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Volume 889: debated on Wednesday 9 April 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the prospects for a constitutional settlement in Rhodesia.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what further action he has taken to end the illegal régime in Rhodesia.

Following the arrest of the Rev. Sithole, talks between the ANC and Mr. Smith were broken off. Now that Mr. Sithole has been released to attend the OAU meeting in Dar es Salaam we hope that an early and constructive resumption of talks may be possible. We remain in close touch with the governments of neighbouring African countries and will continue to support their efforts to promote a just and peaceful solution.

What significance does the Secretary of State attach to the more moderate statement by Mr. Smith at the weekend? Will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that in spite of his preoccupation with Europe he will seize any opportunity that may arise for a British initiative over Rhodesia to reinforce the helpful influences now being exerted by Zambia and South Africa?

I do not think that it would be helpful for me to comment on or attempt to interpret Mr. Smith's speeches. I think that they must stand for themselves. His actions will count for more.

As for our own position in this matter, I have strengthened our representation in the Southern African countries and have strengthened communications between us. Although I am not wholly up to date about what took place at the OAU meeting yesterday, although I have received one message about it, nevertheless I think that relations between the African countries and ourselves are sufficiently close for our politicians to converge as much as is possible. I hope to carry that process further at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' conference in Jamaica at the end of the month.

Has my right hon. Friend seen the statement made at the OAU by the Zambian Foreign Minister to the effect that he understands that South Africa intends to withdraw its forces from Rhodesia? It would seem that Rhodesia cannot continue for very much longer as an illegal régime now that Mozambique and Angola have also cut their connections with that country.

Yes, I have seen what Mr. Mwaanga said. The Prime Minister of South Africa told me that when hostilities ceased in Rhodesia he would withdraw his troops. At the moment I have no confirmation of the statement made by Mr. Mwaanga. No doubt other statements will be made in due course. As to the survival of the Rhodesian régime, I am concerned—as I know my hon. Friend is—to ensure that that country, which is bound sooner or later, and I hope sooner, to have a majority of Africans in its Government, shall achieve that peaceably so that Europeans and Africans may continue to live there together.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that this country must still have a tremendous responsibility for the Europeans and British communities in Rhodesia? They will look to us in the last resort to safeguard their lives and their future.

I think that safeguarding the lives of the Europeans in Rhodesia will depend as much on the wisdom and magnaminity which they show during the current negotiations as upon any armed force that we could put at their disposal.

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman did not mean that. It is my belief —as I think it is of hon. Members on both sides—that the minority population in Rhodesia should be enabled to live there. I think that a lot will depend upon the way in which they handle their own affairs during the next few months.

Are not there now welcome signs that the Government of South Africa are bringing effective pressure to bear on the Smith régime to take a more reasonable attitude? Will my right hon. Friend do everything in his power to encourage the South African Government to understand that the achievement of a just settlement in Rhodesia is very much in the interests of South Africa, not only in terms of its relations with other Black African countries but in terms of securing the support of countries in Europe and elsewhere?

It is true that Mr. Vorster is anxious to see a settlement of the Rhodesian problem. He would not accept that he was intervening in the affairs of Rhodesia. He has consistently denied that. However, the weight of opinion of that neighbour of Rhodesia must have a considerable impact on Rhodesian policies.