Migrants


When I arrived in Iscor, one thing stood out above everything else, and that was the widespread presence of mostly European citizens in various layers of the company – well, possibly excluding the top layers. For starters, I was one of the last ones to arrive from what obviously had been intensive recruiting round of the European capitals in the summer of 1983; when I did in the end arrive in Vanderbijlpark, there were many other Belgians there, as well as a few other nationalities, such as German and Portuguese.

There had clearly already been previous recruitment drives, which meant that I found production managers such as Bernd Strohmeier (Austrian), Yuri Cvostek (Czechoslovakian) and Bart Lodewijks (Dutch) in position, and I also found many of the quality controllers and senior quality controllers who had left Britain in the 1970s, presumably escaping the job cuts in the steel industry of the time.

Other nationalities that were well represented were Portuguese (quite often from ex-Portuguese colonies of Mozambique and Angola, although some also from places like Madeira) and Poles (not sure how they had managed to get out from behind the iron curtain). In the years to follow the recruitments from Europe started to dry up (possibly as a result from anti-apartheid measures), and towards the end of my period in South Africa the foreign recruits came from Chile.

As time went on though, there came a clear divide between the older recruits, who had put down roots, and very little to go back to in their home countries, and the more recent ones who, as time progressed, returned to Europe or, as in one case, emigrated to the United States. So although their recruitment drive of 1983 was successful in the short run, very few were left by the time I left the country in 1989.

Clearly things must have changed substantially. First Iscor was privatised (possibly to keep it out of the hands of a future black government ?), and at a later stage bought up by Mittal. There must have been quite a shake-up of the top management structure at the time, and a slimming down of the workforce numbers, because when I wrote in 1995 for a reference for my job search when I was about to leave Allied Steel & Wire, hardly any of the known names were still in place. The person who was now leading the Steelmaking Technology department was Brian Parry, a Welshman who prior to the privatisation had taken up a middle management position.

I wonder whether there’s still a left-over from the apartheid days recruitment drives, or if continued recruiting from abroad has continued post-apartheid. I suppose I’ll never know.

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