|Portugal's African Wars (Tanzania Publishing House Dar Es Salam, 1974, 251 p.)|
by Arslan Humbaraci
TOWARDS the end of 1973 events connected with Southern Africa were proceeding with their inexorable logic, towards a Vietnam-like war. It would be a war with even closer repercussions on the West not only due to the vital strategic natural resources of Southern Africa, but also because of its geographical proximity to the West and its commanding position on the Cape of Good Hope sea lanes.
These events could be divided into sequences - the first of which was the undermining of the 'free world' by the very people who were pretending to uphold it. For example, in December 1972 the USA made an agreement with Portugal extending the use of the Lajes air and naval bases in Terceira island of the Azores Group, for another five years. State Department 'historians' found it necessary to say on this occasion that 'by agreement' US arms supplies to Portugal 'are not used against the rebels in Africa'.121.
The new Azores agreement called for a series of US loans totalling $500 million. Of this total, the bulk would go towards building a new airport on the left bank of the Tage, in Lisbon, and only $30 million to 'economic and social' projects - of which a mere $1 million were for education. An 'oceanographic survey vessel' would also be given to Portugal.
But more significant than this flow of money was the fact that the announcement of the agreement on the Lajes bases was made almost the day after Presidents Nixon and Pompidou had met, at the Lajes itself, for their historic talks on the West's monetary situation. The Guardian122. stated that the choice of Terceira island for the Nixon-Pompidou meeting had been made by French Foreign Minister, Maurice Schumann - one of the main architects of the military cooperation between Paris and the Lisbon regime. The British paper commented that facilities granted by Portugal to the French in the island of Flores, in the Azores, and the considerable military supplies granted by France to the Portuguese, had obviously played their part in convincing the American administration that this Franco-Portuguese tête-à-tête was not advantageous to American (business) interests.
A few days later, it was confirmed in the House of Commons123. that the contract for the supply of seven 'Wasp' helicopters for South Africa had been signed by Britain. The Minister for State, Mr Godber, stated significantly that the position of H.M. Government 'was reserved with regard to (such) future orders' from South Africa.
Furthermore, in Brussels, December 1972, the NATO defence ministers reached 'general agreement' that what NATO needed first was to improve its 'quality'. At the same time, criticism was made at the lack of Russian response to the Western proposal for exploratory talks on reduction of armaments - which made NATO look no more genuine on this score than the Warsaw Pact. It was, however, clearly upon the West that the honour fell to continue to cooperate with the worst fascist regimes of the era - South Africa and Portugal. To NATO, clearly, the defence of the 'free world' had to go through colonialism in Africa.
With the unpopularity of the US Sixth Fleet reaching new heights, NATO was now thinking of creating a new Mediterranean standing Naval Force, with the inclusion of faraway Baltic Sea units of the German Navy; there was not even a hint of an otherwise more logical Portuguese contribution here - obviously to allow Lisbon to keep its fleet in African waters. In order to obtain still more aid from NATO, Lisbon officially offered the use of its military bases in her African colonies as well as the possibility of setting up new NATO bases there. Receiving a NATO delegation in October 1970, General Horatio Rebelo, the Portuguese Minister of Defence had stated:
In the southern tropics, Portugal has naval and air bases, stretching from the Cape Verde Islands (off Senegal) to Portuguese Guinea and Angola, which can give support to every modern device for controlling the vast stretch of the entire Atlantic. It should not be forgotten that the whole NATO framework can be encircled from the south, and therefore, our struggle in Africa is a matter that seriously involves the objectives of the Alliance. I wish to reaffirm what I have already said on previous occasions. The Portuguese Government makes its territories and its military bases outside the NATO zone available to serve the objectives of the Alliance.
The second sequence of events could list reactions from Western public opinion to the policies of their leaders.
In London, the influential Sunday Times* asked in its editorial of 19 December 1971 for 'ministerial assurances' that 'visits to this country (Britain) by the Head of BOSS are no more welcome than visits by the Head of the KGB', thus joining the chorus of other such opinion-makers as the Observer and the BBC in unveiling the shocking activities of agents of South-African nazism in the UK.
A more significant protest was, however, to come from New York, where Congressman Charles C. Diggs, a Democrat from Michigan, submitted his resignation from the US delegation to the UN General Assembly in disgust with White House African policy.
Addressing a press conference on 17 December, Representative Diggs called the Azores agreement a piece of 'hypocrisy' which 'compels me to cut any ties that might bind me as a member of this delegation to the administration's foreign policy'.
Saying that the US delegation had constantly been casting votes in the UN in support of South Africa, Rhodesia and Portugal, he added: 'I have found stifling the hypocrisy of our government, which, while uttering its abhorrence of apartheid, unflaggingly votes in opposition to any attempt to act, rather than orate, with respect to apartheid and the minority regimes of Southern Africa.'
