MMABATHO, South Africa - The South African government took control of the black homeland of Bophuthatswana today and said it no longer recognized the authority of the homeland's ruler.
The government said President Lucas Mangope, who had tried to keep Bophuthatswana out of South Africa's first all-race elections next month, would be "secured" by South African troops for his "safety and protection," but did not elaborate.
South African Ambassador Tjaart van der Walt was put in charge of running the homeland, Foreign Affairs Minister Pik Botha said in a pre-dawn announcement. Van der Walt will probably remain in charge until the nominally independent homeland is reincorporated into South Africa and new leaders are chosen after the April election.
Botha said he "personally informed President Mangope . . . that his presidency was no longer recognized by the South African government . . . and that in the circumstances he could not continue as head of the government of Bophuthatswana."
A joint statement by the government and a multiracial transition panel that includes the African National Congress (ANC) said the two bodies would oversee the territory together.
Van der Walt told the South African Press Association early today that the move guaranteed Bophuthatswana would take part in the April vote. He said his first task was to end a strike by government workers that has crippled the territory for the past week. At least 24 people were killed in rioting.
1,500 troops deployed
More than 1,500 South African troops were deployed in Mmabatho Friday to halt widespread looting and protect government buildings.
The ANC, the expected winner of the April election, had pushed the South African government to oust Mangope and run the homeland.
Although Bophuthatswana is considered independent by South Africa, the new South African constitution calls for it to be reintegrated into the country.
Botha's said he, van der Walt and ANC official Mac Maharaj met with Mangope last night.
Mangope said on South African state television last night that his government remained in control of the homeland, a patchwork of seven separate land masses in northern and central South Africa.
He had opposed taking part in the election but changed his mind Friday amid the unrest in Mmbatho.
South African President F.W. de Klerk, who sent in the troops to quell rioting, warned yesterday that "very firm action" was needed to compel authorities to allow free participation in the election.
Another homeland leader
De Klerk and ANC leader Nelson Mandela also are trying to persuade another homeland leader, Mangosuthu Buthelezi of KwaZulu, to participate in the election.
The white right-wing movement, which also opposes the elections, fractured yesterday, partly in response to events in Bophuthatswana.
Retired Gen. Constand Viljoen quit as a leader of the Afrikaner Volksfront because it refused to take part in the election. He formed a new right-wing party, the Freedom Front, committed to using peaceful methods to achieve its aim of protecting white minority rights and achieving a white homeland.
There are fears that opposition to the election from conservative whites and blacks could lead to increased political violence and disrupt the election.
The conservatives fear the ANC, which is expected to lead in the April voting, will trample on the rights of its opponents afterward.
The violence in Bophuthatswana by ANC supporters and some of Mangope's own security forces led him to agree Friday night to participate in the election.
But Mangope stopped short of giving full cooperation to South Africa's Independent Electoral Commission, prompting renewed calls yesterday from the ANC for him to be deposed.
Mandela said he would visit Bophuthatswana tomorrow and sharply criticized Mangope, blaming his "selfish views" for the bloodshed.
"Mr. Mangope has lost the support of the civil service and the security forces, and the people of Bophuthatswana are now in complete chaos," said Mandela, who wants all 10 semi-autonomous black homelands created under apartheid to be reincorporated into South Africa after the election.
Referring to the widespread unrest last week, Botha echoed ANC comments in saying Mangope had lost control of the homeland.
"The time has now arrived to take steps to ensure law and order as well as the free and peaceful participation of the people of Bophuthatswana in the election process," he said today.
Botha said he "personally informed President Mangope . . . that his presidency was no longer recognized" by the South African government.
South African and Bophuthatswana security forces would continue to jointly maintain law and order, Botha said.
In patrols yesterday, they arrested looters in the Mafikeng business center and later sealed off the area. They also drove crowds from the MegaCity shopping mall in Mmabatho, the homeland capital, where three days of looting left the complex a burned shambles.
Brig. Johan Coetzer, the South African general commanding the troops sent to Bophuthatswana, said at a news conference that his mission was to stabilize the territory so free political activity could proceed.
The South African army said white extremists trying to evacuate the homeland after their failed attempt to bolster Mangope came under fire again Friday night and one was killed.