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Historia

On-line version ISSN 2309-8392

Abstract

DU BOIS, Duncan. Collusion and conspiracy in colonial Natal: A case study of Reynolds Bros and indentured abuses 1884-1908. Historia [online]. 2015, vol.60, n.1, pp. 92-109. ISSN 2309-8392.  http://dx.doi.org/10.17159/2309-8392/2015/v60n1a6.

The pronouncements of the Coolie Commission of 1872 against the ill-treatment of indentured labour in the Natal Colony and the subsequent appointment of a Protector of Indian Immigrants did not deter certain employers from exploiting those indentured to them. Over a period of almost 25 years reports of assaults, desertions, deaths and suicides emanated from the Reynolds sugar estates in the Umzinto district. Yet a veneer of indifference, which evolved into a conspiracy of silence on the part of officialdom and civil society, served to protect the image of Reynolds Bros from censure. Moreover, within the ranks of the "sugarocracy" profits were prioritised ahead of human rights. This state of affairs was facilitated by the prevailing inherent ethnocentrism of the period. Thanks to the persistence of James Polkinghorne, as the Protector of Indian Immigrants, the extent of the abuse of human rights by Reynolds Bros was eventually exposed and appropriate remedial action taken.

Keywords : Umzinto; Reynolds; Wragg Commission; Polkinghorne; sugar production; indentured labour; worker suicides.

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