South Africa reform hopes fade
Hopes here that a solid mandate from white voters might encourage the South African government to broaden its vision of ''reform'' are washing away with the rains that are alleviating this country's prolonged drought.Skip to next paragraph
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In two fundamental areas, the white minority government has reaffirmed that traditional apartheid will not be tampered with. Pretoria has made two things clear: that the forced removal of blacks from what is deemed ''white'' South Africa will continue; and that segregation in education will remain as total as possible.
On the first front, at least 2.5 million blacks have been uprooted over the past 20 years and sent to often desolate settlements in the 10 tribal ''homelands'' that Pretoria is slowly excising politically from South Africa. The removal of the black villagers of Mogopa, despite widespread condemnation, is the most recent example of Pretoria's resolve.
Mogopa is a small, prosperous, black farming community west of Johannesburg. The government has ordered the village's 300 families to move to land that will eventually be incorporated into the Bophuthatswana homeland. The community wishes to stay put, but as a second choice is asking that it be allowed to relocate to another site it considers preferable. The second site already lies within Bophuthatswana.
On the education issue, a new government white paper outlining national policy has rejected recommendations that the racial divide in schools be relaxed in some areas. Education remains a potential flashpoint among blacks. Turmoil in the schools led to widespread social unrest from 1976 to 1980. And it was that unrest that prompted the establishment of the so-called De Lange Commission to investigate education.
The bedrock of black discontent is the conviction that as long as schools are separate, they will remain unequal. This clearly is the case now in black schools, which suffer from poorer facilities, less qualified teachers, and more crowded classrooms than their white counterparts. The government insists schools will be made ''separate but equal.''
The government's stance on education and forced removals has dashed the hopes held by some that Pretoria might edge to the left after its whopping referendum victory early last month. Whites voted overwhelmingly to bring Coloreds (persons of mixed-race descent) and Indians into Parliament. Blacks remain excluded.
Hopes of bolder reform were jolted by the tragic scene being played out at Mogopa. Villagers have begun to dismantle their homes, succumbing to the government's relentless pressure to move.
South African church leaders held a midnight prayer vigil with the villagers earlier this week. Bishop Desmond Tutu of the South African Council of Churches said he was ''humbled'' by the people's ''amazing lack of bitterness.'' But he lashed out in frustration at the government's unwillingness to relent.
The government has ordered the people of Mogopa to move to Pachsdraai, an area the Mogopa residents call a ''desert.'' Also, the tribe's deposed headman lives in Pachsdraai and the villagers fear violence. The villagers say if they must move, they would prefer an area called Bethanie where their paramount chief lives.
Mogopa residents, a large portion of whom are elderly, have agreed to move if they will be allowed to go to Bethanie rather than Pachsdraai. The government has given the village a few more days to move and is apparently amenable to the alternative destination.
There are many ''Mogopas'' all over South Africa, resisting against all odds the government's plans to eradicate them. Mogopa is what Pretoria terms a ''black spot'' - a black settlement in so-called ''white'' South Africa. The government's aim is to move these blacks to areas that will eventually be incorporated into the homelands, thus physically removing them from South Africa. Estimates are that an additional 1.5 million blacks are still to be removed from white South Africa into the homelands.
Ideology is the driving force in these removals. Mogopa, for instance, was a relatively prosperous and self-sustaining village. The land has been owned by blacks for 70 years. The tactics used to force Mogopa residents to relent were similar to other removals in recent years. The government has demolished the village's churches, schools, and clinics, suspended bus service, and removed water pumps, the residents say. All of this to encourage a ''voluntary'' relocation by the villagers.