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Monday, March 16, 1992 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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South Africa's Future -- `All-White' Town Finds It Can't Live Without Blacks

Chicago Tribune

MORGENZON, South Africa - One look at the dilapidated little town of Morgenzon and it becomes clear that the first attempt to establish a white homeland in South Africa has failed.

The streets are unpaved, and the small houses faded and decayed. Some have been abandoned and fallen to ruin, giving Morgenzon the air of a town that has seen better times. There are few facilities to attract a would-be white immigrant: just a handful of sparsely stocked stores, a post office, a liquor store and a tiny whites-only bar.

And above all, there are blacks, outnumbering the white population by more than 10 to 1. They live in shacks on the outskirts of town, but depend on Morgenzon for jobs and supplies. They throng the streets by day, giving Morgenzon the appearance of an overwhelmingly black town.

The experience of Morgenzon underscores the many obstacles facing South Africa's white right wing in its quest for a white homeland.

President F.W. de Klerk, facing a referendum tomorrow on his mandate to share power with blacks, is insisting that a white homeland is unworkable because blacks form an overwhelming majority all across the country. To try to remove blacks forcibly from even a small portion would lead to horrendous bloodshed, he argues.

Hendrik Verwoerd Jr. came to Morgenzon 10 years ago to make the town the launching point for his dream of an all-white homeland - an Afrikaaner nation that eventually would encompass most of the rich

farming areas of the Transvaal and Orange Free State.

Verwoerd, son of independent South Africa's first prime minister and the architect of apartheid, Hendrik Verwoerd Sr., moved his family to Morgenzon along with a group of like-minded Afrikaaners calling themselves the Oranje Werkers. They were going to create an all-white community by refusing to employ blacks, thereby driving them away.

"We came to the conclusion that Afrikaaners would have to free themselves from dependence on black labor if they were ever to achieve independence as a nation," Verwoerd said. "The logical consequence of using black labor and living among blacks is that the blacks will eventually claim that this is also their home and then we would risk losing what is rightfully our own country."

But only 20 families followed him to the little farming town deep in the Afrikaaner heartland of the Eastern Transvaal.

Morgenzon's existing white residents took a dim view of the idea that they should give up their black servants and laborers. Most continued to employ blacks, while others drifted away, with the result that Morgenzon's white population has dropped from 500 to 400. Meanwhile, during the same period the number of blacks has increased from 3,000 to 6,000.

Verwoerd's homeland plan is just one of many being touted by a variety of right-wing groups that have joined forces to oppose de Klerk in tomorrow's referendum.

Some 300 whites have moved to a second, rival homeland called Orania that was founded last year in the desert in western South Africa. Their aim is to create a whites-only nation in an unpopulated area, thereby minimizing the need to uproot blacks. But most right-wingers reject a homeland in such barren territory and so far from the traditional Afrikaaner heartland.

The Conservative Party, which represents the majority of right-wing whites, has only loosely formulated its homeland plan. But it would not exclude black labor: Black workers would be imported from the black homelands that would exist alongside a white nation, a system largely similar to the original apartheid plan formulated by Verwoerd's father.

Most of Morgenzon's whites are expected to vote in favor of the Conservative Party's homeland promises. De Klerk's National Party has not even bothered to open a campaign office there.

But like many whites around the country, they would be reluctant either to give up their black servants or to perform the menial tasks normally reserved for blacks.

"They're entitled to their views, but I'm not going to stop using blacks," said Maritje du Toit, who runs a Morgenzon grocery store and employs three blacks.

"We're not worried about the numbers," said Gideon Genada, a construction contractor, "because the numbers and the intellect counterbalance each other." --------------------------

REFERENDUM

Some facts about tomorrow's referendum for white voters:

THE QUESTION

"Do you support continuation of the reform process which the state president began on Feb. 2, 1990, and which is aimed at a new constitution through negotiation?"

AT STAKE

President F.W. de Klerk has abolished major apartheid laws and seeks a mandate to continue negotiating a non-racial constitution that will extend full political rights to the 30 million blacks.

If he loses, de Klerk promises to resign and call a whites-only election. If the pro-apartheid Conservatives can defeat the referendum, they would be the favorites in such an election.

WHO CAN VOTE

Only whites are eligible. There are 3.27 million registered voters in a white population of roughly 5 million.

PREDICTIONS

Most analysts expect de Klerk to get 55 to 60 percent of the vote, but the Conservatives claim to be gaining strength in the final days.

Associated Press

Copyright (c) 1992 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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