South Africa's Swaziland scheme

South Africa originally invented separate development, and gave autonomy to a series of 10 homelands, in order to justify the absence of political and economic rights for the majority of its population. South Africa has also granted four of those homelands a locally designated independence, thereby removing up to 3.5 million people as citizens of the mother country. Now its government is attempting to eliminate additional blacks with a claim on South Africa by giving nearly 1 million to neighboring Swaziland.

About 800,000 of the people in question comprise the population of KaNgwane, a homeland which wraps around Swaziland's western and northern borders. Only 250 ,000 actually reside there; the remainder live in urban South Africa. All speak Swazi and owe some residual fealty to King Sobhuza II, the 92-year-old monarch who rules Swaziland. But the leaders of KaNg-wane do not want to be ousted from South Africa. Nor, as far as can be ascertained, do their people. They prefer to take their chances with the future of apartheid in a changing world. They bitterly fear becoming an appendage of a somewhat traditionally ruled, relatively impoverished country with a limited future.

Enos Mabuza, chief executive officer of KaNgwane, says that his people have ''no wish to be part of a medieval monarchy that rules by decree. We are South Africans and we want to stay in South Africa to fight for a democratic future.''

From the white South African point of view, the migrant labor of the Swazi can still be secured even if KaNgwane is absorbed by Swaziland. So nothing would be lost and the ultimate goal of separate development, the transformation of 21 million black South Africans into statutory foreigners, would be assisted. With 21 million Africans thus removed, however cynically, the 4.7 million white South Africans would at last become the unques-tionably dominant force in the country.

The Swazis from KaNgwane will overwhelm the 550,000 indigenous inhabitants of Swaziland numerically, but that does not seem to bother King Sobhuza's government. Nor does it seem to mind adding to its country's social ills. KaNgwane is densely populated and has few resources of its own. Nearly 90 percent of its yearly budget is financed by South Africa.

What has sweetened the deal considerably, as far as King Sobhuza may be concerned, is a South African promise to give him Ngwavumaland, a vast swath of territory that runs along southern Swaziland to the Indian Ocean. King Sobhuza has long coveted a window on the sea and a potential harbor. The South Africans have proposed the transfer even though Ngwavumaland belongs to the large KwaZulu homeland and Gatsha Buthelezi, chief minister of KwaZulu, is adamantly opposed to the loss of his northernmost segment.

The South Africans are thinking strategically as well as numerically. By giving Swaziland northern KwaZulu, a buffer zone would be created between Mozambique, where anti-South African guerrillas have bases, and South African territory proper. Pressure could also be put on King Sobhuza's government, as at present, to prevent guerrillas from crossing Swazi territory.

South Africa views the proposed arrangements as a neat package in its own interest. However, by ousting KaNgwane without the consent of its leaders or its people, in a referendum, and by wresting Ngwavumaland away from KwaZulu without its consent, the South Africans demonstrate the sham nature of the facade of homeland government which has been erected for local and world consumption since the late 1950s. (Earlier this year, South Africa's own commissioner-general, or representative, to KaNgwane resigned in protest against the contemplated arrangements.) The proposals also tempt King Sobhuza into breaking with the Organization of African Unity, which is opposed to any actions which bolster and lend credence to separate development, and which deny full rights to blacks in their own nation.

For a long time it appeared the land and people swaps which were contemplated were too cynical even for South Africa. But, earlier this month, South Africa revoked the autonomy of KaNgwane and declared it would excise Ngwavuma-land. Both transfers, against the wish of a majority of the affected peoples, seem near at hand. So does the demise of KaNgwane.

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