Charles C. Diggs represented the American Negro's role in the US at the UN and his action reflected even more deeply on America's situation. On 20 May 1972 fifteen former senior US officials including two Under-Secretaries of State and twelve Ambassadors attacked Nixon's African policy as 'both morally wrong and practically self-defeating'.
Under the title 'Defending the Free World' the New York Times published a hard-hitting editorial on 10 December 1971.
A too-easy willingness to extend help to dictatorships and an indifference to the struggles of suppressed peoples for self-determination continue to characterize the foreign policy of the Nixon administration. President Nixon's decision to reactivate an unnecessary agreement with Portugal for American bases in the Azores and to supplement it for the first time with economic aid is only the latest manifestation of this tendency.
For protocol reasons, if Mr Nixon is to meet the president of France in the Azores next week he also has to meet Premier Caetano of Portugal. Renewal of the base agreement provides a handy trapping for the latter meeting; but the affair goes much deeper than that. An administration that renewed last year an agreement for bases in Spain, buttressing it with $300 million in aid and a pledge to 'support the defence system' of Generalissimo Franco, would hardly baulk at a somewhat similar deal with Portugal.
To many democratic governments, the Nixon pattern seems clear. In addition to the deal with Spain they note Washington's pro-Pakistan policy on the Indian subcontinent, the current White House visit of Gen. Medici of Brazil, the recent Latin-American itinerary of presidential adviser Robert H. Finch, and the travels of Vice-President Agnew, including the visit to Greece that bestowed a coveted respectability on the junta.
For non-white governments, especially in Africa, the pattern also is evident. They know the administration made no effort to block the bill in Congress that orders the President unilaterally to break United Nations sanctions and resume chrome imports from white-ruled Rhodesia. They know, whatever Washington may say, that the new pact will help Portugal meet the costs of its colonial wars to preserve white minority rule in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea Bissao.
The bitter irony in the deals with Spain and Portugal that so tarnish the standing of this country is that they are not essential for American or NATO defence. The bases are conveniences, not necessities, in an era of nuclear submarines and long-range jet bombers. When he toasts the agreement with the head of a Portuguese government guilty of repression and censorship at home and old-fashioned colonialism in Africa, perhaps Mr Nixon will refrain from the pretence that the pact has anything to do with defence of the 'free world'.
In May 1972 students camped for a week in a Harvard administration building to protest the university's ownership of stock in Gulf Oil Co. operating in Angola, and The Economist of 3 June called the African Liberation Day march in Washington 'the largest all-black march in living history'. The Senate blocked the Azores military base agreement until it was submitted for full review and scrutiny as a treaty and apartheid and Portuguese colonialism became a major foreign affairs issue in the US Presidential election campaigns when Senator George McGovern, the Democrat candidate, asked for interventionist pressures in Southern Africa to combat 'racial totalitarianism' and 'white minority ruled countries'.
However encouraging these protests, it was clear that democratic Western public opinion was still too timid, to be able to radically alter the intricate, economically and racially, deeply-rooted cooperation between its rulers and the oppressive regimes of South Africa and her Portuguese and Rhodesian satellites.
Real hopes could only come from the oppressed themselves - who made up the third and final sequence of events.
Tanzania celebrated the tenth anniversary of her Independence on 9 December 1971, amidst the sombre Rhodesian sell-out, the 'Azores agreement', and the 'Wasp' events. From an apathetic 'Free Africa' came the frail but moving voice of President Julius Nyerere. What Mwalimu had to say on that occasion was to warn Africans solemnly that they would 'commit a very serious error if they relaxed their efforts to liberate Southern Africa'.
Whether this warning, at such a critical-moment in the history of the black continent, was to be heard by the black bourgeoisies in most African capitals, was doubtful, but Liberation Movements were forging ahead.
In the course of a tour of East and Central Africa, I asked Marcellino dos Santos, in Dar-es-Salaam on 20 November 1971, 'What Cabora Bassa news?' 'We are right in the zone,' he replied. Confirmation of this, if needed, was to come in a long despatch from Lusaka published by the Observer on 19 December 1971.
It said that a 'new offensive by FRELIMO ... on Portuguese troops in the Tete province, whose main task is to protect the Cabora Bassa Dam ... has come of something of a surprise to the Portuguese who a year ago appeared to have the guerillas on the run in Tete'.
In recent weeks 'according to the Portuguese' FRELIMO had twice attacked the main railway which carries supplies for the Cabora Bassa project from the port of Beira to Moatize, near the town of Tete. The Tete province's main road, linking Salisbury to Malawi had been mined and Portuguese troops had now to protect civilian convoys - at least one of which had already come under fire. Ambushes were expected to increase and diplomatic missions in Blantyre were 'advising whites' not to use the road to Salisbury, but to fly instead.
The event was important enough for even a bulletin as restricted in space as the Confidential Fleet Street Letter,* to include it at length on 16 December 1971 with the added information that 'Johannesburg Consolidated and Anglo-American have pulled prospectors out of the Tete area because of increased guerilla activities'.
