`Grand Apartheid' Grinds On
Forced removal to tribal homelands, a process under way for decades, rips apart the social fabric of black communities like Braklaagte. SOUTH AFRICA
MOST male inhabitants of this rural community of some 9,000 black South Africans have fled since Pretoria handed over their land to a nominally independent tribal homeland against their will. Eight months ago the town of Braklaagte officially became part of Bophuthatswana, the homeland of the Tswana tribe. As civil-rights groups predicted, the close-knit community has been shattered by escalating violence and repression at Tswana hands.Skip to next paragraph
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``I am worried sick about my family,'' said Johnson Motosi, who, like most of the men of Braklaagte, had to flee to escape a purge by the feared Bophuthatswana police.
Mr. Motosi, a storekeeper in Braklaagte, is now in hiding in Johannesburg. He has not seen his wife and five children since he was told by friends more than a month ago that police had visited his house and beaten his children.
His story has been repeated many times in South Africa's rural interior as the ruling National Party has forged ahead with plans for territorial segregation known as ``grand apartheid.''
In the process, more than 3 million black people have been forcibly removed in an act of social engineering which has caused intense suffering and disruption.
At least 11 people - including 9 black policemen - have died in the current civil unrest, and 48 tribespeople have been charged with their murder. In addition some 65 people have been charged with public violence and arson.
Many of the residents of Braklaagte have been detained. Some have been abducted while in hiding in South Africa. Many have told their lawyers they were brutally beaten and tortured by the homeland police.
Chief Pupsey Sebogodi, the acting chief of the community, has been detained three times and charged with the murder of the nine policemen.
Civil-rights lawyers insist that the Bophuthatswana authorities of Chief Lucas Mangope, the Tswana leader, will go to any lengths to crush popular opposition to the incorporation of Braklaagte - and the 15,000-strong neighboring community of Leeuwfontein.
``We want to remain part of South Africa because of the cruelty of the Bophuthatswana police and the harsh restrictions we are subjected to,'' said William Konyane, a teenager who said he was beaten by the homeland police during four days of interrogation in July.
``The Bophuthatswana police are much worse than the South African police,'' he said. ``Sometimes they kill you.''
The resistance of the people of Braklaagte and Leeuwfontein, who are among a handful of rural blacks who own the land on which they live, is an extraordinary saga of determination, courage, and suffering that spans more than half a century.
Following international protests in the early 1980s, the National Party began slowing the pace of nationwide removals.
Instead of removing inhabitants from areas designated by Pretoria as ``black spots,'' the authorities resorted to redrawing the boundaries of the tribal homelands, to achieve the same goal.
Through this process the government has absolved itself of responsibility for the welfare needs and political aspirations of about 12 million black South Africans.
At the same time the strategy has helped placate the demands of Pretoria-installed homeland leaders for more land, and sought to induce them to accept Pretoria-style independence.
Four of the nine designated homelands - Bophuthatswana, Transkei, Ciskei, and Venda - have accepted ``independence.''
But the government has failed to remove a deep-seated hatred among blacks of the tribal homeland system, which they identify with deprivation and violent repression.
Social welfare and educational services in the homelands are invariably inferior to those offered in South Africa, and the homeland administrations have been shown to be riddled with corruption. Employment is scarce, wages are lower, and poverty is rife.
Incorporation often means loss of South African citizenship, and blacks fear seizure of their land.
The Braklaagte community, which acquired the land in 1907, was first threatened with removal in 1938, a decade before the National Party came to power.