Regional Bloc Seeks Boost for Weak Economies

Ten years after its bold start, an economic bloc of Front-line States fighting apartheid is shifting its strategy. Spurred by political reforms in South Africa, neighboring states now are preparing to include the regional giant in efforts to promote growth and political stability.

MEMBERS of a 10-nation southern African economic bloc - formed 10 years ago to reduce economic dependence on apartheid South Africa - are considering involving Pretoria in the effort to revive their regional economy and build a viable market. ``A democratic South Africa is naturally welcome to regional institutions like SADCC,'' said Pascoal Mocumbi, the Mozambican foreign minister, in a recent Monitor interview. ``South Africa is the most developed country in the region and as such should be part of such a grouping.''

This new attitude of Mozambique, a key member of the bloc, reflects both the ongoing political reforms in South Africa and a growing realization among African leaders that international trends - like the economic unification of Europe and the democratization of the Eastern bloc - will reduce prospects for foreign aid and investment in Africa.

But officials of the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC) insist that South Africa will not be admitted to its ranks until a nonracial and democratic government has been established.

``It has always been the position of SADCC that a post-apartheid, democratic South Africa will be an automatic member,'' spokesman Kgosinkwe Moesi told the Monitor from the SADCC secretariat in Gaborone, Botswana.

``South Africa is an integral part of the region and has a very important role to play because of its infrastructure and natural resources,'' said Mr. Moesi. ``These can be useful in achieving the very goals that SADCC is striving toward.''

SADCC will conclude its 10th anniversary celebrations with a summit in Gaborone Aug. 24. SADCC chairman Quett Masire, the President of Botswana, said at the start of celebrations last April, ``We have confounded the cynics and maligners, who argued that SADCC was not viable without South Africa.''

SADCC was formed as a loose alliance of independent states in response to what members saw as a South African policy of destabilization aimed at economic domination of the region.

SADCC's executive secretary, Simbarashe Makoni, says members - once heavily dependent on South African ports and rail routes - had succeeded in diverting 50 percent of their trade through SADCC countries. he regional group has also made headway in establishing interstate airlinks, telecommunications, and power connections.

For the first half of SADCC's existence, South African sabotage of existing rail links to various southern African ports forced a reorientation of trade through South Africa.

A United Nations report published last November calculated that South Africa's destablization policy had cost its SADCC neighbors over $60 billion between 1980 and 1988.

Angola, at war with the Pretoria- and US-backed UNITA rebels, topped the list of victims with $30 billion in losses. Mozambique, fighting a 15-year war with South African-backed Renamo guerrillas, followed with $15 billion. During the same period, some 1.5 million lives were estimated to have been lost through war and famine - 900,000 in Mozambique alone.

South Africa has aspired in recent years to become the engine of regional economic growth. In pursuit of that goal, Pretoria has had to respond to SADCC's success in winning Western diplomatic support. Giving aid to SADCC enabled Pretoria's Western trading partners to find a satisfactory compromise between full-scale sanctions and an internationally unpopular failure to act in the face of apartheid.

Mozambique and Angola have been major recipients of $3.2 billion in aid already given to SADCC countries. A priority project has been the rehabilitation of Beira port in Mozambique. Funds have been used to restore sabotaged rail routes like the Benguela line in Angola, Mozambique's Beira corridor to Zimbabwe and Nacala line to Malawi, and the Limpopo corridor between Maputo and Zimbabwe. Besides transport, SADDC has projects in energy and manpower development, agriculture, and industry.

Yet South African trade with the member nations - Namibia became the 10th member in March this year - has grown steadily. In 1986, trade with South Africa amounted to 30 percent of total SADCC imports and 7 percent of exports. In contrast, trade between SADCC members amounted to only 4 percent of the group's total foreign trade.

SADCC officials insist that there can be no direct cooperation with South Africa until apartheid has been scrapped. SADCC has helped persuade South Africa to make political changes through its success in mobilizing economic aid to the region and focusing Western diplomatic pressure against Pretoria's destabilization policy.

At its April meeting, SADCC leaders began making long-term preparations for the eventual integration of a post-apartheid South Africa.

The leaders warned, however, that it would be naive to expect that the mere abolition of apartheid would lead to economic growth in the region. Some experts say the type of political settlement in South Africa will determine the quality of the regional relationship in the post-apartheid era.

``If a power-sharing arrangement stops short of genuine majority rule, the SADCC countries would be wise to stand back,'' says Rob Davies, economist at the Center for African Studies at Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo.

``Then they will have to continue their economic struggle in an adversarial relationship with South Africa.

``But if a post-apartheid South Africa follows enlightened policies, it may create the conditions for SADCC states to work together with South Africa to transform regional economic relations,'' he said. SADCC PROJECTS Transport and communications 55% Industrial development 30% Agriculture 9% Energy 4% Total SADCC project financing from international donors. $5.3 billion pledged

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