Kgalema Motlanthe on the history of mining in South Africa

18 April 2012

politicsweb - 17 April 2012

Excerpts from Address by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe at the opening of the Ninth International Mining History Congress, Gold Reef City, Johannesburg, April 17

a conference of this magnitude brings the best brains in the field of mining to bear on our understanding of the history of mining in South Africa and, consequently, the vision needed to create a better life for all of our people.

This line of thinking assumes cardinal importance given South Africa's history of socio-economic inequality resulting from over five centuries of policies of racial discrimination.

As it is, the shape of the current South African socio-economic landscape is the reflection of the turns and twists of the mining history as well as the totality of colonial relations preceding.

Indeed it is impossible to think about mining in South Africa divorced from these systems of colonialism and apartheid which shaped its labour force, work organisation, infrastructure and culture.

So given the nature of this conference as referred to earlier, I would like to make so bold as to assume that an opening address such as this one has only to give a bird's eye view of the history of mining as it shaped the contours of the present day South African society.

More appropriately, if not importantly, I will also make an attempt to share with you the post-apartheid challenges confronting the mining industry as well as the policy purview of the government in addressing these obtaining challenges.


Earlier on we submitted that mining impacted on the form and content of our history as our nation assumed a distinct and sovereign geo-political expression.

Of note is the fact that the advent of mining engendered the conjuncture of modernisation, revolutionary politics and racial domination, the inter-relationship of which was, in time, to create the face of South Africa as we know it today.

For one thing, the discovery of diamonds in Kimberly in 1870 and subsequently, gold in the then Transvaal in 1886 triggered massive immigration into the country from Europe, North America and Australia, in ways that impinged drastically on the demographic and, with that, power dynamics in society.

It is common knowledge that imperial Britain eyed these economically tantalising developments with self-interest that would eventuate in the explosion of long simmering tensions between itself and the Boer Republics into the open.

This culminated in the so-called Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902, which, parenthetically, post-apartheid discourse has correctly re-labelled the 'South African War', given its effects on all our people, irrespective of the colour of their skin.

The result of this history-making war was the redrawing of the political boundaries of our country, sealed by the signing of the Treaty of Vereeniging in 1902, which ushered in the Union of South Africa in 1910.


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