Johannesburg — The South African government is slowly backing away from its plan to expel nearly 1 million blacks and make them citizens of neighboring Swaziland.
It is still too early to say the plan is dead, but it appears certain the provision will not go ahead in its original form, Monitor correspondent Paul Van Slambrouck reports.
That in itself amounts to a rare political victory for blacks in this white-ruled country.
Billed by the government as a plan to reunite the Swazi people, critics saw it as a blatant bid by Pretoria to remove more blacks from South Africa, where blacks outnumber whites 5 to 1. Already some 9 million blacks have lost their South African citizenship by virtue of their ''homelands'' taking independence, and opponents of the Swaziland proposal saw it as a means to ''get rid'' of another 1 million.
But the government has suffered a string of humiliating defeats in the courts over the plan. And apparently to avoid the possibility of another such defeat, the government decided to begin negotiating with the blacks concerned instead of transferring them by edict - a practice the courts overturned on a previous occasion.
Specifically, the government has referred its plan to transfer two large tracts of land - the ''homeland'' of Kangwane and a section of the ''homeland'' of Kwa-Zulu - to a commission for study. The commission includes representatives appointed by both of the ''homelands,'' which have opposed the transfer.