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Dynamics of the migrant labour system and rural development in Mapholaneng catchment eastern Lesotho.

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This thesis is organised around two enquiries concerning out-migration from Mapholaneng Catchment in North Eastern Lesotho. Firstly, the social, cultural and economic impacts of the migrant labour system on the living conditions of the rural households is investigated. Secondly, possible alternative strategies are explored that could be applied to initiate and develop income-generating activities for the rural unemployed and marginalised individuals to address the on-going retrenchment of Mapholaneng migrants from South African mines. The thesis is thus a juxtaposition of historical impacts of labour migration and future considerations for what could be done to replace household's losses of income from mine retrenchments from South Africa. The thesis addresses both positive and negative socio-economic and cultural effects and influences of the historical system of labour migration between Lesotho and the Republic of South Africa. The effects of retrenchment on villages and households in Mapholaneng are disastrous and the most· affected households are those whose historical existence have largely depended on migrant labour wages and remittances. This loss of jobs in many households in Mapholaneng's villages has negatively affected the living conditions such as through reduced clothing and food-supply, schooling and medical care provisions. Moreover, the escalating rate of unemployment of many migrant worker members of households in the catchment are associated with the development of crime, robbery, theft and illegal trade in dagga and diamonds, all of which are gradually becoming the norm of life in the catchment. The second thrust of the thesis is directed at identifying alternative sources of households existence to replace losses of income from migrant labourer retrenchments. The thesis has investigated catchment households in terms of day to day living conditions and the surrounding physical environment, so as to determine household production and consumption demands and development potentials of the catchment. For instance, available resources of the catchment as a whole are identified. Household sizes, composition and gender of members are also studied to determine dependency and labour power potential for production, employment and job-creation initiatives in the catchment. The comparative conditions of living between migrant and non-migrant households have also been recorded to assess their general standard or quality of life. This is done by examining households historical changes in sources of income in the rural economy from livestock and crop farming practices so as to gauge future sustainability of these economic activities in the catchment. Land tenure systems, ownership and usage of fields, quality and quantity of livestock reared, cattle-posts and other rural farming issues have critically been assessed as they affect and will continue to influence rural life in Mapholaneng. Furthermore, the contributions of migrant labour wages vis-a-vis non migrant labour wages on the development of Mapholaneng is considered. The study has shown that labour migration to South African mines has brought both good and bad effects to the conditions of living in the catchment and labour migration has influenced social, economic and cultural practices of rural households in Mapholaneng. The destruction of family and social relations including changes to customs, beliefs and general ways of living among people in Mapholaneng has occurred. However, on the positive side, initiatives in self-employment and establishment of small business and petty trading enterprises by the ex-migrants are some of the examples identified in the study. While the study is an examination of the development impacts of labour migration at both village and household levels, it is concluded that the long practice of labour migration to South Africa from Mapholaneng has also contributed to the regional underdevelopment of the whole catchment. Influences of negative attitudes to schooling and indoctrination in the mines among the youth of the catchment, loss of local agricultural skills, loss of households labour power due to absence, disablement and death of migrant workers and effects of land degradation are some of the negative impacts of labour migration in Mapholaneng. Lastly, based on the losses of jobs and migrant wages by the majority of the former migrant households, future job creation and other viable alternative sources of income for the catchment are identified and recommended for the future sustainable development of Mapholaneng. The research techniques and methodology used for the collection of data for the thesis include a reviewof the relevant literature, extensive field work that involved observation and participatory techniques, informal interviews with local people and a formal household questionnaire survey based on a random sample of migrant and non-migrant households in five villages in the catchment. Data are presented in numerous tables and several maps and photographs depicting some of the physical conditions and socio-economic issues investigated in the study are included in the text.


Thesis (M.Sc.)-University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2001.


Migrant labour--Lesotho., Rural development--Lesotho., Women--Lesotho--Social conditions., Lesotho--Economic conditions., Theses--Geography.