A black who works within South Africa's system
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They also were accompanied by big bucks to spruce up townships. The funds were part of a counterinsurgency strategy put in place by Pretoria's military men after the 1984-86 uprising in black areas. Their idea: to ``neutralize'' political activists through detentions and bannings, then to win over black residents by improving their lives.Skip to next paragraph
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So streets here in Kagiso - and in some 200 other townships - have been paved, additional land allocated, hundreds of new houses built. But Modiba insists the changes resulted from pressure by councilors. None of this would have happened for the black man if we weren't in control of our towns, he says, gesturing out the window as he is driven to lunch.
His chauffeur stops at a restaurant in a nearby white suburban shopping mall. Modiba pauses to delight in the gurgling fountains and piped-in Muzak. His self-sufficiency strategy includes plans to build a $13 million mall in Kagiso, thereby assuring the town of a decent tax base.
(Pretoria required that the councils be self-sustaining when they were created. Since blacks weren't allowed to have businesses in townships until the early 1980s, the tax base was very low, revenues minuscule - and councils pretty hamstrung. Most still are.)
The waitress in the restaurant smiles politely at Modiba and leads him to a back table. ``This is an affront to them,'' he whispers, sweeping past a sea of hostile white faces. ``I love it.''
Modiba spends most of lunch railing against radical blacks. They accuse councilors of being corrupt, he sneers, and a lot of them are. But I blame black intellectuals. You can't create a leadership vacuum by refusing to participate and then point fingers when the slots are filled by illiterates.
``I'm committed to the politics of negotiation,'' he continues, waving a barbecued chicken wing for emphasis, ``because only through negotiation will you improve black lives. No one is going to deal with those who burn houses and organize boycotts.'' That doesn't mean, however, participating in Mr. Botha's constitutional program. Modiba says the plan ``stinks with arrogance ... Botha has decided how, when, and by whom.''
Later, driving back through the township, Modiba passes a clump of new houses. ``A man who has a home like that isn't going to burn down the town,'' he murmurs. Which is just the point of Pretoria's counterrevolutionary strategy. Officials contend blacks have no real political grievances, only material ones. Satisfy those and you'll have a quiet population.
All these co-option theories matter little to Modiba, however. He says he just cares about delivering the goods. That's something he seems to do pretty well, judging by the reception when he stops to visit his ward. Sydney Mandzi, an athletic-looking man who was standing on a street corner, rushes over to the car.
``Our black Napoleon,'' he gushes. ``This is the first black man to represent us, to give us roads, a swimming pool. He can do anything for the people.''
Mr. Mandzi thinks for a moment, then adds: ``And the best thing, he's promised me a job as a caretaker at the pool when it's finished.''
Fourth of a series on the key local elections. Previous articles ran Oct. 14, 20, and 21.