POLITICS
19/01/2018 11:37 SAST | Updated 19/01/2018 13:21 SAST

Lucas Mangope: A Friend And Ally Of The Apartheid Government

The former leader of the homeland of Bophuthatswana refused to take part in the 1994 democratic election.

Lucas Mangope was the leader of Bophuthatswana, an apartheid "homeland", between 1977 and 1994.
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Lucas Mangope was the leader of Bophuthatswana, an apartheid "homeland", between 1977 and 1994.

Lucas Mangope, who died on Thursday at the age of 94, was one of the longest-serving "heads of state" of the constellation of so-called homelands that formed the centrepiece of apartheid policy.

He was installed as president of the independent homeland of Bophuthatswana on December 6, 1977 and was removed from his position on March 12, 1994 after then-South African foreign minister Pik Botha, accompanied by Cyril Ramaphosa, Mac Maharaj and Roelf Meyer, told him in his home near the then-Mmabatho (now Mahikeng): "It's over."

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Beeld newspaper's front page on March 12 1994 after the execution of three AWB members in the former Bophuthatswana.

Mangope, who was born in a town called Motswedi near Zeerust in what is now North West province on December 27, 1923, was considered a friend of the apartheid government and enthusiastically embraced "independence" when the government of Prime Minister John Vorster granted it. After he was deposed shortly before the democratic election in 1994, Botha told an interviewer that it was "one of the most painful events" in his life having to tell "a friend" that he was no longer head of state.

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Armed members of the AWB in Bophuthatswana during the violence that led to the end of Lucas Mangope's regime.

But Bophuthatswana, held up by the apartheid government as a successful example of "separate development", was anything but a functioning, independent state. More than R500-million of South African taxpayers' money was pumped into keeping the Bop government stable and functioning, while Mangope himself was propped up by the Pretoria authorities with cars and money. Botha's department of foreign affairs also gave millions in "foreign aid and development", and the government provided guarantees for Bop overdrafts.

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An undated series of images documenting the visit by South African (ceremonial) state president Jim Fouche to Lucas Mangope's homeland of Bophuthatswana.

Mangope was trained as a teacher and worked in his chosen profession for 10 years before he succeeded his father as kgosi of the Hurutshe-Manyane tribe. He also became a member of the Tswana territorial authority, a vehicle that the government of then-Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd used to co-opt black local leadership.

Mangope became chairperson in 1968, and in 1972 chief minister of the mooted self-governing Tswana homeland. His Democratic Party won the 1977 election before Bop's "independence", and he won numerous re-elections after that.

He even graciously offered to be an impartial observer at the negotiations, offering his advice and counsel to the opposing parties.

He told The Star in an interview on July 3, 1974 that although he was a historical supporter of separate development, he changed his views over time. "The whites must understand that, as the threat of terrorism increases, they are being criminally stupid in alienating the vast majority of people in this country..."

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Lucas Mangope along with other opponents of the 1994 election, inlcuding Mangosuthu Buthelezi and General Constand Viljoen.

When the multiparty negotiations started after 1990, Mangope was determined to maintain Bop's position and his authority as president. He even graciously offered to be an impartial observer at the negotiations, offering his advice and counsel to the opposing parties.

But Mangope very quickly lost control of his "country", with Bop citizens making it very clear that they no longer wanted to be part of a "homeland" and that they supported the unbanned ANC.

The right-wingers intervention led to a bloodbath, with three members of Eugene Terre'Blanche's AWB famously executed by a Bop soldier in front of their blue Mercedes-Benz on national television.

Mangope steadfastly refused to engage with the negotiations process, ignoring overtures from both ANC president Nelson Mandela and President F.W. de Klerk, which led to widespread violence and deaths.

Mangope, who aligned himself with the Volksfront, a motley crew of white, right-wing organisations, asked former head of the defence force, General Constand Viljoen (then leader of the Freedom Front, without the plus), for assistance. In early March, a convoy of right-wingers on bakkies and in cars, armed with hunting rifles and pistols, marched to Mangope's defence.

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President Lucas Mangope of the independent homeland of Bophuthatswana.

The right-wingers' intervention led to a bloodbath, with three members of Eugène Terre'Blanche's AWB famously executed by a Bop soldier in front of their blue Mercedes-Benz on national television.

The day of the AWB members' execution, the delegation led by Botha flew from Pretoria, accompanied by helicopters from the South African Defence Force, and landed at a landing strip in Mmabatho protected by South African soldiers.

Mangope didn't relent. Can he convene parliament? Then Botha stood up and told him: "It's over."

Mangope received the joint government and ANC delegation at his home, where Botha told Mangope the government had decided to remove him from his position and dissolve the government, because his refusal to take part in the election has caused widespread violence and death. "You have lost control. You are not in control anymore. The time has come to ensure law and order," Botha told Mangope, according to "Pik Botha: A Man And His Times".

Mangope refused, telling the delegation that he had followed the letter of the law, accusing the ANC of fomenting the violence. He proposed a sitting of the Bop parliament, at which he would recommend that the country take part in the election.

Maharaj said no: "You have no control anymore. There is no functioning civil service, hospitals, television, radio or public transport. The security services are divided, weapons were stolen, orders ignored..."

The Bop leader was a man of expensive taste who was unafraid of using the Bop state coffers. On August 13 1989 the Sunday Times reported that Mangope embarked on a "lavish spending spree" buying up overseas mansions worth millions of rand.

Mangope didn't relent. Could he convene parliament? Then Botha stood up and told him: "It's over."

Shortly afterwards, the governments of Venda and Ciskei also fell, and the Verwoerdian dream of a "commonwealth of South African states" died.

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Lucas Mangope addressing citizens of Bophuthatswana in an undated picture.

The Bop leader was a man of expensive taste who was unafraid of using the Bop state coffers. On August 13, 1989, the Sunday Times reported that Mangope embarked on a "lavish spending spree" – buying up overseas mansions worth millions of rand, including a Paris palace that once belonged to Princess Grace and Prince Rainier of Monaco. He also bought a mansion in London's exclusive Holland Park. The newspaper reported that Mangope that year increased the budget of his office by 106 percent.

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Lucas Mangope at Bophuthatswana's 13th independence celebrations on December 6 1990.

After Mangope was deposed, it was revealed that he owned a fleet of 29 cars, including a range of BMWs, bakkies and a Buick. They were all recovered by the government shortly afterwards, although he was left with a bullet-proof Benz and BMW. It also emerged that he owned a number of farms and other properties, while there were rumours of a Mangope villa in the south of France, the Sunday Timesreported on April 24, 1994. He was also implicated in a land scam in 1993.