Anyway, happenings in the Tete province - a faraway cry from the very recent Portuguese assertions that FRELIMO guerillas would never even set foot in the Cabora Bassa region - had been judged important enough by the South African Army Chief of Staff himself, to visit Lisbon between 3 and 8 December. Earlier, the Mozambique Military Governor, General Kaulza de Arriaga, had paid a visit to Cape Town.124.
The Christian Science Monitor of 31 August 1972 said this was when it was decided to send a combined South African/Rhodesian force to Mozambique, although Lisbon's Foreign Minister Dr Lui Patricio stated, in Cape Town, on 6 March 1973 that there was 'no formal' military alliance with South Africa.
FRELIMO was already penetrating the Manica and Sofala Province - very much against the will of President Banda of Malawi, but with the obvious help of the local population. This was to lead to incidents between Malawi and Portugal, and Pretoria despatched armoured cars and plane-loads of arms to Malawi. The truth, it can be revealed here, is that FRELIMO had been using Malawi territory for crossings in Mozambique for years, forcing President Banda to close his eyes by threatening to blow up his rail and road communications to the Indian Ocean. It might be added here that South Africa is building a new airport for Malawi at Lilongwe - which is 15 minutes bombing distance from Lusaka and Dar es Salaam.
Switching to another front, the 1,856 kms long strategic Tan-Zam, or Uhuru, railway to link Zambia to Dar es Salaam was brought into Zambian territory in September 1973, well ahead of schedule, by Tanzanian, Zambian and Chinese workers. Zambian and Chinese workers had already completed another vital link, the 600 kms. long all-weather road from Lusaka to Mongu, near the Angolan border. It could also be disclosed that 'substantial quantities' of Chinese armament had very quickly reached the MPLA following talks attended in Peking in July 1971 by Agostinho Neto. Like the FRELIMO, MPLA was subsequently to get heavier weapons in the form of rockets and artillery, as well as ground-to-air missiles. But it was with light weapons that, beginning in 1973, MPLA guerillas started bringing down Portuguese helicopters - two in the Moxico district and two others in the Cuando-Cubango.
These vital developments in the supply and communications problems of the MPLA (and of the FRELIMO, in the Tete zone) could best be sized up in the light of the military situation inside Angola. In June/July, the MPLA blew up a key bridge on the Luso-Gago Coutinho highway. The operation was carried out with enough temerity to be entirely filmed by a team of two European cameramen who had travelled some 400 kilometres on foot from a camp in Angola near the Zambian border. But perhaps a more significant fact concerning the MPLA in 1971 was to be found in the words of President Kaunda to this author: 'Comrade President Neto is a very serious man and Zambia feels more secure now that the MPLA protects our Western border.'
Soon afterwards, in October at Mwinilunga, on Zambia's north-western frontier, an MPLA detachment under Commander Lucio Lara came to the rescue of a Zambian paramilitary force which had been attacked by members of the Lunda tribe especially trained by the Portuguese. The latter had thought that this policy of creating 'internal' conflicts between Africans would continue to pay by playing on tribes which have a foot on either side of the border (the Lundas are both in Zambia and Angola). However, a first result was that MPLA has re-activated this sector of the front. A second, and very significant result, was that it created a new state of mind in the largely British-trained (and until very recently British-officered) Zambian Army, towards the guerillas.125.
Perhaps of greatest significance of all, was an event which passed unnoticed in the west and was carefully suppressed in the Portuguese press - the fall on 15 July 1971 at 3 p.m., of the Portuguese Karipande barracks in the municipality of Kazombo, not far from the Zambian border. This Portuguese outpost, supplied by helicopters, fell after a stubborn encirclement of nearly three years by MPLA forces, typical of the protracted, nerve-consuming aspect (for white troops) of the Angolan war.
In the summer of 1972, Portuguese forces launched a general offensive, particularly along the Benguela Railway, which the MPLA was able to thwart, destroying on this occasion the Lumbala Garrison on the Eastern Front. With new weapons and more experience, it could be expected that in 1973 MPLA would no longer limit itself to besieging Portuguese barracks and inflicting damage by artillery, but would change its tactics and instead would attempt to storm garrisons.
This author once told President Neto that in his opinion it would be 'certainly another ten years before Liberation Movements start shaking salazarism seriously in the colonies'. Neto replied, 'Certainly the war will be a long one, but patience is on our side too.' That conversation took place in Algiers, in 1962-3.126.
What public opinion, at large, ignores, but general staff officers in Lisbon, in particular, do not, is that the 'Neto trail' inside Angola is already deep enough to raise fears that it may one day reach the Atlantic coast sooner than expected; this could well happen with the help of unpredictable events for which both guerilla warfare and the African political scene are so fertile. How sure, for example, is the CIA that President Mobutu will last another three days, and for that matter how sure is President Mobutu himself?
