Labour and Mining Revolution 1886-1940s

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The strikers were backed by Afrikaner commandos, like this group manning a roadblock ©Museum Africa

The discovery of a diamond on a farm in the British controlled Cape Colony in 1867 and of gold in the Afrikaner “Boer” controlled Transvaal Republic transformed the agricultural-based economy into a segregated White-controlled capitalist industrial society and over the next two decades into the economic powerhouse of Africa. 

It led to a scramble by the British colonial administration to expand their political control over all of Southern Africa through the use of war and conquest over Boer-controlled colonies and what was left of the African traditionally ruled African (Black) territories in Southern Africa.

The capitalist and political expansion in Southern African brought in its wake the consolidation of a racially defined society in which Black people were disposed of their land and confined into Native reserves and forced to work in a system that confined them to segregated ghettoes, menial jobs and low wages.  Coloured and Indians communities were likewise confined to segregated areas and also subject to colour bar or job reservations where they were barred from skilled jobs and received differential wages.

Over the next 150 years South African society continues to remain a deeply divided society with wealth held by a minority of White and Black elite and the majority of it's people living in abject poverty.

Last updated : 15-Nov-2017

This article was produced for South African History Online on 06-May-2011