President Pieter W. Botha said today that his government is prepared to negotiate restoration of South African citizenship to blacks who were stripped of it when their tribal homelands were made separate states.
At the same time, Botha said South Africa’s white-minority government will set its own pace toward racial reform and will not be swayed by pressure from the United States or the Soviet Union.
In an address to the Orange Free State congress of his ruling National Party, Botha called for “all well-meaning, reasonable and honest South Africans” to “take the road of renewal, reform and freedom as South Africans determine it and not as Russia or America wish to determine it.”
The move came as Bishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel peace laureate and Anglican bishop of Johannesburg, warned that he will call for a weeklong national strike unless the government lifts a state of emergency imposed this summer in an attempt to quell escalating racial violence.
‘As if ... Swatting Flies’
“I want to tell you I have had enough of our people being killed as if you are swatting flies,” said Tutu at a meeting of Africa Enterprises, an ecumenical self-help organization.
The statement by Botha, being pressured at home and abroad to spearhead reforms in white-ruled South Africa’s system of racial discrimination, was seen by some as a major concession in resolving a festering grievance of millions of blacks, but a radical black nationalist group immediately labeled it a “lame” offer.
In his speech, Botha said he will open negotiations with the leaders of the Bophuthatswana, Ciskei, Transkei and Venda homelands on the prospects of their citizens holding dual nationality.
“Leaders of black communities, both urban and from the self-governing territories, in the past requested at various times that the status of black persons as South African citizens, and not only their ethnic relationship, be expressly stated in their identity documents,” Botha said.
“The government gladly accedes to this request, and announcements in this regard will be made soon.”
Several States Created
Under South Africa’s “grand apartheid” plan, the white-minority government created several states in areas once inhabited by indigenous tribal groups, and blacks were made citizens of those states and stripped of their rights as South Africans.
The government’s intention was to eventually resettle all blacks in homeland territories, which are technically self-governing and independent of Pretoria. The homelands are not recognized internationally.
A radical black nationalist group, the Azanian People’s Organization, said in Johannesburg: “As black people, we have been denied citizenship of our country far too long to be enticed by lame offers of dual citizenship.
“Nothing short of the complete hand-over of the land to its rightful owners and giving power to black people will appease the demands of our people for national self-determination.”
When asked about Botha’s move, White House spokesman Larry Speakes said, “Our position is that the citizens of the homelands are citizens.” He said later that if the move results in full citizenship “it’s a positive step.”