3 OCTOBER 1981, Page 19

Gulag in South Africa?

Sir: I feel that I cannot allow a remark made by Nicholas von Hoffman in his article 'The problems of power' (12 September) to pass without comment: `The fact that the South African black population, almost in its entirety, lives in the Afrikaans equivalent of the Gulag Archipelago'. We are all aware of and deplore some things about South Africa, but I feel that he has either not read The Gulag Archipelago — which I confess I was unable to finish as it was so horrifying — or that he cannot have travelled much, if at all, in South Africa.

There is a large location about five miles from me which houses some 8,000 Africans. The houses have four rooms, all with running water, some with electricity. There are primary and secondary schools, a children's creche, at least five churches of different denominations, a regular bus service and a very large hospital which caters for the whole district and which was built by a Swedish mission and taken over by the state. Throughout the whole place there is a good sprinkling of cars belonging to the inhabitants.

I can only speak of this one location where I used to go and help at a babies' clinic which since the hospital was built was not needed. Are these conditions at all comparable to those described in The Gulag Archipelago?

Frances I. Morison PO Box 47, White River, South Africa