Sechaba Consultants, 19 November 1996

Migration Policy Series No. 2

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A total of 493 miners and 127 miners' wives were interviewed to determine their status as miners, their attitudes toward possible permanent residence in South Africa, and their socio-economic and demographic background in Lesotho. The interviews of the miners were conducted at offices of the Employment Bureau of Africa (TEBA) in Maseru, Mafeteng and Hlotse in Lesotho, and in Welkom in South Africa. In addition, some wives were interviewed in rural and peri-urban areas in the lowlands of Lesotho.

Unstructured interviews were also carried out with miners in Welkom, to determine their general attitudes toward migrancy, toward Lesotho and toward South Africa. These interviews were used to supplement the basic facts and attitudes derived by statistical analysis of the questionnaires. The Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) was used for the data analysis.

Miners and their families are in general somewhat better off than typical Basotho families primarily because of their migrant income. They have more livestock even than ordinary families at their same wage levels.

The highest proportion of the miners work in Anglo-American mines, and most of them work in underground jobs, with the category "miner" being the single largest category of employment. These men have been on the job for an average of 15.6 years, and visit home regularly for an average of 9.8 times in 12 months. More than half the wives have visited their husbands at the mines.

52.0% of the miners believe they are eligible for permanent residence in South Africa, although only 3.4% say they have already been granted that privilege. Another 11.9% have applied. Those who believe themselves to be eligible, have applied, and wish to live in South Africa have served longer, have higher incomes and more livestock, and have larger households than their counterparts.

Overall 18.7% say they wish to live in South Africa. Of these 50.9% would take up South African citizenship. In turn 64.0% of those who would take up South African citizenship (6.1% of the total) would give up their Lesotho citizenship.

The most important factors pulling miners toward Lesotho are their love of Lesotho and their assets in Lesotho; the most important factors pushing miners away from South Africa are lack of accessible land in South Africa and separation from family; the biggest factors pushing away from Lesotho are lack of livestock and the sense that Lesotho does not care about miners; and the biggest factors pulling toward South Africa are the desire to start a small business and long mine experience.

Deferred pay is a problem to 38.3% of the miners, but only 11.9% of the wives. 62.9% of the miners wish it to be optional, as opposed to only 9.5% of the wives. Men want easier access to their deferred pay, particularly by making it optional so that the money would be put in a private account, while wives want to make sure that it is properly handled and not misused by their husbands and thus not made optional. Both miners and their wives would like to have higher interest on their accounts.

The principal policy implication is that only a relatively small proportion of the miners in fact plan to take up permanent residence in South Africa. Moreover, the majority of these miners would not sever all ties with their homes. Even many of those who would take up South African citizenship would want to keep their Lesotho passports if at all possible. There would certainly be a loss of income and skills to Lesotho, but it would not be as high as some people have feared. This conclusion, of course, depends on miners and wives continuing to hold the opinions expressed in this survey. The uncertainty lies in the undercurrent of fear of political instability and violence in South Africa, and at the same time a concern that Lesotho's own government is incompetent and corrupt.

A second policy implication is that miners need better information about the legal requirements for permanent residence or their rights as miners. A number of miners, and an even greater number of wives, do not understand what constitutes eligibility for permanent residence. Similarly many do not understand the difference between permanent residence and citizenship.

A third implication is that rights to pensions for those who do not take up permanent residence must be clarified. There seems to be a contradiction between the relatively small number of miners and wives who would take up permanent residence and the broad desire for pension after completion of mine service. The difference between state pension, as provided by the South African government, and work pensions, as provided by the mines and/or the provident fund, should be made clear.

A fourth implication is that deferred pay should probably be maintained, if only to prevent wives and families from losing needed support. An alternative would be to give wives greater rights over access to and control of the deferred pay, if in fact it were to be made optional as the majority of the men desire.

Throughout this report, significant findings and conclusions are italicized for ease of access.