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South Africa

Volume 982: debated on Wednesday 16 April 1980

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asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on relations between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of South Africa.


asked the Lord Privy Seal when next he expects to meet the South African Ambassador.

Our relations with South Africa are governed by our desire to encourage peaceful change there and to achieve an internationally recognised settlement in Namibia. If there is progress on both these fronts, we can look forward to the steady improvement in our relations which we seek.

I have no plans to meet the South African Ambassador in the immediate future.

Bearing in mind the build-up of Soviet maritime forces in the Indian Ocean, most recently described in the defence White Paper, will my right hon. Friend have discussions with the Ministry of Defence about the possibility of sharing maritime intelligence information with the South African Navy, and even the possibility of having joint naval exercises with the South African Navy?

As my hon. Friend will realise, that is primarily a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, but at present we have no plans to act as he has suggested.

When he meets the ambassador, will the right hon. Gentleman express the deep concern that is felt about the fact that Mr. Nelson Mandela and his associates have been locked away in South African prisons for 16 years, yet their real crime is that they simply want freedom for their own people? Would it not be wise for the Government to give the South African authorities the same sort of advice as Mr. Harold Macmillan gave them in his "wind of change" speech in 1960?

The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that we have no standing in the case of Mr. Mandela, so I do not think that it would be right for us to make formal representations on his behalf.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!".]—However, I am sure that the South African Government recognise very well what an excellent effect on international opinion the release of Mr. Mandela would have, and how widely it would be welcomed in this country as a symbol of the desire for reconciliation in South Africa.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that many Conservative Members welcome the improved relationship between this Government and the Government of the Republic of South Africa? Does he agree that it would be wrong to put undue pressure on South Africa at the present time over the future of South-West Africa? Does not he further agree that South Africa is doing its utmost to ensure that there is gradual progress to a more democratic form of government in South-West Africa, and that the Administrator General, Mr. Viljoen, is seeking to hand over executive powers in many areas to the Parliament which at present exists in South-West Africa, which represents all 11 ethnic groups?

Of course I hope for better relations with South Africa. As my hon. Friend will know, a specific question on Namibia will be answered shortly. It may be worth reminding the House that it would have been impossible to hold the elections in Zimbabwe without the logistic help that we received from South Africa.

In view of the Government's opposition to the British Lions tour of South Africa, will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear to the House, to the British Lions rugby touring team and to the South African Government that British Embassy facilities in South Africa will not be available to that team?

I do not think that that sort of declaration helps anyone. The House and the Rugby Unions know very well what our attitude is to the Gleneagles agreement, which commits us to taking every practical step to discourage sporting contacts with South Africa.

Does my right hon. Friend think that it is right and proper that an organisation such as the British Olympic Association, which does not wish to mix politics with sport, should consider sending a team to Moscow, when for political reasons the South Africans are prevented from sending a team?

May I press the right hon. Gentleman further with regard to Mr. Nelson Mandela? Surely there is nothing wrong with the Government pressing very strongly for, and making the strongest representations about, the release of Nelson Mandela and others, who have suffered years of the most cruel form of imprisonment on Robben Island. I believe that the full strength of the voice of the Government, through representations to the South African Ambassador here and to the South African authorities, should be heard with regard to the release of Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners.

The hon. Gentleman will have heard what I have just said. We do not have any formal standing, but I have made clear what good would follow from a decision of the South Africans to release Mr. Mandela.