South Africa's Archipelago; Where people are 'dumped'
Johannesburg — "One day the farmer said we must move off his farm at the end of the month. He said wwe must live on the other side of the Tugela River. We could not move because we had no homes to go to.
"The farmer was angry and the police burned our homes down.
"They forced us to move across the river. We made shelters from leaves and branches."
The words are those a 14-year-old Zulu boy, taken from a children's book recounting the experiences of growing up black in South Africa.
The child was one of an estimated 2 to 3 million black people who have been "removed" from land designated for "whites only" in an effort to bring about apartheid, or racial separation, in this white minority-ruled country. And, as this series of reports has indicated, they are often forced into relocation "camps," which are usually overcrowded enclaves of poverty and despair.
"Two million of God's children have already been uprooted from their homes where they had fairly adequate accomodationand where reasonalbly close to their place of work and so could live as family units able to clothe and feed themselves," says bishop desmond this Tutu, general secretary of the South African Council of Churches (SACC)
They have been dumped -- and I use that word deliber ately and responsibly -- s you dump rubish and other things you don't want. They have been dumped in places that are inhospitable, arid, and with little work available."
Some people worry that this mass government of people --one of the largest forced migrations of humanity in recent historhy -- amounts tosolving of the wind.
"There is a whole generation of children growing up that doesn't know anytying about thw south African governmnet . except that it forces them out of thei homers she, along with numerous other observers, argues that forced removals of black people can only add to the potential for revolutionary violencde in his trouble-d country.
Other observers say that is a far-fetchedc concern
Certainly the South African government deoes not seem worried abouth the consequences the shunting black people about. At this writing, it has plans to uproot a least another 92,000 blacks from what it defines as "white" land.
Recently, it has gone so far as to arrest hundreds of black people in the township of Nyanga, near Cape Town, and bulkl doze and burn their makeshipt dwellings in an effort to force them back to the rural reserves. International protests have only stalled, rather than halted, the white government's actions.
Yhe underlying goal fo such efforts is to group as many blacks as possible int tribal reservs -- forming only a '14 percent of this country's land area -- and dectlaringthrese enclaves "independent" countries. Sout African Prime , Minister Pieter WL Botha says the resultant ethically "countries" will be loosely joined to a twice.
The corollary of that dictum is , of course, that whites will this country's 71 percent iears one such supporter is DR. C. J. Jooste, director of the south African Bureau of Racial Affairs. (The organization is a front for the secret society of aFrikaners known as the broderbond.) He says that South Africa 's policies low flow from the fact that everyone is part of a nation.
"Another is country, and country needs a separate government," he elaborates.
"I'ts got to be done," he says. "Nations want states."
If people suffer as a result of being regrouped into ethnic units, he says, that is regrettable. but it means only that the policy is being poorly carried out, he says, not that it is wrong. "As regards the human cost, I lways calculatetthe human cost for not doing these sorts of things."
He need not have elaborated. His unspoken fear: Without some form of separation, the "white" nation would be swamped by black people.
"Apartheid, separate development, consolidation [of black areas], are all manifestations of the underlying ideology of nationalism," he says.
Perhaps. But some observers see far less idealistic motivations for moving millions of black people into reserves and sealing them off from "white" South Africa.
Michael Whisson, a professor on anthropology at rhodes University, says it is primarily a form fo economic protectionism, an attempt to insulate South Africa's higly developed "first world" economy -- centered on its cities -- from the "third world" underdevelopment in black rural areas.
"The rich sector protects itself from those who would live cheaper, live poorer," he explains. Professor Whisson, while not excusing what is parting happening here, draws a competiion. between south Africa's forced into of black people and the United States' efforts to seal its border with Mexico.
"South afirica has become what American might be with not a mexico on it doofdststeed step." he declares.
"The response has been to attemtp system who aren't playing by the rules of the state capitalist system into enclaves which are separated from it."
Some analysts take the argument even frusther even t that virtually every Western nation is, in some measure, facing the same basic problem as South Africa -- and opting for a similar solution.
Most affluent Western countries, this argument goes, are separted from the third world by a continent or an ocean spiraling population growth by simply erecting trade barriers, imposing protective tariffs, of halting immigration.
