July-December 1988

August 2, 1988

There are two parts to the South African story.  One is intellectual and based on values and theories projected and defended by academics.  The other part is popular or in the archaic sense of the term vulgar, or of currency “among the great mass of the people”.

Discussions with Dirk Kotzé  [then Chair of the Department of Development Administration of the University of South Africa] on the 2 August, 1988 related to the changing role of Afrikaner intellectuals in South Africa.  Academics by the early 1980s had withdrawn from the government.   They were no longer willing to take part in the round table think tank sessions that characterized the earlier period.  In 1988, government did not know what it was doing. They knew what it didn’t want, a unitary state with one person, one vote.  They knew what they couldn’t have, grand apartheid.  Some wanted to have a Swiss cantonal system.  Beyond this there was confusion.  In 1984 Kotze said, if you want to know what structures are going to stick in South Africa, talk to the ANC.

Kotzé noted that he had withdrawn from the study of African politics.  He didn’t know what he was doing there anymore. His focus was on the rural coloured community.  They shared his language and culture.  “I have a better sense of what they are up to,” he said. [Below see a picture of Cape Coloured or mixed race Children in the rural areas of the Western Cape].

Discussions with a State Security Council representative P. A. Stemmet that same year (1988) made it clear to me that there was a certain respect for the ANC within the State apparatus.  As one senior official in the SCC put it:

“Make no doubt about it.  These ANC fellows are no dummies.  They are very competent, very capable people.  They are tough.”

Stemmet was interested in the UDF [United Democratic Front] as well.  Local elections were to be held in October [of 1988].  He thought that in some municipalities the UDF would stand.  In others they probably would not.  He noted, “I have no doubt, however, that after the October elections we will have to deal with UDF and ANC sympathies within majorities in Councils.  That was a reality, he noted.  He also noted, with regard to gray areas, [Grey areas were areas of cities illegally populated with black South Africans] people are just going to have to get used to these areas and all that they represent.  The end of the Group Areas Act will probably come after the October elections.  Finally the NSC representative commented, “Government moves too slowly. We have to push them- kick them in the teeth sometimes.” [The Bureau of State Security or BOSS was created by then Prime Minister, B.J. Vorster in 1969).

August 6, 1988

In 1988, I had a number of discussions with Mark Swilling about Constitutional Development.  One discussion occurred on August 6. The key to change in South Africa he said is that reform must be from the bottom up.  The mistake in 1983 was that it was top down.  With regard to reform, there are a number of negotiating options being discussed.  The right wing option is to put together local alliances on the basis of a constitutional model.  Through the primary stages, the RSCs [Regional Services Councils] are the building blocks.  The strategy here is that reforms according to the Botha Government should be linked to the joint security centers.  The state is committed to reforms linked to current hierarchical structures.  He noted that some state officials can be building blocks to majority rule.  There is a reformist view within government.  Others would oppose majority rule.  For government, there need to be ethnic nationalities built into the system.  When there is a critical mass of reformers within government, changes will take place.  The reformer group has not reached the peak of its influence.  The numbers are increasing.  The issue is one of generation.  The older group comes from Stellenbosch in the 1950s.  The younger guys come from Potchefstroom and Stellenbosch now.

In 1988 Mark Swilling was a young, activist academic at the Center for Policy Studies of the University of the Witwatersrand and Planact, a civil society support group.  He is shown here with his wife Eve Annecke.  They jointly head up the Stellenbosch University’s Center for Sustainable Development.

On RSCs, those taxes are important.  The white rate payers are important here.  At the local level, the key is that any unitary system must include the townships.  Councils came “out of the blue” in 1984.  The government thought that black moderates wanted an elected council.  There was initially a high turn to in the PWV.  That was to be key to Botha’s nation building idea.

On the homelands, there could be lessons there for local government and one could use some of their structures.  Tribal authorities are not all bad.  He notes the Congress of Traditional Authorities of South Africa (CONTROLESA).

On regional government, nine regions make a lot of sense.  In conclusion he noted  “Government only negotiates when it runs out of options.”  Also he notes, “Government realizes that it made a mistake by introducing changes from the top down.  What is happening now is a bottom up approach.  They know what can happen in terms of the local level.  Now they are stuck and don’t know what to do.”