That the MPLA may well reach the Atlantic from its bases in Terra do fim du mondo127. must also, indeed, have been in the minds of the Portuguese. In an interview in October 1970128. General Costa Gomes, Commander in Chief in Angola, acknowledged that MPLA was making 'an all-out effort' to initiate guerilla actions in the districts of Bié, Malanje and Huambo, in order 'to open a gateway to the sea'.
Basil Davidson, in an article in Le Monde129. also expressed the opinion that it was in 'central' Angola - in the regions of Bié and Huambo and of Cuanza and Huila - where the rich mining districts are, that the main action will take place.
This goes a long way to explain why NATO - Britain in particular - directly and indirectly, nurse the Portguese and South African navies so much; why there is all this talk of a 'South Atlantic Pact', which would either be an extension of NATO to include Southern Africa, or an agreement, between Lisbon and countries in the southern hemisphere on both sides of the Atlantic - mainly South Africa and Brazil - which some consider to be a more elegant solution. There have already been 'joint' naval exercises in this direction - off Cape Verde, in May 1970, by Brazilian and Portuguese navies, and in 1971 exercises were scheduled by South African and Argentinian units, and on 24 July 1971 Naval Attaches were appointed in Portuguese embassies in Washington and London. The idea of a NATO base in the Cape Verde islands is especially favoured by the Tory party and this was mentioned in a confidential foreign policy document of its Shadow Cabinet, very shortly before it came to power. It is worth noting that the 1969-70 edition of Jane's Fighting Ships stresses, in its Foreword, the importance of a South Atlantic Pact, suggesting a NATO extension instead of creating still another defence organisation. It goes on to say: 'It has long been a particular source of frustration to NATO that its jurisdiction is limited southwards by an arbitrarily fixed tropical line of latitude [the Tropic of Cancer] drawn on ocean charts to exclude naval operations in the southern hemisphere.'
Premier Caetano, who was to 'liberalise' life in Portugal, was obliged to take drastic steps to curb the growing revolt of the Portuguese in Portugal herself. On 29 September he declared 'Economic war in Portugal' warning that 'defence of Portugal's African colonies against subversion cannot distract the government from the development effort at home'. He added that 'growing subversion' in the African colonies was 'inspired by that incredible organisation the United Nations'. This was not to mention 'terrorism at home' and on this score, in November 1971, at the request of Dr Caetano, the Portuguese National Assembly recognised, for the first time, the existence of a serious state of subversion in Portugal herself.
In his end-of-year address, the Portuguese Minister of Defence warned against attempts at subversion of the armed forces by new officer recruits from universities and other centres of higher education, which he called 'veritable centres of subversion' for spreading opposition to defence of the 'overseas territories'. Should the example of six Portuguese officers who defected in 1971 to Sweden, be repeated, draft deferment for students would be abolished.
On 1 July 1972 Lisbon declared that Angola and Mozambique were henceforth designated as 'States' in accordance with the recent Organic Law for Overseas Territories. This designation, previously given only to the former colony of Goa, in India, in fact changed nothing whatsoever in the colonial status of the two countries, and fooled no one - except the British Aircraft Corporation which horrified Portuguese dignitaries when the Concorde on a world show flight landed in Luanda flying 'the flag of the State of Angola' (the MPLA flag) in fact, instead of the Portuguese colours. Elections for 'autonomous' local governments were to be held in March 1973 in Angola and Mozambique. The Times of 17 February 1973, said in a leader that 'comparison with British colonies is a priori defective' - Portuguese colonies could never evolve as Kenya did - and it doubted very much that Lisbon's scheme of creating these 'States' would succeed.
The state of subversion, granting the extreme right-wing government of Lisbon still wider power, was the result of the daring actions of the ARA - the 'Revolutionary Armed Action', which made world headlines on 4 June 1971, by cutting off all communications of the new NATO Comiberlant HQ where the NATO Ministerial session had met in great pomp in the presence of its new Secretary-General Joseph Luns. The new NATO naval HQ near Lisbon, which had cost Portugal £250,000, was badly damaged by a bomb explosion, completely destroying the telecommunications centre.
Lisbon's choice for the NATO Ministerial Council-opposed by the Nordic members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation - had been taken as an open defiance by Africa. The usual wall of silence so ably maintained in Western press media over the African implication of this Lisbon meeting of NATO, was to be dramatically broken by the ARA action - all the more daring in that the ARA had earlier announced that it would disrupt the NATO meeting.
