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POPPIES AND GOLD: OPIUM AND LAW-MAKING ON THE WITWATERSRAND, 1904–10*

  • THEMBISA WAETJEN (a1)
Abstract

In the wake of the South African war, the indenture and transport of over 63,000 Chinese men to gold mines in the Transvaal sparked a rush to supply smoking opium to a literally captive market. Embroiled in a growing political economy of mass intoxication, state lawmakers shifted official policy from prohibition to provision. Their innovation of an industrial drug maintenance bureaucracy, developed on behalf of mining capital in alliance with organized pharmacy and medicine, ran counter to local trends of policy reform and represents a unique episode for broader histories of modern narcotics regulation. This article considers the significance of this case and chronicles the contradictory interests and ideologies that informed political scrambles over legitimate opium uses, users, and profiteers. It shows how the state maintained its provision policy, for as long as it proved expedient, against varied and mounting public pressures – local and international – for renewed drug suppression. The argument here is that the state managed an epidemic of addiction on the Rand as an extraordinary problem of demography. It achieved this both through redefining smoking opium from intoxicant to mine medicine and through the legal construction of a ‘special biochemical zone’, which corresponded with the exceptional status and spatial segregation of a despised alien labour force.

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Footnotes
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My thanks to Julie Parle and her Pharmaceutical Modernities initiative for giving life to this research. I am grateful to Gerhard Maré for close reading and discussions, and to the editors and three anonymous Journal of African History referees for their generous assistance towards the final version. I presented this article at the Wits Interdisciplinary Seminar in the Humanities and benefited from the comments and suggestions of, among others, Prinisha Badassy, Keith Breckenridge, Catherine Burns, Nafisa Essop Sheik, Andrew McDonald, Hlonipha Mokoena, and Stephen Sparks. Author's email: thembisa@gmail.com

Footnotes
References
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1 T. Waetjen, ‘The rise and fall of the opium trade in the Transvaal, 1904–1910’, Journal of Southern African Studies (forthcoming).

2 On Chinese indenture and the Transvaal state, see Richardson, P., Chinese Mine Labour in the Transvaal (London, 1982); Marks, S. and Trapido, S., ‘Lord Milner and the South African state’, History Workshop Journal, 8 (1979), 65–6; Nkhosi, M. Z., ‘American mining engineers and the labor structure in the South African gold mines’, African Journal of Political Economy, 1:2 (1987), 66–7; Higginson, J., ‘Privileging the machines: American engineers, indentured Chinese and white workers in South Africa's deep-level gold mines, 1902–1907’, International Review of Social History, 52 (2007), 1316 .

3 Cape Town Archive Repository (KAB) MOH 322, ‘Opium on the mines of the Witwatersrand’, Copy of Report/Letter from G. Baldwin to Magistrate EHMT Baines, Esq. 1 May 1907.

4 Manderson, D., ‘Symbolism and racism in drug history and policy’, Drug and Alcohol Review, 18:2 (1999), 179–86; Boyd, N., ‘The origins of Canadian narcotics legislation: the process of criminalization in historical context’, Dalhousie Law Journal, 8 (1984), 102–36, esp. 114–18; Courtwright, D., Dark Paradise: A History of Opiate Addiction in America (Cambridge, 2001), 7781 ; Hickman, T. A., ‘Drugs and race in American culture: orientalism in the turn-of-the-century discourse of narcotic addiction’, American Studies, 41 (spring 2000), 7191 .

5 Anderson, S. and Berridge, V., ‘Opium in twentieth-century Britain: pharmacists, regulation and the people’, Addiction, 95:1 (2000), 2730 ; Berridge, V., ‘Drugs and social policy: the establishment of drug control in Britain, 1900–30’, British Journal of Addiction, 79 (1984), 1819 ; Hickman, T. A., ‘“Mania Americana”: narcotic addiction and modernity in the United States, 1870–1920’, Journal of American History, 29:4 (2004), 1293; Seddon, T., ‘The regulation of heroin: drug policy and social change in early twentieth century Britain’, International Journal of the Sociology of Law, 35 (2007), 149.