But "white" South Africa, these analysts argue, has no such option. The underdeveloped "third world" is, quite literally, surrounding it. Consequently, they explain, the government must use harsher measures to widen the distance between two disparate economies -- even to the point of moving several million people.
There are, however, some limits to that argument. One is that trade barriers and immigration limitation are accepted courses of action by sovereign nations. South Africa is, by contrast, trying to forge sovereign nations where at present none exist.
Moreover, it is going about the exercise in a decidedly racist manner. A few whites are occasionally forced to move when their land is incorporated into a black reserve. But the overwhelming majority of South Africans subjected to "removals" -- in excess of 99 percent -- are black.
Still, some studies tend to backstop the view that mass removals -- although conducted with racial bias -- are, at base, an attempt to resist natural economic forces.
One such study is by Charles Simkins, senior research fellow at the University of Cape Town's South African Labor and Development Research Unit.
He has compared certain facets of South Africa's economic structure with other developing countries, and found that this country is "under-urbanized." That is, at this stage in its economic development natural forces should have drawn proportionately more people away from the rural areas and into the cities, where jobs are more abundant. But, according to Professor Simkins, "There has been no increase in the proportion of people living in urban areas in the past 20 years."
Instead of being allowed to migrate to the cities in search of jobs, he says, millions of black people have been shunted in relocation areas in the rural tribal reserves.
Government officials argue that these black people would have created slums on the perimeter of every South African city if they had been allowed into the urban areas.
But is it any better, critics ask, to force them into rural slums -- which is what many of the resettlement areas actually are?
"These places are rural ghettos," says an agricultural worker active in the reserves. "They're far out of the public eye, so that the nastiest aspects of apartheid aren't seen."
Some analysts say that forced relocation is not merely an attempt to resist black urbanization or displace poverty from urban to rural areas. It is also a decidedly political act, they add.
"The government has got to exclude people from resources," argues one researcher, who requested anonymity, "from land, jobs, and housing, which will make them secure, and give rise to the possibility of organizing for political power."
Of course, the mere exclusion of black people from urban areas will not, by itself, quell their political ambitions. That is why, analysts claim, the government attempts to rechannel black political aspirations into the tribal politics of the black reserves.
In fact, the South African government repeatedly puts forward these ethnically based "national states" as the only places where black people can ultimately hope to attain full political self-determination. And that will come about, government officials argue, only once the "national states" are declared independent.
Earlier this year, Prime Minister Botha once again reaffirmed the government's intention to make the reserves "independent." And he argued that there is not a single black South African who is not inextricably "linked to one of the "national states."
To many government supporters, this theory -- which they call "multinational development" -- makes eminent good sense and provides a neat package solution to this country's race problems.
There is a major problems with it, however. According to a number of analysts, it simply doesn't work.
"It doesn't work from a moral perspective," says the Rev. James Palos, a Methodist minister and SACC worker. Black people were not consulted in the drafting of this master plan for their own denationalization, he says, and would undoubtedly reject it in a referendum.
Moreover, he adds, "It doesn't work from a practical perspective."
In fact, the government's own studies -- conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council -- cast serious doubt on Mr. Botha's claim that every black South African is "linked" to a "national state" (or "homeland," as the reserves are sometimes called).
A council survey found that over half the black men in South Africa's urban areas in 1978 were born there. Eighty percent of them had neither children nor parents living back in the reserves. Only 13 percent of them were in possession of a homeland "citizenship certificate," and 60 percent of them had not even visited a homeland reserve in the year preceding the survey.
Mr. Palos says the creation of the separate ethnic states is in itself a largely illusory exercise. Proof of that assertion can be found just outside the South African capital city, Pretoria, he says.
North and west of Pretoria is the tribal reserve of Bophuthatswana. Declared "independent" of South Africa in 1977, this reserve-cum-republic is, in theory, the political home for some 2.5 million Tswana people.
Yet almost two-thirds of that total, or roughly about 1.5 million Tswanas, actually live outside the territory, in "white" South Africa, says Mr. Palos.
And the number of Tswanas in this ethnic enclave -- about three-quarters of a million people -- is roughly matched by the number of non-Tswanas, he adds.
Most of these non-Tswanas live in a vast squatter settlement called Winterveldt. A survey in the area disclosed that of 1,600 plot owners, only 32 were actually Tswanas, Mr. Palos says. The rest are a polygot group of Sotho, Zulu, Venda, Shangaan, and other ethnic lineage.
