S. Africa's widening battle against rebels

By , Staff correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

South Africa's recent raid on alleged guerrilla bases in Lesotho was meant to prevent guerrilla activities planned for the holiday season, according to the South African Defense Force.

But in its wake there has been a new flurry of sabotage attacks - some of which may be in retaliation, say analysts.

The most dramatic incident was the bombing Dec. 18 and 19 of South Africa's first nuclear power station, located north of Cape Town. The African National Congress (ANC) took credit for the sabotage attack.

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The Koeberg power station is not yet operational and officials said the series of four explosions in no way jeopardized public safety. Still, the blasts raised questions about the vulnerability of one of South Africa's highest security installations. One of the explosions reportedly ripped a building where nuclear waste will be stored when the plant is operational next year.

In what some analysts saw as a clear example of retaliation for South Africa's raid on alleged ANC bases in Lesotho, an ANC defector was slain at his Soweto home last week. Bartholomew Hlapane, a founder of the ANC's military wing who later provided evidence for the state in a number of ANC trials, was apparently killed for being a ''traitor.''

If the Lesotho raid has failed to bring South Africa any immediate peace from sabotage attacks, it has demonstrated what many analysts see as a new commitment by South Africa to fight black nationalist groups well beyond its own borders.

This widening battle is not confined to southern Africa. This was demonstrated in Britain late last week when it was alleged in court that the South African Embassy was behind a plan to burgle and spy on anti-South African black guerrilla groups in London. Embassy official Joseph Klue was expelled from Britain for alleged spying.

However, the most serious consequences of South Africa's new offensive against black nationalism are being felt by South Africa's neighboring states.

The raid into Lesotho claimed 42 lives and brought strong and unanimous condemnation from the United Nations Security Council. But South Africa quickly warned the tiny kingdom of even more devastating economic action should Lesotho continue to permit ANC operations from its soil. Lesotho was warned it could be cut off from jobs in South Africa, which would deal a blow to the country's economy.

The Kingdom of Swaziland responded quickly to South Africa's threats of military action against any neighboring state harboring the ANC. Even before the Lesotho raid, Swaziland had begun to crack down on political refugees that were in possession of arms.

The Swaziland crackdown has escalated since the Lesotho raid with the recent detention of 25 ANC members. Swaziland has had an uneasy relationship with the ANC for years, offering asylum to refugees prohibiting military activities.

Along with its more militaristic threats, South Africa is engaging in some regional diplomacy toward the same apparent aim of denying the ANC footholds from which to operate in southern Africa.

After stern warnings to Mozambique last month about allowing the ANC to operate from its territory, South African Minister of Foreign Affairs ''Pik'' Botha met Dec. 17 with Mozambican officials at the border town of Komati Poort. There was no official word on the substance of the talks, but analysts presume the earlier South African threat precipitated the meeting. The Mozambique news agency said the talks were aimed at reducing the threat of a war in the region.

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