August 8, 1988

I met with a number of people who followed the situation in Bophuthatswana [ often referred to at the time as Bop].  This was only six months after the attempted coup by the Bop military and one of the opposition parties.  The coup was only unsuccessful because the South African military went in and broke it up.  Among those I spoke with were T.J. Mokgoro, seconded to the Economic Affairs Planning Department of the Bop Government from the University as a planning officer.  At that time he noted, the key to understanding the situation here is to realize that it is a temporary situation.  Our views are highlighted by the events of the 12th of February (of that year- the day of the attempted coup).  The rescue is a manifestation of this.  We are a creature of apartheid and even had to ban Cry Freedom here when it was banned in South Africa.

Mokgoro has gone on to have an illustrious career as an academic, a senior administrator and civil society expert. He briefly served as the ANC appointed co-administrator of Bophuthatswana after it was reincorporated by the transitional government. Recently he has served as the Managing Director of ECI/Africa in Johannesburg and is now an independent consultant.

Something will survive of the homeland structure, he said.  People will still live here.  They will still have organizational structures.  People will need education and there will be need for economic development.  They are committed to education and training.  They are now trying to prepare a situation which will come which will be less stressful.  At the national government level this will be very difficult.

However, the current arrangement is not wanted by people.  There will be a rearrangement of institutions.  There will be a need for regional government.  Federal vs. Unitary, we will be a part of South Africa.

The delimitation of homelands has its origins in the 1913 land act.  In Bop’s view it will be necessary in the end to reorder or rearrange things.  There must be rational consolidation of land.  Most of the territory is traditionally run.  However, 6% of the districts in the urban area have community councils.

At the third tier of government, Bop will not participate in regional services councils.  The leadership fears a loss of sovereignty. The government’s view of the region was that it is one economic unit but that they would not like to see development projects that threaten sovereignty.  The economic future is such that there will still be movements of people.

The problem with the government at that point was that it was trying to appease both the blacks and the Conservative Party at the same time.  They will have to make some choices.

In my view, urbanization is the key.  There will have to be urban government.  I don’t see Soweto as a municipal area.  There is a clear need for the third tier of government with a transfer of resources to it.

With regard to the second tier, Bop does participate in the regions.  But the people involved pick up a great deal of frustration, with the Regional Development Administration Councils and the Regional Liason Councils.  This is where they could give possibilities for the grass roots then refer the situation to an RLC forum.  The idea is that development issues go in a coordinated fashion.  Here Bop is very sensitive.  However, anything bilateral will be resisted.  Thus there is a duplication of services, infrastructure, etc.

Bop. is involved in four regions.  In the Free State, Bop deals with Bloemfontein.  Both have put up an industrial township.  They both fear that the city will swallow them up.  The same problem exists in the PWV with the newly industrialized towns.  On the Bop side there are empty factories.  There is friction on both sides, eg. Bop puts up the structures first.  If the situation were not multilateral, these sub-regions would make sense.   But the TVBC states are supposed to act as partners which they do not.  There is too much inequality between them.

Bop is very sensitive.  They fear some kind of a federal structure, they fear loss of control because of the mineral deposits.

The problem is that decision-making here is very centralized and focuses on one man. Mangope [Former President of Bophuthatswana, Lukas Mangope]. feels that the coup leaders had ties with the ANC.  People expect the worst when the coup leaders are tried.

In the future, the current political collaborators will not survive.  However, non-political people with skills will be used even if they are from the homelands.

On violence, he did not see any reversal nor intensification of the bombings.  One may see more and more Afrikaners going over to the other side.  That might, he said in 1988, force a negotiation that will lead to power sharing and the protection of minorities.  Perhaps Buthelezi will survive.  He has some creditability.  Also there is a threat of violence from the Zulus.

There is not much communication here except privately between individuals.

August 9, 1988

The second interview was with Bernard Obeng of the Institute of Development Research at the University of Bophuthatswana.  The institute is a service organization which does contract work.  One of their major focal points is rural development projects.  They are looking for ways of rendering a more rational budget and control system out of which a development plan can be made.  One possible area is integrated rural development and how it can be implemented.  They were also doing a socio-economic survey and also looking into the small business sector in addition to the informal sector.  The problem is they have no base line data.

The homelands are not independent economically.  Bop only raises 35% of its revenue from its own sources while the Transkei only raises 20% Development monies all come through the Southern African Development Bank, created specifically as a Bantu organization.  They use very strict economic criteria but don’t think through the case. They are still very paternalistic.

Obeng, who was not South African, said that he was being dragged into policy questions by the homeland government but there was still no plan or policy just a series of intents in terms of development strategy.  He has been seconded to two parastatals, Agrico and BNDC [Agricultural Corporation and Bophuthatswana National Development Corporation] with regard to industrial policy.  He is being dragged into both sides.   There is a committee on deregulation and privatization. Obeng was not sure what the future would be.  Things were very fluid.  The problem with trying to forecast he said is that one doesn’t know the variables.

