Against a backdrop of positive statements from white South African leaders and their conservative governing allies in Namibia, the five-nation Western contact group today handed over its latest proposal to achieve independence of the territory through U.N.-supervised elections.
"The elections will take place," said Dirk Mudge, white chairman of the ruling multiracial Democratic Turnhalle Alliance in Windhoek. He was given the proposal in the Namibian capital by Canadian Ambassador to South Africa Robert Middelton and U.S. Embassy counsellor Dennis Keogh.
In Cape Town, diplomats from the five Western nations -- the United States, Britain, Canada, France and West Germany -- handed over the proposal, parts of which had been previously disclosed, to South African Foreign Minister Pik Botha.
In a South African radio interview last night, Botha said: "I do not underestimate the very serious difficulties lying ahead but if there are free and fair elections, equal treatment for all parties concerned, and certain fundamental rights are guaranteed then there is a real chance of progress towards a satisfactory conclusion."
The proposals were not officially published, but the South African Press Agency printed a text that said the latest plan proposed a U.N-supervised election of a special assembly charged with writing a constitution for an independent Namibia.
The constitution would have to be approved by a two-thirds majority, according to the published text.
The constitution must include a declaration on human rights, with legal action available to any citizen who feels his rights have been violated, the document adds.
The Western plan says that the system for electing the assembly must "guarantee fair representation . . . for all political groups representing the Namibian people," but it does not go into details.
A system of proportional representation would be of most benefit to SWAPO, the Southwest Africa People's Organization, which has been fighting a 15-year bush war against white rule in Namibia, also known as Southwest Africa.
Botha in the interview also said that if the black guerrilla organization were to win free and fair elections, the outcome would have to be accepted, "painful as it would be." But he added that he doubted that a Marxist party could win an election free of intimidation.
According to recurring reports here and in Namibia, South Africa has been asked to give the five Western powers a date for the elections by March. Elections woulds be preceded by a cease-fire in the bush war between South Africa and SWAPO.
Presentation of the proposals was a prelude to talks between the contact group headed -- by Chester Crocker, U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs -- and government officials in Cape Town on Wednesday. The contact group will then travel to Windhoek for talks with the Pretoria-backed internal parties.
Officials of the Western contact group are now touring Africa in an effort to sell the package devised by Crocker from U.N. proposals, which had previously failed to gain acceptance by either South Africa or the internal parties.
The Western five are to hold talks in Nigeria and Angola before flying to South Africa and Namibia. The contact group also plans visits to Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania.
Proposals aimed at independence elections have long been stymied by the refusal of South Africa and the black nationalist guerrilla movement to agree on details.
A U.N.-sponsored multiparty conference in Geneva last January failed when South Africa said it was premature to set an implementation date for the peace plan because of U.N. bias toward SWAPO.
This week's discussions will center on proposed guidelines for the writing of a Namibian constitution.
Those proposals do not include a guarantee of minority representation in any future legislature as is the case in the Zimbabwe national assembly where the white minority has 20 guaranteed seats.
The Western proposal says the Namibian constitution should contain a "declaration of rights . . . consistent with the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights." But it would not give the white minority any special protection. This has been a sticking point in previous negotiations.
The other major point of contention has been the makeup of the U.N. force that would supervise the elections for the constituent assembly. That point is apparently not addressed in the Western proposal either and will still have to be negotiated. South Africa has previously complained that the United Nations is biased in favor of SWAPO.
After getting agreement to the constitutional proposals from South Africa and SWAPO, which the delegation is meeting today in Luanda, Angola, the contact group will proceed to "phase two" of their settlement initiative, which covers arrangements for a seven-month transitional period leading up to the elections.