Skip to main content


Volume 979: debated on Wednesday 20 February 1980

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on recent acts of terrorism in Rhodesia, and the arrangements for securing free and fair elections in that country.

The situation has not changed substantially since my statement of 13 February. Elections on the white votes' roll took place on 14 February.

The Governor is continuing his consultations with party leaders with the aim of stemming political intimidation, which is making it extremely difficult for the majority of parties to campaign in certain areas.

Although there has been a disturbing number of violent incidents, the total number of casualties since ceasefire day is less than frequently occurred in a single week previously. Investigations are being pursued into a number of incidents, including the bombings in Salisbury on the night of 14 February.

Five hundred and forty volunteers from the police will travel to Salisbury this weekend to reinforce supervision of polling stations. We are grateful for the splendid response from the volunteers, and are sure that their presence will make a material contribution to the prevention of intimidation at the polls.

While thanking the Lord Privy Seal for his statement and noting with satisfaction the continued reduction in the acts of violence, I would not be doing my duty if I did not express, as one incident follows another, my growing anxiety at the course of events and the urgent need to reinforce confidence both inside and outside Rhodesia in our capacity to insist on effective and evenhanded administration in the closing phases of the election campaign.

What is now the total number of ceasefire breaches reported to the Ceasefire Commission, how many are attributed to Mr. Mugabe's followers, and how many to other parties? Have the Patriotic Front representatives on the Ceasefire Commission either volunteered, or been asked, to deal with their own dissident groups, as laid down in the Lancaster House agreement? What information has the Lord Privy Seal about the clandestine bombing of the Salisbury churches by members of the Selous Scouts? Surely, that unit, above all others, should have been confined to barracks and closely monitored.

Is it not clear that the Governor is much hampered by lack of independent information when making his decisions? How else would the Minister explain the conflict of evidence between the claim of Government House that the Mount Darwin area is one of the worst areas of intimidation and the public statement today, of the British election supervisor, that that is not true?

What action does the Lord Privy Seal propose to take to compel the withdrawal of the unlawful presence of the Rhodesian security forces from within the perimeter of the guerrilla assembly area Bravo, following the strictures upon the security forces made by the Australian captain in charge of the Commonwealth monitoring force?

As it is clear that threats to the ceasefire and the election process come from many sources, I strongly urge the Government not to take any measures that would incite the already strong suspicions of partiality, to make better use of the Commonwealth observer forces, especially at the polling stations when the votes are cast, and to consider whether the parties to the Lancaster House conference should not now be collectively reconvened to attempt to allay the widespread suspicion that exists and to discuss the handling of the difficult and dangerous post-election position that lies ahead.

The right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore) spoke of the need for even-handed administration. I wish that he had been a little more even-handed in the past. His persistent tendency to find fault with the Governor's administration, to give no praise where it is due, and to make the position seem even worse than it is, does him and his party no credit.

The right hon. Member asked about the number of ceasefire incidents. Thirteen are attributed to the security forces and the auxiliaries; 22 to ZIPRA; 11 to the old ZIPRA area of operations; 93 to ZANLA; 35 to the old ZANLA area of operations; and 17 to bandits with PF weapons. Fifteen are unattributable.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about the incidents on 14 February, and he attributed them to the Selous Scouts. Those serious incidents are being investigated. It is far too early to attribute blame, just as it is far too early to attribute blame for the appalling murder of the Roman Catholic missionary near Fort Victoria today.

The right hon. Gentleman said also that the Governor lacked independent advice, and drew attention to the remarks of the British observer about Mount Darwin. In saying that, he contradicted himself. The British observer is one only of the many sources of British advice open to the Governor. It is largely on British advice that he has been acting. There are many election observers and the election supervisor who are giving the Governor advice. I regret the general tendency of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks.

I wish to ask the Lord Privy Seal about the progress of investigations into two specific incidents. One incident concerned two members of the security forces, who were found blown up in their car. They were thought to have been in disguise. The second incident concerned the land mine under Mr. Mugabe's car.

On the general scale of violence and intimidation, whether carried out by the Patriotic Front or the auxiliaries, is the Lord Privy Seal—despite the additional police for the polling stations—satisfied that the monitoring force does not yet require further reinforcement?

What is happening about the charges against Mr. Garfield Todd?

The right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) will be aware that I have already commented on the events of 14 February. Those serious incidents are being investigated.

As to the deplorable attack on Mr. Mugabe, a remote control explosive charge was detonated on the road to Fort Victoria airport. Mr. Mugabe and his party were returning from an election meeting. We understand that following the explosion the attackers opened fire on the damaged vehicle, but fortunately Mr. Mugabe was unhurt. Some of his officials were either shot or slightly injured. Urgent police investigations are in hand.

The right hon. Gentleman is misunderstanding the function of the monitoring force. They are there to monitor. They are not there to prevent intimidation. That is something that they cannot do. It is worth saying, in passing, that they monitor the auxiliaries.

I told the House last week about the charges against Mr. Garfield Todd. We do not have full details yet, but they concern aiding and abetting terrorism. Last week Mr. Todd saw the Rhodesian Attorney-General, who, in the light of Mr. Todd's statement, is considering whether the prosecution should proceed.

Is there any truth in press reports that there are between 4,000 and 5,000 Mugabe guerrillas, at least, still in the bush and that there are about the same number of Mr. Nkomo's force held in reserve on the other bank of the Zambesi? Does that not represent some threat of intimidation to the holding of free and fair elections?