The ARA - believed to be an extreme left-wing group though not necessarily obeying the pro-Moscow or pro-Peking factions of the Portuguese Communist Party, had first signalled itself on 26 October 1970 by damaging the ship Cunene used for transporting troops to the colonies. In November the same year, ARA simultaneously sabotaged the ship Niassa transporting ammunition; a military school; and the USIS centre in Lisbon. On 8 March the ARA managed to destroy, in the Tancos Bays near Lisbon, a large number of helicopters which had just been delivered by France. On 13 January 1972 large quantities of war material earmarked for Africa were destroyed at the Alcantara dock in Lisbon. Not a single ARA member had been arrested to that date. As said by the Belgian daily La Cite of 30 November 1971, the days of 'donchiquottisme' (when in 1960 General Galvao seized the ship Santamaria in mid-Atlantic) were over; Portuguese opposition had entered the phase of armed political action. What was especially remarkable was that ARA had also announced it would continue its courageous actions without causing death or injury and, that it was the very first - and so far the most successful - urban guerilla organisation in Western Europe. It was to be followed by the creation of several similar revolutionary resistance groups in Portugal - namely the ARCO, LUAR and the Revolutionary Brigade. Early March 1973 bombs shook the War Ministry and the Graha Barracks in Lisbon, where recruits are assembled on their way to the colonial wars.
Last, but not least, cracks appeared in the apartheid system itself when the most serious labour troubles the South African empire has witnessed, started with the suddenness of a bushfire - and spread like one. The events were all the more embarrassing for Pretoria in that they broke out in Namibia, once more attracting attention to this illegally occupied territory. In quick succession. The Times correspondent report from Cape Town:
Dec. 12, 1971 - 3,200 Ovambo workers were threatening traffic in Walvis Bay, South Africa's largest port; the labourers were protesting for better pay, human treatment and the right to be with their families. A South African railway official said: 'It is a serious situation. The Ovambos are determined to strike. We have orders from Pretoria to get the whole lot out of here.'
The Times itself commented: 'If the strike action spreads to Windhoek, the capital of South-West Africa, essential services and industry could be seriously affected.'
Dec. 15, 1971 - Windhoek is 'crippled by the strike and essential services are being kept going by schoolboy and student volunteers130.... the strike spread yesterday to the Klein Aub copper mine at Rebototh, south of Windhoek, where 600 Ovambos walked out stopping production... Katutara township - the Ovambo compound in Windhoek - is still sealed off by a strong force of armed policemen ... The Ovambos are protesting ... the contract labour system ... a helicopter today took out three Ovambos said to have been badly beaten. The police made a number of arrests ... authorities were planning today to repatriate by train all of the 5,000 Ovambos on strike in the city. The big mining centres of South-West Africa at Oranjemund (Consolidated Diamond Mines) and at Tsumeb have not been affected.
Dec. 21, 1971 - The Ovambo strike spread today to the Berg Aukan mine, near Grootfontein, in the north-east of South-West Africa, bringing the total of Ovambo contract labourers on strike in the territory to more than 11,000.
Dec. 24, 1971 - Ovambo strike threatens fishing and building ... if the dispute is not settled before February the territory's fishing industry will be hard hit ... The building industry, which resumes on January 10 ... also has no guarantee that labour will be available ... contractors face heavy penalty clauses for non-completion of their undertakings ... The strike ... which has now spread to a tin mine, is crippling the industrial economy
... About 12,000 workers are on strike ... Copper and lead production in South-West Africa has been severely affected and could take a year to reach full efficiency.
The Times commented: 'The Ovambos, the largest population group in South-West Africa, are the backbone of the territory's labour force; at the same time, their tribal homeland in the extreme north, is heavily dependent on the earnings of the immigrant labourers who travel south every year to work in industry, fishing, mining, agriculture.'
Dec. 29, 1971 - South-West Africa's mining industry, which earns 9om rand (about £46m) a year in revenue, is virtually at a standstill today as a result of the spreading Ovambo strike. The latest mine to stop production - at Rosh Pinah - is a new tin mining undertaking which represents a capital investment of 16m rand.
The only important mine still unaffected by the strike is the Consolidated Diamond Mine at Oranjemund. Lead production in the territory has ceased and copper production is down to less than a third.
In Pretoria, Urgent talks began today between South-West African employers and Mr M. C. Botha, the Minister of Bantu Administration. So far, efforts to recruit replacement labour from other South-West African tribes have not been successful.
The Sunday Times of 2 January 1972 said that South-West Africa was 'facing ruin' adding, 'It is a remarkable strike, peaceable with no apparent preparation or organisation behind it; just the determination of Ovambos to refuse to continue working under the contract labour system with the near-slavery conditions involved.'
In the Observer of 2 January 1972 headlines read,
'Ovambos shake Vorster'. The article continued:
Ovamboland is the Government's showpiece Bantustan, designed to prove to the United Nations that South Africa is administering the territory in the best interests of the indigenous inhabitants.
The strike has shaken the South African authorities, because it hits at the foundations of the whole apartheid system.