6 Breckenridge, K., The Biometric State: The Global Politics of Identification and Surveillance in South Africa, 1850 to the Present (Cambridge, 2014), 20, 206–10, and 213–14; McKeown, A., Melancholy Order: Asian Migration and the Globalization of Borders (New York, 2008), 187–94 and 308–17.

7 Marks and Trapido, ‘Lord Milner’, 52–4, 60–4, and 72–3; van Onselen, C., ‘The modernization of the Zuid Afrikaanche Republiek: F. E. T. Krause, J. C. Smuts and the struggle for the Johannesburg Public Prosecutor's Office, 1898–1899’, Law and History Review, 21:3 (2003), 486–8.

8 van Onselen, C., New Babylon, New Nineveh: Everyday Life on the Witwatersrand, 1886–1914 (Johannesburg, 1982), 48, 64–5, 69–73, and 106; Harries, P., Work, Culture and Identity: Migrant Labourers in Mozambique and South Africa, c. 1860–1910 (London, 1994), 120–1.

9 Van Onselen, New Babylon, 73; K. Breckenridge, The Biometric State, 71–2; Harries, Work, Culture and Identity, 131.

10 Harries, Work, Culture, Identity, 132–7.

11 Jeeves, A., Migrant Labour in South Africa's Mining Economy: The Struggle for the Gold Mines’ Labour Supply, 1890–1920 (Montreal, 1985), 50.

12 Jeeves, Migrant Labour, 50–5.

13 McCulloch, J., ‘Mine medicine: knowledge and power on South Africa's gold mines’, Labour History, 54:4 (2013), 423.

14 Ibid . 422 and 424–7.

15 Harries, Work, Culture, Identity, 135–6 and 190.

16 Onselen, C. van, ‘Who killed Meyer Hasenfus? Organized crime, policing and informing on the Witwatersrand, 1902–8’, History Workshop Journal, 67 (2009), 3.

17 Van Onselen, ‘Modernization’, 503–4 and 506–16.

18 Breckenridge, Biometric State, 63–89; C. van Onselen, ‘Who killed Meyer Hasenfus?’, 2.

19 Breckenridge, Biometric State, 23–4 and 90–114.

20 Ibid . 24 and 79–82.

21 Waetjen, ‘Transvaal opium trade’ (forthcoming).

22 Statement by Seely, Major, ‘Chinese labour in the Transvaal’, African (South), 824:92 (1906), 279. Regarding the conditions of compound life of, and resistance by, Chinese mine workers, see Kynoch, G., ‘Controlling the Coolies: Chinese mineworkers and the struggle for labor in South Africa, 1904–1910’, International Journal of African Historical Studies, 36:2 (2003), 309–29; Kynoch, G., ‘“Your petitioners are in mortal terror”: the violent world of Chinese mineworkers in South Africa, 1904–1910’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 31:3 (2005), 531–46; Huynh, T., ‘“We are not a docile people”: Chinese resistance and exclusion in the re-imagining of whiteness in South Africa, 1903–1910’, Journal of Chinese Overseas, 8 (2012), 140 and 137–68.

23 Transvaal Archives Depot, Pretoria (TAB) FLD 1/147/2, Duplicate enclosure to Dispatch 165, 5 Mar. 1904; Colonial Secretary of State to Transvaal Governor, 14 May 1904; Governor's Office to Lieutenant Governor, 3 June 1904; Attorney General's Office to Lieutenant Governor, 21 May 1904; Governor's Office to Lieutenant Governor, 3 June 1904; Attorney General's Office to Lieutenant Governor, 21 May 1904; Transvaal Governor to Secretary of State, 17 June 1904; Secretary of State to Transvaal Governor, 17 June 1904; Attorney General to Lieutenant Governor, 24 June 1904.

24 TAB FLD 1/147/2, Governor's Office to Lieutenant Governor, 3 June 1904.

25 Ibid .

26 TAB FLD 1/147/2, Governor to Secretary of State, 28 June 1904.

27 M. Ryan, A History of Organised Pharmacy in South Africa, 1885–1950 (Cape Town, 1986), 57–8.

28 KAB MOH 322, Copy ‘Opium on the mines of the Witwatersrand’; Assurances of the efficacy of medical screening for opium use was forthcoming from many sources: see Richardson, Chinese Mine Labour, 85.

