Bernie Moore published an article in the prestigious Journal of Southern African Studies, as part of a special issue on Nambian labor history that he co-edited with Stephanie Quinn, William Blakemore Lyon, and Kai F. Herzog. Moore is a PhD candidate in African history supervised by Prof. Peter Alegi. He is currently on a Fulbright DDRA fellowship in Namibia.
The title of his article is: “Smuggled Sheep, Smuggled Shepherds: Farm Labour Transformations in Namibia and the Question of Southern Angola, 1933–1975.”
This article considers the history of labour relations within Namibia’s agricultural sector, with specific emphasis on the karakul sheep industry. It examines debates concerning shortages of shepherds and the increasing efforts on the part of (white) sheep farmers in southern Namibia to import contract labourers from northern Namibia and southern Angola. The ability of local Nama labourers in southern Namibia to desert abusive employers and return to reserves (albeit overcrowded) caused farmers to rely increasingly, from the late 1930s, on migrant shepherds, with illegally recruited Angolans rising in importance – making up over 40 per cent of total recruits throughout the mid 20th century. The reopening of Namibia’s mines and industries after the Second World War, alongside increased Portuguese recruitment of Angolans from Cunene province for their own karakul industry (founded with smuggled rams), caused white farmers to change strategy abruptly from the mid 1950s. With heavy subsidies from the South West Africa Administration, farmers invested in labour-saving technological improvements on the sheep farms themselves, particularly jackal-proof fencing, transforming a shepherd-intensive industry into a near shepherdless one in less than a decade. This, along with the development of homeland structures, gave white farmers the leverage to reinvigorate informal, ad hoc labour hire. Using Namibian, Angolan and South African sources, this article reconstructs the transnational political economy of labour in Namibia’s sheep-farming sector, and it considers how transformations in agricultural technology restructures labour hire, often away from ‘formal’ contract waged labour towards other forms of exploitative labour relations.