Julius Masopha is the community leader of a new township that the South African government has held up as a model of its reformist policy for blacks. Yet this weekend Masopha is hiding from the police, fearing arrest because his model township has become another trouble spot in the widening arc of racial unrest.
Eight days ago the minister in charge of black affairs, Gerritt N. Viljoen, said in an interview on ABC-TV's "Nightline" broadcast from South Africa that the township, called Ekangala, was a shining example of the government's new policy of "orderly urbanization" for Africans.
But the next day police dispersed a protest meeting in Ekangala with tear gas, rubber bullets and shotguns. A youth was killed. Another was wounded.
Since then Masopha, who organized the protest meeting, has spent each night at a different place in the packed black townships of the Witwatersrand region. His wife, Helen, said the police have called several times to arrest him.
The transformation of this model township into a trouble spot offers some insights into the apparent contradictions presented by President Pieter W. Botha's South Africa, where the talk is of reform but racial unrest is getting worse.
Ekangala is, in fact, the centerpiece of a major exercise in social engineering.
Having acknowledged the impossibility of a key feature of the apartheid ideology, which was to keep blacks out of the cities, the Botha government now accepts their permanence, but its planning suggests that it wants to cushion the effect of this decision by holding as many as possible at a maximum commuting distance from the "white" cities.
The growth of black townships such as Soweto that are close to the big cities is being restricted. Outer industrial belts are being created 75 to 100 miles away. Economic incentives are used to encourage industries to set up there, and the provision of housing is manipulated to compel black workers to live in townships in these new "growth points."
Where possible, the new commuter townships are incorporated in tribal "homelands" scheduled for nominal independence, so that politically, too, they do not impinge upon what is regarded as "white" South Africa.
Ekangala, 75 miles northeast of Johannesburg near the small town of Bronkhortspruit, is the nucleus of the outer belt being established for the Witwatersrand region, named for a 60-mile-long ridge with Johannesburg at the center. Ekangala is planned to have a population of 300,000 in 15 years. An industrial complex called Ekindustria is rising from the veld, or grassland, nearby.
Charles Marx, chairman of an organization called the East Rand Administration Board that administers black affairs in the area, outlined the rationale for establishing Ekangala in a recent interview.
"The population of the Witwatersrand has already outgrown the infrastructure of the area, so decentralization is essential," he said. "It would be better for industrialists to move now to areas where land is not so expensive and labor is cheaper."
The provision of housing in existing black townships along the eastern Witwatersrand is being slowed down. Thousands of dwellings determined to be illegal are being demolished. People desperate for houses are told they must go to Ekangala.
Julius Masopha, 27, was one of those forced to make this choice, even though he works near Krugersdorp on the western Witwatersrand, which means he spends six hours commuting by bus every day.
He was not unhappy about it. Physical conditions in Ekangala are better than in other black townships along the Witwatersrand. The houses are nicer, coming in a variety of designs and colors. They have electricity and running water. The streets are paved and lighted. The primary and high school buildings are the finest in the region.
Rents are comparatively high. Masopha was paying 22 rands (about $11) a month to live with his mother in shabby Tembisa township before he moved two years ago. In Ekangala he pays 200 rands. But as a member of a new, upwardly mobile class of well educated and skilled black workers, he earns 720 rands a month, and he wanted a home of his own for his wife and three small children.
The East Rand board had also indicated that after two years it might regard the rent already paid as constituting a deposit for the purchase of Masopha's house, offering him the prospect of home ownership, which is a new concession to blacks outside the tribal "homelands."
"I was quite happy with the arrangement," Masopha said in an interview in one of his hideouts.
Masopha formed the residents' association to help build community spirit and campaign for better facilities. The administration board recognized his association.
Then, just six weeks ago, there came an item of news that hit the community like a bombshell. Minister Viljoen announced in a television broadcast that Ekangala was to be incorporated in the nearby Kwandebele tribal "homeland," which is scheduled for independence soon. The matter was never discussed with the community, Masopha said.
Incorporation means that when Kwandebele becomes independent, which could be within two years, the 5,000 people of Ekangala will become Ndebele citizens. They will become foreigners in South Africa, with fewer rights and less job security.
All those interviewed during a visit to the township this week said they were appalled at the prospect. They also expressed anger that they were not told about it before they went to Ekangala.
That is what his meeting was about. Before the police dispersed them, the big crowd decided to stop paying rents in protest