Replacing S. Africa's pass laws. Pretoria to allow more black urbanization -- within limits

A million water taps and outdoor toilets. Alongside of them, several million ``black township'' plots for simple shelters. Thousands of yards of security fencing to ring the developments. These seem to be the tools South Africa will use to adopt an ``orderly urbanization'' policy in place of the ``pass law'' system that controls the movement of black people from the desperately poor countryside into urban areas.

The old system was a pillar of forced racial segregation, known here as apartheid. An estimated 18 million blacks have run afoul of the so-called pass-laws this century. Last week, the government announced the immediate release of the 245 pass-law violators still being held, and vowed there would be no more such arrests.

In an accompanying ``White Paper on Urbanization,'' the government mapped out a new, mixed carrot-and-stick method. So intricate were the old rules, that officials cited 34 statutes being scrapped or amended in order to abolish the system.

President Pieter W. Botha, in a separate statement, indicated the changes would be ratified by Parliament either in the current session, which ends June 20, or in a supplementary sitting due to start August 18.

Government ministers, announcing the changes at a news conference, said black ``urbanization'' would remain subject to controls. Blacks would still be barred from living in ``white'' cities and suburbs, and would be segregated in urban townships outside.

Controls on blacks moving from rural areas to townships would be exercised through existing laws on squatting, public-health standards, and slum clearance that would be reworded as necessary to make them ``racially neutral.'' Still, those most affected would be blacks, since almost all newcomers to urban areas are black.

The paper said that the major criterion in enforcing the controls would be a black person's possession of an ``approved accommodation or site.''

Such restrictions would be ``strictly but realistically and kindly applied.'' It said local authorities would be responsible for applying the rules, presumably suggesting there may be variations from township to township.

One minister said the government would direct the authorities to show ``much more'' flexibility on ``building regulations and standards,'' to allow ``informal housing'' -- something that was barred in the past. But, he added, it would be strict in preventing blacks from migrating ``en masse'' to ``unapproved'' sites.

An estimated 2 million, of the at least 7 million blacks already in urban areas, lack ``approved'' facilities. The White Paper implied no move would be made to evict them. Instead, efforts would be made to expand the amount of township land available for blacks already in urban areas and for new residents.

The minister in charge of the new policy, Chris Heunis, said he expected a total increase of 17 percent to 38 percent in the black urban population could be accommodated by the year 2000. This would mean providing sites for an estimated three to five million blacks -- including those already in urban areas.

The White Paper said the process will stress simple housing, with the private sector bearing most costs.

A member of Mr. Botha's party said on television Sunday night that the government would seek to provide ``site and service.'' The aim is to provide ``approved'' land for blacks overflowing the teeming commuter townships. One such scheme was begun near Cape Town in the new settlement of Khayelitsha. The scheme provides for water taps and toilets, one for every two to three lots, which are surrounded by a fence.

The new urbanization rules do not cover the millions of blacks who are nominally citizens of four ``independent black homelands'' set up by the South African government in years past. Having been stripped of their South African citizenship for an independence recognized only within this country, they, as ``foreigners,'' still need special permits to live in urban areas.

The government has said it is willing to restore South African citizenship to such blacks. But ministers have said firmly that, in the meantime, the exclusion of ``homeland'' blacks from the new code will be applied.

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