Yet these people, although of diverse tribal groups, have been peacefully coexisting for years, he says (despite government claims that intertribal violence is the inevitable result of ethnic mixing). And, he says, "mixed marriages" between people of different ethnic groups are common.
Splitting communities like Winterveldt into precise ethnic compartments is virtually impossible, he says.
"I would be like trying to unscramble an egg."
Mr. Palos suggests that black urbanization would naturally develop along similar lines, were it not for the government's passion for ethnic grouping.
Bophuthatswana also contradicts other underpinnings of government racial theory.
Dr. Jooste, one of this country's chief theoreticians of racial separation, says a "politically, socially, and economically viable state also needs a consolidated territory."
Yet Bophuthatswana is made up of seven fragmented parcels of land, splattered like inkblots over the South African map. Some of them are separated by hundreds of miles of "white" land.
How can that be reconciled with Dr. Jooste's definition of a "viable" state?
"It can't be reconciled," he admits. "Boputhatswana is a fragmented country that can't be sustained.It's got to be consolidated."
Yet such "consolidation" cannot, in all probability, take place without shuffling around thousands more people -- and spending millions of dollars to buy up "white" land. And there is no evidence the South African government is willing to put up the money for that kind of effort.
In fact, there are indications that the government has never been particularly serious about consolidating the "national states" and giving them coherent boundaries.
The basic split of land between black and white in this country was decided by the white Parliament nearly half a century ago (in the Native Trust and Land Act of 1936). Blacks, accounting for 70 percent of the population, were given only 14 percent of the land.
Yet even now, the government has not managed to incorporate even this meager quota of land into the black reserves. Instead, it has appointed various commissions to try to fit the jigsaw pieces of black land into some rational pattern. Even as this is written, a government commission is drafting yet another consolidation plan for the reserves.
To have completed the last (1975) consolidation plan on schedule, the government would have had to spend 100 million rand (about $120 million) every year over the past seven years to purchase land, according to the Bureau for Economic Research: Cooperation and Development.
And, because of constantly rising land prices, the government would have had to spend at least 60 million rand a year or consolidation would neverm be concluded, a bureau researcher calculated. Yet over this period the South African Parliament has never appropriated even this minimum amount. In some years, the actual appropriation has been as low as 25 million rand; the highest yearly total has been only 57 million.
But even if the government should decide to spend the money to radically enlarge and consolidate the ethnic reserves, it is doubtful whether many blacks would willingly accept citizenship in them as a substitute for what they see as their South African birthright.
Even some of the officials of the "governments" of the tribal reserves reject that notion.
"We recognize the fact of ethnicity," says Dr. Oscar Dhlomo, a spokesman for the KwaZulu government, "but we do not believe ethnicity should be used as a yardstick to measure political and human rights."
But even if blacks wanted to live in "independent" reserves, it is doubtful they could support themselves by doing so. A 1955 government report found that the maximum number of people the reserves could support was 2.3 million. Now, there are more than three times that number of people in them.
The South African government continues, however, to push people back to the reserves. South African police periodically conduct sweeps of white urban areas , arresting thousands of "illegal" blacks, shuffling them through pro forma trials, and shipping them back to the "national states." Over a one-year period ending in 1979, government officials arrested 274,887 black people for infringing the "pass laws" that regulte their movements in the urban areas.
Despite these efforts, 1978 studies indicate that 51 percent of black South Africans still live outside the reserves, in "white" areas. In fact, black people still form a 57 percent majority in what is supposed to be "white" South Africa.
The reason behind this surge to the cities can be summed up in one word: employment. Now, fewer than 15 of every 100 new black work-seekers are able to find work in the black reserves. Since most of them are landless, their only alternative is to head for work opportunities in the cities.
Recently, a group of squatters on the outskirts of Cape Town told a reporter they would rather go to jail than go back to the Transkei reserve.
"Because there is work here," one of them explained.
In fact, some projections hold that South Africa's cities will face an influx of up to 21 million black people over the next 20 years.
And, because blacks have higher birthrates than whites in this country, each year there are proportionately fewer whites to try to stem the tide of black urban influx. Fifty years ago, for example, whites formed 21 percent of the South African population; by the end of this century, they are expected to be a 13.7 percent minority.