An aspect of the Ovambo revolt which appears to have totally escaped the attention of the western press, concerned Angola; for not only does Ovamboland stretch to Southern Angola, to the Cunene region, but many Angolan workers work in Namibia where they are recruited by the SWANLA - the South West African Native Labour Association. Last but not least, the SWAPO, the South West African People's Organisation, Liberation Movement of Namibia, started activities in the Caprivi strip. In November 1972, a few bushmen of the PLAN - People's Liberation Army of Namibia - trained in guerilla warfare in the USSR managed to harass the South African base at Kamenga. The MPLA had, as already said, activated the 6th Region covering the Cunene district and where the hydraulic scheme of the same name is situated. On 18 January 1972 the populations of the frontier posts of Honguena, in Angola, and of Ochicango, in Namibia, jointly revolted, attacking with spears and pangas, well-armed South African troops. A Portuguese battalion made up of native Angolan soldiers came to the rescue of the South Africans. The Portuguese have since tried their best to put Ovambos and Angolans against each other and a radio station was being hastily installed for this type of psychological warfare, in the town of Njiva (Pereira d'Eça). Portuguese soldiers, militia men and DGS agents were hurriedly sent by air from Luanda. However, a report of the MPLA Action Committee formed in Cunene, said 'the populations here have confidence in the Voice of Fighting Angola' (broadcasting from Lusaka). It was too soon to look at the full consequences of the Ovambo revolt but it was certainly possible, still with the help of The Times' Cape Town correspondent, to look ahead. In an article entitled 'The Seeds of Revolution - South Africa', he predicted not only 'a lengthy period of [economic] stagnation' but also 'of bloodshed' (unless the black/white gap was rapidly narrowed). He added:
The well-documented brutality of the police in dealing with political suspects is just one example among so many of the only way the apartheid state can maintain itself in the face of increasing pressure for change. The price of apartheid is violence, not only to people, but also to freedoms, aspirations and ideas...
If therefore I am to make a forecast, given the general white opposition to just change as a constant, it must be one of violent revolution. The approach of a millenium consistently inspires prophecies of doom, but I should still be surprised if the whites are in power in South Africa in the year 2000.
This article appeared on 14 December 1971, just two days before the Ovambo 'bush fire' and one wonders whether by the end of December the Cape Town correspondent of the London paper was not himself thinking of the year 2000 as a somewhat too optimistic forecast!131.
There was 'no getting out of Africa'132. and willy-nilly the Security Council of the United Nations agreed for the first time in its history to have a session outside its New York HQ - in Addis Ababa - as a gesture underlining for the world, the urgency of the main problems facing Africa-Rhodesia, the Portuguese Colonies and Namibia.
The recent British agreement with the white minority regime of Ian Smith for a formula for possible, eventual, majority rule had been viewed practically everywhere as a 'sell-out' and it was recalled in the House of Commons that Sir Alee Douglas Home was 'a man of Munich'.
Of all the comments which appeared on the Rhodesian problem, perhaps the most sensible one was that of the Washington Post of 7 February 1972.
There is a fair consensus now that the only certain way to prevent a white minority from fastening its hold on Rhodesia indefinitely would have been for Britain's then-Labor government to have used force when Rhodesia first broke away in 1965. But the moment passed, and with it, one might add. Labor's moral authority to urge any like course today.
But the Tory government was less concerned with human dignity - and more with business opportunities. The activities of the business lobbies, in this last British gesture in Rhodesia, had been visible to all and in Addis, at the special meeting of the UN, Whitehall used its seventh veto in its twenty-six-year UN history, to reject the African-backed proposal for a settlement with Rhodesia. Britain's two previous vetos at the Security Council on 31 December 1971 and in November 1970, had also been to reject black majority rule in Rhodesia. An unexpected event had been the spontaneous opposition which sprang up in Rhodesia itself with the news of the British sell-out and while free Africa accepted the news with apathetic silence, Rhodesia was rocked by demonstrations and rioting, the most important ones since the early sixties when the African nationalist movement was at its peak.
ZAPU and ZANU particularly, the two exiled Rhodesian nationalist movements, appeared to be caught entirely by surprise by the spontaneous demonstrations in Rhodesia -a well-earned lesson since both the ZAPU and ZANU appeared so far to have spent more time fighting each other or discussing politics in Lusaka beer houses than in effectively opposing Ian Smith.
But at the beginning of 1973, Zimbabwe guerillas enjoying FRELIMO support and experience suddenly became active, at once creating panic in Salisbury. 'The famous white redoubt is on the defensive and also divided,' reported The Times of 29 January 1973. Consultations took place between Pretoria, Salisbury and Lisbon and while Rhodesian jets made rocket attacks members of the Territorial Army's reserve units were called up ('Dad's Army for Smith,' The Guardian commented ironically, 26 July 1973) to allow younger men to join Portuguese forces in the western part of the Tete province. The Rhodesian Red Cross started first aid courses for wives of farmers and the death penalty was introduced to replace the twenty year sentences hitherto applied to those 'aiding guerillas'. The Umtali-Beira railway, Rhodesia's life-line, was in danger of being cut.
