Changing management : a case study of power relations, culture and communication in industry with reference to a company town set-up : the Canestone Sugar Mill, 1960 to 1998.
Archary, Kogielam Keerthi.
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Sugar production in Natal agricultural estates and industrial mills began in the 1800's. The Canestone Sugar Mill and Estates (now 145 years old) which is the focus of this study, is still in operation although renovations and improvements have been done over the years. Initially the owners of these sugar farms in the Natal area employed Black labourers but soon realized that this method of cheap and available labour was not entirely suitable for their needs. In the late 1850's they initiated a process of change which saw the first group of Indian nationals arrive in South Africa in 1860. This group of people came specifically to work on these sugar farms; and their descendants, some now in their 5th generation, are still employed by the Canestone Sugar Company. With time, the standards of living have altered and the conditions of work have transformed. Thus, the level of communication has been modified and possibly improved. So the assumption can be made that there has been an element of change in existence. The following is an account of how the lives of the Canestone Sugar workers have been modified over the years with specific changes that took place from the 1960s to 1998. This thesis considers the world of Canestone from the 1960's to 1998, an area where sugar manufacturing in the North coast of Natal was extremely successful. The main intention of the work is to explain how a majority workforce of illiterate people was monopolised by a handful of literate people who used literacy and the art of writing to subjugate thousands of people into accepting, non-questioning beings. Account is taken of orality and general primary oral practices that were entertained by management whenever necessary. This thesis breaks new ground as the first detailed account of the challenges of change in a new-found democracy, described in an agrarian and industrial context. It also attempts to identify the way in which managerial changes in corporate environments can take place. In this dissertation I have compiled the many stories of the workers of the Canestone Sugar Company into one story. Against a backdrop of South African history of colonialism, apartheid and its new-found democracy, the Canestone Sugar Company reflects vestiges of the old era. In attitude, perception, and behaviour there are indications of this in the company; interviewees stated that "this is a white man's paradise "where "the black man had to pay for his head" and where many felt that the company "drank their blood, left them with their bones" and where they worked "worse than animals" until "their sweat turned into blood". I shall investigate the present status of the individuals of this multicultural working community. The individuals that I interviewed share a common work culture and they experience a subservient position as a result of the power dynamics that are in place. Van den Berghe looked at Canestone with an unbiased opinion and results of his work are the starting point of my discussion. His proposals, made in the early sixties, have not reached fruition as a great sense of dissonance still exists between the workforce and the management. This dissertation looks at how the Company has changed, and what role communication has played in the process.