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Harries, Patrick (1983) Labour Migration From Mozambique to South Africa, With Special Reference to the Delagoa Bay Hinterland, c. 1862 to 1897. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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Numerous studies have portrayed migrant labour in South Africa as a mechanism of super-exploitation whereby capital, in alliance with the state, had only to pay the worker a bachelor wage because of his subsistence base in the rural areas. Migrant labour was thus synonymous with underdevelopment. This thesis postulates that the origins of migrant labour cannot be sought in these terms. Because of the highly competitive nature of the labour market during the 19th century, employers were concerned only with securing an adequate supply of labour. Much of this labour was drawn from geographically distant areas because the local population was able to market the product of its labour rather than the labour itself. Weak and impecunious colonial and republican states were hesitant to intervene directly in the labour market and did so only during times of economic expansion or when a non-interventionist policy threatened the stability of the state. In the second part of the thesis, which deals with the Delagoa Bay hinterland of Mozambique, it is argued that a migrant form of labour arose out of the needs of the rural community rather than those of mining capital. Wages became the nutrient for survival in a harsh environment and compensated in same measure for the dissolution of old forms of livelihood such as hunting and trading. Migrant labour and rural production were intimately linked and the ability of migrants to determine their wage level and the incidence of migrancy was dependent on the viability of the rural economy. It was only after the colonial conquest of southern Mozambique in 1895-97 that workers were partially alienated from their means of production - a move that brought down the cost of Mozambican mine labour and that furnished the Portuguese with a highly marketable commodity.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2020 17:20

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