[Below are two pictures of the arid rural areas of Bophuthatswana in 1988]

The Bop government does always conform with the South African government directions. The relationship is better than that with the Transkei.  However, the Mangope Government is a conformist one but not a puppet.  There is a strategy for their development efforts.  Thus they are reaping more.  The key issue for him he said was the group areas act.

The third interview was with the late Eric Wainwright, head of the department of political studies at the University of Bophuthatswana.  He noted the possibility of a post-apartheid South Africa and noted the what he called the “Groundswell” People.  Official government policy, he said, still pushed the idea of a federation with South Africa plus a union with Botswana. Within the student body here at UNIBO there was much support for a unitary South African state.  Another possibility is that of a cantonal system. This possibility suggests 27 regions.

The idea of confederation in back of this would take into account consociational needs, a perennial theme of white South Africans.  The problem, he said, is one of the numbers and of the fears of the Zulu and Afrikaner groups against being outnumbered.  One idea he pushed was that of primary elections at the first tier, electoral colleges at the second tier leading to a primary legislative body at the top.  There would then be a normal federal system where the powers of the central government are clearly laid out. These can be the structures for a federation.

Reforms to that point, by July of 1988, were he said significant within the context of South Africa.  The February coup in Bop made no difference. The main problem was that of corruption within the BDP.

On the issue of negotiations, the problem is that those willing to negotiate are seen as sell outs.  Revolution is not likely to succeed so many are ready to negotiate.  The fear is that those who negotiate will crack the image of monolithic black resistance.  During the post-apartheid period, ethnic differences are more likely to come to the surface.

The fourth person interviewed was M.M. Mutoane, of the Development Studies Program.  The problem he said in 1988 was that since he came, there has been no active research.  The majo

issue was that we had to make some administrative and syllabus changes.  Rural development should be our primary focus.  Also there is the problem of urban development and of small business enterprise development.  There is a need to focus the country on itself he said.  In his view, he would not see Bophuthatswana as a part of South Africa except at the macro-level.  Regarding development, he said that the fundamental problem was that of fundamental inequality and dependence.

The political issues are federalism, confederation or a unitary state.  The most likely outcome will be some kind of a federation.  At the moment people don’t have this view.  They are not able to go in this direction.  Consociationalism also has many problems.  The issue is we are looking at people who are in control.  They won’t change overnight.  They need security and control in order to do so.  Federation could be sold to the people of South Africa.

However, people in Bop have not been thinking of the alternatives.  Bop needs to be seen within a time period.  Historically, it is now at a plateau.  To do more there must be change within South Africa.  Among the homelands Bop is the best in terms of the quality of life.  With limited resources they have done much.  They have really done what South Africa has not done for many years.  They have now reached the boundaries.  It is now time to reassess.  Bop has had many problems domestically and internationally and had no access to things from overseas.  Tension within South Africa effects the situation.  Bop cannot free itself from the South Africa situation; it is part and parcel of South Africa.

The problem with regard to Bop is that the people are pre-occupied with what immediately affects them- bread and butter issues.  This relates to people’s educational levels.  The problem here is seen as not where will we be in ten years and how will we prepare for it.  This is still regarded as a luxury.  Thus the major issue is being ignored, that is what Bop should put on the table.

Francine de Clercq teaches in the development studies department as well.  Whites are off the hook now as a result of the coup she said.  Since the coup Mangope has depended more and more on his white advisors.

The key to development work at this time is exposure of people to development ideas not to really do development work.  Bop. is not interested in rural development.  My focus is on state strategies of priority setting and on back the the peasantry issues.  For Bop planners development work of course is so micro that it is not worth much in the big picture, she says.  The big focus here is on Agrico, the bank is putting all of its money here.  “I operate within the framework of the post-colonial view of the state” she says.

In terms of regional restructuring Bop falls in the middle.  It is not the worst.  The problem is that regions as a concept are threatening in terms of old boundaries.  The black homelands are threatened; Mangope is threatened by this.

Things are worked out covertly here.  In 1986, Mangope changed his view.  He began to listen to Pretoria more.  This was more so after the coup.  There are many UDF supporters in Bop. especially in the South near Pretoria.  There is tremendous population pressure here and many would move back into Pretoria.

