15 January 1988 - 17 January 1988

The Future of the Front Line States in Southern Africa

Chair: The Hon Cyrus R Vance

In the opening general review of the situation in southern Africa, a number of points were made: that the root cause of the problems of the region was apartheid; that anything that did not contribute to ending apartheid was merely a palliative; that the Front Line States (FLS), used loosely to cover not only the formal grouping, faced the dilemma that they desired the end of apartheid but risked devastation in the process; that, although linked, the FLS had to be considered separately since circumstances varied from war-torn Angola and Mozambique, to relatively prosperous Botswana and Zimbabwe, with Zambia suffering its own problems. Even in the war areas, the civil war in Angola between the MPLA and Unita was largely a matter of the towns versus the countryside and had to be distinguished from the brigandage in Mozambique, where Renamo, wholly supported from outside, lacked both a platform and identifiable leaders. Finally, while the FLS were in varying degrees dependent on South Africa for supplies and access to the sea (although efforts were being made to alter that) South Africa also depended on the FLS as export markets and sources of electricity, water and labour.

Three groups were established to consider, respectively, the current situation in the FLS and possible measures to help them; the effects of sanctions in South Africa and in the region generally, especially in the light of South African retaliation, and remedial measures; and the security and strategic situation in the region. Time did not allow analysis in depth, but three excellent reports were produced.

Group A examined each case separately. In Zambia, where the situation was largely unrelated to South African de-stabilisation, the problems of debt and agriculture had to be tackled and dependence on copper reduced. Until the Zambian Government decided policy, outside help could do little. Generally, but notably in Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and even Angola there were moves towards privatisation and the market economy. The West should encourage these, with a view especially to equity investment. Zimbabwe was the success story of the region, but even there the problems of nation-building and the burden of helping Mozambique to counter Renamo and police the railway corridors (essential to reducing dependence on South Africa for access to the sea) were great. To cope with them the West should consider increased assistance, both financial and military (not confined to training). Indeed, problems of development and security were linked throughout the region. Aid should concentrate on transport, food production, education (of particular importance) and population and environmental programmes. There was a need for better co-ordination between the World Bank, the IMF, the EC and donors generally.

Group B concentrated mainly on sanctions and there was predictable disagreement. Some argued passionately that black opinion demanded the imposition of comprehensive sanctions, even if they were ineffective, as a necessary gesture of abhorrence; others that sanctions had failed hitherto because applied piece-meal and that, even if not water-tight, they would have some effect and give a signal; others that selective sanctions should be rigorously applied; and yet others that sanctions beyond the present list would be counter-productive. The potential for discord among Western partners was noted, especially if the mood in the US stiffened in favour of sanctions. It was also noted that the FLS themselves although not opposing, even desiring, comprehensive sanctions, would not themselves impose them. It was agreed that the objective should be to bring South Africa to negotiate the end of apartheid though there was debate as to how far it was wise or necessary to spell out the nature of the successor regime.

The precise response of South Africa to further sanctions was discussed. Some foresaw violent and drastic retaliation: others believed the element of inter-dependence would restrain it.

While a number felt that it was too early to evaluate the effect of disinvestment, it was agreed that, undertaken largely for commercial reasons and without breaking all economic links, it had not altered South African policy, had reduced resources available to blacks, and, despite some accretion of power to them, had in general worked to their disadvantage.

Group C reported that the strategic reasons, which had dictated policy 10-20 years ago, the sea-routes and access to strategic raw materials, no longer loomed so large in Western calculations. The US Administration - but not the Congress or a large section of informed opinion - saw the region's problems largely in terms of East-West competition. Europe, especially Britain, with greater economic ties, tended to be more pragmatic and less concerned with that aspect. Some argued that US support for Savimbi arose from this perception and was misconceived, aligning the US with South Africa in African eyes. South African aggression in Angola deserved clearer international condemnation. Military aid, both in training and in the supply of appropriate defensive equipment, was necessary: Western nations should initiate or increase such programmes in consultation with the States concerned. Such assistance had practical and deterrent effects and gave a clear signal to South Africa. Mozambique, through which the shortest rail links to the coast ran, was probably the key area in South Africa's de-stabilisation strategy.

The concluding debate attempted to identify courses of action. There was wide agreement that in confronting the single-minded strategy of South Africa, those who opposed apartheid, the root cause of the region's problems, themselves needed a coherent strategy, in which sanctions must play a major, but not the only, part. There was general agreement that some organisation to work out such a strategy was needed, but not on its form. Some argued for building on the Commonwealth group of foreign Ministers, others on the Southern African Development Cooperation Council (SADCC). A few thought a wholly new body would be needed if one could be created, which most thought difficult. To be effective the machinery would have to be governmental and while non-governmental organisations and non-member governments (including South Africa and the Soviet Union), should be consulted, and later perhaps involved, membership at the start should probably be restricted.

Non-governmental organisations should be strongly encouraged to undertake or expand their social, educational and health work among black South Africans.

Some saw the need for a centre for the collection of information, especially about conditions in South Africa.

