Drought, poverty beset Ciskei, S. African black 'homeland'

To a stoen-strewn land os scrub trees and scrawny cattle, add another bleak scene: black African women, waiting silently beside a dusty road for a tank truck to deliver water.

Drought has hit some of South AFrica's rural tribal reserves, euphemistically called "homelands," making even bare subsistence all but impossible.

The drought, according to knowledgeable observers, has only worsened an already bad situation in this white-ruled country's tribal-reserves.

"The drought is terrible," cautions one community worker, "but don't make it an excuse for the widespread malnutrition."

In fact some people here say the drougth in South Africa may be somewhat of a blessing in disguise, because it has focused attention on the country's bleak tribal areas and caused some aid to be dispatched to them. But there is a fear that, with the coming of rains, they will sink back into relative obscurity.

Yet a number of analysts charge that grinding poverty and deprivation in places such as the Ciskei is the inevitable result of South Africas's polich of apartheid, or racial separation.

Ciskei, here in the southeastern part of South Africa's Cape Province, is one of 10 goverment-designated tribal reserves spread across South Africa.

Into these reserves the white government forcibly resettles what an official goverment document calls "nonproductive" black people. "The aged, the unfit, widows, women with dependent children," farm workers "who become superflous as a result of age, disability," and persons "not regarded as essential for the European (white) labor market" are particularly targeted for relocation in the black homelands.

IN Ciskei, 666,000 people are scattered over some 530,000 hectares (one hectare is 24 acres) of rolling, largely underdeveloped Ciskei back roads, as this reporter did, and find few signs of industrial or commercial development.

THe South African goverment says its homelands policy promotes good will between the races by allowing each black tribal group to develop its own "national state." But South AFrican Prime Minister Pieter W. Botha recently has admitted that these reserves are unlikely to develop viable self-supporting economies in the foreseeable future.

That point can hardly be missed in places like Ciskei, where the 1976 percapita income was estimated at a meager 212 rand (about $282). Fully 40 percent of the male working-age population seeks work outside the homeland.

Ciskei, in addition, has had to cope with 11 months of abnormal shortages of rainfall. Since last November, no month has brought more than a scant 35 millimeters of rain. Whereas the 1979 rainfall was over 900 millimeters, by September, 1980 the figure had barely topped 250 millimeters.l

Exact measures of the toll of the drought are impossible to obtain. By some reports, the number of cattle lost runs into the thousands. Crops across the area have failed, and with the populace deprived of milk, maize, and beans, malnutrition-related diseases -- some of which were endemic before the drought -- have become even more widespread.

The South African goverment has funneled some $13 million in drought relief funds to Ciskei, although much of that total has gone to cattle-feeding programs and public works projects.

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