As Transkei jolted South Africa's policy of homeland development by severing ties with Pretoria, a top government official told white South Africans that he envisages they also will eventually live in a homeland.
Connie Mulder, minister in charge of black affairs told television viewers that not only blacks, but whites as well, would forfeit their citizens of a homeland with a new name.
Mulder was hinting at a discussion that has been going on for several months in circles of the ruling National Party over a new framework for the government's ideology of separate racial development, or apartheid.
The international community has criticized that policy harshly because it gives 87 percent of South Africa's territory to 4.5 million whites while the country's 18 million blacks are assigned to ethnic homelands in the rest of the land.
Mulder appears to be the force behind the discussion of the proposal to rename South Africa once the nine black homelands become independent. In his speech Mulder said he foresaw that whites would become citizens of a white homeland, possibly named "Suidland" (Southland) or "Vrystaat" (Free state).
Other reported suggestions have included the "Republic of Good Hope" or even "Azania," the name given South Africa by blacks.
Blacks leaders say they are unimpressed by the debate. The government leaders "are experts in inventing new names," one said.
Mulder admitted that he was "skating on thin ice" by making his suggestion. South Africa should not be viewed as a unitary state, but as a subcontinent, he added. There has been a reported proposal for a commonwealth of all the homelands including the white one, with a common passport.
Under such a proposal, blacks who live and work in white urban areas would be given full local autonomy in black cities and townships such as Soweto, but for full political rights, they would be linked to their ethnic homeland. Indians and persons of mixed race would reportedly live within the white homeland.
Moderates in the National Party hope Mulder's remarks will lead to serious discussion over sharing power among the different homelands. No plan, however, is likely to satisfy international opinion or the black population unless the land is more evenly divided.
This would mean giving up more of "white" South Africa to the blacks than planned, hardly a popular political alternative for the National Party. Prime Minister John Vorster admitted in Parliament yesterday, however, that "the land issue will always be dominant in negotiations (with the homelands)."
The land issue ostensibly was the reason Transkei cut its ties with South Africa. Transkei's prime minister, Chief Kaiser Matanzima, claimed a small parcel of land, East Griqualand, should be included in the Xhosa homeland for historical reasons, but South Africa has refused to surrender the land to Transkei.
The Matanzima said yesterday his decision was not a protest against the separate development policy. He still agreed with the policy, he said, "provided the land is divided equitably."
Transkei isolated itself by breaking ties with the only country that had relations with it.
As a sign of disapproval for the homelands scheme, no other country has recognized Transkei since it became the first independent homeland in October 1976.
[The State Department said it had no plan to recognize Transkei despite the decision of that country to break with Pretoria.]
The rift highlights a potential defect in the homeland scheme. There is a possibility of foreign involvement in Transkei, which has a good sized coastline along the Indian Ocean. South Africa could not move to prevent such involvement without inviting confirmation of the "sham independence" the rest of the world attributes to Transkei's status.
Nevertheless, South Africa still has a great deal of leverage over Transkei because it provides about two-thirds of the country's revenue.
The South African government was reportedly surprised by Matanzima's announcement and Vorster said yesterday that as far as restoration of relatians was concerned, the next move was Matanzima's.
"For the moment it is he who has made his bed and he must sleep in it," Vorster said in Parliament.
Vorster insisted that Transkei was "as independent as any other republic in any other part of the world" and could act any way it wanted "even if it should be to its disadvantage."