President Pieter W. Botha yesterday announced South Africa's acceptance of a plan to establish a new interim government in Namibia along the lines proposed by the Multi-Party Conference, an alliance of ``moderate'' political parties in the territory. But Mr. Botha stressed in an address to parliament in the wake of the final withdrawal of South African troops from Angola that South Africa remained committed to an internationally acceptable independence settlement for Namibia.
As long as there was a chance of securing the withdrawal of Cuban forces from Angola through negotiation, South Africa, he said, would not ``act in a manner irreconcilable with the international settlement plan.'' Mr. Botha was referring to the United Nations peace plan for Namibia, as contained in Resolution 435.
Botha's emphasis on Pretoria's continued commitment to the UN plan may have been in response to signals from the United States that it would not accept any major move away from Resolution 435.
The MPC started as a conference of six ``moderate'' parties seeking a formula to end the stalemate in Namibia. Its backing from the black majority was suspect from the start because it was shunned by the main black nationalist force, SWAPO (South West African People's Organization). SWAPO is waging a guerrilla war for control of Namibia.
The MPC has been weakened since its inception by the defections of radicals from one of its member parties, the South West African National Union, as well as the withdrawal of the Damara Council. Both the dissidents and the Damara Council have aligned themselves with SWAPO in a ``patriotic alliance.''
While agreeing yesterday to proposals by the MPC for a new interim government, Botha left no doubt that the new government's powers would have limits.
All laws passed by the envisaged 62-member legislative assembly would require the signature of approval of the South African-appointed administrator general, thus giving Pretoria a veto power in the territory. In the eyes of the world, South Africa, and not its ``moderate'' allies within Namibia, will still be viewed as the governing power in Namibia, most analysts expect.
Botha said South Africa would retain its existing control over defense and foreign affairs in Namibia and continue to negotiate with the UN and the international community for an acceptable independence plan.
An MPC proposal for the establishment of a council to draft an independence constitution for Namibia was accepted by Botha on condition that it be regarded as one prepared for submission to the elected assembly envisaged under the UN plan.
Resolution 435 calls for the people of Namibia to elect an assembly, under UN supervision, that would in turn draw up a constitution.
Botha presented the new plan for a limited form of Namibian self-government as an interim measure only, pending agreement on an internationally accepted plan for independence.
South Africa has repeatedly stated, and Botha emphasized yesterday, that it will agree to implementation of the UN plan only when there is a clear ``breakthrough on the withdrawal of Cubans from Angola.'' The US and South Africa have insisted on a Cuban withdrawal as part of Namibian independence.
Talks on Cuban withdrawal late last year failed to bridge the differences between South Africa and Angola on how and under what conditions, and at what speed, Cuban troops should be withdrawn. The United States is acting as a middleman in these negotiations.
While Botha said he was still committed to independence for Namibia, he seemed to leave the door open to a ``regional alternative'' to the UN plan.
He said of a Cuban withdrawal: ``Should it eventually become evident, after all avenues have been thoroughly explored, that there is no realistic prospect of attaining this goal, all the parties most intimately affected by the present negotiations will obviously have to reconsider how internationally acceptable independence may best be attained in the light of prevailing circumstances.''