Finally, noting the distinction between Renamo's activities in Mozambique and in Angola, most participants supported the view that US assistance to UNITA was a mistake and that US policy there and towards aid to Zimbabwe and Mozambique should be reconsidered. It was also suggested that, while there were obvious difficulties, the scope for cooperation between the US and the Soviet Union, whose interest in southern Africa had probably diminished and on whom the costs of the Angolan war must bear heavily, should be explored.

This Note reflects the Director’s personal impressions of the conference.  No participant is in any way committed to its content or expression.

Conference Chairman: The Hon Cyrus R Vance
Presiding Partner, law firm, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, New York; Chairman, American Ditchley Foundation

List of Participants by country

Mr R M Ainscow

Deputy Secretary, Overseas Development Administration (ODA), Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Mr Donald Anderson, MP
Member of Parliament (Labour), Swansea East; opposition front-bench spokesman on foreign affairs barrister-at-law; Parliamentary Labour Party Environment Group; Vice President, Association of West European Parliamentarians for Action Against Apartheid
Professor David Birmingham
Professor of Modern History, University of Kent
Dr Jesmond Blumenfeld
Lecturer in Economics, Brunel University, London; Convener, Southern Africa Study Group, Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House), London
Sir Michael Caine
Chairman and Chief Executive, Booker pic; Director, IBEC Inc, NY; Member, Governing Body, Institute of Development Studies, Sussex University, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, and Queen Elizabeth House, Oxford; Chairman, UK Council for Overseas Student Affairs; Council, Royal African Society
Mr J. Neil Clarke
Deputy Chairman and Chief Executive, Charter Consolidated pic; Director, Consolidated Gold Fields pic; Chairman, Johnson Matthey
Mr Charles A K Cullimore
Head, Central African Department, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Mr Richard Hodder-Williams
Reader, Department of Politics, Bristol University; Editor, African Affairs
Mr Richard Hopgood
Co-Editor, Front Filer
Mr Peter Leslie
Deputy Chairman & Managing Director, Barclays Bank PLC; Deputy Chairman, Export Guarantees Advisory Council
Mr Alan Munro CMG
Deputy Under Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Mr Kieran Prendergast
Head, Southern Africa Department, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Sir James Spicer MP
Member of Parliament (Conservative), Dorset West; a Vice Chairman, Conservative Party Organisation; Chairman, Conservative Party International Office
Mr Desmond Watkins
Director, Shell International Petroleum Co Ltd and Regional Co-ordinator for Africa and the Western Hemisphere

HE Mr R Roy McMurtry QC

High Commissioner for Canada, London

The Hon John Eccles CBE

General Manager, Commonwealth Development Corporation

Chief Emeka Anyaoku

Deputy Secretary General (Political) Commonwealth Secretariat; Member: Governing Council, Save the Children Fund, International Institute for Strategic Studies (Commonwealth Secretariat)

Mr Wilhelmus Blonk

Head, Southern Africa Division, Directorate-General for Development, Commission of the European Communities, Brussels

M Georges Lory

Managing Director, Le Groupe Jeune Afrique, Paris
M Bernard de Montferrand
Directeur, Cabinet du Ministère de la Coopération, Paris

Dr Marion Grafin D
Publisher, Die Zeit, Hamburg
Dr Winrich Kühne
Direktor, African Affairs, Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, Ebenhausen
Mr Eberhard Nöldeke
Deputy Director of African Affairs and Head of Division for Southern Africa, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bonn
HE Rüdiger Freiherr von Wechmar
Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Court of St James’s; a Governor of the Ditchley Foundation

Mr Abdul Majid Osman

Minister of Finance, Mozambique

Ambassador Jose Cutileiro

Political Director, Portuguese Foreign Ministry

Mr Stanley Uys

Co-Editor, Front File; Correspondent, South African Morning Newspapers

Mr William Carmichael

Vice President, Developing Country Programs, Ford Foundation
Mr Michael Clough
Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations
The Hon Mr William T Coleman Jr
Senior partner, O’Melvenny & Myers, Washington DC
Mr Frank Ferrari
Senior Vice President, African American Institute, New York
Mr Wayne Fredericks
Executive Director, International Governmental Affairs (worldwide), Ford Motor Company
Mr Jimmy J Kolker
First Secretary (Political), American Embassy, London
Mr George N Lindsay
Presiding Partner, Debevoise & Plimpton, New York; Director, Ogilvy & Mather International Inc; Board of Directors, African American Institute; a Director, The American Ditchley Foundation
Mr C Payne Lucas
Director, Africare, Washington DC
Professor John Marcum
International Programs, California University
The Hon Donald F McHenry
Research Professor of Diplomacy and International Affairs, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University; a Director, the American Ditchley Foundation
Mr Richard Moose
Managing Director, Shearson, Lehman Brothers, NewYork
Professor Robert Price
Professor of Political Science, University of California at Berkeley
Mr John Sewell
President, Overseas Development Council, Washington; author of several books on the Third World; lecturer; member, Council on Foreign Relations; member/trustee, International Center for Research on Women, the Bretton Woods Committee, the Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid, the American Council for Voluntary International Action, and World Hunger Year

Mr Dzingai Barnabus Mutumbuka

Member of Parliament for Mashvingo North; Minister for Higher Education; Politburo Secretary for Production, Construction and Development