29 MacDonald, A., ‘Durban-bound: Chinese miners, colonial medicine and the floating compounds of the Indian Ocean, 1904–1907’, Journal of Natal and Zulu History, 23 (2005–6), 140.

30 Phillips, L., Transvaal Problems: Some Notes on Current Politics (London, 2013 [orig. pub. 1905]), 110–11 and 123.

31 TAB FLD 230 68/52, Statement by Labour Controller Fred W. Godsil, 15 Jan. 1905 submitted to FLD by General Manager, Princess Mines, 28 Jan. 1905.

32 KAB MOH 322, Copy ‘Opium on the mines of the Witwatersrand’.

33 TAB FLD 1/147/2, CMLIA Manager to Lieutenant Governor, 1 Aug. 1905.

34 TAB CS 883, Police Commissioner to Secretary of the Law Department, 9 May 1907.

35 Debates of the Transvaal Legislative Council (hereafter Legislative Debates), 30 July 1906, 895.

36 TAB FLD 230 68/52, Lee Choo Kong to E. Evans, 21 Jan. 1905; TAB GOV 806 PS 9/24/05, Correspondence between Lyle Heath LRCSI of Johannesburg and Assistant Private Secretary Howick for Governor's Office, Sept. 1905.

37 Legislative Debates, 26 Sept. 1905, 2158.

38 TAB CS 554 1497, Acting Secretary of the Law Department to Acting Assistant Colonial Secretary, 20 Dec. 1904.

39 TAB CS 554 1497, Lieutenant-Governor to Assistant Colonial Secretary, 11 Mar. 1905.

40 TAB CS 554 1497, Acting Secretary of the Transvaal Medical Council to the Assistant Colonial Secretary, 10 Feb. 1905.

41 TAB CS 554 1497, Acting Secretary to the Pharmacy Board to Assistant Colonial Secretary, 7 Mar. 1905 with attached copy of Resolution. For an overview of various medicines in this context, see Digby, A., ‘Self-medication and the trade in medicine within a multi-ethnic context: a case study of South Africa from mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries’, Social History of Medicine, 18:3 (2005), 439–57.

42 TAB CS 554 1497, Under Secretary to Lieutenant-Governor, 22 Mar. 1905.

43 TAB FLD 1/147/2, General Manager of the Chamber of Mines Labour Importation Agency Walter Bagot to Lieutenant-Governor, 3 Mar. 1905.

44 TAB FLD 1/147/2, Walter Bagot to J. H. Dinwoodie, President of the Transvaal Pharmacy Board, 13 Apr. 1905.

45 TAB CS 554 1497, Acting Secretary of Transvaal Pharmacy Board to Walter Bagot, 19 May 1905.

46 TAB CS 554 1497, Bagot to Colonial Secretary, 29 June 1905.

47 TAB CS 554 1497, Jamieson, FLD Superintendent to Under Secretary, Colonial Secretary's Office, 13 July 1905.

48 ‘Opium habit’ was not itemized among illnesses for this year.

49 FLD, Annual Report of Foreign Labour Department (hereafter FLD Annual Report), 1904–1905 (Pretoria, 1906), 19. Only two recognized overdose deaths occurring before March 1905 but then 11 in June alone. At the end of March of 1905 this population stood at 34,2016; at the beginning of June it was 41,305 (FLD Annual Report, appendices). Discrepancy in reporting (table calculates deaths at 22, narrative 21). Causes of two hundred additional deaths en route to and from the Rand are not identified.

50 FLD Annual Report, 1905, 19–21.

51 TAB FLD 1/147/2, Bagot to Elgin, 1 Aug. 1905.

52 Chemists and general retailers sold opiated medicines and preparations over the counter and by prescription. See Ryan, A History of Organized Pharmacy, 25; Berridge, V. and Mars, S., ‘Glossary history of addictions’, Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 58:9 (2004), 747–50; Digby, ‘Self-medication’, 455–6.

