Cape Town — The system of separate political rights that the government has tried for more than 10 years to force on the nearly 3 million Colored people in South Africa has collapsed in ruins.
This is just the latest, perhaps most dramatic, illustration of worsening relations between the two groups here.
For generations the whites and Coloreds -- people of racially mixed descent who are considered closest to the whites in terms of culture and economic standing -- have lived together amicably. They share the same religion and predominantly Afrikaans cultural background. Many so-called Colored families have even had brothers and sisters who lived as "whites."
But today, bitterness over the way they have been treated has turned many Colored people against the whites altogether. They are especially upset at being deprived of the vote more than a decade ago and at the way many thousands of them have been forced to leave their homes to make way for whites because of rigid residential segregation laws.
Now even many of their more moderate political leaders are talking of throwing in their lot with the blacks against the whites. Tentative political links have been formed already. Young Colored people, particularly, are going out of their way to emphasize their links with blacks rather than whites.
Originally the Coloreds had limited voting rights in the now whites-only Parliament. But many in the National Party opposed this as "interference" in "white affairs." After some dubious political maneuvers, Coloreds were disenfranchised. Instead, they were given a "legislative council" that was supposed to administer their own affairs separately.
In the first elections in 1969, the government packed the council with appointees who accepted its policy. In later elections elected members gained a majority. Elected members vowed to force the government to shut the council down. That has been done, with the government acknowledging that the Colored politicians in the council had managed to "make a mockery" of the place.
Instead the government has announced it will set up a body called the Colored Persons Council. It will consist of Coloreds appointed by the government to advise the government.
Colored political leaders have dismissed the scheme as a transparent political fraud. And the government itself is apologetic, emphasizing that it is only a "temporary" measure and that something better will be provided when a commission investigating proposals for a fairer political dispensation for all races comes up with its report. But that is likely to take a long time.
Meanwhile even white Afrikaners who support the National Party are becoming increasingly concerned about the way relations between the whites and Colored people appear to be deteriorating. Opposition politicians of all races see this as further proof that the ruling white National Party has no acceptable political blueprint for the country.