December 1, 1988
2 mins read





There have been some dramatic developments, on the South African political landscape. Recently, the “Sharpeville Six”, who had faced the threat of judicial execution, were granted a reprieve by President Botha. That came in the wake of world-wide appeal for their release. In another, totally unexpected move, two leading members of both the ANC and the PAC, were released from prison, unconditionally. It is true, though, that the two men were suffering from serious illnesses. The South African government would not like to have them die in prison.

While the Minister of Law and Order, Adrian Vlock, revealed recently, that Nelson Mandela would not be returned to prison, after his treatment for tuberculosis. In his words, Mandela would be kept in a safe and comfortable location where he could see his family, on a continuous basis. All these developments, must also be linked with the agreement with Cuba, Angola and the united State, for disengagement from Angola, and the implementation of UN Resolution 435, for the independence of Namibia, after seventy years of South African occupation.

Expectedly, the various moves of President Botha have aroused the positive feelings of different sections of the Western press. He has been re-discovered as a “Great Liberal”. The more conservative sections of the media, are beginning to wonder, why sanctions imposed on South Africa, should not be lifted. Hypocrisy and hysteria have been let loose. But the people of South Africa, the vast majority fighting to achieve a non-racist, democratic state, seem not to be bothered by the sop that Botha is selling to the world. Why should they?

Inspite of the reprieve for the “Sharpeville Six”, there still 273 persons on death row in South Africa. Executions are going on in the prisons of that country, on a regular basis. Most of the victims are, of course, Black. President Botha’s gestures are also designed to impress George Bush, the American President-elect. He has vowed to continue the policies of Reagan in connection with the South African situation. In essence, that means minimal verbal condemnation of apartheid, tacit approval of its coercion of the liberation movement and co-sponsorship of such bandit outfits as UNITA and RENAMO.

The South African economy is a cause for concern for the Botha regime. Debt servicing is biting hard. There is stagnation in vital areas of the economy and the sanctions and divestment movement have dried up vital sources of foreign exchange, that is badly needed for growth. The South African economy cannot meet the demands of a growing population. This is the basic explanation for the South African need for international goodwill.

The regional strategies of President Botha, are rooted in the defeat suffered at Cuito Cuanavale at the hands of the Angolan armed forces. It lost superiority in the air and in the number of aeroplanes. While the cost of the illegal occupation of Namibia could no longer be met by a stagnant South African economy. That was costing $100million per day. These regional developments have further exposed the serious problems of rivalry existing within the South African state security council. On the one hand is the bureaucracy of the Foreign Affairs Ministry under Pik Botha, and on the other, the aggressive forces of the Army, under General Malan.

The army went too far in pursuit of the aggressive underpinnings of the “TOTAL ONSLAUGHT” strategy of the regime. In the process, it got its nose bloodied in Angola. President Botha is nor a “Great Liberal”. He will not jeopardise white rule and privilege. What he is doing, is tinkering with modifications to ensure its continued existence.

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