53 Calculating, and determining the significance of, various quantities and forms of opium was a chronic difficulty for law-makers and one of several ambiguities allowing manipulation by interested parties. At least four systems of measurement and quantification are evidenced to be in use for opium in this context: Avoirdupois, Apothecaries, Tola (Vedic), and ‘chests’. See Courtright, Dark Paradise, 196n54, for analogous problems of quantification in the US; also 194n46, regarding variations in the active alkaloid content in poppies. For an example of how morphine content can complicate opium quantifications and politics, see Farooqui, A., ‘Colonialism and competing addictions: morphine content as historical factor’, Social Scientist, 32:5/6 (2004), 2131 .

54 TAB LD 1133 AG/4411/05, Police Commissioner to Secretary of the Law Department, 21 Sept.1905.

55 TAB LD 1133 AG/4411/05, Assistant Colonial Secretary to the Law Department, 7 Sept. 1905.

56 Legislative Debates, 5 Sept. 1905, 1598. Within Farrar's Anglo-French Company, Chinese recruits made up 49 per cent of unskilled mine labour, the highest percentage of any mining group. Richardson, P., ‘The recruiting of Chinese indentured labour for the South African gold-mines: 1903–1908’, The Journal of African History, 18:1 (1977), 101.

57 Legislative Debates, 5 Sept. 1905, 1598–9.

58 Ibid . 6 Sept. 1905, 1675.

59 Ibid . 1675–6.

60 TAB CS 625 4566, Secretary for Swaziland Affairs to Assistant Colonial Secretary, 24 Oct. 1905.

61 TAB CS 625 4566, Assistant Colonial Secretary to W. A. J. Cameron, Secretary of the Transvaal Pharmacy Board and Medical Council (undated copy).

62 TAB CS 625 4566, Cameron to Assistant Colonial Secretary, 23 Oct. 1905.

63 TAB CS 625 4566, Assistant Colonial Secretary to W. A. J. Cameron (undated).

64 TAB CS 625 4566, Cameron to Assistant Colonial Secretary, 2 Dec. 1905.

65 Ibid . The medical officer of health of the Cape Colony summarily dismissed the idea of deprivation as lethal, as did others. See Waetjen, T., ‘Drug dealing doctors and unstable subjects: opium, medicine and authority in the Cape Colony, 1907–1910’, South African Historical Journal, 68:3 (2016), available online: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02582473.2016.1230644. For a summary of medical debates about deprivation and treatment in Britain during this period, see Walmsley, I.Opiate substitution treatment: poisoned bodies and the history of substitution’, Contemporary Drug Problems, 40 (2013), 400–4, esp. 402.

66 TAB CS 625 4566, Cameron to Assistant Colonial Secretary, 2 Dec. 1905.

67 TAB CS 625 4566, ACS to SMC, 7 Dec. 1905.

68 Extract from report of the Committee of Mine Managers to the Chamber of Mines. Quoted in a letter to Sir Richard Solomon, Attorney General, from the Chamber of Mines, Pharmacy Board and Medical Council. Published Chamber of Mines, Annual Report 1906, 111.

69 Legislative Debates, 25 July 1906, 882.

70 Kynoch, ‘Controlling the Coolies’, 314 and 318; Huynh, ‘“Not a docile people”’, 153.

71 Report of the Special Committee on the control of Chinese indentured labourers. In Chamber of Mines, Annual Report, 1907.

72 L. van der Walt, ‘Anarchism and syndicalism in South Africa, 1904–1921: rethinking the history of labour and the left’ (unpublished PhD thesis, University of the Witwatersrand, 2007), 158, cited in Huynh, ‘“Not a docile people”’, 161n16; TAB FLD 1/147/2, Elgin to Selborne, 30 Mar. 1906, with Enclosure, query 12 Mar. 1906.

73 FLD Annual Report, 1905–1906, Appendix 2.

74 FLD Annual Report 1905–1906. Percentages sensitive, of course, to other factors, such as the declining beriberi epidemic: see Appendix 6. Jamieson hoped that, with legislation being introduced ‘for the prevention of excessive use of opium’ that there would be fewer deaths related to opium poisoning in the year to follow, 27.

75 FLD Annual Report 1905–1906, Appendix 5.

76 For example, TAB LD 1413 AG813/07, E. Mundy to Secretary of Law Department, 15 Mar. 1907: ‘In the schedule of sickness prepared by the Medical Officer of Health for the Witwatersrand there will be found two columns set apart for such of the coolies who are suffering from diarrhea and debility respectively … . That both of these diseases would follow the sudden withdrawal of opium from victims of that habit is not only possible but probable’.

