South Africa taking on powers of homelands

December 15, 1993|By Michael Hill | Michael Hill,Johannesburg Bureau

CAPE TOWN, South Africa -- The Transitional Executive Council (TEC) has set up a confrontation over one of the thorniest issues bedeviling the creation of a new South Africa -- the power of the central government over the semi-independent homelands.

At its third meeting yesterday, the TEC took on these apartheid creations, designed to take South African citizenship away from blacks by making them citizens of tribal homelands.

The leaders of three of these homelands, facing the loss of their power and patronage, pulled out of the negotiations that wrote the country's new constitution and set up the TEC as a super-advisory body to the government leading up to the first nonracial elections on April 27.

Though current proposals call for homeland residents to regain South African citizenship Jan. 1 and for the homelands to cease to exist after the election, some homeland leaders claim that their "independence" means that these laws do not apply within their borders.

At issue at yesterday's meeting was an investigation into allegations of hit squads aimed at political enemies run by the police force of KwaZulu, the Zulu homeland run by Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the major black political rival to the African National Congress.

Following up on a report by the Goldstone Commission on Violence, the TEC ordered the accounting last week. The South African police promised cooperation, but a KwaZulu police official said he was under orders not to comply with the request for information since KwaZulu does not recognize the TEC's authority.

Yesterday, the TEC passed a resolution saying that it will "take all steps, including legal steps, to ensure the resolution of the TEC is complied with."

"The TEC must not fail to seize upon this issue of hit squads and root it out," said Cyril Ramaphosa, the ANC representative.

In another homeland-related matter, the TEC admonished the South African government for authorizing a number of development loans to Bophuthatswana without consulting the TEC.

Mr. Ramaphosa emphasized that the TEC was not trying to stop the projects funded by the loans, most of which would benefit impoverished communities, but needed to establish its authority.

"Old habits die hard," he said. "Now it is necessary to take note that the TEC is around."

The TEC runs the risk of appearing to take on only those political powers that are not represented on the council, indeed that have challenged its very right to exist.

Colin Eglin, the Democratic Party representative who chaired yesterday's TEC meeting, denied that this was the case, pointing out that the KwaZulu confrontation was set up by the Goldstone Commission, which furnished the TEC with information on the hit squads.

"Had the Goldstone Commission focused on something else, I have no doubt that the TEC would have given its attention to that matter in the same way," he said.

Nevertheless, the only group participating in the TEC that has been subject to its investigation is the South African government itself, specifically a branch of the South African Police called Internal Stability Units.

Deployed mainly in black townships where violence has been prevalent, these units are often blamed by the ANC for taking sides in the township struggles, causing more violence than they prevent.

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