Abstract

In the minds of its victims and critics, South African mine migrancy epitomized everything that was worst about capitalism and apartheid. The system and its associated institutions remain very much intact but do not look particularly comfortable in the new political and human rights-based dispensation of postapartheid South Africa. Historically, the mines enjoyed privileged access to foreign labor, a "right" denied by the state to most other employers. The continued exclusion of other employers from accessing similar rights has led, perhaps inevitably, to greatly increased usage of undocumented or "illegal" foreign labor by South African employers in other sectors. Logically, the state has two options: open up the system to all or close it down once and for all. To date, it has done neither, as we show. This paper traces the post-apartheid South African policy debate on regional migration and foreign contract labor to demonstrate how the mining industry has headed off any challenge to the status quo. The result is that the prospects for a fundamental transformation of the contract labor system remain as elusive as ever.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-1978
Print ISSN
0001-9887
Pages
pp. 49-70
Launched on MUSE
2001-08-01
Open Access
No
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