Saturday, 27 August 2011
New Babylon New Nineveh
Van Onselen investigates the pervasive, but highly problematic use of alcohol and prostitution, which were used to control both Black and White mine workers, by the state and the mine owners. He also explains that the direct consequence of this was the emergence of powerful east European criminal syndicates, who brought in women to work in the taverns and brothels that were numerous at the time. This exploitation of the lifestyle of the single miners later gave way to the official encouragement of working-class family life. This gave rise to the advent of domestic servants and the introduction of a systematic programme of sub-urbanisation and cheap public transport. We see how not even these developments were able to protect the poorest and weakest South Africans of the time - the Afrikaners and the Blacks. Van Onselen explains how Afrikaner unemployment and an affinity for trade unionism were paralleled by further marginalisation, black unemployment and the resultant formation of prison gangs, which flourish even to the present day.