By William H. Hutt
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The recruiting machinery which the mines soon found it profitable to set up actively informed the tribal communities of the opportunities which the mines were providing. I t has been alleged that their agents painted at times an unduly rosy picture of the advantages, amounting sometimes to fraudulent persuasion, but African labourers who had once 48 experienced mining work returned voluntarily again and again after their customary periodic sojourn with their family and tribe. Indeed, it soon became a mark of status or prestige within the tribe to have served in the mines.
They never envisaged more than a gradual relaxation of the colour bars which we are about to discuss. Yet they knew only too well that there was much semi-skilled work which was performed by Whites (at the traditional high wagerates) which could have been efficiently performed by Africans after a period of training at wage-rates very much higher than were then available to Africans, but very much lower than were currently commanded by the Whites. The mines would have benefited handsomely if such a step could have been taken, and it would have prevented the emergence of one of the most cor~spicuouscolour injustices in South Africa.
The cheapness of'African labour did not, therefore, imply its 'exploitatio11'. Indeed, as we have seen, it was the rise in the Africans' money earnings above the value of those wants that could be satisfied by money expenditure, to which we can trace - in part - the origin of their high demand for leisure (the long periods devoted to living on previous earnings in the reserves). Nor was their primitiveness a reason for the cheapness of their labour. Their reluctance to break with the traditions of their tribe, their bewilderment at having to work under the discipline of foreigners with an incomprehensible moral code and talking a strange language, the need for a regularity of activity quite unparalleled in their primitive background, and the need for periodic return to their wives and families - all these factors inevitably handicapped the recruiters, both in persuading Africans to accept mining employment for the first time and in persuading them to shorten their habitual periods of residence in the reserves.