One day there will be no black South Africans, exulted a white government minister back in 1978. A new report on the subject says Pretoria has been ''brutally successful'' in that endeavor, delusory as it might sound considering that more than 70 percent of the South African population is black. Yet the government has:
* Uprooted and relocated well over 3.5 million people, mostly blacks, over the past two decades.
* Set its sights on relocating another 2 million blacks in the near future.
* Accomplished this massive resettlement of people through force, which continues to be the main tactic despite government insistence that removals are now done on a voluntary basis.
These are the main conclusions of a report dubbed the Surplus People Project, written by a group of academicians, religious figures, community workers, and individuals involved in nonprofit organizations. Project members include blacks and whites; all have volunteered their time and most have been consistent government critics. The report is one of the most comprehensive reviews ever made of South Africa's policy of forced population resettlement.
Pretoria's aim has been unwavering, says the report. It has sought through forced resettlement to keep South Africa's black majority separate and as distant as economically possible from the ruling white minority. All this to ensure that whites will be able to retain power.
The government's ''process of disposession,'' as described in the report, begins with as many blacks as possible being physically forced to live in tribal ''homelands.'' It ends when those ''homelands'' are brought to ''independence'' by Pretoria and all the blacks assigned to that territory are stripped of their South African citizenship.
Carried to its conclusion, Pretoria's policy will result someday in the statutory exclusion of all this country's blacks from South African citizenship.
The statistics in the report are staggering. They suggest that the government will soon have relocated more blacks than the sum total of the entire white population of some 4.5 million.
While the forced relocation of blacks is not a uniform process, the report notes that the general direction has been the same: ''out of the towns, cities and farming areas falling in the 87 percent of the country designated for white onwership.'' The black ''homelands'' comprise the remaining 13 percent of the South African land mass.