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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 409

Paragraph Numbers 33 to 41

Volume 2

Chapter 5

Subsection 6


Historical and political overview

33 In the period 1976 to 1982, the homeland development project initiated by the 1959 Promotion of Bantu Self-Government Act reached its peak. Despite threats to the former state from other quarters (notably the national uprising of 1976-1977 and the growth of Black Consciousness), its ultimate objective with respect to the homelands was at least partially realised. In quick succession, political elites in Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda and Ciskei opted for constitutional ‘independence’ from South Africa (in 1976, 1977, 1979 and 1981 respectively). Although the prospect of independence had initially been seen as contingent on homelands meeting a number of prerequisites (based on administrative capacity, political maturity and economic development), these requirements were dropped to speed up the process. By the time Ciskei celebrated its independence, some eight million Africans had been ‘de-nationalised’, in effect becoming foreigners in the land of their birth.

34 In the hope of convincing the remaining six homeland administrations to follow suit, the South African government intensified efforts to consolidate the geographically fragmented homelands. This process included removing ‘black spots’ which remained in ‘white’ South Africa. As in previous periods, the suffering caused by this massive social engineering was widespread and extreme. Old methods of forced removals were supplemented, especially during the Botha administration, by new tactics – including the simple but effective practice of unilaterally re-drawing homeland boundaries. Specific conflicts that arose are discussed elsewhere in the Commission’s report. Here, it is important to emphasise the cumulative, national impact of the homeland project. According to an often cited report of the Surplus People Project, an estimated 3.5 million people were moved by the South African state between 1960 and 1982 in support of its programme of homeland development.

35 While the homeland governments reached the height of their political powers in this period, the economic weakness of the supposed national states belied their independence. Where the ‘reserves’ had traditionally served to support and reproduce labour for the urban capitalist economy, under apartheid the growing homeland population was increasingly supported by remittances from relatives working in distant industries. Central government subsidies and loans supported growing bureaucracies, which remained one of the few sources of employment in the remote homelands.

Development of security structures

36 As homeland political development raced ahead, so homeland security structures came into their own. Following in the footsteps of the Transkei, the majority of homelands assumed responsibility for policing within their borders in this period. In addition, homeland armies were established in each of the independent bantustans. At the same time, regional, ethnically constituted SADF units were set up to serve the self-governing homelands as independent armies-in-waiting. Security legislation in the TBVC states was enacted to support these forces. At times, the powers accorded to homeland security forces exceeded those exercised by the SAP and SADF. The most important pieces of legislation included the Transkei Public Security Act of 1977, the Bophuthatswana Internal Security Act of 1979, the Ciskei National Security Act of 1982 and the Venda Maintenance of Law and Order Act of 1985.

37 With the establishment of the various homeland governments and their own security forces, the issue of political and operational control over security actions became particularly complex.

38 A security structure comprised of police, military and intelligence units operated in each of the independent homelands, although the forces were only ostensibly under the control of the homeland government. The effective power of such structures was carefully monitored and manipulated by the South African government to prevent any homeland from becoming a threat to the perceived interests of the Republic.

39 As a final resort, the South African security forces proved that, where they deemed it necessary, they were willing to take direct action in the independent homelands. Both homeland and South African security forces assumed the role of kingmaker at various times and in different places, alternatively overthrowing or preserving the rule of incumbent homeland politicians.

40 In the six self-governing homelands, the security situation proved even more complex. Due to the political ambiguity surrounding these areas, each homeland supported its own police force in addition to the continued presence and authority of the SAP. Furthermore, battalions of the SADF were frequently estab- lished in the vicinity of the self-governing homelands as the core of a potentially independent army. National Intelligence agents monitored people and events in the homelands. Finally, locally-based vigilante movements emerged in many of the homelands, introducing a particularly unpredictable element into an already volatile situation.

41 In short, both the independent and the self-governing homelands were subjected to an excess and overlap of security forces, each with their own command and control structures accountable to different political masters. This redundancy in policing, military and intelligence structures led at times to political infighting, competition for resources and a proliferation of security operations.

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