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Mr Motsamai Mpho

Volume 640: debated on Thursday 18 May 1961

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asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies on what grounds Mr. Motsamai Mpho, a British-protected person from Bechuanaland, was refused permission at Nairobi to proceed as a delegate to the Pan-African Conference at Cairo, and was returned to Bechuanaland handcuffed and under police guard.

Mr. Mpho arrived in Nairobi on 20th March by Central African Airways. The East African Airways Corporation, however, declined to book him on to Cairo, his ultimate destination, because he had neither a passport nor a visa for the United Arab Republic. In these circumstances, Mr. Mpho had no claim to an in-transit pass, without which his entry into Kenya was illegal. He was therefore served with a Notice to a Prohibited Immigrant under the Kenya Immigration Regulations, 1957, and required to remain on board and return by the aircraft on which he arrived. He was only in Nairobi some 45 minutes and at no time there was he handcuffed or placed under police guard, nor was he handcuffed when he arrived in Bechuanaland.

Whatever the circumstances and whatever the technical excuse, is it not clear that this conference in Cairo was held with the good will of the Government of the United Arab Republic and that they would immediately have admitted him into that country, even if he had been without a visa? In view of the representative character of this conference, which was even attended by an observer from the Conservative Party, is it not a great mistake to have prevented a representative from Bechuanaland from attending?

No. I am bound to say that I do not agree with that. With respect to the hon. Member, I cannot accept that it is the merest detail to put on the Order Paper statements about people being handcuffed and under police guard where that is not so; I cannot accept that it is not a matter of great importance. It should not be done without the closest investigation by the hon. Member concerned. It seems to me quite clear that if somebody arrived with only a local travel document valid within the Protectorate, and with neither a passport nor a visa, then the action of both the airline and the Kenya Government was entirely correct.

Does not the Government of Bechuanaland have a certain responsibility here? Did this gentleman apply for a passport and for a visa in Bechuanaland and had he difficulties in getting them there?

I cannot answer that without notice, but I will gladly go into the matter. The only travel document which he had was a Protectorate Administration native's travelling pass, and clearly the East African Airways Corporation, in my view rightly, thought that that could not possibly be accepted as taking the place of both a passport and a visa for onward transit to Cairo.

On a point of order. In view of what the Minister said, am I entitled to make this personal statement—that a month ago I sent him a letter from Mr. Mpho including the statements which are made in the Question and asked him to make an inquiry. I have had no reply to that letter.