Peace pact hasn't stopped guerrillas in S. Africa or Mozambique
Johannesburg — The peoples of South Africa and Mozambique might be forgiven for wondering if the handshake between their governments is all it was cracked up to be. The nonaggression agreement signed in March between the two countries has not yet silenced guerrilla forces in either Mozambique or South Africa.
Indeed, reports from Mozambique suggest attacks from the rebel Mozambique National Resistance (MNR) have intensified in the last few months. And in South Africa, sabotage attacks by the outlawed African National Congress (ANC) remain at about the level they have been for several years.
Both Mozambique and South Africa were reminded of the difficulty of rooting out guerrilla activity last week. Two South African businessmen on a trip to Mozambique narrowly escaped death in a rebel ambush only a few miles outside the nation's capital, Maputo. They said five other people were gunned down in the incident.
South Africa got another taste of guerrilla violence when a large bomb, concealed in a parked car, exploded July 12 in an industrial suburb of Durban. The blast claimed five lives and injured another 26. South African police blamed the ANC for the attack.
The regularity of such attacks in both countries has deflated hopes that the nonaggression pact would end violence and has strained the credibility of both governments' claims that attacks were emanating from outside their borders.
Speaking about the situation in South Africa, a security expert who used to work in government here said it was unreasonable from the start to expect the accord with Mozambique to dramatically affect the incidence of sabotage.
He said the ANC had been building up materiel inside South Africa for a long time and is now able to operate - at least at a low level - internally.
The main fruit of the accord, in the view of this analyst, is in the diplomac field. A more constructive relationship with black-ruled Mozambique has helped South Africa improve relations with the West in general, he says.
The nonaggression agreement signed between South Africa and Mozambique committed each country to not allowing its territory ''to be used for acts of war, aggression, or violence against other states.''
Aside from obvious security relevance, the document was politically important. It reaffirmed implicitly South Africa's claim that the ANC was primarily part of an external ''onslaught'' and that it would be hobbled if its bases in Mozambique were shut down. Mozambique, conversely, has insisted that the MNR was solely a creation of Pretoria's making.
The two rebel groups may now be demonstrating that they have more capability of functioning internally in their own target countries than the South African or Mozambican governments thought, or were prepared to admit.
Despite ongoing guerrilla activity in both countries, neither government has accused the other of violating the nonaggression pact.
The official explanations coming from both South Africa and Mozambique are that the accord between their governments has put the respective guerrilla forces in a more desperate situation, thereby making the security situation - at least temporarily - more volatile in the region.
The South African police say the nonaggression pact sent members of the ANC scrambling out of Mozambique and into South Africa.
Police claim to have arrrested at least 18 ANC members and killed seven others since the accord was signed in March.
South African Minister of Law and Order Louis le Grange said the most recent Durban attack was evidence that the ANC was increasingly going after civilian targets. And a police spokesman later said sabotage attacks against ''soft targets'' were easier to carry out and would be less dependent on foreign bases.
The key to shutting off violence from both the MNR and the ANC may lie in a political dialogue between those organizations and their target governments, say some political analysts.
Mozambique is reportedly holding secret talks with the MNR, although Maputo denies these reports. But a South African dialogue with the ANC remains no where in sight.