In the nature of things, it is impossible to estimate accurately the number of Patriotic Front guerrillas who have not assembled, but the figures given by my right hon. Friend in relation to ZANLA are unlikely to be wide of the mark. As he knows, there is considerable contrast between what has gone on in the east of the country and what has gone on in the west. The same kind of thing has not taken place in the west. The ZIPRA forces have concentrated and there have been relatively few incidents in the west of the country.

The presence of a large number of guerrillas who have not assembled in the eastern part of the country has produced considerable intimidation. The House should realise that every party other than ZANU P F has complained about the intimidation. Both Mr. Nkomo and Bishop Muzorewa have been unable to hold meetings in certain areas. Of course, that represents discrimination of a very serious kind.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is because we deplore acts of intimidation from any quarter that we are particularly concerned about apparent acts of clandestine sabo- tage carried out by security forces under the control of the Government? Is this not a case for the formal restraint of the Selous Scouts until the elections are over?

Secondly, will the right hon. Gentleman join the House in deploring a reported statement by the South African Government this afternoon threatening military intervention if things do not go in a way that they approve in Rhodesia?

I have not seen the statement to which the hon. Gentleman referred, so I cannot comment. I deplore all acts of intimidation. I wish that the Opposition were equally even-handed. I have already referred twice to the deplorable events on 14 February, but it is too early yet to attribute blame, just as it is too early to attribute blame for other equally deplorable incidents.

Order. I must warn the House that for the debate on the Scottish economy I am already aware that many more right hon. and hon. Members want to speak than will be called. Furthermore, this is an extension of Question Time. I propose to take two more questions from either side of the House.

What arrangements have been or will be made to ensure that any of the British police seconded to Rhodesia who are injured or killed there will be entitled to compensation no less generous than they would receive from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund if they suffered death or injury in Britain?

That is an extremely important question. We hope that the contingency will not arise. However, I shall draw my hon. Friend's remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.

The Minister asked for an even-handed attitude from the Opposition. Is he aware that the anxiety, both internationally and here, is due to the lack of even-handed attitude that we have been getting from him and from Lord Soames? Has he forgotten the Lancaster House agreement, under which both sides were to be used? How does he square that with the running free of the previous rebel forces—the Selous Scouts, the auxiliaries and the security forces, on which he bases his entire case?

With respect to the hon. Gentleman, I was at Lancaster House. I am not unaware of the terms of the agreement, and they have not been broken. The Lancaster House agreement stated that if all the Patriotic Front forces assembled the Governor would have no need to deploy the security forces from their bases. Unfortunately, that has not happened. Therefore, there has been a need to deploy some of the forces. It is as simple as that.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that an even-handed attitude would be helped if, in public statements by the Opposition, the fact that there are still large numbers of guerrilla forces who have not yet reported was deplored? Is it not a pity that today a long question was asked without that statement being clearly made?

I agree with my hon. Friend. It is fundamental to what has been happening in Rhodesia over the past few weeks that several thousand guerrillas have not assembled and have been exercising considerable intimidation. That is not disputed by anybody, except possibly in this House. Everybody in Rhodesia, including Mr. Nkomo, agrees about it. I hope that the House will finally take it on board.

If the situation in the eastern part of Rhodesia is as uncertain as the Lord Privy Seal described it today, is there not an overwhelming argument for strengthening the monitoring forces so that the eventual outcome of the election will be acceptable to the international community?

The hon. Gentleman is misunderstanding the function of the monitoring forces. They are there, first, to see that the security forces behave in a proper manner and, secondly, to see that the Patriotic Front forces behave in a proper manner in their assembly camps. They are not there to prevent intimidation. In the nature of things, they cannot conceivably do that.

I make it absolutely plain that we deplore all breaches of the cease- fire, including those made by substantial numbers of Mr. Mugabe's guerrillas. There should be no question about that at all. I also make it absolutely plain that we have great confidence in all the efforts made by our own people in Salisbury. But the right hon. Gentleman should not get so over-sensitive and touchy about very proper questions about the behaviour of a Rhodesian civil, police and military organisation that has defied this country for 15 years.

I should like to ask one final question. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether any serious discussions have begun or are due to take place about the dangerous and difficult post-election situation that will arise with so many armed men owing so many different allegiances in different parts of Rhodesia?

There have been discussions on what the right hon. Gentleman rightly calls a difficult and sensitive problem. I should be deceiving the House if I said that a complete solution had been found. There is not one. But there has been considerable consultation, and we must hope that things turn out not too badly.

I repeat, the right hon. Gentleman makes an error in maintaining that the Governor is relying on the advice of Rhodesians. There are many British people there on whose advice he is relying.

To end on a less controversial note, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will have an enjoyable, successful and educational tour of the area.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I hesitate to cross swords with you, Sir. You know my warm regard for you, but—

Order. I know the hon. Gentleman. Nobody crosses swords with Mr. Speaker. An hon. Member may submit a point of order, and I presume that that is what he is proposing to do. If he wishes to cross swords, he had better come and have a cup of tea, and we shall do it privately.

I simply pose a question of appropriateness. Is it right that we should be denied an opportunity of pursuing questions on Southern Rhodesia—which is in a very volatile and dangerous state and for which the House is entirely responsible—simply because we are moving to a debate on the Scottish economy, which is not likely to improve much in the next five years under the present Government?

Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that there are statements with questions to follow. There is then to be an application under Standing Order No. 9. I want to be as fair to the Scots as to everyone else.