South African Economics

Anthony Hazlitt Heard's optimism about peace in South Africa under the new white regime of Frederick W. de Klerk ("The Opportunity Is There--Will De Klerk Grab It?" Op-Ed, Aug. 18) is misplaced.

Obviously De Klerk's dilemma is the same that faced former President Pieter Botha, in Heard's words, "how to carry the white minority into a practical arrangement that will satisfy the black majority." It is a daunting problem, given that most South African whites oppose democracy (a word which clearly means "one person, one vote", in Heard's phrase, but which white South Africans, like Heard, seem to have a difficult time using). Heard is probably correct that De Klerk, like Botha, will be pushed by historical events to institute reforms. Heard may even be correct that De Klerk will go beyond "reforms" to formal democracy. According to Heard, "Whites will find playing a role commensurate with their numbers (which are small) and their economic clout (which is big) is not that intolerable." Will such an arrangement satisfy the black majority?

The assumption that the black majority of South Africa will be satisfied with formal democracy and never ask for economic redistribution assumes that blacks will forget South Africa's history. What started as outright theft of land soon became "legalized" though laws passed by white governments to prevent blacks from owning land or working in the most skilled and lucrative of jobs.

I recall being a teen-age intern for former Rep. Charles Diggs. I had asked the South African embassy for information and received a very slick and glossy book filled with color-coded maps to show where major water sources existed or precious minerals were found. One also showed the location of the various Bantustans or "homelands" created by the white government for the majority black population. I had noticed in looking at the Bantustan map how oddly shaped the homelands seemed to be. My confusion lasted only until I reviewed the mineral and water maps. Every area of barren, unproductive land in South Africa was carved away to create the homelands, leaving whites with all that is economically viable.

I doubt that black South Africans will ignore their history. The question of economic redistribution will arise.


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