An eight-room house, two cars parked outside and family vacations in neighboring countries are all signs that Jacob and Angeline Makwetia and their three children have more than most residents of Soweto, this country's largest black township.
Families like the Makwetlas have also become a high priority in the policies of the white-minority government.It is seeking ways to maintain political dominance over the black majority and still avert the revolution that even Prime Minister Pieter W. Botha has warned his fellow whites threatens this racially divided country.
Statements from government officials and others close to the government indicate that they hope, through the gradual elimination of discrimination in the social and economic structures and through increased prosperity, to enlarge the number of those like the Makwetlas, who have a vested interest in the present white-dominated political and economic structures.
"The important point is that the level of progress that could develop among blacks in a free enterprise system should be so advantageous that chaos and revolution would hold such risks that blacks would fight against it," the minister of black affairs, Pieter Koornhof, recently told a group of Afrikaner businessmen.
"Blacks must be allowed to take part fully in the free enterprise system if we want them to accept it and defend it and make it their own," said Simond Brand, Botha's top economic adviser. "Otherwise it becomes a white man's economy with the blacks standing looking in from the outside."
"It is an implied intention to create a black middle class as a result of opening up jobs and creating opportunities," explained Brand, a former economics professor.
A concerted drive to stimulate economic growth -- to cope with rising black unemployment and to spread economic benefits to a greater number of blacks -- is central to the government's policies. This has motivated elimination of racial discrimination in the workplace so blacks can alleviate the shortage of skilled labor that now hinders more rapid development.
Makwetla, tall and balding at 38, works for a large South african food company as public relations officer. His easy smile and soft-spoken style suit him well. A few minutes before leaving for the neighborhood soccer club, he sat on the sofa of his carpeted living room and reflected on the government's policies.
"It's not the right solution," he said. "It's self-centered because it's more to [the whites'] advantage than to the blacks'. They should rather look to give equal opportunity to the masses. The whites have equal opportunity and classes come because of different abilities. They should let a black middle class develop that way rather than try and create an artificial black middle class."
Neither Jacob, who is from Soweto, nor Angeline, who is of rural background, come from families enjoying any special status; both went to the segregated Turfloof University, about one hour north of Soweto, where they met. He speaks of an "artificial" middle class because the bedrock policy of apartheid remains intact even though blacks universally say it ought to be scrapped.
Through this intricate mesh of laws and regulations, the government restricts the numbers of blacks who live in urban areas and specifies where all blacks must live and work.
Last August the government announced reforms in the influx control or "pass" system that gave increased mobility to people like the Makwetlas, who are among the 1.5 million blacks in a total population of 18.6 million allowed to live permanently in an urban area. At the same time, the "reforms" closed loopholes in the system and tightened urban entry requirements for blacks from the job-starved rural areas. Many blacks who held to their poverty-ridden rural homes, according to workers at Black Sash, the only organization that assists blacks who fall afoul of the "pass" laws.
"Politically speaking, the government's policy is one of those tactics to create constant divisions in black people," said Wilson Shuyenyane, director of a leadership exchange program. "We are split nationally and culturally and now they want to do it economically."
Black activist youths are scornful of the government's policies, which they term "middleclassism," as obfuscating racial conflict with an ideological struggle between socialism and capitalism. "Botha is discrediting capitalism further by identifying it with methods of entrenching white-minority power," said Curtis Nkondo, a black consciousness movement leader.
Makwetla underlined the prevalence of these sentiments in his community and recalled much criticism during the 1976 Soweto turbulence of blacks like themselves who had achieved a certain status.
"The militant students hate the term 'middle class' because they say it makes people forget. They see the middle class as tools of the status quo, and they do have a point there," Makwetla said, adding that such attitudes can put him and his family "in a bad spot."
A deeper look into the Makwetlas' existence reveals other factors that negate the comfort usually associated with middle-class living. Angeline, 32, a personnel officer in a large American-owned computer firm, said, "We are second-class citizens in the land of our birth."
They are not allowed to own the land on which their new home is built. They have not opted for the government's 99-year-lease scheme for their house site because they say there is no assurance that their children can inherit the land.
The segregated school system still spends about 12 times as much on each white child as it does on each black. "After 1976, we expected a lot of changes in education, but nothing has changed," said Angeline.
Removal of discrimination moves slowly. "I was just in Port Elizabeth on a business trip," Angeline recalled. "I thought how nice it would be for a vacation, but then I began thinking about the segregated beaches. It is so difficult to explain such things to children and that's why we opt for going outside South Africa for trips."
The Makwetlas cannot vote for the central government, only the Soweto Town Council to be inaugurated this year as one of its reforms. They could vote for the government of the rural black homeland where they ethnically belong but will never live.
The upward mobility usually found in the middle class does not apply to the Makwetlas in their choice of neighborhoods. Practically every inch of South Africa is assigned to one race group.
Although the Makwetlas could afford to escape the crowding and crime of Soweto, they have no urban option.
"There are so many bad influences here," Angeline said, recalling how her 9-year-old son Thabang "rushed in and told me how he saw tsotia [a thug] stab a school girl. I don't like him to see that, but I have no alternative. I can't keep him in the house all the time."
Would they move from Soweto if they could? "I don't think we would," Jacob said.
Angeline piped up, "But when I go to Pretoria and see those homes along the highway [in a white area] that have big yards, swimming pools and playgrounds, that's where I'd like to live."
It is dreams like this that make some people believe the government's strategy has "at least an even chance of being effective," said Shuyenyane, of the leadership program.
"Let's face it, we live in a capitalist society," he explained. "It's a rat race to get to the top, to acquire material goods, to get a better job, to educate your children and to improve the matchbox houses we live in, in Soweto."
"But," Shuyenyane added, "there is a catch. The more economics muscle you acquire, the more you become aware of your political deprivation."
"Certainly the political aspirations of blacks are not going to disappear," said Brand, the economic adviser. I think that when you do get to be middle class with upward mobility, you also become more politically conscious in the process." But the hope is that blacks "might be willing to take an evolutionary path," he said.