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S. African Homeland Leader Banishes Brother to Village Amid Coup Rumors

May 12, 1987|MICHAEL PARKS | Times Staff Writer

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — The former president of Transkei, one of South Africa's nominally independent tribal homelands, was banished Monday to a remote village by his brother, the Transkei prime minister, in an apparent attempt to prevent his political comeback and perhaps a coup d'etat.

Kaiser D. Matanzima, 71, the former president, who had led Transkei to "independence" from South Africa in 1976, was ordered to leave the capital of Umtata and not go beyond the district surrounding his home village of Qamata.

George Matanzima, 68, the Transkei prime minister, pushed a law through the Transkei legislature last Friday that bars former presidents from returning to politics. His brother then began forming a new party and threatened to oust the Cabinet this week with a vote of no confidence.

With most of the 3,000-man army and many of the tribal chiefs appearing to back Kaiser Matanzima, Transkei government officials were talking Monday of a possible coup. The Johannesburg newspaper Beeld reported "rising fears that a civil war will break out shortly."

Womanizing Charged

The army's complaint against George Matanzima, according to informed sources in Umtata, is that he spends most of his time womanizing and that government administration in the past year has all but collapsed in Transkei.

When he left Umtata on Monday morning, Kaiser Matanzima seemed confident that he will not only return soon to the capital but will also be back in power. His lawyers, he said, will challenge the order banishing him and the law preventing his return to politics.

Transkei, which has a population of 3 million Xhosa-speakers and is wedged between South Africa's Cape and Natal provinces, has been in turmoil almost since Kaiser Matanzima's retirement in 1985. Pretoria has become increasingly concerned about its political stability and the impact this could have on South Africa as a whole.

A group of Transkei army officers last month freed a colleague, Brigadier Bantu Holomisa, the armed forces chief of staff, who had been detained on security charges. They then arrested and expelled 27 white mercenaries, most of them veterans of the old Rhodesian army, who had been their advisers. Holomisa replaced the army commander, who was forced into retirement, and at 31 he is now a major general.

Effective political power may already have passed into the hands of the "officers' action committee" under Holomisa, according to sources in Umtata, giving the homeland a military government in all but name.

Raid on Ciskei

These developments stemmed, in turn, from an abortive Transkei raid on Ciskei, another nominally independent homeland, in February. Transkei commandos attacked the Ciskei presidential palace in an apparent attempt to assassinate President-for-Life Lennox Sebe, but failed, losing several men and much face.

Transkei's mercenaries, however, had mounted a successful attack last September on Ciskei's maximum security prison to free Charles Sebe, the Ciskei president's brother and the homeland's former interior minister, who was jailed for subversion.

The commandos also kidnaped Lennox Sebe's son, who commands Ciskei's special security forces, and his deputy. The two were exchanged for other political prisoners in a swap supervised by South Africa.

As the threat of war increased, South African officials attempted to mediate, and in March the ministers of foreign affairs, defense and law and order visited Umtata to try to end the feud.

South Africa feared that there would be attacks across the narrow strip of white-owned farmland, South African territory, that separates the two nominally independent states. But there were larger, political concerns. The feud could open the homelands to agitation by the outlawed African National Congress, Pretoria believed. And it had already embarrassed South Africa, which feels that the way the homelands are run reflects on it.

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