The lonely state of Transkei, almost 200 years old and unrecognized by any country but South Africa, appears to be making some headwya in its quest for recongition and froeign trade with the secret visit here last week of an Austrian trade official.
In addition, Transkei soon will send envoys to some black African state in search of recognition, according to a well-informed government source.
Transkei became independent in October 1976 as a result of South Africa's policy of apartheid or separate development. Part of this policy is the creation of nine independent black state defined along tribal lines. This produced an international opprobrium that precluded any country other than South Africa from recognizing Transkei as independent.
On April 10. Transkei's leader, Chief Kaiser Matanzima, broke diplomatic relations with South Africa over a land dispute, consigning his country to diplomatic solitary confinement. Many observers believe Matanzima made the surprise move to enhance his credbility in the international community by demostrating his independence from Pretoria.
The visit here last week of Lothar Puxkandl, the Austrian trade delegate for southern Africa, is regarded by Transkei officials as a hopeful sign that their struggle for trade and governmental ties ultimately will be successful.
Puxlandl, who resides in Johannesburg, refused to comment on his visit beyond saying that he is not a government official. According to the Austrian Embassy in Washington, he is a representative of the Austrian Chamber of Commerce. This organization works closely with the Austrian government and well-formed sources involved in Puxkandl's visit here said he was traveling with diplomatic immunity.
During his one-day stay, he was received by Matanzima and by Foreign Minister Digby Koyana. The semi-official contact between the Transkei and Austrian government is a prelude to amajor investment in Transkei by one of Austria's largest industrial complexes, Steyr-Daimer-puch. Sources close to the company said the project includes the manufacture of bicycles, motorbikes and farming equipment as well as other undertakings they "cannot talk about."
The Austrian company also manufactures fireasrms but is not to produce them here because of Transkei's disputed status. The United Nations imposed a mandatory arms embargo on South Africa - of which it considers Transkei a party - last October.
Asked for confirmation of the visit, Foreign Minister Koyana denied that any European official was visiting Transkei. The government wishes to keep such initial contacts under wraps because any country or firm establishing even informal ties with Transkei is apt to face fierce criticism from the international community.
Koyana, who recently returned from a trip to Europe, including Austria, said in an interview, however, that he had received encouragement on the recognition issue. "Some European countries have said clearly that the time as come for recognition. But one or two African countries must recognize first and then they will follow," he said.
For the past two years, Transkei has not lobbied at meetings of African states, like the Organization of African Unity conference last week in Sudan, avoiding snubs from the black states which regard the young country's independence as a hoax and as an obstacle to getting the white-minority government in Pretoria to modify its racially based policies.
Buy Koyana said that privately he has had "a lote of cautiously favorable responses" from black African countries on the subject of recognition. According to another government source, two Transkei officials will travel in the near future to unnamed black African countries to state Transkei's case.
Koyana, speaking in his tenth floor office with an expansive view of the captial city, said that since Matanimaz ruptured ties with South Africa, there has been a "steady - rise in acceptability" for Transkei.
Opposition to South Africa's separate development policy stems partially from the fact that under the present government plans only 13 percent of South Africa's land will be incorporated into the independent black states, while the remaining 87 percent - including the industrial heartland around Johannesbury and Pretoria - will remain under the control of the 4.5 million whites. South Africa's total population is 27 million, including the 2.2 million in Transkei and 1.2 million in Bophuthatswana, made independent last year.
Many blacks oppose the homelands policy because it will deprive them of their citizenship in white South Africa and of the freedom to move about the whole country, which they consider their nation. Under the apartheid policy, all blacks will become citizens of their ethnic state and lose their citizenship in white South Africa as it now exists.
Bophuthatswana is also recognized only by South Africa. Although it wants to establish formal relations with Transkei, the Transkei refuses because it says that geographically fragmented Bophuthatswana is an artificial creation of the apartheid policy. Transkei considers itself an independent nation that was illegally annexed by the white South African government in the early part of this century.