The sixth interview in in Mmabatho in 1988 was with Prof. P. Helm, Dean of the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences.  She came here from the University of Cape Town to assist in the development of the new institutions.   She had done community development work in Ciskei and the Transkei.  She has a social work focus.  In 1978 she helped establish the School of Health and Social Sciences. She liked the idea of a non-elitist university which she thought UNIBO was.  With regard to the homelands, she said she would leave the broad political issues to other people.  In her view people were concerned with day to day realities.  Her view of the homeland experience is very positive.  Much has happened.  People here have changed and been changed because of the experience of having some level of self government  Contributing to this day to day experience of practical change within government is critical.  Daily experience within the home is different here than it is in South Africa.  There are kids up to the age of eleven who have never experienced apartheid.  She also noted the influence of the influx of black students from South Africa into the University.  How do these students do?   The kids with the highest percentage are the Indians.  They do better than whites.

She went on to note that the independent homelands have chucked Bantu education out the window.  The shift of power within South Africa began with the homeland structure.  The homeland experience has changed the thinking in the government and the private sector in South Africa.

There is a clear cleavage between the young and the middle aged in Bop.  The young will have nothing to do with Mangope.  Many of the young people in the university don’t come from here.  They have been affected by much ANC/UDF propaganda.  They have a feeling that government is not legitimate.  For them the desire to reject the South African government and its puppet is very real.  But they want land, to build houses.  Any new solution within South Africa will have to deal with the homelands they feel and they can make money here.  Politically I see the movement to some kind of a federation.  The opposition here comes from the industrial areas.  Government can’t keep the trade unions out.

The next interview was with Dawn Mokhobo [pictured to the side]formerly a senior offical at Agrico now in private public relations.  She had become very dissatisfied with government.  Too much is happening too late.  Reform here cannot increase beyond what it is.

Initially, she told me, at “independence” many of us felt that here black people could do their own thing, could break down fears.  At the beginning we were able to do this.  We took the non-racial issue too seriously.  There was a need to give people the opportunity.  However, in the end there were very few blacks in senior positions.  The whites are still here.  Today blacks are very skeptical.

There are many blacks within the civil service.  However, people were often put in positions where they were ineffective.  The white advisors do the work and make the decisions. In Bop the political situation is centered in the President’s hands.  Mangope is now leaning more and more towards his white advisors.  Blacks are discriminated against.  People who become too visible become a threat.  Functioning on merit is not kindly thought of.  The BPP came out as a result of this.   Now we are moving to a one party state.

In the parastatals many of the whites are qualified.  But they are reluctant to make waves. Conditions are very good.  None dare to criticize.

People (whites) here are clinging to what they have.  There is much corruption.  The decision point for many was the change in the South African citizenship act.  This allowed return of their South African citizenship.  Given the choice people will go to South Africa.

Whites as Pioneers is a strong mythology in Mafikeng

Within the civil service people don’t think about change.  There is too much local politics.  Also people are too much afraid.  People who are outspoken get chopped.

The February attempted military coup gave the government a shock.  There was much self-delusion. Now South Africa is open about intervening here.  The goal is to kill off the opposition.  The government is now dependent upon South Africa.  Politicians only feel safe with the guards around their houses.  Now there are many irrational decisions.

Now people in government are very defensive.  They are building up the whole proletarian system.   Fewer and fewer people criticize.  There is such a change from ten years ago.  There was much idealism a decade ago.

With regard to change, with a new government in Bop, they might go into a federation.  With the current government, there is no vision.  They would not join a non-racial South Africa.  They will not want to go back but there could be a federal arrangement.

She noted that the government and the university have been at loggerheads for several years.

August 17, 1988








Nelson Mandela has TB.  It was discussed on the SABC.

The day it was announced I interviewed his personal physician and long time advisor, Nthato Motlana, pictured to the side. (Dr. Nthato Harrison Motlana (16 Feb 1925 – 1 December 2008) was a prominent South African businessman, physician and anti-apartheid activist.)

I interviewed Nthatho Motlana in his surgery, 1401 Mtipa St., Dube Soweto on August 8, 1988. It was a dry, cold Wednesday afternoon. He spoke of Soweto, “There is nothing here” he said, only brew, bread and a few veggies.”  At the end of the interview we walked outside.  The air was dark with the charcoal fires that polluted the air.  “I wonder,” he said, if we will ever be able to get out of this air.”  We spoke of his most famous patient, Nelson Mandela and I asked him what he thought of reports that he was in a Cape Town hospital being treated for Tuberculosis. “I hope we will soon see him again.  It has been so long. I have wondered, some time, if he would ever come out.” (An excerpt from Tales from South Africa).

In discussing non-white officials in government there is a parroting of the group approach without enthusiasm.  White officials are often open about the limitations of the group approach. There is a general agreement that the group approach will not fly.



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