South Africa is again slamming the negotation door on the future of Namibia (SouthWest Africa) in the face of the United Nations. At the same time, it could perhaps be opening a new diplomatic window by hinting it may favor a London Lancaster House-type conference.
If such a conference were held, it could lead to independence for the vast, arid, but mineral-rich territory just north of South Africa.
There have been growing reports in recent weeks that South Africa has been eyeing the possibility of a Namibian replay of the recent successful British-sponsored Rhodesia peace talks held in London's Lancaster House.
In this case, white-ruled South Africa would sit down with SWAPO (the South-West African People's Organization) in an attempt to end the guerrilla war SWAPO has waged in the territory against South African forces.
The idea of a London conference, on the other hand, may be only a delaying tactic, some here believe, while South Africa makes up its mind how to work out a solution for the difficult problem of Namibia's independence.
South Africa, which wrested the colony of South-West Africa away from Germany during World War I, has held on to the largely desert area ever since as a result of a League of Nations mandate.But when the league's successor, the United Nations, subsequently told South Africa to yield the territory, Pretoria stoutly resisted.
Now South Africa -- even though it is placing new roadblocks in the way of implementation of the UN plan for Namibia's independence -- appears willing to move the dispute into a new locale and framework.
At a Lancaster House-type conference, the so-called Turnhalle Alliance parties (known to be friendly toward South Africa but considered to be illegal by the UN) presumably would participate, as well as SWAPO.
What South Africa apparently is not willing to do is to go along with a plan worked out through the UN by five Western nations (United States, Britain, France, Canada, and West Germany). At least this is the impression left here, since Pretoria has placed roadblocks that make the way to an internationally acceptable solution impassible.
South Africa's long-awaited reply to UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim's proposal for a wide demilitarized zone along the border between Angola and Namibia is "extremely disappointing," according to analysts here.
South Africa accepted the concept of a demilitarized zone "in principle" last November. But since then it has attached conditions that are unacceptable for the United Nations or for the "front line" states (Angola, Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique, Tanzania) adjacent to Namibia or South Africa.
UN Undersecretary for Political Affairs Brian Urquart and Lt. Gen. Prem Chand , commanding general of the United Nations Transition Assistance Group, went to South Africa and Namibia on two separate missions, one diplomatic and one military, in March. Their objective was to provide South African authorities with every possible clarification of the UN plan and the demilitarized zone in particular.
Nevertheless, South Africa has come up with new questions regarding the UN-sponsored process and has set forth new conditions that, in the view of most diplomats here, are unacceptable. South Africa has:
* Introduced UNITA (an Angolan guerrilla group that fights Angola's central government) as a party to the UN agreement by requesting its "approval" of the demilitarized zone.
* Asked Mr. Waldheim to ignore all the UN resolutions regarding Namibia, including those recognizing SWAPO as the sole legitimate representative of the Namibian people.