77 Adler Museum archive, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. Medical repatriation lists for the Katherine Park, Aug. 1905, and Indravelli, Oct. 1905. Diagnosis, and whether an ailment was contracted ‘before’ or ‘since’ arrival on the Rand, determined responsibility for costs of repatriation, another possible reason for discrepancies. In the medical repatriation lists I was able to access, cases re-diagnosed to ‘opium habit’ were re-designated by the medical examiner to ‘since’, an indication that addiction was viewed a locally acquired condition.

78 Richardson, P., ‘Coolies and Randlords: the north Randfontein Chinese miners’ “strike” of 1905’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 2:2 (1976), 167. Also in Kynoch, ‘Controling the Coolies’, 320.

79 FLD Annual Report, 1905–1906, 11.

80 Report of the Special Committee on the control of Chinese indentured labourers, May 1906. In Chamber of Mines, Annual Report, 1907.

81 Chamber of Mines, Annual Report, 1906, Letter to Sir Richard Solomon, Attorney General, from J. N. de Jonah for the Chamber of Mines, R. Butters (acting president) for the Pharmacy Board and W. T. F. Davies for the Medical Council, 28 June 1906, 111.

82 Legislative Debates, 25 July 1906, 882.

83 Ibid . 882–3.

84 KAB MOH G117b, George Taylor, Medical Officer of Health of the Transvaal Colony to A. John Gregory, Medical Officer of Health of the Cape Colony, 4 Sept. 1907. Inverted commas in original.

85 Legislative Debates, 25 July 1906, 883–4.

86 Ibid . 884.

87 Ibid . 30 July 1906, 892.

88 Ibid . 893–4.

89 Ibid . 903.

90 Ibid . 891.

91 Ibid . 896.

92 Ibid . 897.

93 Ibid . 895.

94 Ibid .

95 Ibid . 903.

96 Ibid .

97 Ibid , 894.

98 Ibid . 894.

99 Ibid . 902.

100 Ibid . 895–6.

101 Ibid , 896.

102 Ibid . 4 Aug. 1906, 1019.

103 Ibid . 1020.

104 Ibid . 1020–1

105 Ibid . 30th July 1906, 902.

106 TAB FLD 230 68, Minutes of meeting 21 Sept. 1906 to discuss draft regulation proposed, to be made under the provisions of Ordinance No. 25, 1906; Invitation by Assistant Colonial Secretary to FLD Superintendent, 17 Sept. 1906; Reply, by same, 20 Sept. (unable to attend but discussion by telephone).

107 Newspapers carried negative portrayals of opium smoking and opium dens, but there is little evidence that these incited much public alarm. See, for example, ‘Yen Yen’, Rand Daily Mail (Johannesburg), 23 Nov. 1928; ‘Opium traffic’, Indian Opinion, 18 July 1908, ‘Vices of the Chinese’, Llanga lase Natal, 4 Aug. 1905.

108 TAB LD 1413 AG/813/07, Commissioner of Police to Law Department, 13 May 1907.

109 Waetjen, ‘Transvaal opium trade’ (forthcoming).

110 For example, how white controllers ‘purchased the cooperation’ of Chinese mine police and indentured labourers through their toleration or otherwise active involvement in the trade. Jamieson notes this dynamic explicitly in his FLD Annual Report 1905–6, 9.

111 Increases are evidenced by applications documented by the Pharmacy Board and handed over to police. See, for example, TAB CS 626/5526, Permits to Import Opium, record submitted by Transvaal Pharmacy Board requested by Commissioner of Police on 27 Apr. 1906; Permits to Import Opium, J. H. Dinwoodie to Colonial Secretary, 8 Feb. 1906.

