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June 15, 1988

Report from A.A. Jaquet to SRA, 'Current State of Negotiations between South Africa and Angola'

This document was made possible with support from Leon Levy Foundation

Sending/Completion priority: Priority.


Codes: SRA


Security Classification: Secret


File number: 88sra5495


Date: 19880615


Importance: Important


Sender: A Jaquet


Recipient for action: Only for Department


Recipient for information: Minister, Director-General ADG1 ADG2 AA20 AA201






Missions will be aware of the useful exploratory discussions held on 3 and 4 May in London at senior officials level between a South African delegation and an Angolan delegation (which contained a strong Cuban component) and facilitated by a U.S. delegation led by Dr. Chester Crocker.


In the course of these discussions, the Angolan delegation presented, as an opening bid, an unrealistic set of proposals for the withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola. After South Africa had rejected the proposals and had provided written comment and objections, Angola requested that the South African delegation prepare its own proposals and present these at a follow-up meeting between the parties. Informal agreement was also reached on an African venue for the subsequent meeting.


During and immediately after the London talks it became apparent that a large Cuban expeditionary force, intermingled with SWAPO and FAPLA elements, was moving aggressively southwards towards the Cunene River and on the SWA/Namibia border. Since SA had been pursuing direct bilateral negotiations with Angola for some time before the London meeting and in view of Congo Brazzaville’s offer during separate bi-lateral contacts to be of assistance, the Angolans were invited to meet urgently in Brazzaville and in mid-May Ministers R.F. Botha and M. Malan met with an Angolan ministerial delegation in Brazzaville. At this bilateral meeting South Africa expressed concern at the deployment of Cuban troops on the SWA border, which did not tally with the peace negotiations currently underway. Concern was also expressed at revelations that on at least two occasions ANC terrorists, trained and supplied in Angola, had entered South Africa with missiles which they intended using against civilian aircraft. SA also raised the important question of the threat posed by the newly-deployed Cuban troops to the continued supply of water to Ovamboland from the Calueque hydroelectric installation close to the SWA border.


The Angolans conducted themselves in a constructive manner throughout, gave assurances that they were serious about peace negotiations, said South Africa’s concerns would be conveyed to their government immediately and that nothing would be done from the Angolan side to hamper these negotiations. They also undertook to provide SA with a response to concerns about the continued water supply to Ovamboland. It was also agreed and publically announced that with the concurrence of the Brazzaville government, the follow-up meeting that had been agreed on would now take place in Brazzaville. The United States and Cuban governments subsequently agreed on the venue and the meeting was scheduled for 8 and 9 June.


Late in May, the Angolans unexpectedly, and to the great annoyance of the Brazzaville government, changed their minds and suggested Paris as a venue. While this sudden about-face remains without a satisfactory explanation, it appears to have been imposed by the Cubans, who are reportedly irritated that South Africa is successfully using discussions with the Angolans on African soil as a means of furthering a diplomatic offensive in Africa. We also believe that pressure exerted on the Angolans by African states at the OAU summit in favor of national reconciliation also contributed to the Angolan decision to abandon Brazzaville as a venue.


Although a matter of procedure and not of substance, the choice of venue is proving problematical and is characterized by an exchange of proposals and counterproposals between the South African, Angolan and U.S. governments. At this stage, the Angolans have yet to react to a choice of four African venues proposed by South Africa (Zaire, Ivory Coast, Malawi, or Swaziland). SA also indicated informally to the USA that Maputo would be acceptable and that SA would respond favorably if invested by the Kenyan government to meet in Nairobi.


There are several reasons for South Africa’s insistence on an African venue. In the first place there seems to be merit in finding African solutions to African problems. This signals to Africa that we are committed to the continent and do not seek salvation elsewhere. This stand is strongly supported by every African leader we have spoken to in recent times.


Secondly, beyond the symbolic gesture, our rationale springs from a need to get African leaders involved in a concerted effort to bring about national reconciliation in Angola. While the superpowers and South Africa are best placed to broker Cuban troop withdrawal, only other African states stand a chance of persuading the MPLA to settle its differences with Savimbi and UNITA. Consequently the choice of an African location for peace talks would be helpful to nudge African leaders into a more active role.


In the meantime a comprehensive set of proposals and a detailed implementation plan have been compiled and will be provided to missions at the time of the next meeting between the parties. In London Angola requested that advance copies of the proposals should be provided to them but this will only be done once firm agreement has been reached on a date and venue.


In conversations with host governments and other contacts, missions should stress the following aspects:


A serious situation has developed along the SWA/Namibia–Angola border. Over the past months a large buildup of Cuban forces and SWAPO elements has been taking place at a time when discussions between South Africa and Angola appear to indicate the possibility of reaching agreements which would lead to the withdrawal of Cubans from Angola and an end to the civil war in that country. This would be achieved through a process of national reconciliation and the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 435, which would lead to the independence of SWA/Namibia. The South African government views this buildup of force just north of the SWA/Namibia border with grave concern and as a violation of the spirit of the discussions which took place in London and Brazzaville. All parties interested in peace in the region should urge the Angolan and Cuban governments to exercise the utmost restraint in this regard and not to jeopardize future discussions.


