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Army Stages Coup, Ousts Woman Prime Minister In Transkei

December 30, 1987 GMT

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ The military in the nominally independent black homeland of Transkei staged a bloodless coup Wednesday, ousting Prime Minister Stella Sigcau after less than three months in office.

Maj. Gen. Bantu Holomisa, the 32-year-old army commander, announced on Radio Transkei that he had taken power as head of a military council. He accused Mrs. Sigcau of corruption and said she was ″on leave.″

Holomisa declared martial law, suspended the constitution and outlawed political activity in Trankei, one of four black homelands designated by South Africa as independent but not recognized abroad. The homeland, established in 1976, has been troubled by corruption and debt problems.

The South African Broadcasting Corp. said there were no reports of violence or arrests. Soldiers patrolled the streets and set up roadblocks around Transkei’s capital of Umtata, the radio said.

No information was immediately available on the whereabouts of Mrs. Sigcau. She took office Oct. 5, two weeks after Homolisa and his troops ousted George Matanzima and forced eight of his Cabinet ministers to resign.

Holomisa said it had been ″regrettably established″ that Mrs. Sigcau was ″involved in the corruption and bribery which we are fighting and which was practiced by the former ministers that had recently been removed for their posts.″

Holomisa planned a Thursday news conference to elaborate on plans for the homeland’s immediate future.

Holomisa also sent a message to South African foreign minister, R.F. Botha, asking South Africa not to interfere.

Botha said he replied to Holomisa with a request for protection of South African Embassy staff in Transkei. Botha said his government’s position toward the new military council ″will be determined as soon as greater clarity emerges.″

The 10 homelands established by South Africa have proven expensive and troublesome for the Pretoria government. Like all the homelands, Transkei is heavily dependent on South Africa, receiving more than half its annual revenue in direct aid from South Africa.

Six of the homelands have not yet been declared independent.

Transkei lies along the Indian Ocean coast between the port cities of Durban and East London. It is mostly rural, covering 18,000 square miles, and has about 3.5 million residents.

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Many of the homeland’s residents work in South Africa, either as daily commuters or migrant workers in such industries as gold mining.

Kaiser Matanzima, Transkei’s first prime minister, served from 1976 to 1979. His brother George Matanzima succeeded him and served until the army toppled him in September.

George Mantanzima resigned Oct. 2 after he was charged with corruption. A commission financed by the South African government concluded that the debt- ridden homeland has lost about $22 million because of improper actions by the Matanzima brothers.

The Transkei National Independence Party elected Mrs. Sigcau prime minister, making her the first woman to lead one of South Africa’s black homelands.

Mrs. Sigcau, 50, whose father was a prominent Transkei chief, previously served as minister of posts and telecommunications.

Supporters depicted her as Transkei’s version of Margaret Thatcher, but critics said it would be difficult for a woman to survive as leader in a society traditionally dominated by men.

″In my own home I govern, and it would be strange for me to leave home in the morning and find myself dominated by a woman,″ Finance Minister Kholisile Nota said at the time. ″It’s not in accordance with our culture.″