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Southern Africa

Volume 888: debated on Wednesday 12 March 1975

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13.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on developments in Southern Africa since his visit to the Republic of South Africa.

I reported to the House on 14th January on my return from Africa. As regards Rhodesia, I regret to say that the recent detention of the Reverend Sithole has resulted in the discussions that had begun between the ANC and Mr. Smith's representatives being broken off. I am keeping in touch with the various Governments concerned about this and other issues.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the detention of the Reverend Sithole demonstrates either the superficiality or the ineffectuality of South African pressure on the Rhodesian régime, and that neither of these apartheid régimes understands the language of diplomacy? Should not my right hon. Friend be speaking to them in harsher tones if he expects them to come into accord with the rest of the democratic world?

There is contact between all the Governments of Southern Africa with each other and with the United Kingdom Government, and I am satisfied that there is a common view that the Reverend Sithole, having been detained, should be brought to trial. Indeed, the South African Government said that there should be an open trial in this case. We support that view.

Will the Foreign Secretary confirm recent reports that South African troops have been withdrawn from the front line in Rhodesia, and will he say to what extent South African troops are still present in Rhodesia?

My understanding, from a number of sources, is that South African police have been withdrawn from the frontier and are now concentrated in camps in Rhodesia. They are in a position of self-defence, but they are not going on so-called hunting expeditions, which is what was complained of at the time by African representatives.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that if South Africa withdrew support from Rhodesia tomorrow the illegal régime would collapse? Will he bring pressure to bear on South Africa to ensure that the constitutional talks move forward to majority government in Rhodesia at an early stage?

I believe that the South African Government are fully aware of the consequences of the intransigence being shown by the Rhodesian régime. They must conduct their own affairs as they think best in this matter, but there is no doubt that Mr. Vorster has a strong desire to secure better relations with his neighbours in Southern Africa, and he knows that this will imply a number of changes in policy.

I agree entirely with what the Foreign Secretary has just said, but does he not agree that the impending independence of Mozambique creates a new situation with regard to Rhodesia's trading position and that Rhodesia will, from the moment of Mozambique's independence, be totally dependent on South Africa for its links with the outside world? Therefore what-evil- Mr. Vorster may do with regard to direct negotiations, the trading position of Rhodesia is something on which he will have to make a decision, and that is a matter which should surely be of concern to the United Kingdom?

Yes, Sir. If the hon. Gentleman is right, clearly the conclusions follow. We are not yet aware of the extent to which trading will still be permitted through Mozambique, however.