• Short Summary

    Fourteen and a half hours of negotiating by Southern African leaders have left the sub-continent as divided as ever, and the chances of a further conference on the Rhodesian question, imperilled.

  • Description

    Fourteen and a half hours of negotiating by Southern African leaders have left the sub-continent as divided as ever, and the chances of a further conference on the Rhodesian question, imperilled.

    A highly-symbolic exercise, hundreds of feet above the chasm which physically divides Zambia fro Rhodesia - the spectacular Victoria Falls - has failed to ease, in any substantial way, the tension between black and white Africa.

    Shortly before the train lent by South Africa for the talks on the Victoria Falls Bridge left solemnly for Pretoria on Tuesday (26 August), Bishop Abel Muzorewa, leader of the African National Council (ANC), issued a grim statement. It accused the Rhodesian Prime minister, Mr. Ian Smith, of deliberately wrecking the talks, and contradicted earlier statements by Bishop Muzorewa that the talks had not broken down.

    The statement wen on: "After a day of reasonable compromises by the ANC, Mr. Smith torpedoed every effort of ours that would have led to a full scale conference". The major stumbling-block was said to be Mr. Smith's refusal to grant immunity to exiled nationalists who wished to take part in the talks. ANC militants, the Rev. Ndabaningi Sithole, and Mr. James Chikerema, among others, would face arrest if they returned to Rhodesia.

    The ANC had insisted an agreement on immunity must be witnessed by Zambia's President Kenneth Kaunda and the South African Prime Minister, John Vorster, two of the key men attending the Victoria Falls talks.

    Continuing the criticism of Mr. Smith's attitude to the talks, the ANC statement said: "All he (Mr. Smith) wanted was to deceive the country and the public abroad that he earnestly wanted a negotiated settlement when in fact he does not want one but wants to maintain the status quo and thus ruin the country".

    Reports from the Rhodesian side of the border said Mr. Smith believed the talks had not collapsed, but had placed responsibility for the next step on the ANC. Before leaving Victoria Falls, Mr. Smith told newsmen the ANC had tried to change some of the terms of the Pretoria Agreement, signed on 9 August, which laid the foundation for the opening of constitutional discussions.

    However, both South Africa's Mr. Vorster and Zambia's President Kaunda have expressed their faith in the talks.

    Returning to Pretoria, Mr. Vorster said that it would be wrong to say that the talks have reached a deadlock or that they have failed. He added that certain hitches had occurred and that certain problems still had to be ironed out.

    Dr. Kaunda, speaking before the ANC statement was issued, said he thought there was still a real chance to find a peaceful solution to the problems of Southern Africa.

    On Monday (25 August), Dr. Kaunda and Mr. Vorster met for the first time. Dr. Kaunda walked on Rhodesian soil for the first time in 12 years.

    SYNOPSIS: These people, at the Zambian-Rhodesian border, gathered on Monday to witness an historical event ... but it turned out to be a disappointment.

    South African Prime Minister John Vorster, and Zambia's President Kenneth Kaunda had just met for the first time.

    As this train stood suspended above the spectacular Victoria Falls, dividing Zambia from Rhodesia, the entire world waited to see whether Rhodesia's Prime Minister Ian Smith could reach agreement with the African National Council. The council wants Rhodesia converted to black majority rule.

    But the talks were destined to end with little sign of progress towards the ANC's immediate aim ... the convening of a constitutional conference on Rhodesia. For some time, Mr. Smith and Mr. Vorster have felt the pressure of world opinion to hold such a conference. South Africa had lent this train for preliminary talks. But the problems remained overwhelming.

    The man leading the ANC delegation was Bishop Abel Muzorewa. More than anything, he sought terms for the constitutional conference which would include temporary immunity for the exiled Rhodesian nationalists who would attend. Mr. Smith wanted the talks to last only half an hour. In fact, they ended fourteen and a half hours after they'd begun.

    While the talks went on, South Africa's Mr. Vorster, and Zambia's Dr. Kaunda ??? symbolically together across the bridge to Rhodesian soil - this was the first time Dr. Kaunda had stepped into what's been regarded as enemy territory.

    Perhaps this was the most significant of all the events on the bridge. Inside the train, distrust was already mounting. Before long, Africa and the rest of the world were to hear an accusation by the ANC that Mr. Smith had wrecked the talks, by refusing to compromise on the immunity question. Mr. Smith was to say responsibility for the next step towards a conference ??? with the ANC. Of all the key men, only Mr. Vorster and Dr. Kaunda, believed progress was at hand.

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