VakatshiwoGocina is back in town. And so is his wife and his five children. And so are at least 300 other blacks who were arrested, jailed and "deported" from Cape Town to the independent homeland of Transkei by South African authorities in August.
With their return, the saga of Cape Town's Nyanga squatter site has taken its predicted cyclical course and has demonstrated the limited deterrence of the harsh treatment meted out to the squatters in an attempt to stop them from streaming out of their poor rural areas into the white-controlled cities.
For more than a month, authorities and squatters engaged in a unique sort of guerrilla combat in Nyanga. Police tore down the squatters' lean-tos of plastic and corrugated iron as fast as they were put up, leaving about 2,000 men, women and children unprotected against the chilly winter rains.
Today that barren plot looks like an empty stage after the audience has gone home. The grass, now brightened by yellow and purple heather, is longer and the spring winds are warmer. Rusted oil drums lie next to the scars left by a fire. The frame of a child-sized house stands unfinished and sheets of corrugated iron are piled beneath a row of blue gum trees.
All around the site, known in Cape Town vernacular as "No-Name Camp," is a new barbed wire fence, a catchall for bits of litter and a barrier to would-be squatters. Its gate is padlocked.
But the play has not closed; it is out on tour. In Transkei's capital of Umtata, about 600 of the "deported" squatters refused to return to their villages and were put up in local churches. The Transkei Army came to the rescue with food.
Some squatters who immediately attempted to return to Cape Town were stopped at police roadblocks on the highway. For a few days, roadblocks were also set up in the black townships of Cape Town to catch any "illegal" blacks who had slipped by.
The episode strained relations between South Africa and Transkei, the first black reserve or homeland to become "independent," a status recognized only by South Africa. Transkeian officials resented the forced return of the squatters to a place offering no jobs. Prime Minister George Matanzima called Pretoria "a big bully."
"Transkeians are entitled to come and work in the Cape as much as any other racial group because they have contributed to its development," said a Transkeian official who did not want to be named. His comments deftly ignored the fact that -- in South Africa's view -- his government forfeited the right of Transkeian citizens to any claim on South Africa by accepting independence in 1976. These people are now "foreigners" in the 87 percent of South Africa under white control.
At first South Africa tried to smooth matters by sending some white officials to Transkei to screen the squatters to allow those who had lost children and possessions in their summary deportation to come back and get them. This so angered the squatters who were demanding enough buses for them all to return to Cape Town, that the women barricaded the doors of the hall, surrounded the white officials and berated them. They had to be rescued by Transkeian officials.
Next there were high-level discussions between the South African foreign minister and two Transkeian Cabinet ministers. South Africa gave Transkei $37,000 to help the squatters relocate to their villages. But most of the squatters looked upon their $65 dividend as fare to get back to Cape Town. Many returned by bus, train and plane, and others hitchhiked.
In their pockets many carried a letter written on official stationery of the Transkei Ministry of Social Services identifying the bearer as a Nyanga squatter and requesting that "employers inside and outside Transkei give these people preference when they apply for employment."
"That carries no weight here in Cape Town ," said one white woman. "It's like South Africa giving a paper to someone asking that they be given a job in England."
Gocina is a bit luckier than most. "I went back to my employer and said, 'Here I am,' and he gave me back my job," said the 38-year-old factory worker. "I'm staying with my sister in her Nyanga home , and my wife is staying with her daddy."
The first stop for most returned squatters is the volunteer-run Athlone advice office. Here they seek help to find lost relatives and possessions but mostly they want a way to get what they call "our rights." For the women, this means the right to remain here with their working husbands. For the men, it means the right to seek and take jobs.
"In August we saw about 900 cases from the Nyanga site," said office director Val West said this month. "It dropped to about 50 in September, but this week it's picked up like mad." In two days more than 200 people came for help, she said.
Official government policy is that Cape Town must be kept a "preferential" area for the mixed-race population of "Coloreds." This is why influx control is so rigorously pursued here and why the Nyanga squatters became the focus of government attention. By keeping out families and restricting labor to yearly renewable contracts, the authorities hope to prevent new black residential areas from developing.
This policy ignores the fact that Coloreds are migrating out of Cape Town to take better-paying jobs in the more industrialized Transvaal.
In the bigger picture, the Nyanga squatters are a drop in the bucket. Comprehensive studies estimate that as many as 1.5 million black squatters are living in and around South African cities. And demographers agree their numbers will increase since South Africa is on the verge of an unprecedented urban migration as part of its economic expansion.
This process would bring gargantuan economic and political problems for any government. But for Pretoria, it also runs into fundamental conflict with its plans to create 10 Transkei-like independent homelands from which emigration to the white-controlled industrial and urban centers will be strictly limited.
Some observers predict a worsening situation for the homeland blacks who are already prepared to risk fines, arrests and jailings to escape their dire rural circumstances. Unable to find work at home and forbidden as "foreigners" from seeking employment in the country's economic mainstream, they will feel squeezed at both ends.
The Department of Foreign Affairs could find itself with little time for real international business, caught up instead in time-consuming negotiations with 10 "independent" black homeland governments about the "illegal" presence of their citizens in South Africa.