Mangope aided white supremacy rule

2018-01-21 05:46
Lucas Mangope

Lucas Mangope

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Former Bophuthatswana president Lucas Manyane Mangope’s death last week has sparked a debate on how history will remember him.

The 94-year-old former statesman drew his last breath at his home in Lehurutshe in North West on Thursday.

His contribution to contemporary South Africa remains an ongoing debate, more specifically his running of the Bophuthatswana government.

Bophuthatswana was the richest of the 10 apartheid homelands and regarded as a near-perfect propaganda tool for the purpose of discrediting the objectives of the black liberation movement.

It was also an illusion of a native heaven: where Africans could vote, gamble and sell sex.

Mangope’s “democratic Bophuthatswana” would be regarded as anathema by blacks today.

The formation and pseudo-independence of Bophuthatswana signified the height of black dispossession under the apartheid regime.

The combined geographical size of all the allotted homelands represented a mere 13% of the country’s total land, leaving a chunk of the remaining 87% to a white minority, who then constituted not more than 28% of the population.

When Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd, then minister of native affairs, decided to allocate “native reserves” where Africans could be dumped, it was not because he was driven by a strong conviction that Africans needed to govern themselves, but rather to rid South Africa of blacks and forge a demographic majority for whites.

But Mangope bought into the façade – if only for his narrow political and economic interests.

In 1977 he said: “We would rather face the difficulties of administering a fragmented territory, the wrath of the outside world and accusations of ill-informed people.

"It is the price we are prepared to pay for being masters of our own destiny.”

Connie Mulder, then minister of plural relations and development, said in 1978:

“If our policy is taken to its logical conclusion as far as black people are concerned, there will not be one black man with South African citizenship ... and there will no longer be an obligation on this Parliament to accommodate these people politically.”

The legacy of Mangope still lives within a sizeable few of “his people” residing in present-day North West, who suffer from some kind of “outsider complex”.

Their popular rhetoric includes: “They came here and closed our radio and television stations [a false notion by any measure]; they came here and took our jobs.”

And, for the record, it was Mangope – in his resistance to free political activity – who first shut down Radio Mmabatho, Radio Bop, Radio Sunshine, Bop TV and Mmabatho TV, when he fired the staff at Bophuthatswana Broadcasting Corporation in 1994, as confirmed by insiders. These stations were subsequently dissolved because they were not financially viable.

But Mangope’s defenders transcend our borders.

On March 26 1994, Phillip B Auebach and James Fields wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Times in which they sought to dispel any reference to Bophuthatswana as a “bastion of apartheid” or “an apartheid homeland”.

They argued that such truths were a “gross distortion of reality”.

Penning their missive from an elite perspective and, most importantly, as facilitators of Mangope’s $1 billion investment in pension schemes, the two conclude that Bophuthatswana was the epitome of an ideal and nonracial state.

If Bophuthatswana was so prosperous, how do we explain that most of our fathers and mothers were “migrant workers” in white areas and that many of these were “commuter workers”, who had to travel long hours by bus or train – morning and afternoon – because they were prohibited from living near their place of work?

How do we justify the exploitation and devaluing of our black sisters in the name of casual integrated sex (a euphemism for cheap prostitution) as used to be the practice at “Sin City”?

Knight (1984) observed that laws in South Africa made it illegal to gamble or for a black and white to have sex together.

But that did not apply in Bophuthatswana.

It was therefore not unusual for white men to come to Bophuthatswana to do what they could not do in Johannesburg.

Ironically, all these immoral economic opportunities were sanctioned by Mangope’s United “Christian” Democratic Party.

Even the platinum mining industry, which accounted for about 53% of Bophuthatswana’s GDP, was controlled by companies based in apartheid South Africa.

Impala Platinum Mines (Implats) was controlled by then Genmin (General Mines – now Gencor), while Rustenburg Platinum (Rusplats) was controlled by Johannesburg Consolidated Investments, according to the O’Malley Archives.

The original version of this article was first published on in February 2010

Read more on:    lucas mangope  |  bophuthatswana

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