In the face of mounting criticism, from Pretoria and Salisbury, General Kaulza de Arriaga, the man who had boasted so much - with the vociferous support of The Daily Telegraph and Britain's celebrated counter-guerilla expert Brigadier Michael Calvert - that FRELIMO would never set its foot in Tete province, was dismissed. He was replaced, in August of that year, by General Basto Machado as C.-in-C., Mozambique.
Back in Addis, Russia and China had little difficulty in rightly accusing the US and Britain of being 'the big bosses' of colonialist and racist regimes in Africa. France, in particular, singled herself out by abstaining on a classic UN resolution banning the selling of arms to Pretoria.
Delegates left Addis with mixed feelings, Africa was still too weak to call for observance of even her most elementary rights but she had nevertheless proved, as said by the Observer, that 'the session [of the Security Council] in Addis Ababa was a plain reminder that the problems of Africa henceforth concern the world'.
In mid-July 1973 the wall of silence surrounding Portugal's colonial wars was partly but dramatically lifted in London and for over a week news from Mozambique stole the limelight of the British political scene, with repercussions throughout the western world.
It all stemmed from an article by a hitherto unknown British Catholic priest, Father Adrian Hastings, accusing Portuguese forces of 'carrying out systematical genocidal massacres' of black Africans unwilling to cooperate with the colonial administration. More precisely, the British priest detailed the massacre of over 400 men, women and children in the village of Wiriyamu (or Williyamu), some 15 miles south of Tete, in December 1972. There was nothing unusual in Portuguese forces massacaring African 'suspects'. As a matter of fact the fully story told by Father Hastings had already been spilled over a month ago, on 4 June, by the Spanish Institute for Foreign Missions, in Madrid (which had been Father Hastings' source) to the Roman news bulletin Cablopress. This bulletin has strong Christian Democrat and Vatican connections, but the news had gone - as usual, one could say - unnoticed by foreign press correspondents and the Italian press itself!
What gave Father Hastings' article such impact was the fact that it was published in of all papers. The Times, of 10 July on - the intention was very clear - the very eve of Dr Caetano's official visit to London to celebrate the Six-hundredth Anniversary of the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance.
The incident suddenly stirred British and Western public opinion; Labour, Liberals and, significantly, the more enlightened Young Conservatives, asked for a full international investigation of the massacres, the cancellation of Dr Caetano's visit and Portugal's ousting from NATO. Mr Heath, with the pathetic support of The Daily Telegraph, refused all these demands, but could not avoid a full Parliamentary debate on the opportuneness of the visit of the Portuguese Premier - while Dr Caetano was already in London.
Yet the massacre revealed by the British priest, which was followed by similar stories from other priests, was only the tip of the iceberg; for many years scores of stories of atrocities by Portuguese forces emanating from Liberation Movements had been ignored or dismissed as propaganda.133. Which western paper or radio mentioned the MPLA information, reproduced in the Daily News (Tanzania) of 18 May 1973, putting at approximately '4,000' the number of Angolan 'suspects' poisoned by Portuguese chemical warfare in south-east Angola since last January?
In an editorial entitled 'The Evidence of Massacre', The Times of 13 July challenged the 'incredulity' expressed by some towards (its own) disclosures of Portuguese atrocities. Would one be right in assuming that The Times was also giving here an explanation for the very same 'incredulity' it had displayed itself in the past on the same subject? But why did The Times act this way to bring to light this 'My Lai of Mozambique' ?
The efficiency of the personal action of Father Hastings was certainly a main factor and he must perhaps have found a sympathetic listener in the person of the Editor of The Times, William Rees-Mogg, who is himself a Catholic.
But there were political reasons too; it was evident that part of the Establishment at least, felt that with Portugal on the losing side, a meeting of Heads of the Commonwealth in August, in Canada, increasing trade with independent African countries and - last but not least - with Britain now getting one-tenth of its oil from Nigeria (whose leader. General Gowon, happened to be Head of the OAU), the 'oldest alliance' could not be marked with ceremonial parades only (including Portuguese cavalry brought to London to add pomp to the occasion). Pictures of London policemen protecting Dr Caetano would certainly not find their way into the Lisbon press, but the formidable security force deployed to keep thousands of demonstrators away from the Portuguese Premier was certainly a positive British image - to project to Africa.
'The [British] Government has been primarily trying to maintain good working relations with the government actually in power (in Lisbon) but was throughout preparing to guard itself against attacks from independent African states and others by making clear its disagreement with Portuguese policy' commented The Times of 19 July, in an attempt to clarify 'apparent inconsistencies in White-hall's long-term policies [which] baffle friend and foe'. It was an impossible act of equilibrium for, on the very same day, Radio Lagos commented that following in the footsteps of Gen. Gowon's visit to London, Britain's invitation to Dr Caetano was '... another glaring proof that the Conservative Government has not changed its attitude to Africa since January 1971 when Mr Heath told his Commonwealth colleagues in Singapore that he would never desert the racists in Southern Africa in favour of the Africans'.
