13 DECEMBER 1975, Page 13

South Africa's fear

Andrew Fraser

Ever since mid-October when the Chipenda Brigade stormed through the frontier town of Ruacana, to drive the Russian supported MPLA forces northwards as far as Novo Redondo we have heard a lot in the media about South African involvement in the Angolan civil war. The MPLA propaganda machine has made great capital out of the involvement of their opponents FNLA/UNITA with the pariah of African politics. No Black African country can be seen to have public dealings with South Africa for essential supplies of foodstuffs. The opportunity for bringing down odium on the FNLA/UNITA alliance presented by the white South African officers of the Chipenda Brigade has not been missed.

Black Africa's strongest country, Nigeria, has publicly declared its support for MPLA directly attributing its decision to South African involvement; likewise Tanzania. Zambia, a country at present economically paralysed by the closure of the Benguela railway and currently backing UNITA to reopen it for them, is sensitive to OAU opinion and much embarrassed by its alliance. Publicly it is in the strange position of recognising all three warring parties. The forty-six member countries of the OAU are by no means all against UNITA; many would be less than happy with a Moscow-aligned Angola; Francophone Africa in particular sees in Dr Savimbi a statesman of great stature; his choice of allies. however continues to rankle.

I was in Dr Savimbi's capital, Huambo, last week and I tried to find out the answer to two questions. Firstly, granted South Africa is aware of her standing with Black Africa, why does she take parties of press men into Angola from South West Africa showing them military installations and greatly increasing the publicity surround her involvement? Secondly, granted the comparative weakness of MPLA forces in mid-October, why did South Africa not end the war with a devastating surgical operation to defeat her opponent? Her army was undoubtedly capable of such an operation and the ensuing world outcry would die down to nothing in a matter of weeks. Not many people remember Turkey's aggression in Cyprus any more.

It seems that South Africa fears the emergence of mandst Angola, possibly one that grants Russia her first naval bases in the South Atlantic and probably one that would give support to similarly orientated freedom movement within South Africa. Therefore in mid October the tide of MPLA advances was dramatically turned by the well armed and South African officered Chipenda Brigade. This gained enough territory to contain MPLA affectively in and around Luanda but it has

since been disbanded. South African support is now entirely logistical with SAF Hercules transports and Puma helicopters flying supplies into Southern Angola. A South African major I met in Silva Porto who was supervising the unloading of fuel from a C-130 described the war as "static." Newsmen see South Africans at airports, no newsmen are allowed to the front and no one has proof that there are South African combatants involved. In a recent interview printed in Newsweek Dr Savimbi said that after the war was over it would become clear that South Africa was not his biggest ally. He told me that the white combatant officers currently in his army are all French mercenaries who operate in several groups under his own personal command.

The truth is that South Africa also fears any strong neighbour, especially one led by an Angolan nationalist of Savimbi's calibre. Swiss-educated Savimbi has the support of four million of Angola's population of five million. fie was opposed to the exodus of white Angolans that turned into a stampede in late July denuding Angola of its technical class and he is keen for these people to return to their homes. Unlike MPLA he is against nationalisation of industry, seeing in western companies his country's chance to realise its vast potential in national resources. But first of all Savimbi is a nationalist and he further increased South Africa's uneasiness on Decemtier 7 by confirming a 1968 agreement with SWAPO to provide them with military bases in Southern Angola. It is therefore South Africa's policy to weaken Savimbi with adverse publicity; at the moment South Africa's presence is a running sore draining UNITA of support, moral and logisti

••• South West African People's Organisation

This policy of alienation is further backed. a plan to balkanise her neighbour; as with Bantustan, South Africa now has designs to create a political entity out of the Ovambo tribal territory. This comprises the Northern part of South West Africa and the southern' most part of Angola. Such an Ovamboland would create a secure buffer zone between South West Africa and a strong Angola under Savimbi or at worst a marxist regime. South Africa's investment in Ovamboland is alreadY huge; an enormous irrigation system has be built around the Cunene river. Linked to this' an agreement signed with the Portuguese government before the April 25 revoluthan, which granted South Africa the mineral exploration and exploitation rights in this Pert of Angola for fifty years. South Africa is loathd to abandon the fortune in copper, iron, gold an uranium that lies beneath the soil of Southern Angola. The man backed by South Africa to bring about the balkanisation is Daniel Chipencla• His career is a catalogue of opportunisin:. a former football star, he threw in his lot votn MPLA where he was given command in tb.e army; seeing more chance of advancement Holden Roberto's FNLA he left the marxists. did very well with FNLA, becoming secretarYd. general of the party. Then in early July be three days of meetings in Windhoek General van den Berg, the head of Boss, Saat Africa's notorious state security organisation. In mid-October he gained instant stature at the heau of the all-conquering Chipenda Brigade' Now his personal headquarters is in the cleeP south of Angola (Ovambo country) at Serge Pinto where he has at least 1,000 FNLA tronPlis and which Savimbi considers a great ell°1,0 threat to hold 2,000 UNITA men in Huambo 4' miles from any front. One does not know what price Chipenda.bas, offered at the Windhoek meeting, but certain') he is the stick with which South Africa hopes° beat Savimbi into line.