Mozambique's International
Relations with South Africa

Dossier MZ-0007, part 9


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9. South Africa Continues
to Play a Double Game, 1985

Generic picture of African miner

Above: Despite the tensions in the immediate post-Nkomati period, negotiations between Mozambique and South Africa over a labour agreement continued mor or less normally. The negotiations, in two technical committees, began soon after the signing of Nkomati and covered both mining (where the majority of the over 60,000 registered Mozambican workers were employed), and agriculture (with around 3,000 registered workers). By October a draft agreement had been sketched out.

By the beginning of 1985, ten months after the Nkomati Accord had entered into force, as the US analyst Gillian Gunn wrote in an opinion piece, “Mozambique resembles the paradoxical patient whose operation is a success but whose medical status remains critical”. Despite the fact that for the FRELIMO government the main objective was to clamp down on external support for the MNR, in fact the group's activities were intensifying. An article in the weekly Tempo in January, while claiming that South African support was continuing, phrased the accusation carefully

… há factos que indicam a existência de violações a partir de território sul-africano e de outros países vizinhos de Moçambique,

thus diplomatically avoiding the direct charge that the South African government itself was acting in bad faith.

But regular airspace and other violations continued to be reported, and in an interview on South African television in October 1985, the SADF commander, Gen. Constand Viljoen, more-or-less admitted that the armed forces had been breaking the agreement, under Government order. The Mozambican reaction was immediate:

There is no point in the general saying that this was done in an effort to bring peace to Mozambique. There is no point in him saying that the Mozambican Government agreed not to shoot down any South African planes violating the accord. There is no point in claiming that the violations were merely technical. The facts are simple: the South African Government and its armed forces have admitted that they sent in supplies by planes, ships, and submarines, to their surrogate forces, the MNR terrorists. The Pretoria regime will find to its cost that nobody, not even its closest friends, believe that the Mozambican Government turned a blind eye to these acts of aggression. To believe the official South African story is to believe that the Mozambican Government is suicidal.

Nonetheless, the violations simply continued. In December a railway bridge was blown up by a special forces group infiltrated from South Africa, and illegal overflights in Mozambican airspace were still taking place at year’s end.

MHN Resources

Consolidated Downloadable Zipped Files

Click on the yellow folder image below to download a zipped file of the ninth of a series of dossiers on South Africa-Mozambique relations. The archive covers the year 1985, and contains 124 documents. New items will be added from time to time: this edition of the dossier is dated 23 October 2021.

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