Johannesburg — South Africa's racial strife is destroying the fragile accommodations forged with its black-ruled neighbors and threatens to embroil the subcontinent in escalating conflict. There appears to be a shift in the balance of power in the South African Cabinet away from the doves toward the hawks. This shift, analysts here say, presages a determination to fight rather than concede to demands of black nationalists -- many of whom, the government alleges, operate from neigboring countries.
Simultaneously, on the domestic front, increased attacks on whites have led to a definite hardening of attitudes in the white government. An explosive hurled at a van in Durban, Saturday, wounded eight people including two white children.
A sign of the new tough attitude came Saturday with the arrest of black nationalist leader Winnie Mandela for allegedly contravening orders prohibiting her from entering the black township of Soweto. (See related story, Page 9.)
The virtual collapse of the rapprochement between South Africa and its neighbors was manifested by two developments late last week:
The penetration into Angola of South African soldiers in pursuit of Namibian nationalist guerrillas.
The killing of nine South African refugees who had links to the outlawed African National Congress (ANC) in Lesotho.
The attack in Lesotho last Friday followed the death of six whites, including four young children, in a land-mine explosion near South Africa's border with Zimbabwe. What was suprising was not the attack -- everyone expected a South African response -- but its target: Lesotho, instead of Zimbabwe. The rebel Lesotho National Liberation Army, claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Lesotho government dismissed the claim, saying the Liberation Army was a proxy for the South African Army.
South African support for, and use of, the Lesotho Liberation Army would be consistent with its previous policy of destabilizing hostile neighboring governments. South Africa has admitted supporting rebels in Mozambique and Angola to force those governments to end support for the ANC, but it has not acknowledged support for the Lesotho Liberation Army.
South Africa has nonaggression pacts with two of its six neighbors: Mozambique, with which it signed the much publicized Nkomati Accord in March 1984, and Swaziland, with whom it signed a secret treaty in 1982. South Africa also signed an accord with Angola in 1984 and reached an informal understanding with Lesotho.
Nearly 1,000 people have died in South African unrest this year, and more than 120 guerrilla attacks have reportedly taken place. South African leaders blame the ANC for the violence, and the neighboring states for allowing ANC guerrillas to operate from, or pass through, their territories. In June, South African commandos attacked ``ANC targets'' in Botswana, killing 12 people, including six South African exiles. Last week, the government issued a statement that said, ``It is clear that [ANC] terrorist
elements continue to operate from within Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mozambique, Zambia, Lesotho, and Swaziland . . ,''
In the light of the June raid and the recent statement, the incursion into Angola and the attack on Lesotho signal a return to Pretoria's destablization policy, analysts here say.