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S. Africa to Allow Namibia Interim Government, Autonomy, Pending Independence

April 19, 1985|MICHAEL PARKS | Times Staff Writer

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — Namibia will soon be given a broad measure of autonomy by South Africa, President Pieter W. Botha said Thursday, in a move certain to provoke new international controversy over long-delayed plans to grant independence to the remote desert territory.

Botha told the South African Parliament that Namibia (South-West Africa), pending agreement on full independence, will soon establish an interim government with its own legislature, ministerial council and authority in everything except defense and foreign affairs.

The move will end what is now virtually one-man rule in Namibia under a South African administrator general, Botha told newsmen later, and is meant to prepare the vast, mineral-rich but sparsely populated territory for independence.

South Africa administers the mainly black-populated territory, in defiance of the United Nations, under terms of an outdated League of Nations mandate.

The step already has drawn strong protests from the United States and other Western countries working for Namibian independence under a U.N. plan.

Guerrillas' Role

The United States along with Britain, Canada and West Germany--members of the old U.N. "contact group" on Namibia--see the measure as deliberately excluding the South-West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO), which has waged a 19-year guerrilla war against South African rule and which has widespread support among the territory's 1 million people.

South Africa's apparent intent, Western diplomats asserted, is to increase pressure on SWAPO to come to terms with the territory's legal political parties before they become too solidly entrenched in government.

These diplomats believe South Africa also intends to confront Angola, Namibia's neighbor to the north, with a "last chance" for a relatively easy settlement of the Namibian issue.

SWAPO guerrillas have used Angola as their base for forays into Namibia, and South Africa for nearly a decade had made preemptive raids in Angola against the Namibian guerrillas there. On Wednesday, South Africa said it had withdrawn the last of these troops from Angola.

Botha reaffirmed South Africa's commitment to the U.N. independence plan, which calls for internationally supervised elections in Namibia after the withdrawal of South African forces. That plan is seen by many here and in Namibia as a blueprint for a SWAPO victory.

Cubans in Angola

Botha again made any Namibian settlement dependent on the withdrawal from Angola of most of the estimated 30,000 Cuban troops there. Cuban soldiers went to Angola a decade ago to help the Marxist faction now in control in Angola win a civil war after the end of Portuguese colonial rule.

Negotiations on the Cuban issue have made only limited progress during the four years of the Reagan Administration, though a new American proposal is now before Angola and South Africa on the phasing and timing of a Cuban withdrawal.

Western diplomats assessing Namibian developments said South Africa wants to create "facts"--such as a regional Namibian administration supported by a local legislature and based on an interim constitution--that would make an eventual settlement of the territory's future impossible except on its own terms.

Botha angrily rejected such Western criticism. "I cannot see what is so wrong in granting the people a government," he told reporters, "unless you are so biased that you only want one government--that is, SWAPO."

Foreign Minister Roelof F. (Pik) Botha also reacted angrily to the Western criticism of the interim government in Namibia. "The whole world says we are illegally in South-West Africa," he told reporters. "So if even the (South African) administrator general is illegally there, then what does it really matter if another body is illegally there?"

The plans outlined Thursday for the Namibian interim government followed proposals made a month ago by the territory's so-called Multi-Party Conference.

The conference's six political groups will form a ministerial council and a legislative assembly to operate for 12 to 18 months while a constitution is drafted. South Africa's administrator general will retain a veto on all legislation, and South Africa will have a decisive voice in any negotiations on the territory's future.

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