From the book: The Eye of the Needle by Richard Turner

1  It will be noted that the author uses the term "black" throughout to refer to persons of color, including Coloureds and Asians as well as Africans. This use of the term has de­veloped out of the black consciousness movement that Turner discusses further on. "Black" is also widely used in South Africa to refer to the African group alone. Ironically it is only now that the connotation of the word is changing again among people of color that government leaders have begun to concede its use in this older sense as a substitute for the official "Bantu," which Africans resent. But "black" in the inclusive sense will probably grow in popularity because it appears to be the only practical alternative to "non-white," which Africans, Coloureds, and Indians all resent as defining them only in relation to the privileged group. Since they reject "Bantu" and are willing to share "black," the indigenous peoples must be called "African." That too has its unfortunate aspect, but as a matter of fact the whites seldom claim to be "African," only at most "South African."

2. Approximately 68 percent of the total African (i.e., "na­tive") population is considered Christian and 28 percent pagan, according to the latest statistics available (Irving Kaplan et al., Area Handbook for the Republic of South Africa Washington: Government Printing Office, 1971], p. 290). Among Christians, over two million are believed to belong to the so-called African independent churches. Estimates of the number of distinct sects, some of which consist of no more than a single congregation, range between two thousand and three thousand, but all may be roughly characterized as either "Ethiopian" or "Zionist." The Ethiopian churches typically arose as breakaways from western, white-dominated churches and have maintained much of the theology and polity of the groups they separated from, while the Zionist churches, more recent and more spontaneous in origin, represent various mix­tures of pentecostal Christianity (baptism in the spirit, prophecies, tongues, divine healings, second coming of Christ) with traditional African beliefs and practices such as adherence to a patriarchal leader, toleration of polygamy, and a highly active and emotional style of worship.

A rejection of control by whites and a preference for things African have obviously been important factors in the rise of the independent churches, but the extent to which they are politicized today or subject to becoming so, perhaps to the extent of filling the vacuum caused by the government's interdiction of African political parties, is difficult for whites to assess. For any effective political action there would have to be a higher degree of intercommunication and more dynamic leadership than is apparent now. Undoubtedly the South African government is keeping a close eye on these groups as potential centers of resistance. When the Christian Institute, a group opposed to apartheid, fostered an association of African independent churches in the early 1970s and helped them to set up a small school for training clergy, the government quickly countered by setting up a rival and better-endowed theological school for the independent churches. At last report the association of independent churches appeared to have foundered upon the withdrawal of Christian Institute funds and leadership.

3. It is well to bear in mind that in this whole section Turner is discussing how divisions in South African society serve as a mechanism of control by the ruling group. Although the gov­ernment cannot be credited with creating the divisions Turner describes, its policies exacerbate them. Apartheid is a policy not of racial segregation alone, but of the separate develop­ment of each ethnic and tribal group. Thus the African people are not to be put into one large black homeland, but into nine small ones, at least one for each major tribal group. While most instruction in the government-created tribal universities is permitted to be in the European languages, no Xhosa or Sotho can enroll in the University of Zululand, for example, until all Zulu applicants have been taken care of; the effect is that in higher education there is no more mingling of the tribal groups than there is of blacks and whites.

When the South African Student Organization, an aggres­sive pan-black group, is kept off the campus of the University for Indians on the grounds that it is not an Indian organiza­tion, there can be little doubt that a deliberate "divide and conquer" policy is at work. But it is probably also true that by projecting their own passionate nationalism onto all other groups, the ruling Afrikaners believe they are doing for others what others should want done for themselves. A great deal of ideological mileage is made by referring to each of the twelve groups (nine black, one Coloured, one Indian, one white) as a nation (compare to the Indian nations in the United States of America). It follows that each nation should be fully in control of its own destiny, and that members of one nation should not be offended if they are not given rights in another. The concept of "nationality" as embracing all who live inside the country's boundaries regardless of their ethnic origins has made little headway in South Africa.

