'Petty apartheid' thrives despite Botha's reform promises

The words had a familiar ring to them, as South African Prime Minister Pieter W. Botha pledged himself in Parliament last week to the "removal of hurtful, unnecessary discriminatory measures" in this racially divided country.

But legal experts point out that not a single major race law has been repealed since Mr. Botha first made his pledge in August 1979.

At that time, he used the same language in a speech widely interpreted to mean that the ruling National Party would start abandoning so-called petty apatheid -- meaning South Africa's overtly racialistic laws aimed at enforcing segregation in daily life.

Instead, the government has chosen to continue granting selective exemptions from race laws -- often through complex permit systems -- or by simply turning a blind eye toward private transgressions.

The result is a confusing hodgepodge of contradictory rules and unwritten codes of conduct that often confuse even the officials who administer them.

And, according to some black activists, the failure to repeal overtly discriminatory measures has embittered even the most moderate black people here.

"No black people thrust this government any more," says one black man.

"They have made too many promises, and they have not kept them."

Whites, on the other hand, sometimes marvel at the changes that are taking place in South African society -- changes that to them are significant, but to many blacks only point up the adsurdity of the country's racialistic legislation. For example:

* Earlier this year, the University of Pretoria broke new ground by admitting its first Colored (mixed race) student. But although the two Colored youths were permitted to sit in the same classrooms as whites, they were not allowed to ride on the same buses on field trips. The reason? Pretoria's municipal bus service did not have the necessary permits to allow anyone but whites on board. Transport Minister Christian Heunis says there is no reason a permit allowing Coloreds on the buses cannot be obtained -- so long as the proper application is made.

* Susan Greene has repeatedly petitioned the government to classify her as a white woman, rather than Colored, so that she can marry a white man. Mixed marriages are outlawed in South Africa. Mrs. Green argues she was mistakenly classified as a Colored, a claim some government officials dispute.

Of course, 1,010 Colored people werem reclassified as whites in South Africa in 1979 -- not to mention the one Chinese who became white, the two whites who became Colored, the six whites who became Chinese, or the 10 Coloreds who became Indians, according to South Africa's complex racial classificaion system.

* The Cape Town-based Western Province Athletic Team is billed as multiracial: It has one black member, Welcome Nyoka. Yet when the team visited Johannesburg and decided to take in a movie. Welcome Nyoka was barred at the door, while his white teammates were admitted.

A government official noted recently that nine drive-in cinemas (of a total of 44 that have applied) are now permitted to admit all races. But he reiterated government policy not to allow walk-in theaters to integrate because blacks generally have theaters in their own residential areas.

* Indians and Coloreds mix freely with whites on some beaches in Cape Province, in apparent violation of a "whites only" policy. South African police stroll by, oblivious to the illegal behavior.

Yet at one beach last summer, police chased black people away and arrested those who refused to leave.

South African law condones the designation of specific parts of the country, including beaches, woodlands, and even hiking trails,m for the exclusive use of one racial group.

Last year, some 68 areas were administratively changed into segregated enclaves. One result: Thousands of people have been up-rooted because they are members of the "wrong" race group.

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