Dateline Washington: Sometime in the Imaginary Past

President F.W. De Klerk and ANC leader Nelson Mandela today signed an historic "Declaration of Principles," on the White House lawn, which many hope will signal an end to South Africa's long and bloody conflict, and put that country on the road to peace. President Clinton, who presided over the ceremony, said "It is a privilege to witness the beginning of the end of South Africa's agony. We believe that this agreement is the only route to peace and justice for all of South Africa's people."

The basic outlines of the historic agreement are as follows:

The Government of South Africa recognizes that the ANC (African National Congress) is the representative of South African's Black majority.

The ANC renounces armed struggle and agrees to negotiate a political solution to all outstanding issues with the government of South Africa.

The ANC recognizes South Africa's right to exist as a white state since South Africa is the only state for whites in a continent where all other states have black or colored majorities and governments.

Following the signing of this declaration, the two sides will immediately begin negotiations to establish an interim status along the following lines:

1. There will be established an African National Authority (ANA), to be headed by Nelson Mandela. The ANA will gradually be given control of the black population in areas such as townships, and the previously established "homelands" (Bantustans).
2. The ANA will be given responsibility for administering education, local government and certain municipal services (excluding allocation of land and water), for the African population.
3. Blacks will vote in elections for an African Legislative Council which will have limited powers under the interim agreement.
4. South African security forces will withdraw from heavily populated African areas, and will be replaced by an African National Police (ANP) to be composed of former ANC guerillas, currently based in Mozambique and other frontline states. The ANP will be given sole security responsibility in remote areas where up to four million blacks have been transferred under the Native Resettlement Act, but joint South African-ANP patrols will ensure security in townships close to major white cities such as Johannesburg, Cape Town and Pretoria. South African government police and security forces will retain ultimate security responsibility throughout the country.
5. Although the Group Areas Act, restricting where non-whites can live and travel, will remain in force, and be tightened in order to ensure the peaceful "separation" of the whites and non-whites, the South African government undertakes to allow more blacks to enter white cities in order to work provided that the ANA meets is commitments to fight terrorism and ensure security.
6. The international community has pledged to support the new African National Authority, by providing aid to both the Authority and the South African government.

Yet to be negotiated is a final status under which it is expected a separated African government will be given something less than sovereignty over South African's black population. Other issues include the release of ANC prisoners, and the future of white farmers who have taken the land of over four million Black Africans since South Africa was established.

After decades of sometimes bloody struggle, people all over the world are optimistic that the Washington Agreement will finally lead to the peace that has eluded South Africa for so long. Many Rugby-mad white South Africans expressed relief, and the hope that their country would now be admitted back into the international fold. Some blacks were less optimistic, saying that while they hoped that the agreement would lead to peace, little had changed on the ground, with South African troop carriers still patrolling their streets, severe restrictions on their movement, and continued seizure of fertile black-owned farmland for the exclusive use of white settlers.

The Not-So Imaginary Past  Headline: South Africa Launches 'Independent Black State' of Venda
Washington Post
September 13, 1979
Byline: By Caryle Murphy

As a four-color flag emblazoned with a "V" was hoisted at midnight Tuesday in the hilly northeast of South Africa, about half a million blacks lost their South African citizenship - and took that of a state whose existence is being ignored by almost all the international community.

The declaration of the sovereign "independent" state of Venda was the latest step in the government's implementation of its internationally opposed policy of apartheid or separate development. (see Barak)

It is a policy at the conclusion of which there will be "no black South Africans," as former minister of information Cornelius Mulder once put it. Seven homelands remain to undergo the metamorphosis into "independent black states."
[…]

The dismemberment of South African into one white and 10 independent black states - whose present boundaries comprise only 13 percent of South African territory and none of its urban and industrial centers - is the root political grievance of the majority of South Africa's 18 million blacks. They see it as a master scheme to prevent the white minority of 4 million from losing its political and economic control over this industrializing country that has been a unitary state since 1910.

South Africa is keenly aware that Venda occupies a strategic military position. As the closest "black state" to Mozambique and Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, it could provide access and a refuge for anti-government South African guerillas.

The newly built airbase at Madimo in Venda will continue to be used by the South African Air Force and a six-mile-wide border area between Venda and Zimbabwe-Rhodesia is patrolled by South African soldiers to thwart infiltration. The frustration of the blacks grows daily as they see the government pushing ahead to implement its apartheid plan despite their often voiced opposition.

In setting up these ethnically based autonomous regions, ruled by black political elites with newly acquired vested interests, Pretoria is creating allies against those who seek other political and economic changes, many blacks feel.

Blacks who see this happening are concerned that the West may eventually accept the homelands as a fait accompli. Nthato Motlana, the popular leader of the black suburb of Johannesburg, Soweto recently charged that the US government has "accepted the inevitability and irreversibility of the evil they have done to our people in the so-called homelands. Their visitors from the US come here" and are told "that the final scenario will looking something like this."

Prime Minister Pieter W. Botha has indicated he intends to alter aspects of the apartheid setup. He speaks of a "constellation" of states whose details remain undeclared. The direction of his policy seems to be in that of a confederation, but that would be a phase to follow only after all 10 homelands are already "independent."

Botha has also established a committee to present boundaries of the homelands, which are now spread like Rorschach ink spots all over South Africa. The committee's report is due next March.

Homeland leaders have pleaded for more land, or at the very least, an integral territory. Venda, for example, is two separate blocks of land comprising a state nearly the size of Delaware. Both apparently hopes to persuade more homeland leaders to accept "independence" by giving them more land. But this is unlikely to alter the position of most blacks who reject apartheid on principle.

Like his colleagues in the other homelands, Venda's president, Chief Patrick Mphephu, 53, calls to mind the emperor who wore no clothes - his continuing economic dependence on South Africa makes his independence more a mirage than a reality.

South Africa will provide $36.3 million for Mphephu's first budget of $43.6 million. Although Venda is fertile, most of the people are still subsistence farmers. IT has to get 50 percent of its food, and all of its fuel, from South Africa.

The search for jobs draws 67 percent of the male work force to South Africa's urban areas and the situation is unlikely to improve soon. Venda would thus remain a source of "foreign" migratory labor for the white dominated economy in South Africa.
[…]

From the viewpoint of the Afrikaners, the whites of Dutch descent who dominate the South African government, they are doing the blacks a favor by setting up these states. Many Afrikaners are genuinely confused by the outside world's criticism.