4. In 1973 Parliament passed legislation giving African workers a very limited right to strike amounting to the right to strike after the government has given its permission. Granted that this represents little progress for the African worker, the fact that the government responded to widespread illegal strikes (which occurred again in December 1972 and January 1973, and have broken out spasmodically since, mostly in the Durban area) in this fashion rather than by repressive meas­ures alone bears out Dr. Turner's contention that the white power structure's increasing economic dependence upon Afri­can labor makes it vulnerable at this point in a way it is not vulnerable to outright political opposition. The government has continued, however, to make it exceedingly difficult for Africans to organize unions by using its banning powers to crop off individual leaders as soon as they begin to show themselves effective. Money is a problem for any black enterprise. Labor groups in Britain and the United States have been supportive, but in early 1974 the government pushed through Parliament a bill giving it the authority to prohibit from receiving foreign funds any organization it might deem to be engaging in "political" activity that the government considers inimical to the best interests of South Africa. This bill remains a continual threat against any organization that becomes too effective. The measure of the shrewdness of the Nationalist South African government is that it has succeeded in forcing all opposition efforts to live under the giant screw of a Catch-22 clause: If you are too successful, we will see that you fail.

5. The Ovambo are the most numerous indigenous group in Namibia and the group who have put up the most opposition to South Africa's continued presence there.

6. Gatsha Buthelezi is the Chief Minister of Kwa Zulu and Kaiser Matanzima is Chief Minister of the Transkei. These are the two most populous of the homelands. Buthelezi, who has been a particularly outspoken critic of the separate develop­ment policy, is generally considered to be the one black that is nearest to being the spiritual leader of all the African people in the Republic.

7. Only two weeks after these words were penned, the gov­ernment pronounced bans against eight persons associated with NUSAS, the national organization of mainly white English-speaking students. One of these persons was Richard Turner himself, who was a member of the NUSAS advisory board. On the following day, to even things up, eight leaders of the black student organization SASO were banned, some of whom were also associated with the Black People's Conven­tion. There have followed periodic bannings of the leadership of these two black organizations, just as the author predicted. The government's plan of action seems to be to snip off new leaders as soon as they arise; given the paucity of educated leadership available, especially among Africans, this strategy has worked well in the past to prevent any effective centers of black power arising. In October 1977 the BPC itself was out­lawed and its principal leaders imprisoned.

8. The Progressive Party, which since 1961 had held only one seat in the Parliament, astonished even its supporters by gaining six additional seats in 1974. In November 1977 it gained yet another ten seats, for a total of seventeen, making it the official Opposition in the House of Assembly. However, the gains were made at the expense of the United Party; the National Party actually augmented its dominance of Parlia­ment in both the 1974 and 1977 elections, currently holding 134 seats out of 165. Subsequent to the 1974 elections, the United Party expelled six of its more liberal members, who joined with the Progressives to form what is now called the Progressive Federal Party. In 1977 the United Party, tired out from twenty-nine years of largely ineffective opposition and rent by ideological differences, disintegrated. The core of it united with a small largely Afrikaner party to become the New Republic Party, which after the 1977 election held only ten par­liamentary seats. Several liberal United Party members further augmented the Progressive ranks. Thus while it will speak more vigorously in opposition to apartheid policies than the United Party had, the Progressive Federal Party will have no greater influence on government policy, except possibly as a negative influence should the Government's fear of its "radi­cal" ideology prompt the Government to more repressive internal measures. The only effective political opposition is that which stems from right-wing Afrikaner nationalism, both in­side and outside the National Party, because its criticism poses the threat that the leadership, by making too many concessions to international pressures, might lose its own power base.

9. Literally, "boss-ship," an Afrikaans term now largely abandoned, which expressed crudely but accurately enough the white-supremacy views of the majority of white South Africans. At the beginning of 1959 Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd made clear that the policy of the National Party was to treat the Native Reserves, or "homelands," as emerging-states that would eventually be granted independence. All black Africans would have full rights of citizenship, but only in the "Bantustan" serving their ethnic group. The theory is that under this arrangement, no racial group is "boss" over any other.

10. Of all the black African nations, South Africa has full diplomatic relations only with Malawi, a small nearby country that has been dependent to a considerable degree upon the white-ruled countries of southern Africa for employment, trade, and transport. In August 1971, President H. Kamuzu Banda of Malawi made a much-publicized visit to South Af­rica, being accorded all the ritual amenities traditional to visiting heads of state. South Africa continues to accord special status as "honorary whites" to blacks that are official representatives of other countries, including the United States, and has extended this to homeland leaders, as representatives of potentially independent states. This builds upon the ideol­ogy that the restrictions placed upon Africans within the Re­public are not instances of racial discrimination, but simply the normal limitations any nation has to take against non-nationals: South Africa is not a multiracial, but a multinational society.

11. Since this paragraph was written, black rule has begun in Mozambique and Angola. See the editors' comments in the Preface on this sudden and cataclysmic change in the military situation of South Africa.