The next few weeks could be critical ones for the entire future orientation of southern Africa.
On April 20th, the first completely biracial election is scheduled for war-weary Rhodesia. On that day 100,000 white and 2.8 million black voters go to the polls to select the rulers of the new Zimbabwe-Rhodesia.
The U.N. has declared the election illegal, mainly because the Communist-backed Patriotic Front guerrillas, knowing they can't win at the polls, refuse to test their strength at the polls. Instead, the P.F. will do everything in its power to disrupt the election, from intimidation to attempted attacks on polling booths.
Rhodesia's Prime Minister Ian Smith has asked for international observers to come and witness the impartiality of the elections. Few will come. Britain and the U.S., fearful of offending the U.N. Afro-Asian block, have declined the offer. Smith's enemies falsely claim the new constitution, by reserving certain time-limited powers for the Europeans, preserves "white privilege." Actually, it is intended to keep whites in the country for at least ten years, hopefully longer, to ensure a smooth transition. Such guarantees were granted to Europeans upon the independence of Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, but this fact is deliberately over looked.
Smith knows the western powers simply have no will to stand up to the side backed by Moscow. He said recently that Rhodesia had been "dragged down in the Morass of Britain's decadence and decline," and that London was, in effect, seeking to "sell us out to the Communists who operate from Russia and Cuba."
In South West Africa, or Namibia, a similar sell-out is taking place. The early-autumn timetable for the independence of the territory is being jeopardized by the intransigence of SWAPO, the Moscow-dictated party which operates hit-and-run terrorist attacks from sanctuaries across the borders in Angola and Zambia.
Months ago the United Nations, led by the so-called Western Big Five powers — the U.S., Britain, France, Canada and West Germany — put forth a plan for U.N. supervised elections (backed up by a sizeable onsite U.N. force) running up to independence. South Africa said it agreed to the plan. So did SWAPO, but its true intentions were otherwise. Fearing he can't win against the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance, SWAPO Leader Sam Nujoma has been throwing one monkey wrench after another into the machinery — a typical Communist tactic.
SWAPO's overall plan is to keep making new demands, pressuring the weak-willed West to agree to them — and then to force South Africa to finally put its foot down, hoping that Pretoria will call off the whole deal, placing itself in the bad boy's corner, and bringing down upon itself international sanctions, oil boycotts and every other bitter device.
Says Willie le Roux of the Institute for Africa Studies at the University of Potchefstroom [South Africa]: "The present crisis in SWA stems from SWAPO's refusal to take part in the democratic process. It will prevent elections for as long as it possibly can, and for this reason makes impossible demands on South Africa in order to make South Africa out to be the culprit ... Nujoma is regularly advised from Moscow and this latest demand is part of the strategy of continually showing up Western inability to take a firm stand."
The latest SWAPO tactic is so incredible as to be almost ludicrous. It has insisted that during a ceasefire between its guerrillas and the South African Defense forces, it be permitted to establish at least two military bases inside Namibia itself. (If permitted, why not let the DTA have its own bases and forces?)
This outrageous demand, which the "Big Five" are apparently knuckling under to, could be the straw that breaks the back of peace. Reports the editor, John Poorter, in the magazine, To The Point, in its March 1979 issue:
"Within the U.N.'s complex organization, but especially in the Secretariat, there appears to be a built-in determination to accede to SWAPO's wishes, and to do everything possible to advance its claims in the territory... The apparent inability of the Western powers to impose their expressed convictions on the peace plan is exposed, and their weakness is confirmed....
"Whatever their faults — of which their present internal squabbles are a ludicrous example — [referring to the current scandal wracking the South African government] — the South Africans see the issue of SWA's future more clearly than-others. For them it means the difference between, having a peaceable neighbour and a totally hostile one. For if SWA were by some disaster to fall under the control of SWAPO and its backers, we would have all the warnings of full-scale war sounding in our ears. None of us must be so obtuse as to think that the battle over SWA would begin and end there. A look at the map suggests the probabilities of a spreading conflict that must have a final objective in mind: the conquest of the powerful and mineral-rich south, the control of the Cape, sea route, and the denial of strategic materials to the Western world....
"Are the Western powers capable of enough anger and conviction to bestir themselves to action? Or too complacent even to be afraid? I wish I knew, but this is a gnawing doubt."