Protestors Slaughtered


September 13, 1992|By KENNETH GRUNDY

When 50,000 unarmed African National Congress supporters marched the three miles from King Williams Town in the eastern Cape to the "border" of the Ciskei homeland last Monday, they were in a festive mood. They were met with intense machine gun fire from the Ciskei Defense Force. Twenty-eight killed -- scores wounded.

Many analysts wondered if the ANC leaders had taken leave of their senses. How could they possibly have thought that Brig. Joshu Oupa Gqozo would have allowed them to enter his territory and occupy his "capital" of Bisho, a shopping mall cluster of offices, a gambling casino, housing and shops? And when the ANC declared in advance that its purpose was to force Brigadier Gqozo's removal from power, it was virtually assuring his violent opposition.

Nonetheless, there was reason in their madness. For about two years, the ANC and Brigadier Gqozo have been at war. Last Monday's slaughter is just the most bizarre chapter in this strange conflict. To understand these events we must examine the larger issue of homelands.

The Ciskei, like the other three "independent" homelands -- Transkei, Bophuthatswana and Venda -- is an artificial state created to fulfill the ideological dictates of apartheid. Hendrik Verwoerd, prime minister of South Africa from 1958 to 1966, devised a neat, perfectly logical (given his premises) way of dealing with the inevitable black majority challenge to white minority rule.

He divided 13 percent of South Africa's land into ten ethnic homelands. Each Black South African would eventually be assigned citizenship in a homeland, and the homelands would then serve as a labor reserve supplying the white-controlled farms, mines and factories.

In times of economic boom the labor sponge would be squeezed, and out would spill the needed workers. In leaner times the workers would be forced to return to their homelands, thereby reducing the social costs to Pretoria for sustaining them. Out of sight; end of obligation.

Eventually all blacks not wanted in "white" South Africa were to be shipped "home" and, presto, South Africa becomes a majority-white state. In great feats of social engineering, millions of blacks were denied citizenship in the land of their birth and banished to hard-scrabble lives in the rural periphery.

Neat? Yes. Equitable? Not at all. Three-quarters of the population would get, in effect, 13 percent of the land -- the least desirable and productive land. Add to that a battery of inhumane security and labor laws designed to keep this monstrously exploitative system in place.

Not one of the "independent" Bantustans has gained diplomatic recognition, except from Pretoria and the other homelands. All are heavily dependent on Pretoria for budgetary subsidy (for example, 83 percent of the Ciskei's revenues), trade, infrastructure, jobs and even administrative staff. They are economic basket cases with phony sovereignty.

The ANC, through its years in exile, held that the domestic colonialism of the Bantustans was a contemporary version of Pretoria's historical policy of divide and rule.

Through violent suppressions of peaceful opponents and personal dictatorships marked by a succession of scandals and coup attempts, the discredited Bantustan governments brought shame on the regime in Pretoria. Patrimonial puppetry in the form of tinhorn dictators beholden to Pretoria made homeland politics seem more like comic opera than Greek tragedy. But South Africa's banana republic's were no joke to the people forced to subsist there.

At last, in the 1980s, South Africa's ruling elite began to realize that the outside world would never swallow this exercise in sham self-determination." The hapless people stuck in these satrapies never did identify with these pseudo-ethnic governments. And even the puppets leaders wanted some of the strings cut, the better to loot the state treasuries and to control dissent in their midst.

Prime Minister Verwoerd's dream of grand apartheid or "separate development," as he called it, became a nightmare for F. W. de Klerk, the current president. Government by remote control proved unreliable. The white regime became saddled with a hodgepodge of statelets, none entirely pliable, none remotely credible.

Still, Pretoria is trying to make the most of its fouled nest. In the process of negotiations with the ANC alliance and other anti-apartheid groups, Mr. de Klerk's National Party government would like to cobble together a multi-racial coalition of parties to resist transferring power directly to the ANC alliance. The NP's coalition presently is to include the NP, the mixed race Labor Party, the Inkatha Freedom Party (based in the KwaZulu homeland) and several homeland leaders.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.