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Black Sash lashes out at S. Africa's 'mere lip service' to race reform

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In South Africa, ''Discrimination enjoys constant renewal while real and meaningful change is avoided.''

So says the president of the Black Sash women's organization, one of South Africa's leading human-rights groups.

The assessment, made at the group's recent annual meeting in this windy city, may act to tether rising expectations here. Speculation on the government's intentions on racial reform is rife now that the ruling National Party has just shed its most right-wing faction.

But comparing the government's record on race with its newer reformist-sounding pronouncements dispels any notion that the government is serious about reforming South Africa's apartheid system of racial separation, says Joyce Harris, Black Sash president.

Surveying what she sees as the highlights of government activity over the past year, Mrs. Harris says, ''The direction is always the same, toward more and more restrictions and less and less freedom.''

Particularly disturbing to Mrs. Harris is what she sees as a growing tendency on the part of white South Africans to accept rhetorical lip service to reform by the government, while they ''close their eyes to the deeds.''

The deeds she finds disturbing over the past year:

* The government's homeland policy picked up speed when the tribal state of Ciskei became what Pretoria calls an independent homeland. It is the fourth such homeland.

Blacks, she notes, lose their South African citizenship when their state is designated as a homeland. With Ciskei's independence, the number of blacks losing South African citizenship rose to 9 million.

In Mrs. Harris's view, the homelands ''remain poor, nonviable, overcrowded, lacking in infrastructure, dumping grounds for the surplus people -- the old, the young, women . . . who are not needed in the white economy.''

Under government policy, all blacks are connected by language to so-called homelands, regardless of where they live. They become citizens of the new states.


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