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Children of a Bitter Harvest: Child Labour in the Cape Winelands

Susan Levine
Children of a Bitter Harvest: Child Labour in the Cape Winelands
ISBN: 978-0-9922085-1-6
2014/132 pages
Distributed for Best Red, an imprint of HSRC Press
"When I first started reading Children of a Bitter Harvest, I expected a dense, dry academic work. Instead, I was swept up by the beauty of the writing; the passion of the writer, and her ability to shine a 'flash' light into the darkest corners of child labour in South Africa. The phrase 'riveting stuff' is usually reserved for thrillers—this is an ethnographic thriller.” —Tony Weaver, Cape Times

"The wine we drink is not innocent. Susan Levine's searing account of child labour in the beautiful valleys of the Cape reminds us of how work, exploitation, and survival are wound together in children's lives, both historically and in the present. Her 'flash ethnographies' weave a complex yet easily accessible account of how race and class shape children's worlds and possibilities.... Beautifully written, [Children of a Bitter Harvest] calls on us to respond with fresh imaginations and renewed capacities to the inequities that still frame South African lives." —Fiona Ross, University of Cape Town


Sharing more than a hundred interconnected stories, Susan Levine memorably documents moments in the everyday lives of children who worked in the heart of South Africa's wine industry between 1996 and 2010.

The children introduced in the book—if they survived AIDS—are now young adults in a new South Africa that ostensibly offers possibilities for overcoming the shackles of race and class domination. However, as Levine makes clear, in the absence of radical economic restructuring, they are extremely poor adults; the costs of inequality and injustice remain high. South Africa, Levine reminds the reader, though a nation that managed to end the brutality of apartheid, has not managed to replace brutality itself.


Susan Levine is associate professor of anthropology in the School of African and Gender Studies, Anthropology, and Linguistics at the University of Cape Town.


  • Foreword—Andries du Toit.
  • A Brief History of Child Labour in South Africa.
  • The Boys from Aliwal North.
  • Rawsonville.
  • Zwelethemba (Place of Hope).
  • Epilogue.