The two South Africans
A seldom seen South Africa speaks to our hearts this week while the familiar South Africa of international diplomacy remains in the spotlight of world censure. The headlined South Africa has become almost an abstraction, a monilith watched for signs of reaction to outside pressure or encouragement. The other South Africa is not abstract, not monolithic, but a land including groups and individauls who are just as concerned as any outsider about the legally sanctioned inhumanity that overshadows the positive aspects of their country. They number members of the white minority as well as the black majority. Their concern shines through the current Monitor series, "South Africa's archipelago."
The archipelago of the title refers to the "islands" of improverished rural tribal reserves where between two and three million black people have been forced to resettle over the past three decades. The process is still going on, as correspondent Gary Thatcher witnessed, with many of the enclaves hidden from main roads so that even South Africans are often unaware of the harsh conditions. The removals, based on race, are covered by various laws including one that designates only 14 percent of the land for the 71 percent of the population that is black. While the world trend is toward land reform -- a more equitable distribution of land -- South Africa presses in the opposite direction.
Cruel dilemmas are presented to those South Africans who have informed themselves about one of the largest forced relocations of human beings in recent history, and who want to do something about it. The ordinary human response is to reach out and succor the victims. Yet, according to one view, to ease their lot is only to serve the overall interests of apartheid by helping it to work.
There are those who fatalistically would allow hardship to spur racial conflicts toward the change by violence which so many predict for South Africa unless government policies are steadily transformed to heal the situation.
But, as one of the concerned white South Africans says, "if you are a Christian, you can't look at people who are dying of hunger and say you're not going to do anything about it." It can only be hoped that this kind of compassion spreads in South Africa. Outsiders can accomplish little in comparison to what South Africans themselves can.
Yet outsiders canm do something beyond all the debates over what political or economic tactics might influence Pretoria. As a black churchman puts it in the final article of the series, prayers by people across the world can help bring about the proper treatment of all people in South Africa.