South Africa's secret Namibia plan
United Nations, N.Y.
South Africa has put together a new secret plan for the independence of Namibia (South-West Africa). This plan, according to European and African leaders, basically attempts to:Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
* Circumvent the United Nations plan for Namibian independence as stated in Security Council Resolution 435.
* Bypass the issue of Cuban troops in Angola.
The South West Africa People's Organization, which has long fought South Africa for control of Namibia, would strike a deal with South Africa under this plan, European and African sources say. The plan calls for SWAPO to assume leadership of an interim government in Namibia immediately. But SWAPO would have to give key posts in the government to representatives of six South African-backed ''internal'' parties in a coalition arrangement.
SWAPO is ''taking a hard look'' at the plan, but may not consider it sufficiently beneficial to its interests to accept this point, a knowledgeable African diplomat says.
The proposal has met with a cautious, noncommital reaction from Britain and West Germany, from which South Africa has sought support.
American officials claim ''not to be unsympathetic'' to it, but well-placed sources told the Monitor that the plan ''indicates that South Africa and the United States are no longer on the same wavelength.'' The US has long insisted that withdrawal of some 25,000 Cuban troops from Angola be linked to Namibian independence.
Diplomatic analysts say reports Wednesday that South Africa would turn over administration of Namibia to any of five Western nations were merely a smokescreen to conceal secret diplomatic activity over the real South Africa proposal. They say the secret plan is the only serious new proposal for Namibian independence other than the UN plan.
At the same time, these sources say, South Africa does not intend for its secret proposal to preclude or replace the UN plan. It is intended as an interim plan.
Under the plan, the Multiparty Conference, a coalition of the six internal Namibian parties (which are considered illegal by the United Nations), would be given such key posts as security, finance, and foreign affairs in the interim government, European and African sources say.
Unlike the UN blueprint, which calls for a UN force to oversee withdrawal of South African troops from Namibia, the South African plan calls for a force drawn from various African countries to take responsibility for keeping peace as the troops pull out.
The secret plan does not deal with the issue of Cuban troops in Angola, and therefore it is presumed that under it the Cubans could remain. This grates against one of the prime US objectives in southern Africa.
Speaking of the difference in US and South African objectives, an African diplomat says: ''While South Africa sees the problem of Namibia in regional terms and wants to take advantage of its economic and military superiority to strike deals on its own terms and in accordance with its vital interests with neighboring African states without concerning itself with global issues, the US basically treats the Namibian question in the context of its strategy for rolling back Soviets and Cubans from places where they have no reason to be.''
Under the plan, Namibia's independence would not be hostage to the Cuban issue and would be removed from East-West rivalries. The idea of linking Namibian independence to a Cuban troop withdrawal was suggested by the US three years ago. South Africa saw no reason not to endorse it, but is not committed to it.
''In recent months when South Africa started hinting that it was willing to strike a deal with SWAPO, the US government discreetly urged (Prime Minister) Pieter Botha on several occasions not to forgo the Cuban issue,'' says a knowledgeable Western diplomat.
South Africa views its proposal as an interim plan that might be approved by the UN, sources say.
For its part, SWAPO is ''taking a hard look at the South African carrot,'' says an African diplomat familiar with SWAPO thinking. ''It is not opposed to entering a bilateral agreement with South Africa. But what it is being offered right now may not be tempting enough. With key ministries in the hands of South African-controlled politicians, SWAPO would play the role of a figurehead without effective power.''
A SWAPO official based in Western Europe told the Monitor by phone: ''We are being offered nice cars and nice apartments, and asked to play the part of South African puppets.''
Real negotiations between SWAPO and South Africa regarding this plan have not started as yet.
''If South Africa puts more meat on the table, SWAPO may well agree to sit down for the meal,'' one moderate African ambassador says. The alternative for SWAPO would be to cling to the UN plan but to make no progress. The South African-Angolan agreement for a cease-fire freezes SWAPO out of any effective role in Namibia, whether political or military, for years to come. The South African-Angolan agreement provides for a cease-fire and Angola has agreed to forbid SWAPO from launching guerrilla operations into Namibia from its soil.
SWAPO is suspicious of South Africa, wondering ''whether to trade one bird in the hand - the UN umbrella - for two in the bush, the nominal leadership of an interim government in Namibia,'' an African says.
As for the US, ''What happened is that Washington believed last year that Angola was ripe for switching sides and striking a deal with the West and that it turned out that the fruit is still green,'' a Western official says.