1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Identities, Conflict and Cohesion

The Legacy of Labour Market Discrimination in Southern Africa: Efficiency and Equity Implications for Growth and Development (Draft)



The colonial legacy of discrimination in the labour market continues to haunt Southern Africa in the present day either directly or indirectly as manifested in a number of current labour related issues. In Zimbabwe the land issue, which was the corner-stone of labour market discrimination during the colonial period, has now exploded into a problem that pits peasant farmers (whose ancestors were disposed of their land by white farmers), and farm workers, a significant number of whom are permanent residents who migrated from Malawi and Mozambique during the colonial period and who have borne the brunt of intense exploitation during both colonial and post colonial periods. In South Africa debates over the nature of employment equity and affirmative action polices, which have now been enacted into law, continue unabated in spite of what would appear to be a patent need for such policies given the legacy of apartheid.

In Lesotho the implications of the granting of permanent residence to former migrants from Lesotho and the decline in employment of migrant labour on the mines continue to pose insurmountable policy problems for the Lesotho government. In Malawi, Mozambique, and Swaziland, labour tenancy arrangements (inherited form the colonial period) on agricultural estates are an issue of persistent contestation by workers organisations and non-governmental organisations, and increasingly these issues, in so far as they relate to exports produced by such labour, are becoming contentious issues for addressing issues of globalisation.

At the national and regional levels, labour migration, whose origin dates back to the colonial period, continues to be an issue for which no easy answer can be found. Finally and most significantly labour market discrimination in Southern Africa accentuated the enclave nature of formal sectors in these countries and hence the nature of the socio-economic dualism that has continued to act as a major structural fetter on the ability of these economies to initiate and sustain a broad-based and inclusive growth and development -- hence the persistence and pervasiveness of under-employment and poverty among the majority of the population in these countries.