The excellent Portrayal of Life as a Migrant Worker, found at the Worker’s Museum in Newtown, Johannesburg, was master-minded by Henry Paine, a local Architect. Henry and his team managed to give a balanced presentation without sensationalising any aspect of this tragic practice. The Museum is Housed in an Old Migrant Labour Hostel Compound and documents the History of South Africa’s Migrant Workforce, from the first arrivals to Unionisation. The original Dormitories, concrete Bunks, and Punishment Room at the Old Compound Building reveal the Workers’ hardships under the Migrant Labour System.
The men who lived in this Compound were some of the many thousands of Migrant Workers who were recruited from throughout Southern Africa to work on the Mines and in Towns and Factories. They left their wives and children hundreds of Kilometers away in the Rural Areas and each night they returned to their Dormitories where they slept side-by-side in Double-Storey Concrete Bunks with nine Workers per level. There was no privacy and they were at the mercy of the Compound Manager who exercised total control over their lives.
South Africa’s Economy was totally reliant on this Workforce, the majority of whom were from outside the Country, and less likely to cause “trouble” for the Establishment. The inhumane conditions, draconian discipline and the high price South Africa has had to pay for the Migrant Labour System, are brought Home in this tasteful Museum. The Museum is small, and it will probably only take you an Hour to do it justice.
-26° 12' 9.9642", 28° 1' 55.802"