"he was hot about the native compound system in the mines"
Kimberly diamond mine compound - Credit: PB Holthe
South Africa’s mines housed their black workers in tightly controlled closed compounds. The system originated in Kimberly’s diamond mines in the 1880s. Workers’ movements were closely regulated to prevent them smuggling diamonds out of the mines. The system was later replicated in Johannesburg’s gold mines.
Workers were housed in large dormitories in hostels. Different tribes were allocated to different hostels. The hostels were strictly for men – families had to be left behind in the rural areas. Workers would be locked within the compound for up to six months at a time.
The hostels became major flash points of violence during apartheid.