IT WAS DAWN when we reached the offices of Crown Mines, which were located on the plateau of a great hill overlooking the still dark metropolis. Johannesburg was a city built up around the discovery of gold on the Witwaterstrand in 1886, and Crown Mines was the largest gold mine in the city of gold. I expected to see a grand building like the government offices in Umtata, but the Crown Mine offices were rusted tin shanties on the face of the mine.
There is nothing magical about a gold mine. Barren and pockmarked, all dirt and no trees, fenced in all sides, a gold mine resembles a war-torn battlefield. The noise was harsh amd ubiquitous; the rasp of shaft-lifts, the jangling of power drills, the distant rumble of dynamite, the barked orders. Everywhere I looked I saw black men in dusty overalls looking tired and bent. They lived on the grounds in bleak, single-sex barracks that contained hundreds of concrete bunks separated from each other by only a few inches....
Most of these men were in the same hostel; miners were normally housed according to tribe. The mining companies preferred such segregation because it prevented different ethnic groups from uniting around a common grievance and reinforced the power of the chiefs. The separation often resulted in factional fights between different ethnic groups and clans, which the companies did not effectively discourage.
Back to the Mandela Home Page
This document was last modified 15 January 1996.If you have any comments or suggestions, please e-mail them to email@example.com.