"The election?" mused Hannes Smith as he sipped on a beer. "Ah yes, there will be a spectacular result - a 130 percent writer turnout. And of that - the South African government will have a hard time explaining this - 105.7 percent will be for the DTA," he predicted, winking.
Smith, the only independent newspaper editor in this sunny African land of fewer than one million people, summed up popular feeling about the first one-man, one-vote elections for a constituent assembly in Namibia, also known as Southwest Africa.
A victory for the South African-backed DIA, the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance, a multiracial coalition of conservative, ethnically based parties led by a 50-year-old white rancher named Dirk Mudge, is nearly as sure as the outcome of elections for Chicago city hall during Richard Daley's heyday.
The four other parties in the race are more conservative and so have little chance of gaining a significant black vote. Two other groups to the left of DTA are boycotting the election as is the Southwest Africa People's Organization (SWAPO), the black nationalist movement.
South Africa's administrative backing for the DTA is so much a fact of life in Namibia that when asked what would happen if DTA came into power, people often reply, "What do you mean? It already is in power."
The financial sources of DTA's smooth campaign are secret. While it is believed much comes from conservative parties and foundations in Western Europe and from mining interests in Namibia, there are widespread suspicions that much also comes from Pretoria.
Elections that amount to foregone conclusions are not unusual in Africa, black or white. But what sets this one apart is that it holds within it the seeds of a protracted Rhodesian-style civil war with a possible Soviet and Cuban involvement, the destruction of a painstaking Western diplomatic effort to find a peaceful as well as the possibility of a future for this uranium-rich country as diplomatically isolated satellite of South Africa - another Transkei.
These consequences are likely unless the so-called "internal" elections next month are soon followed by U.N. supervised elections. So far, South Africa has not agreed to allow the U.N. elections in this land of desert and scrub which it wrested from imperial Germany in world war I and has ruled as a territory ever since.
Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and representatives or Britain, France, West Germany and Canada failed to get this public commitment when they met last month in Pretoria with Prime Minister Pieter W. Botha, Instead, South Africa said it would "use its best efforts" to persuade the election winners to agree to U.N. elections sometime next year.
Although the Western powers made it clear they consider the internal election null and void, they are facing demands from black Africa for economic sanctions against South Africa because of the December election.
The West and black African want the U.N. supervised elections so SWAPO will participate. With Soviet and Cuban aid, SWAPO has been waging a guerrilla war against South African forces in Namibia for 12 years, and this conflict will undoubtedly escalate if the U.N. election is not held.
"The West really left us in the lurch at Pretoria," said clergyman Justus Allis. "South Africa called the West's bluff and they won. They practically defied the West."
These people view the election as another fait accompli on the part of South Africa in its efforts to lead Namibia to independence under a moderate, white-controlled government excluding SWAPO.
SWAPO's leader in Namibia, Daniel Tjongarero said, "South Africa has a record in fiats accomplis here. First it appointed the administrator general, then it began voter registration, then set an election date and now, the election."
Church leaders complained in an open letter to the South African prime minister last month that the voter registration was plagued with irregularities. Lawyers tell of people fired from their jobs, allegedly for not registering. Tjongarero said many refugees from Angola and whites from South Africa have been registered even though they have not lived the required minimum of four years in Namibia. All these groups presumably would vote for the DTA, which most blacks fear would mean a bleak future.
Clergyman Lukas de Vries spelled it out: "With a DTA win, we will be thrown back 20 years in history. DTA will not bring any political change which is not acceptable to South Africa. . . "
Many of Namibia's 100,000 whites, however, welcome the election and have given Mudge their support because they believe DTA will save them from SWAPO, which they regard as Marxist.
The DTA also is attractive to many blacks who fear SWAPO because they consider it dominated by the 395,000-strong Ovambo tribe, the largest ethnic group in the country. It is a commonly held view here that South Africa's intention is to show blacks through this election that DTA is a viable option to the guerrilla movement.
Setting up this alternative, pulling the rug out from under the more radical groups, is what Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith tried to do in Rhodesia by forming his internal government with moderate black leaders and excluding the guerrilla chiefs. It has not worked well there and many fear it won't work here.
"We're headed for a Rhodesia situation by this time next year; that's what I fear," said one activist clergy-man in Windhoek.
South Africa has said it will remain the legitimate authority in Namibia even after the December elections. But the DTA, restless for real power and not keen for a second election, will be chomping at the bit to design and then put into effect an independence constitution.
Ensconced in his Windhoek office protected by two bodyguards at the front door, Mudge confidently said that a U.N.-supervised election all depends on whether we reach an agreement on the U.N. peacekeeping force."
DTA will ask that U.N. troops be placed in southern Angola as well as in Namibia to monitor SWAPO guerrilla bases, he said. And although the West has already said it will not recognize the winners of the December election, "in my opinion," Mudge said, "the West will eventually negotiate directly with the elected leaders."