Blacks live in N.Y.—that’s no put on

By GENE MUSTAIN and MICHAEL O. ALLEN, Daily News Staff Writers | Monday, April 11, 1994

  • JOHANNESBURG—This is a time and a city for keeping a journal:

Yes, Princess, New York is in the U.S.A. and black people live there.

Most black South Africans have had little contact with American blacks, so little that Princess Mgwebi, a security officer at a hospital in the black township of Soweto, was astonished last week when a black reporter from New York introduced himself.

“I didn’t know there are black people in New York,” she said.

Told that indeed black people live in New York and all over the U.S., her jaw dropped. “New York is part of the United States?” she said, wrinkling the vertical facial scars that indicated she was of the Ndebele tribe.

“Yes, and many blacks live there.

“Well,” Mgwebi said, not entirely sure she was not being put on. “I know there are blacks in the United States because that is where Michael Jackson is from, and I know he is black.”

  • A few weeks ago, she thought she was going to be killed, along with her husband and two children. But one day last week, Ntsebo Mangope was enjoying   enjoying a carefree day at Pleasureland, an amusement park near Johannesburg.

She’s the daughter-in-law of Lucas Mangope, the puppet leader of the apartheid-created homeland of Bopthutatswana until violent protests over his refusal to participate in the national election toppled him from power.

Last week, he dropped a pointless legal appeal of his ouster and agreed to ride off into the sunset. “So things have calmed down,” his daughter-in-law said, while standing in line to ride a ferris wheel. “I’m going home soon because there’s a better chance we won’t be shot.”

  • Whites aren’t the only South Africans thinking about giving up on their troubled country. Many blacks fear the uncertainty of what lies ahead when a new government is voted into office at the end of this month.

Many have fled to relatives’ homes in neighboring countries. Others dream of leaving Africa altogether—and the U.S. is a popular dreamscape.

“If I had the money, I would leave tomorrow,” said Selinah Masekoa, a 19-year-old bible college student who quickly introduced herself when she overheard a reporter asking for directions and detected his American accent.

“I would move to New York or Los Angeles. And I would be a model or an air hostess.”

  • Many blacks who make it in this country — legally or otherwise — prefer to stay in Soweto, which has a few tiny pockets of prosperity. African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela has a couple homes there, as does estranged wife Winnie.

But residents say that some of Soweto’s fanciest homes, which would fetch millions in New York, are owned by cocaine dealers.

“The people here accept these people in our midst,” one Soweto resident said, “because our kids don’t buy cocaine. They can’t afford it. The dealers’ customers are whites in the city.”