The South African government's family planning programs are unlikely to make much of a difference. Many blacks are suspicious of them. And their doubts are reinforced by the occasional white government official who speaks out in favor of larger families -- for whites only.
The composite picture of South Africa's future, then, is of a proportionally diminishing white minority trying to push back a growing stream of black people heading for the cities. However, the places to which they will attempt to divert the flow -- the tribal reserves -- cannot even now support their present populations. Consequently, South Africa's policy of relocating black people -- white exacting a fearsome toll in human suffering -- appears to have little likelihood of ultimate success.
What, then, can the government hope to accomplish through this massive exercise of state power?
Mr. Winnie Mandela, one of this country's most prominent black activists, has a ready answer.
"The government," she says, "is creating a revolution."
Dr. Margaret Nash, an Anglican Church worker and researcher on black relocation, says, "I would be very surprised if some of the relocation camps aren't already recruiting grounds of guerrillas" seeking the overthrow of the white minority government.
One agricultural worker disagrees, positing that the rural reserves are simply too impoverished to support insurgents.
"At the crudest level," he says, "the black peasants of Zimbabwe could support a guerrilla war. I have no doubt that black people in South Africa couldn't do that."
Professor Whisson takes a middle view -- though not one particularly comforting to the government.
"I see little revolutionary potential in the people who have already been dumped in the resettlement areas," he says.
"The revolutionary potential will be among those who fear being dumped. And that," he adds, "includes every other black South African."
Even if continuing mass removals do not give rise to fullscale revolution, they can hardly help reduce tension in this racially troubled country.
Protas Madlala, whose community of St. Wendolin's, in southern Natal Province , is under threat of removal, says, "How should we view white people if we are forced to move?"
In terse fashion, he answers his own question: "With racial hatred."
There are, however, a number of groups of South Africans -- both black and white -- working to prevent that hatred from growing.
A number of organizations such as the Black Sash, the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR), the South African Council of Churches, and the Association for Rural Advancement work to document the extent of black uprooting , lodge protests with the government, and assist affected black people.
Other agencies, such as the interdenominational World Vision, undertake feeding and agricultural programs in the relocation areas. Help has sometimes come from unexpected sources; even now, the South African Sugar Association, an industry group, is helping to drill water wells in parts of the drought-stricken KwaZulu reserve.
In undertaking these efforts, such groups and individuals are rejecting criticism that easing the suffering of uprooted black people is, in effect, helping the grand design of apartheid to succeed.
"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. You simply can't do it," says Sheena Duncan, a Black Sash official.
In fact, those few white South Africans who do venture into the relocation camps often come away shattered by the experience. One white woman from Johannesburg, after viewing a relocation camp in the Ciskei, told this reporter, "I couldn't believe it. What's happening out there is nothing but genocide."
Sadly, however, a relatively small number of South Africans are taking positive steps to oppose removals -- or ease the suffering caused by them.
"The average citizen knows precious little about the problem or its scope," says Rene de Villiers, outgoing president of the SAIRR.
"It is, I fear, a case of 'out of sight, out of mind.'"
But that is no excuse for indifference, Dr. Nash says.
"In Nazi Germany in the '30s, people said they didn't know. In South Africa, we have a responsibility to ensure that people do know. We've got to take the privileged people into these areas and expose them to the suffering."
A tentative first step, she suggests, would be for churches to hold joint worship services in the relocation camps. In this manner, she says, white South Africans could learn firsthand of conditions in them.
"Sometimes, she says, "it's a form of ministry just to be there to share the pain."
But a better approach is, of course, to heal it.And the South African government could do that, say a number of experts, by halting further removals of black people.
"The South African government must gain the vision and the courage to admit that its policy of independent homelands has failed," says Prof. John Dugard, a South African legal expert and former SAIRR president.
"The solution to our crisis is simple," says Bishop Tutu, the SACC general secretary."It is this. Treat everyone as what they are -- human being created in the image of God."
Prayers by people across the world can help bring that treatment about in South Africa, he adds.
And Dr. Nash says one criptural verse holds particular promise that those prayers will be answered. It is the last verse in the book of Amos, and it reads:
"And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which i have given them, said the Lord thy God."
Last of five articles. Series began Sept. 14