Mine Boy by Peter Abraham is a social, political and economic novel that portrays the problems of oppression and Apartheid Government Policy in South Africa.
The first theme of the novel is built on oppression and segregation. The white minority government oppressed and maltreated the black South Africans.
It is considered illegal if a black person sells or drinks beer and legal if a white person dose so. Black people carry passes in order to move about freely, usually a person really felt free only underground inside the mine and nowhere else. Black people are thrown into jail now and then for trying to enjoy their fundamental human rights or for minor offences (101-102). The police delights in harassing the people along the streets, beating whoever they meet without definite charges against them (16-17).
I have done nothing Xuma said and grabbed the policeman’s arm before he could hit again. Let go! Bastard! The police shouting up his legs: dog he whispered and struck the policeman in the face. Now I will run; he said and ran down the street (16).
Another instance is seen when Xuma was asked why he strikes the police. Why did you strike the policeman? The woman asked. The policeman struck him for no reason; the coloured man said. The woman looked searchingly at Xuma. It is so, Xuma said and the woman nodded (17).
Abraham uses the novel to express his anger and frustration about the poor treatment of the blacks as shown in Malay Camp, which is for miners alone. The place is a symbol of segregation. The Camp is portrayed as a shanty town with no facilities and overcrowding condition where many people live in small huts but without much economic activities.
Malay Camp is ill-lighted and dirty, the streets are narrow and the houses are equally bad and Malay Camp is known for violence and fighting.
One the ground were two coloured women, they were locked in battle. And the crowd was making bets as to who would win. Most of them favoured the thin dark woman who looked like and Indian. Lena they called her. The fat pale one they called Druck Uz and didn’t seem to like (7-8).
Another instances which portray Malay Camp as violence and full of fighting are show below:
Ah, so they are silent, that is good. but if anyone man or woman wants to fight or see a fight in front of my house, I am here; she (Leah) beat her chest with her fist come and fight me (9).
They were called the strong men in Vrededorp and Malay Camp, and sometimes they would fight among themselves to determine the strongest. Two men would fight and the winner would fight another and another. And so it would go on till only two were left, and that would be a big fight (14).
A little further up the road two coloured men fought. They were like two punch-drunk boxers. They had been fighting for over an hour, and both only just managed to stay on the feet. Still further up the road. They were dressed in violent purple suits with wide-bottomed trousers and long dockets that reached down to their knees (15).
Abraham also pointed out violence and fighting as seen in page (18 and 29) which portray Malay Camp as bad and not conclusive.
And everywhere were people going into gate and coming out of gates. People staggering and falling, people fighting and cursing (18).
On the other hand, Johannesburg City centre where the white live, is bright and has variegated lights, coloured children have a separate play field from those of white children if a black person mistakenly tries to go into white he hears “get out” white people only as portray by Xuma while discussing with Paddy (172).
Consequently, the black people’s sense of dignity is destroyed. The black is made to feel inferior to the white. Abraham shows that only in “Gold Mine” the blacks will be employed to work and at the work place there is a sickness called miners tuberculosis or silicosis that is sickness that terminate people’s life as soon as one is infected with it because of the mine dust.
Again, the blacks will not be treated if they have this sickness because of Apartheid culture of system. Peter Abraham shows the difficulty a black man passes through before he can get employment as it is seen in the manner that Xuma was asked to push a tipper load of sand from the mine shaft to the surface thereby tearing his muscle in the process as such, Abraham looks at his act as wickedness and serious punishment against the black dignity and prestige (40-41).
Moreover, Abraham shows how poverty and oppression makes the black women to involve in sort of social ills like prostitution in other to live and enjoy their fundamental human right.
And on Saturday too, the young women from the Hill and Berea and Park Town would be in Malay Camp. They would be dressed in the ways of white folk, only more colourfully, for they like brighter colours. All of them would watch the men and talk about the men.
And this one would say, I like that one and another would say I like other there. And it would go on and they would point out the men they liked. Not with fingers but with their eyes. And in a mysterious way the men would know who each girl likes. There would be a man and a girl, and a man and a girl (14).
Hence, Peter Abraham shows Xuma as one of the characters who faces apartheid policy in all aspect of his life to which he expresses out his own feelings.
You say you understand; Xuma said but how can you? You are a white man; you do not carry a pass. You do not know how it feels to be stopped by a policeman in the street. You go where you like, you do not know how it feels when they say “get out! white people only” . Do you feel these things like I do? How can you understand white man? You understand with your head, I understand with pains (172).
As indication to white brutality to the blacks, Abraham portray how the police forces a black man to jump on top of the roof and falls down and accidentally the man break his joint but the white police man could not allow Xuma to help Dr Mini to take the man into his car and his clinic. This shows that the blacks were oppressed and the white have no regards for the blacks.