Columns 22.1.2018 08:30 am

Knowing Mangope’s truth

Former Bophuthatswana leader Lucas Mangope.

Former Bophuthatswana leader Lucas Mangope.

Helen Zille must be chuckling.

She got a roasting for daring to suggest that colonialism was not all bad. But now, a few people are suggesting apartheid was not that bad.

What am I talking about? I am talking about the comment following the death of former Bophuthatswana president Lucas Mangope, 94.

The ANC murmured a soft statement, its North West officials promised a provincial burial and even the EFF praised him for “service delivery”.

So, the man , an integral part of the system of separate development – the shining star in the “Constellation of States” (who remembers the phrase?) so beloved of PW Botha – was not all bad.

The roads were good, the schools were good. Too bad about the riot police … I covered Bophuthatswana for four years, so let me say plainly that the reason there was development was not because of Mangope, it was because of the billions of rands Pretoria poured into the homeland.

The fact that more of that money went where it could make a difference was because – compared to the current ANC kleptocracy – he was an amateur thief. He had a very cosy relationship with the large construction companies that built his capital city. He called it Mmabatho, renaming it from Mafeking; it is now Mahikeng.

In his parliament in 1979, he stated plainly that large projects would no longer be put out to tender because a number of companies had proved themselves capable. Not even the ANC has been that bare-faced about tender manipulation.

He was also in bed with various white businesses with strong connections to the then National Party and a network of parastatals was Monday 12 22 January 2018 set up which milked the government of its South African taxpayer-provided stipend.

At one stage, he tried to use drought relief funds to feed his own cattle and when the crusty old Englishman running the scheme – known as the Thusano Foundation – opposed it, Mangope fired him and closed down the scheme.

He was also very close to “Sun King” Sol Kerzner. We all know how that story turned out – Sun City and the Lost City. But what not many know is that, under section 37 of the then Income Tax Act, Sol was effectively paid (R200 million) by the SA government to build the Lost City, because it was “developing” a homeland.

The reason so few people know about that is that so many journalists were playing so many rounds of golf at Sun City in the early 1990s. (I was on a Sun International invitation blacklist for many years… ) Yet, Mangope allowed experts to do what they did best – as in conservation, where the likes of ex-Zimbabwean Roger Collinson led the way in establishing parks like Pilanesberg and Madikwe, which would have direct financial benefits for local communities.

He engaged experts at Potchefstroom University to draw up a revolutionary land tenure scheme which would have given individual land ownership to millions of his people.

His Bop Broadcasting Corporation trained a myriad DJs and set up the finest recording studios in the southern hemisphere – allowing ripped-off black musicians an alternative to what one described to me then as “the white music Mafia in Johannesburg”. The truth of Mangope is not simple black or white, it is in the shades of grey …

Citizen acting deputy editor Brendan Seery.

Citizen acting deputy editor Brendan Seery.

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