Abstract

This paper examines how a series of agricultural initiatives forestalled mechanization on the mines of the Companhia de Diamantes de Angola (Diamang) by facilitating the expansion of the company’s African labor force. Unlike other regional mining companies, from its inception in 1917 until Angolan independence from Portugal in 1975, Diamang differed from other regional mining companies by relying on scores of inexpensive, often forced, male and female laborers rather than expending capital for costly mining equipment. This operational approach hinged on the company’s ability to expand its African workforce, which was, itself, contingent upon Diamang’s capacity to feed its workers. Drawing upon company and colonial records, as well as interviews conducted with former mineworkers and company officials, I argue that a range of complementary company and colonial agricultural initiatives generated sufficient nourishment for the African workforce, thereby enabling Diamang to introduce new mining equipment and technology only minimally and fitfully.

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NOTES

1. G. H. Newport, Managing Engineer, to the Managers of Diamang, Nov. 16, 1923, Folder 84K3 4° Diamang, Lunda,
“Ocupação e Diversos,”
Aug. 1,
1923
to Nov. 30, 1923, Museum of Anthropology at the University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal (hereafter cited as MAUC); Paulo Leão Vega, interview by author, May 17, 2005, copy held by author.
2. There is no shortage of literature on so-called resistance on colonial-era mines. See, for example, Charles Perrings,
“Good Lawyers but Poor Workers’: Recruited Angolan Labour in the Copper Mines of Katanga, 1917–1921,”
The Journal of African History
18
, no.
2
(Apr.
1977
):
237
59
; Motlatsi Thabane,
“Liphokojoe of Kao: A Study of a Diamond Digger Rebel Group in the Lesotho Highlands,”
Journal of Southern African Studies
26
, no.
1
(Mar.
2000
):
105
21
.
3. Jean-Luc Vellut,
“Mining in the Belgian Congo,”
in
History of Central Africa
, vol.
2
, eds. David Birmingham and Phyllis M. Martin (
London
:
Longman
,
1983
),
138
; Mafulu Uyind-a-Kanga,
“Mobilisation de la main-d’oeuvre agricole: la dependance de la zone rurale de luiza des centresminiers du kasai et du haut-katanga industriel (1928—1945),”
African Economic History
, no.
16
(
1987
):
39
60
.
4. George Chauncey, Jr.,
“The Locus of Reproduction: Women’s Labour in the Zambian Copperbelt, 1927–1953,”
Journal of Southern African Studies
7
, no.
2
(
1981
):
135
64
; Jane L. Parpart,
Labor and Capital on the African Copperbelt
(
Philadelphia
:
Temple University Press
,
1983
); Jane L. Parpart,
“The Household and the Mine Shaft: Gender and Class Struggles on the Zambian Copperbelt, 1926–1964,”
Journal of Southern African Studies
13
, no.
1
(Oct.
1986
):
36
56
.
5. Parpart,
Labor and Capital
,
42
.
6. Chauncey,
“The Locus of Reproduction,”
139
.
7.
Investors included individuals and corporations from Portugal, England, Belgium, South Africa, and the United States
.
8. Todd Cleveland,
Diamonds in the Rough: Corporate Paternalism and African Professionalism on the Mines of Colonial Angola, 1917–1975
(
Athens
:
Ohio University Press
,
2015
).
9. Todd Cleveland,
Diamonds in the Rough: Corporate Paternalism and African Professionalism on the Mines of Colonial Angola, 1917–1975
,
3
.
10.
Elaboration on all aspects of the excavation and refinement processes can be found in Ibid.
,
80
119
.
11. The European labor force simultaneously increased by 48 percent due to the need for skilled laborers, so that the proportion of African workers to Europeans fell dramatically; Vellut,
“Mining in the Belgian Congo,”
138
.
12. The European labor force simultaneously increased by 48 percent due to the need for skilled laborers, so that the proportion of African workers to Europeans fell dramatically; Vellut,
“Mining in the Belgian Congo,”
138
13.
In the 1950s, for example, Diamang created mobile work teams of between thirty and fifty laborers to address temporary shortages on individual mines
.
14. Cleveland,
Diamonds in the Rough
,
91
.
15. Ernesto de Vilhena to W. A. Odgers,
“Mechanisation of the Lunda exploitations,”
Oct. 20,
1947
, Folder 86 51°, MAUC.
16. W. A. Odgers to
Ernesto de Vilhena
Sept. 26,
1947
, Folder 86 51°, MAUC.
