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South Africa

Volume 126: debated on Monday 1 February 1988

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next expects to meet the South African ambassador; and what subjects he expects to discuss with him.


To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent communications he has had with the South African Government about the situation in that country.

I have no present plans for an early meeting with the South African ambassador. But we maintain regular contact with the South African authorities, both here and via Her Majesty's ambassador, on a wide range of issues.

Will the Secretary of State accept that it is time that further representations were made about the Sharpeville Six? The court has now stated that the Sharpeville Six were convicted on the basis, not that they had any direct connection with the deceased, but that they were in the vicinity when the crime was committed. The implications of that are pretty appalling. Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman think that it is time to ask the Prime Minister, given the special relationship that she says she has with President Botha, to make representations on the Sharpeville Six as a matter of urgency?

The House will realise that there is a specific question on this topic on the Order Paper a little later. It is right that we have followed the case closely and with concern. Through the German presidency of the Community, on behalf of the 12 members, we appealed for clemency for the Sharpeville Six on humanitarian grounds on 4 December. On 18 December we gave our support to a statement issued on behalf of the United Nations Security Council urging the South African Government to commute the death sentences on the Six. Since then, we have directly reiterated our concern to the South African Government.

Given the appeals for clemency submitted by the United Nations Security Council and the EEC, which have been supported by hon. Members, Church organisations and anti-apartheid groups in South Africa, will the Secretary of State please urge the Prime Minister to intervene directly with President Botha to save the lives of these six young people, who seem to have been wrongly convicted?

I have seen the early-day motion relating to the subject that the hon. Gentleman raises. The representations that we have made direct to the South African Government, which the hon. Gentleman acknowledged, through the United Nations and in concert with the European Community are what we judge to be most likely to have the desired effect.

When my right hon. and learned Friend next meets the South African ambassador, will he remind him that his Government are committed to the independence of Namibia, and that some of us are becoming impatient and angry at their refusal to honour that commitment?

As my hon. Friend knows, we are also committed to the independence of Namibia, by United Nations resolution 435. We consider that it is a matter that should be put in hand urgently, and we have supported the negotiations currently being undertaken by the United States on an intermediary basis to bring it about. We shall continue to press in that direction.

Has my right hon. and learned Friend received representations from the South African Government about the so-called Birmingham Six? If he has not, does he think that we should all learn the lesson that it is high time we stayed out of each other's internal judicial affairs? If we did, the world would he a better place for it.

My hon. Friend must understand that there is a difference between the structure of countries such as ours, which are wholly democratic and subject to a universally available rule of law, and the position that prevails not just in South Africa but in other countries, where there is not complete democracy and a large part of a community is excluded from institutions on the ground of skin colour, which gives rise to a situation that has potentially wider implications. The two structures are in no way comparable.

Have there been any discussions with any other Governments, specifically the South African Government, on setting up a regional conference on security in southern Africa?

When my right hon. and learned Friend meets the high commissioner, will he raise the question of the apparently slow progress towards the consolidation of Bophuthatswana? Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that until further progress is made it will be difficult for other countries to recognise Bophuthatswana's independence?

Bophuthatswana's fragmentary nature is only one reason why no country thought it right to recognise its independence. That country is financially dependent on South Africa. The very existence of Bophuthatswana is a consequence of apartheid, and I think that that is the principal reason why recognition has not been forthcoming.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary and his colleagues frequently boast about our increased aid commitment to Mozambique, yet the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows that much of the value of our investment there — especially in infrastructure projects—is destroyed by South African-backed terrorist organisations—Renamo, or MNR as it is known in Mozambique. What representations has the right hon. and learned Gentleman made to the South African ambassador here or to the South African Government about the effect on our aid efforts in Mozambique of the South African destabilisation policies? Will he give a commitment that the Government, directly or indirectly, will not meet the MNR representative, Mr. Alfonso Dhlakama, who is due to come to this country this month, having been invited by an organisation that includes many Conservative Members, and that the Government will in no way give any form of recognition to the MNR or to Savimbi's Unita?

Our policy toward Unita remains unchanged. There is no question of our recognising such an organisation, as the hon. Gentleman knows. There is no reason to believe that Mr. Dhlakama intends to visit Britain. On the more substantial point underlying the hon. Gentleman's question, of course we condemn cross-border violations in either direction. We have in particular urged the South Africans to exercise restraint. Time and again we have warned and urged the South Africans not to indulge in destabilising activity of the kind that concerns the hon. Gentleman.