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How Kgosi Lucas Mangope built Bophuthatswana from Scratch

When Bophuthatswana started it was a self-governing homeland, but not independent. Therefore, every decision had to be approved by Pretoria. The homeland was very rural and dry, and there was nothing in terms of infrastructure. So, Chief Minister Mangope had a lot of challenges: there were no industries, no commercial farming, no tarred roads, and the general population was illiterate. He had to establish commercial farming, built industries, but these required skilled personnel of which there was none.

The only income came in the form of a South African government grant of R20 000 annually. His first priority was education because he wanted to invite industrialists to invest in Bophuthatswana. He reckoned it was easier to train a literate worker than an illiterate one. Regarding industrialization, the South African government was imposing difficult conditions on would-be foreign investors in Bop, like being allowed only short-term leases on land. Mangope wanted them to own the land on which factories were built, as an incentive to stay long term.

Bophuthatswana Map

Other restrictions were on education – foreign teachers could not be employed permanently – only on temporary basis. This discouraged a lot of American and British teachers from coming to Bop. There was also pressure from Pretoria to use Afrikaans as a medium of instruction. Mangope was against this, because then he wouldn’t be able to use foreign teachers. He wanted foreign teachers because to teach Maths and Science. Students with Maths and Science could be trained to work in the proposed industries and also become doctors, etc.

To remove all restrictions once and for all, he opted for independence in 1977. Now he could built industries in places like Ga Rannkuwa Zone 15 Babelegi in Temba, Thaba Nchu near Bloemfontein, and offer industrialists needed incentives, and employ foreign teachers unhindered. He could built agricultural colleges and establish and agricultural bank to help emerging farmers. He also built a university because he had observed that Xhosas and Vendas were more educated due to proximity to universities.

UNIBO Construction 1981

He invited mining companies to survey Bop and build mines around particularly Rustenburg. He used the mineral rights royalties to build infrastructure, pay teachers and the police, and he built the Mmabatho International School affiliated with Cambridge. Mangope also realized there was a great opportunity in tourism and gambling, as gambling was illegal in South Africa at the time. Together with Sol Kerzner, he established Sun International Bop – a 49/51 percent shareholding agreement in favour of Sol Kerzner.

BOP Flag

Under this brand, Sun City, Tlhabane Sun, Morula Sun, The Carousel and others were built. Pilanesburg National Park was also established around Sun City to encourage tourism. The endeavour was a resounding success, raking in the money. From the onset, Lucas Mangope knew the homeland system was temporary, but his main concern was the black man’s inferiority complex. His belief was that unless people were given the chance to run and oversee their own affairs successfully, they would never feel equal.

The International School of South Africa

His style of governance was authoritarianism with an equal measure of inspiration. He believed that there could never be any progress amidst chaos. He also went around the homeland giving rousing speeches to inspire confidence in the people. The speeches were always uplifting. Hendrik Verwoerd, when inventing Apartheid put it bluntly: “It won’t last forever, it’s not meant to last forever, but to give the Afrikaner an advantage, a head-start. So, do not teach the black child Maths and Science, his job is to serve the white man.” I paraphrase.

BOP Airline

So, nothing was given to him on a silver platter by the apartheid government as is commonly claimed by detractors. If anything, he was the real anti-apartheid hero. In Lucas Mangope, people of Southern Africa were blessed with a great leader indeed.

Mangope on Apartheid

Source: https://twitter.com/re_rata_Mangope