S. Africa shows that might makes peace...if not right
In southern Angola, South African troops and SWAPO guerrillas are apparently observing their first cease-fire after 18 years of conflict over control of Namibia.Skip to next paragraph
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In Mozambique, Indian Ocean resorts are sprucing up for possible visits by South African tourists. This less than a year after South African counterinsurgency units raided the country.
In the tiny kingdom of Swaziland, South African troops recently traded their guns for shovels to help dig out from a devastating cyclone.
These events, observers say, point to two important developments in southern Africa:
* South Africa has regained the political initiative in the region primarily by making its military dominance manifest.
* South Africa's relations with neighboring black states may be entering a more outwardly benign phase, as Pretoria moves to consolidate its military gains with peace largely on its own terms. Some feel this phase may include concessions from Pretoria - most notably a settlement in Namibia (South-West Africa) - since it is operating from a position of commanding strength.
These developments are likely to make the mid-1980s a period of shifting strategies for southern Africa's black states as they try to come to terms with Pretoria's power while not violating their own deep-felt opposition to white-minority rule in South Africa, analysts say.
One implication is clear: The main black nationalist movement challenging South Africa - the outlawed African National Congress - is faced with declining regional support for its insurgency campaign. South Africa has pressured neighboring states economically and militarily to drop any material support for the ANC. This could shift the black struggle back within South Africa's borders.
Pretoria is doing all it can to foster the impression it is taking the extra step to bring peace to the region. Its black neighbors, economically weak and reeling from what they see as a bout of South African-sponsored ''destabilization,'' see Pretoria's moves as opportunistic.
The relationship between South Africa and neighboring states is inherently ''not a coequal one,'' points out Hermann Giliomee, a political scientist at the University of Cape Town. He adds, ''South Africa is insisting on being treated as a regional superpower.'' For now, he says, the black states see it in their interest to acquiesce.
This does not mean they have capitulated into accepting white rule in South Africa, says Michael Spicer of the South African Institute of International Affairs. ''From the perspective of the black states, they are simply changing their strategy. Pretoria holds virtually all the cards, so the neighboring states realize they must adapt,'' he says.
There appears to be a tacit agreement among the region's key black states to allow each country to accommodate itself to Pretoria's demands without criticism from the others. By remaining united, the black states hope to exert maximum pressure and extract some concessions of their own from South Africa, close observers say.
But Pretoria is clearly setting the terms of the uneasy but calmer relationship emerging between itself and its neighbors, analysts agree. South Africa is demanding that no bordering state materially help the ANC in its insurgency against South Africa. It is demanding that Angola stop SWAPO (the South West Africa People's Organization) guerrillas from infiltrating Namibia.
Agreements stopping these insurgencies offer an opening for South Africa to pursue a broader aim, experts say. Pretoria seeks a general rollback of Soviet influence in southern Africa, which rose dramatically with the coming of independent Marxist governments in Mozambique in 1975 and Angola in 1976.
South Africa has long claimed the Soviets have a ''destabilizing'' influence in the region. Many analysts say Pretoria is concerned lest the Soviets encroach on South Africa's goal of maintaining regional hegemony.
South Africa's aim to decrease Soviet influence in southern Africa coincides with a similar goal of the Reagan administration, diplomatic sources say. It is unclear how coordinated the strategy is.
The United States has criticized some South African military actions. At the same time the Reagan administration has taken advantage of the weakened condition of Angola and Mozambique, trying to woo them into closer links with the West.