Conflict at the Crossroads in Bophuthatswana

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I picked up Conflict at the Crossroads in Bophuthatswana by Anthea J. Jeffery when I was in Cape Town in 2017. This book was more informative than the previous book I had read about Bophuthatswana which I found insurmountably boring. Jeffery gave a history of the bantustan and then elaborated, as the title suggests, on the various conflicts that have plagued the state since its independence from South Africa in 1977. Bophuthatswana was not helped by its President, Lucas Mangope, who treated the republic as his own personal fiefdom and restricted human rights while allowing the police to run roughshod over his own population. Mangope was considered a puppet of South Africa, in the same way as Chief Kaiser Matanzima of Transkei was.   

At the end of the book Jeffery printed the texts of many pamphlets that were distributed to urge mass action in the country. It would have been better to reproduce the leaflets as is; I am sure some of them would have included graphics. The absence of photos, font size and colour detracted from their messages. At least Jeffery copied the texts, spelling mistakes and all. The least interesting part of the book was its legislation appendix, where Jeffery published the various acts of legislation relating to rights of assembly, registering political parties and trade unions. You can see how restrictive (and fearful) the government was–President Mangope specifically–of being overrun by the masses or by a(nother) coup. At least if you state the illegality or crushingly impossible conditions to permit such gatherings in law, your government will have legal justification for crushing its population to pieces.

I was most interested in the final chapters that dealt with the future of Bophuthatswana. Jeffery elaborated on several options for the republic in the final days of apartheid. Since the book was published in 1993, at a time of major upheaval in South Africa with the dismantling of its apartheid system, Bophuthatswana and the other independent homelands of Transkei, Venda and Ciskei were at a crossroads. Did they want to be reincorporated into South Africa? Would their residents regain South African citizenship? Jeffery offered the options of retaining the status quo (which President Mangope wanted); forging a confederal link with South Africa; creating an expanded region where Bophuthatswana’s fragmented territories could all be linked; dismantling Bophuthatswana and redistributing the land among four new South African provinces; or a merger with Botswana, since the Tswana peoples lie within their borders as well. As it turned out, all four homelands were, predictably, reincorporated into South Africa in 1994.   

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