The Homelands Hurdle

By , Robert I. Rotberg is president of Lafayette College, Easton, Pa.

VIOLENCE in Ciskei - and the likelihood of renewed violence in KwaZulu and Bophuthatswana - demonstrates the lingering capacity for evil and divisiveness in contemporary South Africa. Although home- lands like Ciskei and the others are anachronisms of a failed era, their twilight existence continues to vex the ending of apartheid.

The African National Congress (ANC) seeks the rapid dismantlement of South Africa's 10 homelands, while the white National Party government continues to utilize homelands as political counterweights to the aspirations of the ANC.

ANC protesters were killed earlier this month on the edge of Ciskei when they attempted to demonstrate against the one-man rule there of Brig. Gen. Oupa Gqozo.

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The peaceful march that resulted in 28 deaths was as much a protest against General Gqozo for turning against the ANC as it was against the Ciskei and homelands generally. It also focused local and world attention on the South African government's continued manipulation of puppet rulers in many of the homelands.

Part of the government's plan for the transformation of South Africa includes negotiations conducted with the ANC, other national political movements, and the homelands. Of the 10 homelands, three or four, notably the Ciskei, KwaZulu, and Bophuthatswana, remain allies of the National Party. Hence the ANC's move against Ciskei.

The target there was large. After Gqozo staged a coup in 1990 against Lennox Sebe, Ciskei's first president, he consorted with the ANC and appeared to welcome the overall leadership of Nelson Mandela, its leader. Then, as a result of the psychological warfare of white South African officers transferred to the Ciskei, Gqozo was turned against the ANC.

President Sebe was wildly corrupt and ruthless. Gqozo gradually emulated the man he had overthrown (with help from Ciskei's tiny Army), and in recent months Gqozo has acted as erratically and arbitrarily as Sebe. Thus the ANC's attempt to force his ouster is popular within Ciskei as well as without.

Bophuthatswana and KwaZulu are larger and more important targets. Chief Lucas Mangope has presided over Bophuthatswana since 1978, when that collection of sections of northwestern South Africa declared its local independence. His rule has also been arbitrary and locally unpopular; a coup was put down with South African military assistance in 1988. Chief Mangope is opposed to the ANC and to a unified post-apartheid South Africa that would do away with Bopthuthatswana.

CHIEF Mangosuthu Buthelezi, leader of KwaZulu since the late 1960s, has long joined Mangope in opposing the ANC and the reintegration of South Africa. He also rules arbitrarily over a scattered collection of parts of South Africa. KwaZulu is, however, the most populous homeland, with Zulus living within the homeland and in cities numbering about 8 million.

The Tswana, both in Bophuthatswana and the cities, number only about 3 million, and the Xhosa-speakers who occupy Ciskei number 846,000. In total, however, Xhosas number about 5 million, most of whom live in the Transkei homeland and in the cities. Mr. Mandela and many of the top leaders of the ANC have family ties to the Transkei.

Other than the Transkei and KwaZulu, the homelands have little pre-apartheid legitimacy. They were created in 1959 by the South African government so that whites could tell the world that Africans had their own "homes" and "governments" away from the cities of South Africa. With official encouragement, the Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Ciskei, and Venda, in the north, ultimately opted for an independence recognized only by South Africa. KwaZulu refused to play the game, as did QwaQwa, Gazankulu, Lebowa, KaNg wane, and, ultimately, KwaNdebele.

Bophuthatswana has significant platinum and vanadium mines. Lebowa and Gazankulu also have some mining activity, but the budgets of the homelands have always been underwritten by appropriations from the central government. None has operated independently, and nearly all have been guided by white South Africans transferred from the national government.

Since Mandela's release from jail in 1990, however, many of the homelands have switched allegiance.

Gen. Bantu Holomisa of the Transkei organized a coup against his corrupt predecessors in 1989 and has since been a staunch supporter of the ANC. Together with former chief minister Enos Mabuza of KaNgwane, General Holomisa heads a pro-ANC majority of homeland leaders.

The homelands will doubtless be re-absorbed back into South Africa under final post-apartheid arrangements. Referenda are promised, but the details have not yet been agreed upon.

Until then, the white government needs its allies, even puppets like Gqozo. The ANC, on the other hand, is determined to destroy their legitimacy, even if it means peaceful protest marches that attract violence. KwaZulu and Bophuthatswana are both volatile, and any confrontations are bound to be nasty.

The deaths in Ciskei and the potential for more in other homelands demand the reopening of serious negotiations over the transition from white rule. The sooner that happens, and the sooner the government abandons its homeland puppets, the better for peace and progress in South Africa.

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