112 Pietermaritzburg Archives Repository (NAB) NT 114 T2180/1906, Governor to High Commissioner, 29 June 1906.

113 NAB NT 114 T2340/1906, Related by Treasurer to Collector of Customs, Durban, 29 June 1906.

114 TAB FLD 1/147/2, Director of Customs to Colonial Treasury, 27 Jan. 1906.

115 Waetjen, Transvaal opium trade’ (forthcoming).

116 TAB FLD 68, Foreign Labour Department Superintendent to Colonial Secretary, 14 June 1907.

117 KAB MOH 322, Copy ‘Opium on the mines of the Witwatersrand’.

118 Ibid .

119 TAB Gov 1076 37/9/07, Prime Ministers’ Office, Minute No. 213, 22 June 1907.

120 Druggist and Chemist, 3 Aug. 1907, 206.

121 TAB FLD 68, Superintendent to Acting Assistant Colonial Secretary, 18 May 1908. For an account of how the permit system was incorporated into illicit networks, see Waetjen, ‘Transvaal opium trade’ (forthcoming).

122 The so-called ‘ten percent solution’ had local consequences in many regions. See, for example, Boyd, ‘Canadian narcotics legislation’, 110–12.

123 TAB FLD 230 68/52, Petition, Chinese Association of Johannesburg to Chinese Consul-General, 15 May 1908.

124 TAB FLD, Chinese Consul-General to Governor Selbourne, 15 June 1908; KAB T Part 1 986 415/08, Correspondence between Acting Imperial Chinese Consul General, Lin Ngai and Prime Minister Cape Colony, 1 July 1908. Additional petitioning followed on 12 Aug. 1908 and 25 Aug. 1908.

125 KAB T Part 1 986 135/492, Report by AG to Prime Minister concerning possible legislation proposed by the Chinese Consul General, 8 Aug. 1908; KAB T Part 1 986 23/163, Gregory to Advocate Morgan Evans, Attorney General's Office, 20 July 1908.

126 TAB FLD 230 68/52, Purdon to Law Department, 4 Sept. 1908.

127 Ibid .

128 TAB FLD 68, Secretary of the Transvaal Pharmacy Board to Assistant Colonial Secretary, 8 June 1907.

129 TAB FLD 230 68/52, Craik to Law Department, 15 May 1908.

130 TAB BBB 182 CD 4898 Part 1, ‘International Opium Commission at Shanghae, 1909’, Sir Edward Grey to the British Delegates to the International Opium Commission of Shanghae, 625.

131 See KAB T Part 1 986, Correspondence between Acting Imperial Chinese Consul General, Lin Ngai and Prime Minister Cape Colony, 1 July 1908, 12 Aug. 1908, and 25 Aug. 1908.

132 TAB CS 883, RB Begg to Assistant Colonial Secretary, 10 Mar. 1909.

133 Chisholm, L., ‘Crime, class and nationalism: the criminology of Jacob de Villiers Roos, 1869–1918’, Social Dynamics, 3:2 (1987), 46 and 4950 .

134 Legislative Debates, 11 June 1909; 11 June 1909, 244.

135 Transvaal Original Annexures to the Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly, Volume III (1909) Opium Trade Regulation Amendment Ordinance, Section 1 (2), 1.

136 Legislative Debates, 11 June 1909, 245.

137 Ibid . 246–7.

138 McCulloch, ‘Mine medicine’, 422 and 425–430.

139 KAB MOH 322 G117b, Medical Officer of Health of the Cape Colony, explaining opium on the Witwatersrand in an interview of the representatives of the Cape Pharmaceutical Society, 29 July 1907.

140 Harries, Work, Culture, Identity, 228; 135–7, 190, and 227–228.

141 See Waetjen, ‘Drug dealing doctors’. In the Cape, physicians faced disciplinary charges of unprofessional and disgraceful conduct for prescribing smoking opium to chemically dependent individuals.

142 Kynoch, ‘Your petitioners’, 535.

* My thanks to Julie Parle and her Pharmaceutical Modernities initiative for giving life to this research. I am grateful to Gerhard Maré for close reading and discussions, and to the editors and three anonymous Journal of African History referees for their generous assistance towards the final version. I presented this article at the Wits Interdisciplinary Seminar in the Humanities and benefited from the comments and suggestions of, among others, Prinisha Badassy, Keith Breckenridge, Catherine Burns, Nafisa Essop Sheik, Andrew McDonald, Hlonipha Mokoena, and Stephen Sparks. Author's email:

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