10 OCTOBER 1970, Page 12

• . and flashpoint at Kazungula

The large and poverty stricken desert, lately become Botswana has a number of interest- ing records: the first country to have a woman High Commissioner in London; the first African leader to marry a white woman (though 'illicit contact abound). That leader. Oxford trained Sir Seretse Khama recently called his country a 'bridge across the ideo- logical rift' of Africa. Given economic in- dependence, this may become so and the huge discovery of diamonds and copper. though largely controlled by Oppenheimers South African Anglo-American, may be the path. Though Botswana has maintained a strict and independent neutrality on the question of refugees and guerrillas who find the country a useful transit camp (though the Etsha Settlement by the Okavango swamp is steadily growing), the American attempt to muscle in with aid for a road across the Zambesi is likely to endanger the position. At Kazungula, the frontiers of Botswana. South-west Africa, Zambia and Rhodesia. meet somewhere in the middle of the river. At present across the river where Botswana and Zambia meet in old ferry chugs: it is here that the USA have offered a two million dollar road bridge. South Africa has has- tened to point out that there is in law and fact no common frontier and that the ferry runs by the grace of the Union Government. The USA supports the contention that an un- defined frontier exists with right of access built by custom. This is not a geographical quibble. For South Africa it is a political danger, for along this route are decanted the guerrilla terrorists trained in Zambia and beyond. Any sign that this route could he increased from its present trickle to a bridge borne flood. and Kazungula could become Africa's Check Point Charlie and a centre for diplomatic drama like Berlin. Moreover. any query about the Caprivi Strip contact will raise the whole question of South Africa's control over South-west Africa. And though South Africa holds a clear case 1t1 international law, political pressure can soon turn lie into truth as both Goa and Gibraltar have found.