HC Deb 10 February 1904 vol 129 cc1320-1
MR. WHITLEY (Halifax)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that at a meeting of the Chamber of Mines, held in Johannesburg on 19th November last, a letter was read from the Transvaal Government offering 1,000 more native convicts for the mines; and, if so, will he state whether this offer was accepted, what is the total number of convicts so employed, what is the nature of the offences for which they have been convicted, and on what terms are they supplied to the mines.


Lord Milner informs me that he does not know of any special offer by the Government of 1,000 men to the Chamber of Mines in November. Since 1901 a certain number of convicts have been employed on the Transvaal mines, as has been the practice for many years at Kimberley, where an average of 1,200 convicts are permanently employed on mines. At present 850 convicts are so employed on the Band. The Government agreement with mining companies stipulates that they shall only be employed on surface work, such as roads, dams, and earthworks, and shall not be employed on any work hazardous to life or limb, such as machinery, nor go below the surface of the ground. The mining companies pay the Government 1s. 6d. a day, and provide quarters and water; there is a special visiting magistrate reporting direct to the Attorney-General. The Director of Prisons reports they are excellently housed, they receive the same food as in all the big prisons, and have the same working hours—that is, one hour less than under Cape Colony regulations.


What is the nature of the offences for which these natives have been convicted? How does it come that there are so many native convicts?


I am afraid I cannot give the hon. Gentleman information, within a reasonable space of time, which would indicate the general nature of the offences committed.


I want to know whether these are natives convicted for serious offences, or whether they have been convicted, for instance, for walking on the sidewalk instead of the middle of the road?

MR. EUGENE WASON (Clackmannan and Kinross)

Is there any other portion of the King's dominions in which convicts are let out for hire?


Notice should be given of that Question.


Are all the native convicts at Johannesburg sent to work in the mines and none left in the prisons?

[No answer was returned.]