One independence celebration went like clockwork - calm, orderly, almost to the point of being staged. The other, two years ago was frenzied, panicky and jubilant all at the same time.
The contrasts between last week's by-the-numbers independence of Bophuthatswana and the confused one in Angola in November 1975 reveals as much about the two young countries as they do about their former rulers, South Africa and Portugal, respectively.
Angola's independence climaxed a 15-year guerrilla war which finally wrenched it from Portugal.The peoples' interest in their independence celebration spoke to this emotional struggle and final break.
In contrast, Bophuthatswana owes its independence not to a struggle of its people, but to the deliberate racial separation policy of the white minority South African government which seeks to place the 18 million black South Africans into nine such "independent" homelands. The peoples' disinterest was evident when they emptied the stands as South Africa's president addressed them.
"The parliament of South Africa has voluntarily withdrawn its authority over you and has declared you an independent state," President Nicolaas Diederihs told his departing audience.
In the capital city of Mmabatho, the atmosphere was much like that of a country fair. The celebrators were mostly peasants bused in by the new government to a spanking new 50,000 capacity stadium built by the South African government.
To anyone who has been in Angola's capital, Luanda, the night of Nov. 10-11, 1975, the frenzied independence celebration after 500 years of portuguese colonial rule marked a stark contrast.
The Portuguese, undoubtedly propelled by domestics political considerations as much as by guerrilla fighting between competing Angolan factions, were simply dismantling their empire and leaving Angola. Despite the nerve frazzling atmosphere generated by the uncertainties and panic of a still continuing civil war, the Angolans were jubilant, dancing and singing in the street.
In contrast to the Portuguese who hoped to please the world by dismantling their empire, the South African government defied international opinion by going ahead with Bophuthatswana's independence. Critics say that South Africa's policy of separate racial development will amount to no more than the creation of a mini-empire within its own borders in which the black homelands will be dependent "islands of poverty" - economically reliant on South Africa.
While the international community took a deep interest in Angola's independence, it regarded Boputhatswana's as a non-event. Apart from South Africa, no country granted recognition to the new state.
Unlike the Portuguese colonial administration, which simply left, South African police worked hand in hand with Bophuthatswana's newly formed police force (unarmed for this occasion), patroling the crowds which had come most "for the fun and food," according to one Johannesburg black reporter.
The South African government had no problem deciding who should get power in the new state. President Lucas Manope had been groomed by the South Africans for this job. His party had an overwhelming majority in the new legislative assembly.
One of the first acts of the new assembly was to legalize gambling so that the casiono the country's new Mabatho Sun Hotel could be opened for hundreds of white tourists from South Africa - where gambling is illegal.
Posters in downtown Johannesburg advertise Bophuthatswana as "South Africa's newest holiday palyground" and "Africa's own Vegas."
The average South African Afrikaner believes the white majority government is doing something honorable in forming the homelands. "Don't you think it's nice for them to have a place where they can be among their own people and their own culture?" asked one young South African policeman.