Casinos in 'independent' black states draw flocks of S. Africans

Some dubious "pleasures" or even downright sin, depending on one's point of view, appears to be recent byproducts of the South African government's policy of creating "independent states" for its various indigenous African population groups.

While the country maintains strict forms of censorship at home and prevents gambling -- except on horse races -- there is a trend toward planning and building multimillion- dollar casinos in the "black states" as soon as they accept technical "independence" from South Africa.

These casinos are usually planned and financed by South African-based companies.

They represent an important source of revenue to the "black states" (which are recognized as independent by nobody except the South African government).

And they provide ample opportunities for South Africans to indulge their inclination for gambling and other illegal pastimes.

They often provide lavish live shows featuring acts that would be banned in South Africa, and many of them show films that would be either banned or heavily cut by the South African censors.

Yet these casinos are calculatedly within easy reach of some of South Africa's most heavily populated centers, and depend almost entirely on the thousands of South Africans they attract. Special weekend excursions and even day trips for housewives are heavily promoted.

The internationally recognized African mini-states of Lesotho and Swaziland, both former British territories, and both enclaves within South Africa's borders , were the first to cash in by providing entertainment banned in South Africa.

But so far the biggest and the best is the multimillion- dollar Sun City in the recently "independent" tribal area of Bophuthatswana.

It is just a few hours' drive from South Africa's biggest and richest city, Johannesburg, and the country's administrative capital, Pretoria.

Hacked out of the bush, it is a dazzling pleasure palace, providing just about anything jaded white South African trippers (or anybody else) could wish.

Even a team from Vogue Magazine described it with oohs and aahs.

But it has not been an unmitigated boon to the relatively backward rural population settled in the area.

According to a report from the state-recognized Human Sciences Research Council leaked to the South African Sunday Times -- the country's biggest newspaper -- it has brought with it an increase in crime, increased truancy, increased abuse of alcohol, increased prostitution, and a loss of earnings through gambling.

A local African chief, Chief Pilane, is quoted as saying he had welcomed the building of the huge hotel and casino complex because he thought it would create many job opportunities, but he said that he now believed the "impact on the morals of our people cancels out the job opportunities."

The management of Sun City says it is "working with the Bophuthatswana government towards solving the problems that have arisen" and emphasizes that it takes immediate action against any prostitution.

It also denies there are "naked women on view," but agrees that some showgirls go topless.

Many Afrikaners in South Africa have watched with concern the move to establish casinos and complexes in the "black states" designed to provide South African whites with various pleasures they are banned from indulging in at home.

One Afrikaans journalist, returning from one of them, said he heard many of the people thronging the futuristic foyer and playing the gambling machines talking Afrikaans, but that he found it difficult to believe that they are "really Afrikaners" doing tha t sort of thing.

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