Monday, October 07, 2019

Whitewash (1986)

The Running Commentary column from the April 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

How much longer can Botha and the ruling National Party in South Africa get away with promising reforms and then failing to deliver the goods?

Botha's latest promise was made in a recent speech in which he admitted that South Africa had "outgrown the outdated concept of apartheid". But he then went on to restate the belief basic to apartheid: that South Africa consists of separate tribal peoples or nations, each of which must have jurisdiction over its own affairs while the whites retain overall control. What this means in practice is the policy of "independent” tribal homelands for the blacks — Bantustans — poverty-stricken reservations with nominal autonomy which provide a ready supply of cheap black labour for the predominantly white ruling class.

The "reforms" outlined by Botha include the restoration of South African citizenship to those who lost it when the Bantustans were granted "independence"; the extension of self-government to the remaining non-independent homelands; limited rights of property ownership for blacks in the townships; amendments to the Pass Laws so that everyone in South Africa would have to carry identity papers; and the establishment of a new National Advisory Council that is to include blacks.

Most black workers in South Africa will recognise these "reforms" as worthless, since they leave the main institutions of apartheid intact. For example, the proposed amendments to the Pass Laws would still enable the police arbitrarily to arrest blacks for being in the "wrong" area and it is likely that black access to the cities will continue to be dependent on a job and accommodation. The proposed Advisory Council represents the same kind of tokenism as the constitutional amendments which gave Indians and Coloureds separate national assemblies while the real power remains in the hands of the white ruling class.

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