17. Diamang, Sociedade Anónima de Responsibilidade Limitada,
Relatório de Conselho de Administração e Parecer do Conselho Fiscal relativos ao Exercício de 1950
(
Lisboa
:
Diamang
,
1951
); Diamang, Sociedade Anónima de Responsabilidade Limitada,
Relatório do Conselho de Administração e Parecer do Conselho Fiscal relativos ao exercício de 1960
(
Lisboa
:
Diamang
,
1961
).
18. For two snapshots of occupational breakdowns, see H. J. Quirinho da Fonseca to Snr. Agente do Curador dos Serviçais e Colonos na Circumscription of the Fronteira do Chitato, July 28, 1931, Folder 86 22°, MAUC; Diamang, Sociedade Anónima de Responsabilidade Limitada,
Relatório do Conselho de Administração e Parecer do Conselho Fiscal
(
Lisboa
:
Diamang
,
1964
).
19. Prior to the removal of overburden and cascalho, African employees cleared potentially or visibly obstructive vegetation and rerouted rivers or streams if their beds were to be accessed. Although laborers removed vegetation manually throughout Diamang’s history (subsequently using it for firewood), the company only began to target the beds of fast-flowing rivers and streams beginning in the 1960s, once it had secured the equipment necessary in order to form the requisite restraining dikes that held back the diverted flows. Interestingly, physical evidence of both these procedures is still observable today, such that contemporary mining companies operating in Lunda can often determine where Diamang had mined previously by assessing the landscape and river courses in a particular area; Cleveland,
Diamonds in the Rough
,
80
119
.
20. Lute J. Parkinson,
Memoirs of African Mining
(Self-published,
1962
),
28
.
21.
“Rustons”
were produced by Ruston & Hornsby, Ltd., a large British industrial conglomerate. In 1930, the American excavation firm Bucyrus Erie merged with the excavation division of Ruston & Hornsby, creating the Ruston Bucyrus Company, whose manufactured equipment all incorporated the “RB” in their names to reflect the new outfit, while also retaining “Ruston.”
22. J. Simões Neves,
Relatório Apresentados pelos Administradores por parte do Governo na Companhia de Diamantes de Angola Relativos aos Anos de 1941 e
1942
(
1943
), p.
10
, Folder AOS/CO/UL-8A3, pt. 1:
1940
1964
, Torre do Tombo Archive, Lisbon, Portugal (hereafter cited as TT).
23. In many respects, Diamang was insulated from this downturn in the industry, as DeBeers, the South African industry behemoth, was contractually obligated to purchase every diamond that the Angolan enterprise excavated. Thus, even as DeBeers was shuttering some of its own mines elsewhere in Southern Africa, Diamang’s operations were only minimally affected; Cleveland,
Diamonds in the Rough
,
4
.
24. In 1947, Diamang introduced hydraulic monitors, which relied on the combined power of water and gravity to blast off the undesired overburden layer. Essentially, the monitor worked like a high-pressure fire hose, relying on water that was channeled from higher elevations down through various conduits and out through a handheld nozzle. African operators increasingly employed them when conditions (adequate gravity) allowed and by 1949 company officials reckoned that a monitor could remove twice as much estéril as a team of shovelers, while using half the manpower and at less than half the cost. However, only the handful of African employees who operated and maintained the monitors benefited directly, while the company simply reassigned other workers to non-mechanized mines, shovels in hand; Cleveland,
Diamonds in the Rough
,
80
119
.
25. Luciane Kahanga, interview by author, Nov. 18,
2005
, copy held by author.
26. Rodrigues, interview by author, Aug. 16,
2005
, copy held by author.
27. The rails were named after Paul Decauville (1846—1922), a French pioneer in light railways. The rails featured ready-made sections of light, narrow-gauge track fastened to steel sleepers; the track was portable and could be easily disassembled and transported; Cleveland,
Diamonds in the Rough
,
240
.
28. Dinis dos Santos Muriandambo, interview by author, Aug, 11,
2005
, copy held by author.
29. Lutero Almeida,
“Nota de Informação no. 111/70, Inspecção do rendimento da mão-de-obra utilizada na mina Capala,”
(Oct. 6,
1970
), p.
4
, Folder 84G, 13, MAUC.
30. António Ramos,
“Resposta”
(Dec. 12,
1970
), Folder 84G,13, MAUC.
31. For these women, this involvement initially meant cultivating personal plots near mine encampments and using the yields to feed themselves and their families; Cleveland,
Diamonds in the Rough
,
113
.
