The South African military is pressing for changes in plans to bring independence to Africa's last colony, Namibia, formerly South-West Africa. Unless it gets its way, a top South African Military figure hints, the South African Army will not pull out of the territory. Instead, it may widen the bush war engulfing the southwestern part of the continent.
Specifically, Gen. Charles Lloyd, commander of South African forces in Namibia, warned that his troops may strike at more targets in neighboring Angola. This would be in an effort to reduce the power of the black nationalist guerrillas now fighting against the South African presence in disputed Namibia.
General Lloyd says his forces thus far have tried to avoid direct confrontation with the Angola government. But he warned that could change as his forces continue to launch preemptive strikes against guerrillas of the South- West African People's Organization (SWAPO).
"The intention is not to damage [Angola's] infrastructure," General Lloyd told a group of foreign journalists here; but he added that there were some "beautiful targets" in Angola that had thus far remained untouched only because of South Africa's restraint.
"But I think we will reach a stage," warned the burly, bespectacled general, "when we have to go for SWAPO" regardless of whether that leads to damage to Angola's roads and bridges -- or even direct clashes with its troops.
The general added that he hoped such a time could be postponed "as long as possible." However, a number of reports from Angola suggest it arrived long ago. Western journalists traveling in the southern part of Angola indicate widespread destruction of towns and villages, apparently because of South African military action.
There also have been allegations that South Africa has dispatched mercenaries into Angola, where it is charged they have committed atrocities against local residents. South African government officials deny the charges, however.
South Africa has occupied Namibia in defiance of the United Nations since 1966. It agreed to an independence plan for the disputed mineral-rich territory in 1978, but negotiations over implementations of that plan have bogged down repeatedly.
South Africa's continued presence in Namibia is expected to be on the agenda at the conference of nonaligned nations now under way in New Delhi. In addition , African nations are expected to press for full economic sanctions against South Africa in the United Nations Security Council in an attempt to pry Namibia from South Africa's grip.
South African officials concede the deadlock over Namibia has now escalated to something of a diplomatic crisis. However, widening of the bush war could have even more serious consequences. Angola, controlled by a Marxist government , could call on Cuban, East German, or even Soviet troops for aid.With the Reagan administration in the United States intent on stopping Soviet adventurism in Africa, a superpower confrontation could not be ruled out.
Why is the South African military taking a hard line against implementation of the UN plan?
Military spokesmen question whether UN peacekeeping troops -- to be deployed in a proposed demilitarized zone along the Namibia-Angola border -- would act against SWAPO cadres. In addition, they argue that the size of the peacekeepig force -- projected at about 5,000 troops -- will be inadequate to prevent intimidation of the electorate during elections to choose the drafters of Namibian independence.
General Lloyd says that unless these and other political and military objections to the UN independence plan are addressed, the plan "will not produce the desired results. It will not serve its purpose."
Analysts at the United Nations, however, brand such objections a smoke screen to obscure South Africa's real objection to Namibian independence -- namely, concern that a SWAPO government will come to power instead of the party that South Africa favors, the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance.