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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 37, Number 5. 3rd April 1974

Zambia hardening its line

page 11

Zambia hardening its line

Lusaka is the capital city of Zambia, a city of some 300,000 in a land-locked independent African state of 4½ million persons. It is a western-type city with its broad avenues lined with jacarandas and modern concrete and glass office blocks. Here in this fusion of African and [European cultures on the plateau of Central Africa, there is one unifying point: the South.

Over 50% of Zambia's borders are bounded by hostile regimes of the white minority powers of Southern African states: Rhodesia, Namibia, Angola and Mozambique. Under the legacies of colonial rule when Zambia was North Rhodesia, all its trade was orientated to the South through Rhodesia, South Africa and Mozambique. Since the border closure of early 1973 by Ian Smith, a new orientation of trade is taking place, and from late 1974 the eastern flow of goods along the Tanzam railway to Dar Es Salaam will radically alter the interdependence of Zambia with its neighbours.

Aid from China

What are they saying about this in Lusaka? "This will make us independent of the illegal regime in Zimbabwe (Rhodes-is)', 'this will allow the freer flow of our copper exports to the world markets without putting freight rates into the pockets of our enemies, this will ease the shortages which Smith's border closure has presented us with.' It has led to closer co-operation with Tanzania with whose help the railway is being built by China's massive overseas aid—the opening up of remote areas that had no major communications before the new railway. Perhaps the more significant effects of the railway and border closure will be the change of attitudes and activities that will emerge from this re-orientation of trade. Zambia will become more independent and thus perhaps take a harder line with the white regimes to the south—certainly this is what Lusaka is saying. What forms will a 'harder line' take? More support to the Liberation Movements that struggle for the liberation of their homelands, is one possible demonstration of harder line action, another might be the imposition of further economic embargoes on Portugal's colonial territories and the white settler regimes; Zambia after all is a major copper producer and a member of CEPEC (the association of copper exporting countries). With 97% of its exports being copper it may follow the example of the oil producing states to put pressure on South Africa and her allies. To put pressure for example on those regimes which sell arms to South Africa and Portugal, which sell napalm and chemical defoliants to Portugal for use in Angola and Mozambique.

Image of a soldier and crouching men with their hands in the air

But there are other aspects of the situation which may change the picture when the 'Uhuru' railway is completed. Frelimo, the movement for the liberation of Mozambique, has deliberately stayed their hand in attacks on the Beira-Umtali railway that links Mozambique to Rhodesia, so that imports to Zambia etc can percolate through Beira and up through Malawi. This will not be necessary when the new trade route is available and Lusakans say that then Frelimo will step up its attacks and smash Mozambique's communications. Also by moving into these regions along the Mozambique-Umtah railway, the power lines that carry electricity from the Cabora Bassa Dam to the Republic of South Africa will he exposed to Frelimo's demolition teams.

Smith—a white egg

Other talking points concern prospects for the Smith regime in Salisbury. There are many who think that this will be 'the first white egg in the box of minority regimes to break'. Internal dissensions appear to be a very real problem for Smith. His defence forces stretched to their full capacity have had to seek help from the army of the Republic of South Africa. His blacks in the army are rebelling against the savagery of the detention camps into which their 'brothers' are being herded. The White Rhodesian officers are finding that it's not like world war two, and the good old days' of the Alamein campaign. Many whites are territorials and insufficiently trained or motivated to cope with the dedication of ZANU's and ZAPU's forces. There is also dissension between the South African troops and the Rhodesians. Rhodesians are less professional as soldiers, but it is the South Africans who are suffering most of the casualties along the borders. The arrogance of the Afrikaaner does not go down well with the arrogance of the white Rhodesian settlers, the Rhodesians considering themselves a cut above the Boers socially.

Sanctions too are hurting the Smith regime, say the Lusakans. Rhodesia is in need of new agricultural machinery, and its mining equipment is worn and outmoded. The oil embargo is having a drastic effect on the economy. Smith must compromise. He is being pressured by all sides for compromise with Bishop Muzorewa. The British have a catastrophic economic problem on their hands and do not wish to bolster Smith any more: the South Africans have not forgiven him for the border closure without prior consultation with them, the Portuguese have many reservations about the operations of guerrilla parties of freedom fighters from inside Smith's borders. All the white regimes resent the spotlight that the border closure focused on Southern Africa, and on Kenneth Kaunda's methods to to alleviate the situation. A calm face was a major effort of the South African Publicity and Propaganda Department.

Black faces in Parliament

What about compromise with Muzorewa? Even the Rhodesian press is speaking of the necessity to reach some sort of agreement and 'to put some more black faces in Parliament'. But whereas this might have worked three or four years ago, the situation is different now and political awareness and conscience have reached a stage now where the African will not be caught napping. Too much hardship, and inhumanity have been caused to him and his brothers since the Pearce Commission episode for him to trust the white regime at all. Muzorewa will seek talks, but those talks will be aimed at creating a real policy of self-determination, not a facade to appease some white consciences.

Photo of a mother and baby holding a rifle