“As evidence mounts that South African regular troops are fighting alongside the joint UNITA-FNLA command in southern and eastern Angola, even the most die-hard of the faithful no longer seriously dispute the hideous South African connection. Instead they fall away into an uneasy neutrality, or join the rising tide of progressive support for MPLA, or they ponder over and over again the unfolding of events in Angola and wonder how they've been caught on what appears to be the wrong side of history."
The correspondent continues: "MPLA has struck real gold with South Africa, and [UNITA leader Jonas] Savimbi has not clarified his stance on the issue. Some of Savimbi's advocates maintain that Daniel Chipenda - Agostino Neto's former rival for leadership within MPLA who defected to FNLA early last year - is, in fact, the South African connection. It was Chipenda, they say, who brought South African regulars with him when his 'flying column' entered southern Angola in October."
Some of the doubt we shared in our discussions with UNITA cadre appears to be taking shape in the worst of forms. And the sympathizers are beginning to question the very nature of UNITA.
They are finding it difficult to live with the allegation of being "stooges of Pretoria." Unlike Winston Churchill, who was willing to make a pact with the devil to defeat the Nazis, or Livio Maitan of the Fourth International, who defended the FNLA's request for aid from Washington by saying that the links were not the essential thing, but how the struggle of the Angolan masses for independence was carried out, the UNITA-ites do not feel that the end necessarily justifies the means.
While many of UNITA's Marxist supporters are retreating, the pan-African socialists remain staunch and unyielding. Their fervent nationalism and unbridled anti-communism makes them the eternal adversaries of the mestizo-led MPLA.
Stop the Fratricide
Having some idea of South Africa's military might and firepower, it is quite conceivable that the Boers are moving through southern and eastern Angola without the request of, or resistance from, UNITA. The summer skirmish at the hydroelectric facility on the Cunene river revealed that South Africa has the military capability to deal with all three movements simultaneously. UNITA is obviously too ill-equipped and poorly-trained to fight both the Boers from South Africa and MPLA.
UNITA is in deep trouble. And with FNLA virtually eliminated from the struggle, it will take all of Savimbi's charisma and wizardry to place the movement again on proper footing and repel the attacks of MPLA. But in his egotistical drive to gain a military victory, there is the danger that Savimbi may be willing to sacrifice all his sympathizers and half the Angolan population as well.
There is the slim possibility that with FNLA out of the picture, MPLA might agree to peaceful negotiations, a demand that UNITA has been making since the days of the provisional government. Other than satisfying a sadistic need to devastate the countryside and to annihilate the Chokwe and Ovimbundu people, there is no good reason to continue the mutual slaughter. With all the principal resources of northern Angola, like the oil, coffee and diamonds, practically in the hands of MPLA, it would appear meaningless to wage further war.
Of course, there is the question of the Benguela railroad, which knifes its way through central Angola and is so important in moving the copper from landlocked Zambia, but this rail line could be ceded to UNITA and there would be no severe economic setback.
The Road Not Taken
Many observers of the Angolan conflict have felt all along that UNITA and MPLA were much closer ideologically than a UNITA-FNLA alignment, however politically expedient it might have once been.
The failure of MPLA and UNITA to merge and resolve their differences has been often referred to as "the road not taken." And it is clear now that such an alliance would have been useful in repelling the South Africans, as well as checking the sub-imperialist overtures of Zaire.
It would have also strengthened Angola against superpower intervention and the rapacious multi-national corporations, who eventually must be dealt with anyway, if Angola is to maximize profits contained in the vast mineral resources.
The two movements will have to accept the fact that a temporary plan toward Balkanization, the creation of a northern and southern Angola, may be the only political solution in view. UNITA is apparently ready for such a settlement, while MPLA still believes that a military solution is possible. And the crushing defeat of FNLA may offer just enough incentive to keep MPLA on the march toward total control of Angola.
Herbert Boyd teaches in the Black Studies program at Wayne State University and edits the Newsletter of the Detroit Committee for the Liberation of Africa. He recently returned from his fifth trip to Africa.