S. Africa steps up black resettlement to 'homelands'

The Black Sash human-rights organization has hung a disturbing picture before the eyes of South Africa - one many here would rather not see.

It is a slick, new, full-color map detailing the huge and ongoing resettlement of blacks into poor rural areas to fulfill Pretoria's blueprint for geographic separation of the races.

''This is our country as it is today - fragmented, fractured, and suffering, '' says text accompanying the map.

Resettlement has been going on for some 20 years, according to Sheena Duncan, Black Sash's president, but many white South Africans still refuse to acknowledge its scope. ''There is no excuse for South Africans not to know about it intellectually, but many just refuse to accept it emotionally,'' she says.

It is estimated that since 1960 there have been more than 3 million removals - most of them blacks and most of them by force. Since many people have been moved more than once, the actual number of people resettled is probably less than the total number of removals. The Black Sash first detected the policy in 1962 and has followed it closely since then.

Contrary to popular opinion, Mrs. Duncan says the resettlement practice is far from over. ''We get the impression it is accelerating,'' she says, in accordance with Pretoria's hope of ''bringing the 'homelands' policy to a point where it is irreversible.''

The ''homelands'' policy has created 10 separate rural territories for South Africa's 21 million blacks, leaving 87 percent of the republic's land in the hands of the white minority. All blacks are assigned citizenship to one or other of these ''homelands,'' and as the territorities take on an ''independent'' status, their ''citizens'' lose all rights in South Africa.

Pretoria's apartheid (enforced racial segregation) ideology insists the various black ''ethnic groups'' are as different from one another as they are from whites. So the government has assigned them all to different territories, depending on where the ''tribal'' group has its ancestral roots.

The policy has required a massively expensive and logistically complicated program of rearranging the map of South Africa. Land has been bought and sold to give these ''homelands'' some semblance of being unified territories - although most remain fractured into numerous pieces. None are independent economically.

It is the human dimension the Black Sash finds most appalling. Blacks not needed for labor in the white areas have been forced or coerced to move to the rural homelands and ''away from survival,'' says Mrs. Duncan.

Many self-sustaining black communities have been uprooted and resettled in desolate areas that become pockets of poverty and starvation. In 1980, Piet Koornhof, the South African minister for cooperation and development, insisted there would be no more forced removals.

But Black Sash workers say the removals continue with ''coercion and intimidation,'' instead of by physical force. Police harassment, refusal of labor contracts, and withholding of pensions are some of the techniques used.

Pressure in the homelands appears to be building. The swelling urban black population is reducing the need for contract laborers from the ''homelands.'' The government intends to tighten restrictions on blacks in the urban areas through new legislation it has submitted that would drastically increase the fines on employers who hire ''illegal'' blacks.

The rural reserves used to be populated by ''nonproductive'' blacks - mostly women, children, and the elderly. Now as urban opportunities are shut off, the ''homelands'' are increasingly populated by young men.

Still, Pretoria gives every indication of pushing ahead with the ''homelands'' policy. The government is considering a ''final'' proposal for land consolidation put forward by one of its own commissions.

In terms of the government's original consolidation plans, the Black Sash estimates another 1 million people would have to be resettled.

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