32. Diamang also worked to bolster the food supply by instituting an animal husbandry program, with pastoralists employed as shepherds to tend to the company’s livestock. The process of acquiring and expanding the company’s animal stocks began humbly in the early 1920s with the purchase of cattle driven from Barotseland to Lunda by a Rhodesian merchant. However, although this program suffered occasional setbacks, including disease, by 1969 Diamang owned over 22,609 head of cattle and 21,000 poultry. Beginning in the 1950s, the emphasis was on meat production and breeding, such that, for example, in 1962, the company butchered 4,437 of its over 20,000 head of cattle. Distribution of this meat went disproportionately to white employees but also provided some protein to African laborers; Parkinson,
Memoirs of African Mining
,
49
.
33. The colonial state had granted much of this land to the company as part of the original concessionary agreement. In 1922, Governor-General of Angola, Norton de Matos, sent a letter to company official Luiz Leote Rego that put the amount of land at
“thousands of hectares.”
Regardless of the amount of land bequeathed, though, local populations were invariably displaced when Diamang claimed these spaces. It is unclear to what extent the company may have tapped the considerable local agricultural knowledge that existed among its African workforce, or even among local residents, when the enterprise launched these initiatives; Norton de Matos to Luiz Leote Rego, Mar. 20, 1922, Folder 86 1°, MAUC.
34. Folder 84K3 3°, Diamang, Lunda,
“Ocupação e Diversos,”
Apr. 1, 1923 to July 31, 1923, MAUC. On one occasion in 1922, Diamang even swapped gunpowder for much-needed food. In this instance, a company agent acting independently had initiated this exchange, but upon discovery of this arrangement the colonial state was outraged; company officials also expressed their displeasure. Local communities typically, however, sold their agricultural surplus in exchange for cash, cloth, or other items, with the company purchasing as much as was on offer. Ironically, by enabling Diamang to continue to expand its operations, many of these local producers became unwitting victims of the company’s growth, swept up in the increasingly aggressive regional recruiting schemes.
35. Parkinson,
Memoirs
,
79
.
36. Diamang,
Extracto de entrevista com o ex-Chefe da zôna mineira da unda, Engenheiro sr. Eugenio Salles Lane, publicada no jornal “A Patria,” nos. 53, 54 e 55 de 24 e 27 de Novembro e 1 de Dezembro de 1925
(
Luanda
:
Empreza Grafíca de Angola
,
1925
),
12
. Food distributed to African workers could also be of questionable quality, such as in 1927 when the company included sugar in laborers’ rations not only because it was oversupplied but also because it was “unfit for whites to consume” Folder 86 7° (1927), MAUC.
37. Cleveland,
Diamonds in the Rough
,
163
.
38. H. J. Quirino da Fonseca to the Diamang Direction Technique,
“Memorandum, Situation of the Fuba Market,”
Nov. 8,
1938
, p.
5
, Folder 86 37°, MAUC. Workers’ wives also found employment in mine kitchens preparing and delivering meals and cleaning up afterwards. There were few changes associated with kitchen duty over the decades, though by the 1940s few open-air kitchens remained and in the 1960s Diamang began to install modern machinery in some kitchens, including large ovens and dishwashers. In general, women coveted these jobs, as they were much less taxing than agricultural labor.
39. Mawassa Mwaninga, interview by author, Nov. 22, 2005, copy held by author.
40. A. Pinto Ferreira,
“Notas sobre a Alimentação Dada pela Diamang aos seus Trabalhadores,”
Apr. 13,
1945
, p.
2
, Folder 86D 4°, MAUC.
41. J. Robalo,
Spamoi Report, Sept. 8, 1945, Folder 86D 4°, MAUC
. More precisely, this supplement consisted of two hundred grams of meat, three hundred grams of fish, three hundred grams of rice, fifteen grams of salt, and two hundred grams of palm oil.
42.
Relatório—Apresentados pelos Administradores por Parte do Governo na Companhia de Diamantes de Angola Relativo ao Ano de 1933
(
1933
), p.
11
, Folder AOS/CO/UL-8A, TT.
43. H. T. Dickinson to
Diamang Direction Technique
, Apr. 1,
1933
, p.
8
, Folder 86 24°, MAUC. In these situations, the company complained of having to go outside its concessionary area (typically to the south) to purchase foodstuffs from traders at prices up to four times what it paid at local markets.
44. H. J. Quirino da Fonseca to the Diamang Direction Technique,
“Memorandum, Situation of the Fuba Market,”
Nov. 8,
1938
, 7, Folder 86D 2°, MAUC.
45. J. Robalo,
Spamoi Report
, Sept. 8,
1945
, Folder 86D 4°, MAUC.
46. Rodrigo Lino, interview by author, May 17,
2005
; Teresa Penedo, interview by author, Nov. 16, 2004, copies held by author.
47. Joaquim Ezaia, interview by author, Aug.
10
11
,
2005
, copy held by author.
