South African help to Mozambique may weaken black states

South Africa has signed a new economic agreement with Mozambique that may ultimately work against efforts by the black-ruled states of southern Africa to lessen South Africa's grip on their economies.

Analysts here think the agreement could lead to other more significant economic thrusts by South Africa into Mozambique that might pull it back from its pivotal role in the black states' economic independence drive.

The agreement signed Tuesday restores the flow of electricity from the Cabora Bassa hydroelectric plant in Mozambique to South Africa.

The power lines to South Africa should begin crackling with electricity by the end of the year, and should eventually contribute 8 percent of South Africa's electricity needs. Power from Cabora Bassa has been cut due to rebel activity in Mozambique.

The real significance of the Cabora Bassa deal may lie in what follows, say analysts. Successful cooperation on electricity could lead to South Africa playing a greater role in Mozambique in other areas - like transport - that would have greater regional impact.

The Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC) was formed in 1980 by nine area states (Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, and Malawi) with the aim of reducing their economic dependence on South Africa.

Central to that effort is the improvement of transport and port facilities in Mozambique. Such upgrading is essential if many SADCC members are to reduce their reliance on a trading network that runs through South Africa.

However, SADCC's efforts have been blunted in part by rebel activity in Mozambique - apparently backed by Pretoria - that has sabotaged roads, railway lines, and even the Cabora Bassa project. Analysts surmise South Africa may now offer Mozambique assistance in the transport field, undercutting SADCC's role.

Rebel activity in Mozambique eventually forced that country to come to terms with South Africa's demand that it block the African National Congress from launching strikes into South Africa from its soil. The two countries signed a nonaggression pact in March.

The Cabora Bassa agreement is the first concrete economic benefit to flow from the nonaggression pact. But no one expects the economic spinoffs to stop there.

South Africa has long dreamed of creating a formal economic ''constellation'' of southern African states, with itself at the center. Black-ruled states of the region are already heavily dependent on South Africa. This year for instance, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Zaire, Lesotho and Botswana have contracted for maize imports - essential due to drought - through South Africa, according to the South African transport services.

However, the black states abhor the idea of entering any formal economic grouping with South Africa because they oppose Pretoria's white-minority rule.

The Cabora Bassa agreement calls for South Africa and Mozambique to jointly protect the power facility situated on the Zambezi River in Mozambique. South Africa has agreed to pay a higher tariff for the electricity than originally contracted for when the dam began producing power in 1977. Portugal was also party to the agreement since it is the major debt holder on the project, initiated during its rule of Mozambique.

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