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Rhodesia

Volume 976: debated on Wednesday 16 January 1980

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9.

asked the Lord Privy Seal what reports he has received from the Governor of Southern Rhodesia about the activities of foreign troops or mercenaries in that territory.

There are persons of various nationalities serving with the Rhodesian forces, as there are with the Patrotic Front forces. The Government made clear during the constitutional conference that there would be no purge of the forces of either side during the interim period. The Governor has agreed that a small contingent of South African forces should be stationed at Beit bridge on the Rhodesian-South African border for the protection of the bridge.

Now that the Government have quite shamelessly admitted to the presence of South African troops on Rhodesian territory, in flagrant contradiction of the explicit assurances given to the House that such troops would not be permitted there, does that not cast a shadow over the good faith of the Government in the implementation of the Lancaster House agreement?

No, of course it does not. It is astonishing that the hon. Gentleman should get up and ask the same question that has been asked already by three hon. Members.

Many other matters are of greater importance to the House, such as the breaches of the ceasefire and the detention of ZANU detainees by Mr. Mugabe in Mozambique. To concentrate on the matter referred to by the hon. Gentleman and others seems to show a complete absence of any sense of proportion. As I have said already—I may as well say it again—I cannot accept that one small detachment of troops to guard the Beit bridge adds up to involvement by foreigners in Rhodesian affairs.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I should like to register a protest about the short amount of time that has been given to questions dealing with foreign and Commonwealth affairs at a time of world crisis.