In strongly worded statements broadcast on national television, Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota and former President Nelson Mandela, spelled out the South African viewpoint on the Angolan situation:
"This many not be the popular opinion, but we have to face the unpleasant reality that there will be no military solution," Dlamini-Zuma said. "No matter who may win the war there will be no lasting peace, so we have to get the parties to talk."
Dlamini-Zuma rejected the Angolan government standpoint that it would only negotiate with UNITA if Jonas Savimbi, leader of the rebel movement, was sidelined. "Negotiations must begin. That's our standpoint, and it's not linked to individuals," Dlamini-Zuma said. In reference to the possibility of elections next year, she said that although she agreed that elections were generally a good thing, they had to be conducted in an environment where they would be meaningful.
Dlamini-Zuma said she understood that there were those who had concerns about the idea of a negotiated settlement, especially in view of UNITA's failure to honour the 1994 UN brokered Lusaka Protocol peace accords: "What makes it difficult is that Savimbi has not honoured the Lusaka Protocol, so what guarantee do we have that he will honour a negotiated settlement?"
Savimbi, she said, had to realise that even if UNITA won the war, there still would be no peace in Angola because the ruling MPLA party enjoyed wide support. She reminded UNITA that the Organisation for African Unity's (OAU) would not accept or recognise a government which came about through a military take-over.
Dlamini-Zuma said that a negotiated settlement had become more urgent because other countries in the region were being dragged into the conflict. She expressed concern that the war would not involve countries such as Zambia, where 22,000 Angolans have sought refuge in recent months. She also reaffirmed Pretoria's support for UN sanctions against UNITA, but said that they were difficult to enforce because there were still some South Africans who continuing to support Savimbi.
Lekota said he was doubtful of media reports that UNITA was near defeat. "If an experienced guerrilla army moves its position, it doesn't mean it hadsbeen destroyed. They move, they re-group, then continue," Lekota said. He added: "Guerrilla warfare is mobile by definition and if UNITA shifts its position it does not mean that they have been routed or destroyed." He too cited concern that Namibia, Zambia and possibly Botswana could get dragged into the conflict.
Mandela echoed Lekota's sentiments. "We shouldn't be certain that the Angolan government has got the upper hand because there are vast tracks of areas in Angola where it is just thick forest where no conventional warfare can be conducted and Savimbi is an expert in that. When the Angolan forces increase the pressure, UNITA withdraws without a battle. That is a disturbing sign. Savimbi is an accomplished guerrilla fighter," Mandela said.
He added: "We are really tired about the lack of cooperation from Savimbi. UNITA has shown a lack of cooperation which we strongly condemn."
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