Johannesburg — President Reagan's "constructive engagement" policy toward South Africa may be paying off in some respects -- but it has been dealt a stinging defeat in a small black town where it had attempted to stand with local blacks.
Pretoris -- against the advice of Washington -- has apparently gone ahead with the eradication of the black farming village of Mogopa, west of Johannesburg.
Some analysts say this removal -- not unusual in itself -- is indicative of two things:
*The South African policy of "reform," which the US has encouraged, is limited in scope. It does not yet include changing policies that are central to the implementation of apartheid and central to blakc grievances.
* The Reagan administration may have slightly overblown expectations about South Africa's policy of "reform," and about it own ability to persuade Pretoria to broaden its vision of "reform."
Late last year, the Reagan administration reportedly criticized the planned Mogopa removals as countrary to the spirit of "reform" that white South Africans had massively endorsed in a November referendum. That vote approved the implementation of a new constitution to bring Coloreds (persons of mixed race descent) and Indians into South Africa's previously all-white Parliament. Black remain excluded.
Some international publicity and Washington's displeasure apparently helped stall the planned removals.
However, the removal appears to have goen ahead. Some analysts thing the removal has been very carefully timed. In ternational attention is focused on the situation in Lebanon and the leaderhsip change n the Soviet Union -- so there is bonund to be less attention paid to the removals in Mogopa.
The removals may also reap some political benefits at home for the ruling National Party. The Nationalists were fighting a close by-election Wednesday in a conservative area of South Africa. And the removals may have firmed up support among right-wing South Africans, some analysts say.
Forced removals of black, and to a lesser extent of Indians and Coloreds, are a fundamental feature of South Africa's policy of strict separation of the races.
Ultimately, the white government wants as many blacks as possible to reside in the tribal "homelands" that it has demarcated as the only areas where blacks can exercise political rights.
A recent report by the South African Council of Churches (SACC) says that over the past 20 years, some 3.5 million people -- most of them blacks -- have been forcibly removed from their homes.
The report says, "Removals continue to take place on an immense scale, while the manner in which particular removals are carried out usually causes great suffering.
The SACC says close to 2 million people are still to be removed, most of them black.
Mogopa is a small black farming community where blacks have owned land for 70 years. but it has been designted a "black spot," meaning it is situated on land the government wants designated "white."
Pretoria is moving the residents of Mogopa to Pachsdraai, which will eventually be incorporated into the homeland of Bophuthatswana.
According to the SACC and members of the black Sash human rights organization , about 200 families left Mogopa last year for Pachsdraai. About 300 families refused to move.
Pretoria says the remaining residents were not opposed to moving but did not want to be under the leadership of the tribal chief who took the first group to Pachsdraai. Black Sash officials agree that the remaining Mogopa residents rejected the leadership of the man who led the first exodus. But they say the primary desire of those who remained is to stay put.
"There is nothing voluntary about what has happened in Mogopa," said a member of the Black Sash who has spent much time in the community.
Mogopa residents recently rebuilt their school, which had earlier been reported demolished by the government. But the Mogopa area was sealed off this week from journalists and police moved in. Residents' posesssions reportedly have been trucked to Pachsdraai.