But what of the Catholic Church? A statement made in New York to the Observer (23 July) by one of the priests testifying before the UN, made it clear that the Church wanted to change its image in the Portuguese Colonies by now appearing as the saviour of the oppressed: '... the Church ... is now suffering in its own flesh what the blacks in Mozambique have been suffering for a very long time' the statement read.
True, the White Fathers quitted Mozambique in disgust and there have been and will be other priests like Father Hastings. A few were under arrest in Mozambique and several others may suffer the same fate. But all this is a far cry from the claim that priests are now suffering like black Mozambicans.
The Wiriyamu massacre was denounced by the Church while the Vatican was busy trying to negotiate with Lisbon new terms of the Concordat and the Missionary Accord, which still keep the church in Portugal completely subservient to a state which The Times itself now calls 'a fascist state'. As noted in the French monthly Spiritus, of December 1972, 'The state of Portugal is non-confessional and is further characterised by its regime of separation from the Church. Nevertheless no modern state subsidises Catholic missions with greater generosity. Where is the reason for the paradox?' It lies, as explained in the section on 'Religion at Gunpoint' earlier in this book, in the fact that these subsidies serve to buy the omerta - to use the Mafia expression for enforced solidarity - of the Vatican towards Portugal's policies. Cesare Bertulli, former Superior of the White Fathers in Mozambique, quotes in the Belgian review Vivant Univers of May/June 1973, a shockingly great number of Portuguese church leaders who approve of the colonial wars - and of repression at home.
It might be apt to observe here that by August 1973 Archbishop Rugambuwa of Bukoba, the first African Cardinal (who also happens to be a Tanzanian and a close friend of President Nyerere!) had remained totally silent. The Vatican, quite obviously, will need many more Wiriyamu massacres before it will start to 'blacken' its image in Africa.
There was no doubt that in spite of the torrent of news it was subjected to, on the occasion of the Wiriyamu massacre, the silent majority in Britain - not to mention the City and the Tories - was still convinced that Dr Caetano was a 'liberal' and that Portugal was following a so-called multi-racial policy. It remained to be seen if Labour would stick to its decision to oust Portugal from NATO, if and when it came to power. But, thanks to Father Hastings and The Times, Mozambique at least, had been put on the British map; 'post-office clerks in London no longer require the mention of Portuguese East Africa. Now, they say Mozambique is enough!', Frene Ginwala, former editor of The Standard of Tanzania, told me. But obviously not 'enough' for The Community (the official review of the East African Community) whose June 1973 issue appeared with the traditional map showing Mozambique as Portuguese East Africa.
Meanwhile, Salisbury had to admit that South African Super Frelon helicopters were operating from Rhodesia into Mozambique (The Times, 11 July) and in Cape Town that Gen. S. A. Melville, former Commander General of the South African Defence Forces, was forming an army of 'private mercenaries to launch reciprocal terrorist style attacks on Zambia and Tanzania'. General Melville was assisted by Douglas Lord, a former British Army Sergeant-Major, who had formed the British mercenary corps in Katanga in the 60s. Following the Wiriyamu massacre uproar there were more defence talks between Pretoria, Salisbury and Lisbon, and Newsweek, of 23 July conclusively reported that racialist leaders in Southern Africa 'are giving urgent consideration to closer military liaison to combat the [black African] insurgency. And with each intensification of the conflict by either side, Southern Africa moves that much closer to a black and white guerilla war that could one day engulf the whole region.'
While going through my papers for the last time, for the purposes of this book at least, I came across Poèsia de Combate and an illustrated História de Moçambique, both fresh from the offset printing machine of the FRELIMO's Institute of Mozambique in Dar es Salaam, and Contra a Escravidão perla Liberdade - História Illustrada - Edição do Movimento Popolar de Libertação de Angola. This last publication is in the form of strip cartoons relating the voyage of a young Angolan boy from a Luanda suburb to the maquis. All these publications were destined for the guerillas. I found it especially encouraging that movements fighting under such hardships would find it important enough to spend time and effort in producing such literature. Having had to read and write so much about apartheid and colonialism, I felt uplifted. I thought then of Neto, calm and reassuring, and read one of his poems:
Fear in the air!
On each corner
vigilant sentinels set fire to looks
in each house
old locks hastily replaced
on the doors
and in each consciousness
seethes the fear of hearing itself
History is being told
Fear in the air!
It happens that I
a poor man
poorer still in my black skin
with dry eyes.
Brothers from the Liberation Movements were indeed attempting to lead not only a war of national liberation but also a revolution to create a new society. I know only too well that Neto, Samora Machel and Marcellino dos Santos - and Mondlane and Cabral if they were still alive - agree that whatever their desire to achieve independence as soon as possible, fighting for several years and the prospect of a Vietnam-like conflict, will only make them deserve their independence all the more. The more the West supports the forces of minority white domination in Africa, the more Angola, Guinea Bissao and Mozambique will be different from those countries who had their independences granted - sometimes virtually on a silver platter. And it will be better this way.