more from the exploitation of the underfed, under-educated, under-privileged Bantu workers. Of course, the “progressives” and their allies, Liberals and crypto-“Communists,” support the abolition of the quasi-feudal restrictions on the mobility of workers, e.g., the hated Pass Laws, residence permits, etc., and favour the “freeing” of labour to develop into a fully-fledged industrial proletariat, available to add ever faster to the wealth of the Oppenheimers, Hambros, Engelhards and their fellow industrial-and finance-capitalists.
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Mining in South Africa is based on the unskilled and semi-skilled labour of thousands of low-paid, low-living African workers. Usually, the “coloured” workers are thought to be less poverty-stricken. The following is no isolated example, and surely indicates the poverty, if not actual destitution, of the parents of the children. Headed “Hot stew and clothes for children in rags,” the news-item, from The Star, Johannesburg (1/6/60), contained the information that:

  The Red Cross has adopted a ramshackle coloured school on the Main Reef Road and has undertaken to feed and clothe the schoolchildren.
   The school, Aurora West Coloured School, is housed in a converted church building at the foot of the Maraisburg radio mast.
   The Roodepoort centre of the Red Cross Society described the 40 pupils there as “pathetic little figures ranging in age from five to 12, obviously undernourished and dressed in rags.”
    From today the schoolchildren will receive a daily supply of hot stew. Many of them have already received warm clothing.
    A spokesman for the Red Cross centre said that many local firms had contributed—but much more warm clothing is needed.
   Some of the children walk six miles to the school in almost freezing weather with no food in thin summer clothes ”

It is of interest that many of the parents of these children are more than likely employed by those “many local firms” at very low pay.
By contrast, an item in the same newspaper of the same date, entitled “Profits and distributions,” indicates that the practical application of apartheid in keeping the African “in his place,” i.e., poorly educated and extremely poor, and socially separate from his “white” co- worker, pays off. Top of the list comes General Mining Finance Corporation Ltd., whose taxed profit for 1959 was £1,929,000 (1958: £1,824,0001: of which dividends took £1,067,000 (1958: £912,000). With eleven other listed companies or groups, this news-item totals taxed profits for 1959 as £3,470,000 (1958: £2,377,000); of which dividends took £2,377,000 (1958: £2.144,000). Of course, “we” cannot afford substantial wage-increases!
Alec Hart

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