On its part South Africa is serious about peace negotiations and has shown flexibility in the meetings thus far. Proof of this can be seen in South Africa’s unequivocal statement at the beginning of the London talks that it considered itself bound to the letter and spirit of UN Security Council Resolution 435 for the independence of SWA/Namibia. What is now required for the negotiations to regain momentum is a show of good faith by the Angolans who up to now have only come forward with proposals they made in a different form several years ago and who in fact have lengthened their proposed timetable for the withdrawal of Cuban troops from two years to four years.


Prevarication and their about-face on the venue raises suspicions as to the intentions of the Angolans and Cubans vis-à-vis the peace talks. (For your own information: the words of President Sasso Nguesso of Brazzaville, “If the Angolans go back on their word about a venue, how can they be trusted to abide by substantive agreements they sign?”)


The Angolan and Cuban sides have put their good faith in further doubt, in breaking an explicit undertaking by all sides involved in the London talks not to engage in propaganda which would impede future talks. The Angolans have in the past weeks issued repeated exaggerated statements at the UN in New York. The Cubans, in addition to their military maneuvers in S-W Angola, have launched an extensive propaganda exercise in Havana, in the course of a special conference of “non-aligned” nations during which Castro made a series of provocative statements which have been widely publicized. Diplomatic representatives of both countries have been particularly active in a public propaganda exercise aimed at projecting their “flexibility” in the face of SA’s “intransigence and delaying tactics.”


South Africa enters these negotiations in a strong position. UNITA’s military victories in the past year and the SWA Territorial Forces’ success in neutralizing SWAPO infiltration, together with the capture of close to one billion dollars’ worth of Soviet equipment, has had a serious negative impact on the Luanda government. Although UNITA are the big winners, they are not represented at the negotiating table. However neither they nor South Africa can be expected to give up advantages gained on the ground until satisfactory arrangements have been made for the withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola, which is our main objective in these negotiations.


In view of the November Presidential Elections, the United States appears to be in more of a hurry than other parties to reach a settlement. This is reflected in the speed with which the USA agreed on the Soviet proposal of September 29, 1988 as a target date for a solution to outstanding problems. While South Africa is serious about negotiations, the complicated issues involved mean that we do not expect to achieve success at one or even several meetings and SA will not be rushed into a quick settlement for the sake of the U.S. of Soviet agendas. It could also be argued that the MPLA and Cubans are merely going through the motions and are not inclined to make concessions now when there is a chance that in November a U.S. President may be elected who could stop U.S. assistance to UNITA and recognize the MPLA government.


National reconciliation (i.e., bringing UNITA and Savimbi into a coalition government, with the promise of elections down the road) is a very important element for South Africa. The MPLA’s main objective with these talks appears to be to break the power of UNITA or at least neutralize Savimbi, and this is a major obstacle to peace in the region. The Luanda is a major obstacle to peace in the region. The Luanda government’s reluctance to seriously pursue national reconciliation with UNITA is unrealistic. Luanda’s contention that UNITA can accommodated by means of the MPLA’s “clemency and harmonization program” indicates a reluctance to come to grips with the real issues. This program amounts to attracting minor dissidents into the MPLA fold through financial and other inducements and by no stretch of the imagination does UNITA fit into this category under Savimbi’s leadership, UNITA has achieved significant military success on the ground, and physically controls roughly one third of the country. His commando units operate throughout the country, in the far north Cabinda province and in the suburbs of Luanda. UNITA enjoys strong support from moderate Africa and many Western countries. Luanda in fact fears UNITA’s strength as well as Savimbi’s support and addresses this situation by saying that national reconciliation is an internal matter to be dealt with after Namibian independence has been achieved.


Another major obstacle to peace remains the Cuban presence in Angola. Recent reports indicate that far from being withdrawn, that presence has recently been ­increased to a level approaching 54,000 Cubans. A report from Washington indicates that the Cubans may have three goals in mind with this increase:


To make their decision of withdrawing troops from Angola to appear afterwards to have been a bigger concession that it in fact was, and in so doing extract more concessions from South Africa;


To put South Africa under direct military pressure through cross border activity; and


To withdraw from a position of strength so as to avoid losing face.


A fourth motive can be added that of placing SWAPO elements in secured camps on the SWA/Namibia border, a position they have been unable to achieve on their own to date. The Cubans appear to be acting increasingly independently from the MPLA in pursuit of their own agenda. In the London talks it was quite apparent that a great deal of tension existed between the Cubans and the Angolans.


Finally Cuba may see a distinct advantage in projecting itself as a long standing firm supporter of SWAPO which it hopes will soon be in power in Windhoek.


Cuba has its own agenda in Africa since it sees itself as the chief liberator of the continent from colonial domination. Close to thirty thousand students from Africa are presently in Cuba and children as young as 9 years old are sent to Cuba for school and university education so as to return to their countries as conditioned Marxists. Some of the less-schooled black Cubans are conditioned to believe that their forefathers came from Angola and that they therefore have a moral duty to go and fight for freedom in their country of origin. Further evidence of their duplicitous behavior is the covert program of “nationalization” of their troops in Angola.


Description of the state of Angolan-South African affairs. Discusses recent and upcoming negotiations between Angolan and South African delegations, noting specifically the difficulties of getting the Angolans to accept proposals and to decide on a venue in which to have the talks.


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Included in "Southern African in the Cold War, Post-1974," edited by Sue Onslow and Anna-Mart Van Wyk.


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