Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Apartheid, Kleinzee Migrant Labour and Kimberley Club, 1986

1986. Mark & Jake Esslemont, Swart Duinen near Kleinzee

2007. Eskom report proposed a nuclear power station at Schulpfontein, Kleinzee near Swart Duinen, Kleinzee. (Eskom = Ek's dom, biggest morons on the planet).

When a multi-racial work section excelled, De Beers management got meat and men together for a dankie-se, boozy braai at work. At rec club farewell functions, aggressively boozy De Beers supplied free booze and snacks.

At Dreyerspan farewells, Xhosa men and white personnel listened to speeches in Xhosa, English, Afrikaans. After speeches, trestle-tables were mobbed, and Xhosa men scuttled off with six-packs and full spirit glasses. We were soon pissed.

After one binge, Zulu Hlemele passed out in a chair. A Xhosa man fucked Hlemele's gaping mouth. Other Xhosa men assaulted the mouth-fucker, and IR had to sort out the mess. No black wives lived permanently in Kleinzee, except Fezile's. Sometimes wives visited, and black couples stayed in beach flats near coloured pondoks.

Critics said migrant-labour destroyed families and exploited blacks. Critics didn't explain customs of non-Christian, polygamous, customary-law marriages; arranged marriages; lobola bride-price paid by a groom's family; permission by a bride's father to kidnap the bride and pay ransom. Mines provided jobs, where there were few or no jobs in puppet homelands, rural areas and neighbouring states like Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique, Malawi.

Many Dreyerspan polygamous Xhosa had customary-law nuptials rather than Christian marriages. Migrant-labour enabled black men to have girlfriends, whores, and more marriages, unknown to rural wives. HIV and pullulating Aids loomed. (Years later, I'd meet Chinese migrants in NZ, who worked back home in China, Taiwan and Malaysia, while leaving their families safely resident and educated in English-speaking NZ).

Sarel spent much of his day tearing up old forms. When he went on leave, I ceased C3 POP work, and acted as C4 senior manpower -officer. Daily forms in Sarel's in-tray included black allowances; contracts for ratifying and filing; deporting / repatriating influx-control forms, for ratifying and sending to Springbok Department of Bantu Administration and Development office: new name for Department of Native Affairs. By law, the Department had to be informed of migrant-labour movements. I developed a quick signature, realizing how easily I became an influx-controller: ignore my conscience and sign. Boyce and his clerks solved my queries. Compliant apartheid victims, better paid than labourers, they processed migrant-labour for years.

Gallstone and Sarel wanted me to apply for the C4 senior manning -officer job, a promotion, but manning didn't appeal to me. I acted for inexperienced, white affirmative-action Mike, newly promoted senior manning-officer, who manned the mine with irritating, nervous guffaws from his office. I'd taught Mike at Virginia Primary. Mike also reported to Gallstone, who warbled about "fair labour practices," but "fair labour practices" were risible in apartheid SA.

I supervised coloured and white manning-clerks and a personal -assistant, who administered job adverts, personnel records and salaries / wages for about 2000 employees. I screened white / coloured job applications, and interviewed job applicants, before referring them to departmental interviewers. Mike also coordinated a housing-committee, which allocated free company houses and flats to new and promoted staff, according to their Paterson band.

At Kimberley Club, Hlemele and I attended another job description writing course. Kimberley Club saw Kimberley grow from a diamond -mining shanty-town to a city around a Big Hole, centre of De Beers universe, and in post-apartheid SA, capital of the Northern Cape. De Beers dossed blacks and whites in the club while apartheid crumbled. Our bedrooms joined a courtyard, where a lemon tree filled our bedrooms with lemony scent.

In the reading-room, Hlemele and I sat in leather chairs, while reading magazines and looking at portraits of De Beers heroes. Hlemele and I ate meat pies in the dining room, then played snooker in the snooker-room. We repaired to the bar, where White-collar workers glared. "Where's your ties?" said the barman. "Leave!"

"We're De Beers employees." I said. "At Kleinzee it's too hot to wear ties, like these White-collar wimps. We'll finish our beers, then leave." White-collars gloated, not as liberal as their bosses.

I drove to Jo'burg / Egoli - Place of Gold for a Jo'burg zoo interview, as I was bored writing job descriptions. I was offered the job, but lost it, as Jo'burg City Council wanted me to start immediately, while I wanted to leave De Beers at year's end. I dossed in a hotel in mixed -race Hillbrow, amidst high-rise squalor. Hillbrow was reputed to be the most densely populated area in Africa. The door of my new Nissan E20 panel-van was scratched during the night, when someone tried to break in.

Trekking back to Kleinzee I had a nauseous nystagmus attack. On the Pofadder road, I stopped my van, and stared at the jiggling Diamond Cross. After my brain reprocessed, I drove home through starry Bushmanland. At work I phone-interviewed for job descriptions, by sticking my finger in my right ear, and battling to hear with the phone -earpiece jammed against my left ear.

1986. Mark Esslemont's last play-acting in 'How The West Was Won', Kleinzee Rec Club. "Mark me." Coloured actors in the background, as apartheid was expiring, 8 years before 1994 when apartheid officially ended.

1 comment:

Mark JS Esslemont said...

After the Kimberley Club manager said, "I do not think the committee would be very impressed with some of the content of your blog," I deleted the Kimberley Club Hotel link from this post.