|Job Reservations Act|
The Mines and Works Act (Act no 12 of 1911, amended in 1926) prohibited any person of colour from obtaining certification for their skills. This forced coloured and black people into the ‘cheap labour’ category, and they were only able to undertake unskilled labour.
As with the rest of South Africa, the residents of South End felt the disarming effects of this law. Not only were highly skilled artisans relegated back to being unskilled labourers, but wages became much lower too. This impacted very negatively on the morale of the community. It also meant that women had to start seeking employment to try and fill in the wage shortfall, negotiating on their housekeeping responsibilities. This community of highly skilled artisans as well as semi-skilled workers became a community in limbo. Confined to temporary status, they were robbed of any realistic chance of building up human capital to challenge the whites directly in the labour market. In addition, working conditions were often inhumane and dangerous.
This Act, also known as the Colour Bar Act, was originally designed to counteract the force of any economic advantages enjoyed by the non-white community. The revised 1926 legislation mirrored the belief that whites would suffer significantly if non-whites were not legislated out of the market, as they were seen as unfair competition. This act eventually became the catalyst for the forming of the African National Congress (ANC).
For a community like South End, which valued family ties and social interaction, the prohibitions placed upon them in terms of labour limited their ability to provide for these families. More than being a financial issue, such laws deprived them of their dignity and freedom.
To support the Job Reservations Act, the Education Act specified that non-whites would receive no proper education. Its stated aim was to prevent non-whites from receiving an education that would pose a threat to whites and lead them to aspire to positions that they were not allowed to hold under the Apartheid regime. Their education thus provided them with just enough skills to serve their own people, but never to exceed beyond that scope.
In addition, the Apprenticeship Act of 1922 put apprenticeships beyond the reach of the vast majority of coloured youths by setting a Standard 6 (Grade 8) pass as a minimum qualification for entry as an apprentice. This law was enforced in over 40 trades. It was an educational entry level that only a handful of coloured schools met, but that fell within the minimum educational standard set for white schools. White schooling was free and compulsory, but non-whites had to pay. Only a handful of non-white families could afford schooling. Ironically, one of the cornerstone professions in South End was that of teachers. The community prided itself on their high standard of education and valued it immensely. Knowledge was the one thing that could not be taken away from them and it was also seen as a potential way out of an otherwise poverty-stricken future.
The Education Act and the Apprenticeship Act worked together to corner and trample out any competition in the workplace. The community of South End rose above and fought these challenges. Filled with a keen sense of community spirit, camaraderie and unequalled hospitality toward all, these residents and key political figures rallied together to help each other where possible. They were a highly integrated society that kept up their fighting spirit and never gave in to the despair and limited expectations of the time.