A South African housing official, pointer in hand, was using a series of multicolored maps to explain the various amenities his government is offering blacks who move to this embryonic new town 15 miles east of Cape Town.

A few miles away, tight-lipped white police armed with tear-gas grenade launchers and pistols were showing black squatters another side of the government's housing policy: forced removal. As police and squatters watched, workers with crowbars tore down more than 200 makeshift shacks officials said were on the wrong side of an unmarked boundary line on the edge of the squatter settlement known as Crossroads.

The first event was staged by the white-minority government for foreign journalists, presumably to demonstrate South Africa's commitment to better housing for its black majority. The second became an unscheduled stop in the correspondents' bus tour of the area. Together they illustrated the charged politics of housing in this country and the dilemma of a government seeking to exert control over what officials concede is a virtually unstoppable exodus of people from impoverished rural "homelands" to the promise of the city.

More than 60,000 people live illegally at Crossroads and officials estimate their numbers swell by at least 1,500 a week. The community has become a symbol of resistance to the government's controversial "influx control" policies that make it illegal for blacks to relocate without government permission.

Now the government has declared what it considers a truce: Crossroads will be destroyed, but its illegal residents will be given decent housing, even property rights, at Khayelitsha.

On the surface it looks like a fair bargain. The freshly painted cinderblock structures of Khayelitsha boast running water. There are schools, paved roads and underground sewerage.

The Western Cape Administration Board, the government agency building the township, has spent at least $50 million so far to build houses for 5,000 families. Eventually, officials say, it will spend more than $300 million for a population of 250,000. More than 600 families have moved in so far.

"They were not moved by force," said Timo Bezuidenhout, an official with the Department of Cooperation and Development, which oversees this country's racially segregated housing. "They were persuaded to come here. They are family people and they would like to bring up their families in a civilized way."

But Bezuidenhout said many have been intimidated by antiapartheid groups such as the United Democratic Front who argue that the government should allow people to remain at Crossroads and improve conditions there.

Despite its clean looks, many of the residents of Khayelitsha say they are not impressed with their new home. They say the two-room houses are too small for families that often consist of eight or more people, and expensive to add on to, and that public transportation to town is costly and infrequent.

Maggie Agie Piliso, who moved here several months ago with her husband Joseph, pointed to cracks that already have separated the ceiling from the walls and that leak when it rains.

Regina Ramsaivgoana, who lives down the street, says she likes her house, "but it is too small" for the four adults and four children who live there. "Squatting is better because you can build as much as you like," she said.

At Crossroads, over the pounding of crowbars and the crunch of wood, Jerry Tutu, spokesman for the small squatters' community that fell under siege this morning, said the police and workers had come with no warning.

In demolishing the shacks, the workers exposed the modest possessions of squatters' lives: old clothing piled on rusted bed frames, portable gas stoves, couches with broken springs and torn upholstery.

Bezuidenhout, who happened upon the scene with the reporters, said the squatters had built too close to an intersection about 100 yards away. "They were told not to go over a certain point here because it's very dangerous," he said.

Bezuidenhout said he was certain the squatters could find new places to build inside the vast maze of Crossroads. But several said there was no more room.

The sound of the crowbars was replaced by rhythmic clapping as women whose homes had just disappeared waited in a circle to be blessed and soothed by a preacher. Then they went to prepare for a night without shelter.