South Africa bristles. Pretoria miffed at Washington for giving in to mounting public criticism of racial policies
Cape Town — The South African government is beginning to bristle at what it sees as the more outwardly critical stance being taken recently by the Reagan administration toward South Africa. ``The impression which is being created by US government spokesmen that they are all the time exerting pressure on South Africa is not helpful to say the least,'' said Roelof F. Botha, South Africa's minister of foreign affairs (no relation to Prime Minister P. W. Botha).
In an interview with The Christian Science Monitor and the Washington Post, Mr. Botha also said the accelerating disinvestment campaign in the United States was of concern to South Africa but that it would not speed change here.
``The fact is that if it [disinvestment] succeeds it will make reform more difficult in South Africa,'' Botha said. Americans should not be misled into thinking withdrawal of US investments in South Africa was a way to avoid violence in South Africa, he said. ``It [disinvestment] is a more sophisticated form to ensure revolution.''
Botha said the past had shown that vociferous criticism of South Africa, such as was practiced by the Carter administration, brought no ``positive results'' inside South Africa.
The Reagan administration used quiet diplomacy through its first term but has been under mounting pressure in recent months to speak out more forcefully against South Africa.
Botha was gloomy about the prospects for peace in neighboring Mozambique, despite the signing of the so-called Nkomati Accord between South Africa and Mozambique in March 1984.
The accord was a major development in southern Africa. Despite enormous ideological differences, both countries pledged not to allow their territories to be used for attacks against each other. Pretoria wanted sabotage attacks by the outlawed African National Congress stopped. Mozambique wanted South Africa to stop supporting the rebel Mozambique National Resistance (MNR).
Although the security situation has improved in South Africa, it has in some respects worsened in Mozambique.
Botha conceded that ``the possibility exists'' that the MNR is getting support from inside South Africa. But he insisted the government had no awareness of any violations of the Nkomati Accord and had taken extraordinary steps to ensure there were no violations.
``Every accusation, every allegation that they [Mozambique] have brought to my attention I have thoroughly investigated through our police,'' Botha said. ``Up to now we have found no evidence on which the South African government could rely to take any steps against any single person in this country.''
Botha said South Africa's security police had been told to warn known MNR sympathizers inside South Africa that ``they are being watched'' and the government would act against them if they did anything that violated the Nkomati Accord.
Botha said the continuing rebel activity of the MNR was ``damaging South African interests'' and that South Africa would be ``idiotic'' not to want the accord to work as a demonstration that South Africa could ``live in peace'' with its black-ruled neighbors.
The South African government is still trying to negotiate a cease-fire in Mozambique. But Botha said recent talks with representatives of the MNR indicated if anything there is a ``hardening on the part of [the MNR].'' He said the problem was that the MNR did not trust President Samora Machel of Mozambique and that there was ``severe suspicion'' on President Machel's part that the cease-fire negotiations were ``just a devious way of bringing his government to a fall.''
The accord of Nkomati is regarded as important by the Reagan administration, which recently announced it would seek to provide Mozambique with limited non-lethal military aid this year.
Elaborating on the Reagan administration's approach to South Africa, Botha implied that while it was more constructive than the approach of the Carter administration, it still contained a bias against South Africa.
``Our neighboring black states have derived far more advantages from [the Reagan policy of so-called constructive engagement] than we have,'' Botha said. He said the US, even under Reagan, continued to show ``selective morality'' by criticizing South Africa's racial policies while remaining largely silent on the lack of human and political rights throughout the rest of Africa.
On the question of independence for Namibia (South-West Africa), Botha said talks with the US and Angola on the requirement that the Cuban troops in Angola be withdrawn as part of a settlement were continuing. ``We are working at it,'' he said. But he said there was no reason to expect soon a ``decisive move forward'' toward independence for the South African-controlled territory.
There has been much speculation here that the government is considering releasing from prison Nelson Mandela, the leader of the African National Congress. Botha said the government had made no decision on the matter which he called ``delicate.'' But in his opinion the government's response would be ``sympathetic'' if Mr. Mandela abandoned the ANC's strategy of using violence to achieve political ends.
[Mandela, meanwhile, in an interview published Sunday in a London newspaper, said the ANC would call a truce if the government would ``legalize us, treat us like a political party, and negotiate with us. Until they do, we will have to live with the armed struggle.'']