48. Fernando Meuaçefo, interview by author, Aug. 11,
2005
, copy held by author.
49.
In fact, residents who lived and cultivated lands on the fringes of Diamang’s operational area, and thus had multiple prospective buyers, indicated that the diamond company paid more for goods than did private (Portuguese-owned) supply stores
. See, for example, Dinis dos Santos Muriandambo, interview by author, Aug. 11,
2005
, copy held by author.
50. For example, a late rainy season in 1938 delayed the process of local growers drying the manioc and preparing it for sale, so that in the first half of the year, only 252 tons had been purchased, compared with annual figures of 1,888 and 1,900 the preceding two years. Consequently, the company procured (more expensive) supplies to the south of its operational area; H. T. Dickinson to
Direction Technique
, June 8,
1938
, p.
4
, Folder 86 36°; Folder 86 31° (1936), MAUC. Other times, workers and family members experienced shortages due to the actions of unscrupulous company officials, even if the food supply was otherwise stable. In addition to mine bosses siphoning off supplies for the swine that many of them kept on the mines, others simply withheld rations as a punitive measure. Noronha Feyo,
“Nota de Informação no. 3/47,”
Feb. 11,
1947
, Folder 86D 5°, MAUC.
51. Todd Cleveland,
“Rock Solid: African Laborers on the Diamond Mines of the Companhia de Diamantes de Angola (Diamang), 1917–1975,”
(PhD diss.,
University of Minnesota
,
2008
),
222
.
52. J. H. Santos David,
“Recenseamento Demográfco e Prospecção Sanitária do Nordeste da Lunda—1972”
(
Dundo, Angola
:
Companhia de Diamantes de Angola, Direcção dos Serviços de Saúde
,
1973
),
15
. In fact, only during the initial years of World War II, owing to reduced international demand for diamonds, did workforce sizes fail to grow. Other periodic disruptions engendered serious alarm among mine managers, especially in the early years when African labor was tight, but they rarely lasted.: Companhia de Diamantes de Angola, Direcção dos Serviços de Saúde, 1973), 15. In fact, only during the initial years of World War II, owing to reduced international demand for diamonds, did workforce sizes fail to grow. Other periodic disruptions engendered serious alarm among mine managers, especially in the early years when African labor was tight, but they rarely lasted.
53. PEMA began limited prospecting in Lunda in 1913 and was thus responsible for the first measures aimed at gaining access to the riches buried in Lunda’s soils and riverbeds. After the discoveries of 1917, PEMA officials astutely comprehended that a more focused and well-funded enterprise would be necessary to fully exploit these deposits, hence the formation of Diamang; Dr. José Pires Lourenço,
A Exploração dos Diamantes em Angola
(
Lisboa
:
Editorial Império, Lda.
,
1957
),
10
.
54. For example, because of the steady growth in the workforce, in 1928 laborers removed 603,838 cubic meters of estéril, compared to only 5,069 in 1917, the year mining operations began; Cleveland,
Diamonds in the Rough
,
90
.
55. G. H. Newport to
the Managers of Diamang
, Dec. 31,
1923
, p.
1
, Folder 86 2°; H. T. Dickinson to
Direction Technique
, Dec. 9,
1931
, p.
1
, Folder 86 23°, MAUC.
56. Todd Cleveland,
“Minors in Name Only: Child Laborers on the Diamond Mines of the Companhia de Diamantes de Angola (Diamang), 1917–1975,”
Journal of Family History
35
, no.
1
(Jan.
2010
):
91
110
. Diamang officials often grouped minors with more senior workers in company reports to avoid unwanted attention from either the state or outside entities critical of Portugal’s colonial labor policies. In addition to the ILO, these hostile parties also included communist governments and newly independent African states.
57. Informants who began with the company as minors in the 1950s indicated that they were often employed in
“light”
work. For instance, José Silva started working with the company in 1950 at nine years old, daily cultivating bananas, oranges, and tangerines from 6:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Others, however, indicated that they worked on the mines as vagoneta conductors starting at ages between twelve and fifteen. José Silva, interview by author, Aug. 12, 2005; Deque, interview by author, Aug. 10, 2005; Costa Chicungo, interview by author, May 13, 2005, copies held by author.
58. Mês de Março,
Folha de Distribuição do Pessoal Indígena Homens-Mês, Folder 86 52°—1948, MAUC
.
59.
Diamang, Direcção-Geral na Lunda, Relatório no. A-549
(Dec.,
1961
).
60.
Diamang official (illegible signature) to the Governor-General of Angola
,
1952
, p.
3
,
University of Virginia Special Collections Library
,
Charlottesville, VA
.