Diamonds are Africa's Worst Enemy
Dr. Lauren Janes
During the birth of the diamond mining industry in South Africa, both black and white laborers in the Kimberly mines had bargaining power to increase wages and improve mine conditions. However, Cecil Rhodes’ consolidation of the diamond mining industry eliminated the power of these laborers, bringing the mines under the De Beers diamond company name. Aiding this consolidation of power was Cecil Rhodes’ political power which put into place labor laws that took away the laborers' ability to fight for better working conditions. My analysis of the 19th century Kimberly diamond mining industry in South Africa and of the amalgamation of the Kimberley and De Beers mines reveals further political, social, and economic issues that originated at the mines and spread throughout Africa during the late 19th century. As seen through legislation surrounding the mines and personal accounts of visitors to the mines, the abuse and harassment of the black laborers of the South African diamond mines comes to light. The master-servant relationship between whites and blacks pushed its way into laws that were supposed to be “color-blind,” but clearly enforced harsh restrictions on every aspect of life, specifically for the black laborers. However, the indigenous population of laborers had the ability to fight against such legislation by the simple act of leaving in search of a better employer. This small but powerful ability was taken away when Rhodes held his diamond monopoly. The laborer was further suppressed into terrible working conditions as the mines were brought under one man’s power.
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