SA 'homelands' to go

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - Marking the beginning of the end for the black 'homelands' that apartheid invented, a government minister said yesterday that legislation to reduce their 'independence' would be put before Parliament next month.

On the same day as the European Parliament called for the tribal homelands to be scrapped, the Constitutional Minister, Roelf Meyer, said the territories' defence and police forces and education bodies would be reintegrated into South Africa.

He added that this would be 'subject to negotiation' with homeland leaders. But with growing demands for the homeland system to be abolished for both political and economic reasons, there is not likely to be much opposition in parliament to the legislation.

The homelands are a heavy drain on South Africa's coffers and Mr Meyer admitted a big motivating factor in the re-integration plan was analysis of the country's dire economic state by the Finance Minister, Derek Keys.

The announcement comes 10 days after Ciskei homeland troops shot dead 28 marchers and wounded 200 others taking part in an African National Congress demonstration against homeland leaders.

The 10 bantustans or tribal mini-states created under the 'separate development' (apartheid) policy of South Africa's white minority are home to 16 million blacks.

Since 1951 the policy has forced black people into these rural enclaves, far from the wealthy areas whites claimed for themselves, effectively making blacks foreigners in their own country. Though some are supposedly independent, all depend financially on Pretoria.

Legal restrictions forcing people to remain in the homelands have all but disappeared in recent years, but the rulers and their financially draining administrations have remained firmly in place.

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