One of the dreams of South Africa's ruling Nationa Party is being laid to rest -- unfulfilled. Prime Minister Pieter W. Botha has finally conceded what a number of studies already had made obvious, that the dream of turning this country's black tribal areas into economically viable mini-states is simply unattainable.
Nevertheless, Mr. Botha still is clinging to the view that the tribal reserves -- euphemistically referred to as black "homelands" or "national states" -- can be politically separate from "white" South Africa.
The abandonment of the goal of economic partition between whites and blacks does not mean the duling National Party has abandoned its goal of apartheid (racial separation). Instead, it has simply stripped away one of the original economic justifications for the policy.
Mr. Botha's admission that the tribal reserves cannot be made economically viable came at a congress of the ruling National Party in the populous Transvaal Province. It marks a departure from the original goals of apartheid envisioned by the policy's architect, former prime minister, Dr. Hendrik F. Verwoerd.
Indeed, some analysts here say the homelands now are exposed for what they have been all along: reservoirs of cheap labor for white South Africa, and convenient dumping grounds for those considered surplus to the country's economic needs.
Prime Minister Botha, of course, puts a different face on the development.He says that the stage is set for "promoting the development of a constellation of states, each deciding its own political future as master in its own house."
Implicit in that statement, however, is the traditional nationalist view that black and white South Africans are not part of the same state.
Echoing that theme, Mr. Botha told the party congress that "not one single black man in this country" is not "linked to one of the homelands. That is a reaffirmation of the nationalist precept that each black person in South Africa is, by reason of his ethnic lineage, actually part of a separate "nation" -- a view roundly rejected by black activists.
Mr. Botha promised the creation of new industrial growth points that will "Transcend the boundaries of the traditional areas in South Africa." His critics fear that means that economic development in the rural homelands will stagnate, aggravating the extreme poverty and deprivation that already exist in many of these areas.
But some of the more radical black activists welcome the development, taking the view that grinding rural poverty will inevitably foster the creation of an embittered rural populace which will support guerrilla warfare.
The abandonment of the goal of economically viable homelands, they argue, strips more of the veneer from apartheid and exposes it as a system aimed at ensuring white privilege.
But Mr. Botha says, "We cannot give away the whole of South Africa merely to create economically viable black states."
Some critics charge that leaves the homelands -- disjointed fragments of land spread in patchwork fashion over the country -- with little justification for existing, other than as artificial political units designed to keep black hands off the levers of political power in South Africa.
Nevertheless, Mr. Botha and his followers doggedly insist that blacks and whites in South Africa can share the same economic institutions, but not the same political institutions.
That makes little sense to black activists, nor to the ruling National Party's own right wing. Conservative whites argue that a shared economy inevitably will lead to demands for political power-sharing, and ultimately to mixed neighborhoods and even mixed marriages -- developments they view with unconcealed horror.
Mr. Botha assures doubters that his government can control the rate and direction of change. Nevertheless, hard-liners continue to rally behind arch-conservatives in the National Party such as Dr. Andries Treurnicht.
Many observers at the party congress claim that Mr. Botha prevailed in a face-off with Dr. Treurnicht.
However, Dr. Treurnicht was overwhelmingly re-elected provincial party leader in the Transvaal, and thus presents a continuing challenge to Mr. Botha's leadership. Tribal homelands
9. South Ndebele