Skip to main content

Nelson Mandela

Volume 176: debated on Wednesday 11 July 1990

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


To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on his discussions with Nelson Mandela, deputy president of the African National Congress of South Africa.


To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on his recent talks with Nelson Mandela.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and I had friendly and positive discussions with Mr. Mandela on 3 July about how best to take forward the process of ending apartheid in South Africa by negotiation.

Does the Minister appreciate that there is a long way to go before negotiations on the full transfer of power can begin and that the peace process in South Africa is still very fragile? Does he accept that the people best able to judge when fundamental and irreversible change has taken place are the South African people themselves? If so, would not he be wise to listen to them and to maintain sanctions until they consider it reasonable for sanctions to be lifted?

I wholeheartedly endorse the hon. Gentleman's argument that we should listen to the people of South Africa—all the people of South Africa. Mr. Mandela represents a considerable number of them, which is why it is very important to talk to him. However, I do not endorse the hon. Gentleman's earlier remarks. Nor would Mr. Mandela, who seems optimistic about the pace of progress. He has said:

"It is possible that by the next time the question arises in the European summit"—
that is, the question of sanctions—
"it will no longer be an issue because we may have reached agreement by then."
Mr. Mandela is talking in terms of a very optimistic time scale, which makes it clear that he is not now making sanctions a central issue of principle. It is just an argument about timing.

While warmly welcoming Mr. Mandela's overdue public acknowledgement of the Prime Minister's opposition to apartheid, does my right hon. Friend agree that other black South African leaders outside the ranks of the African National Congress should be encouraged to play their part in the creation of a just and equitable society in South Africa—not least because Mr. Mandela and the ANC have too long and too closely flirted with murder and Marxism?

It should be the Government's policy to talk to all those leaders in South Africa who are willing to negotiate a way to peace. There are other representatives of communities in South Africa as well as Mr. Mandela with whom we talk and with whom we should talk. However, my hon. Friend was right on one point. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is owed an apology from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) who said:

"Sheistheworld'sbestfriendofapartheid."—[Official Report, 14 February 1990; Vol. 167, c. 278.]
The right hon. Gentleman constantly tells us to listen to Mr. Mandela. Will he now retract that in view of what Mr. Mandela has said?

Despite what the Minister has just said and his comments about my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes), is not it a fact that, as well as saying what he did, Mr. Mandela also asked us not to relax sanctions? Did not he ask that everywhere he went? Is not the Minister being a little gauche in the way that he just put that?

Whether gauche or not, we have had a long-standing disagreement and I am glad that the European Community and others are now coming closer to our position. As progress is made, there should be a steady relaxation of sanctions. Mr. Mandela takes a different view. As the Labour party's position is entirely that of Mr. Mandela on every other matter, we are owed an explanation of why it is different on the assessment of the Prime Minister.

Did my right hon. Friend detect any understanding by Mr. Mandela that, as South Africa puts the doctrines of apartheid behind it, the crying need of its people is for a far greater flow of international investment in that country to produce more jobs and to sustain an economy that is capable of investing far more in education and health services? Did Mr. Mandela give any sign of the encouragement that he is giving to international business men to invest in South Africa?

Mr. Mandela met leading business men in London and elsewhere. He said:

"Private capital, both domestic and international, will have a vital contribution to make to the economic and social reconstruction of South Africa…This cannot happen without large inflows of foreign capital, including British capital."
Those are welcome steps away from the old socialism which I am afraid some Opposition Members have been misleading Mr. Mandela into following for many years.

Do I take it from the Minister's quotation from Mr. Mandela, the deputy president of the African National Congress, about the Prime Minister, that the Government now take their orders from the ANC?[Interruption.]

If the Government are selectively to quote one kindly and generous reference by Mr. Mandela to the Prime Minister, will they now accept what Mr. Mandela said in the hearing of the Minister and myself when we lunched together last week—that Mr. Mandela is adamant in his insistence that sanctions should remain?

The right hon. Gentleman has answered the first part of his question with his final sentence. We disagree with the ANC about sanctions. Is it impossible for the right hon. Gentleman to admit that he was wrong?

Do my right hon. Friend the Minister and his colleagues on the Front Bench agree that it cannot make the faintest sense to promote aid and credits as the best way to encourage political progress and reform in eastern Europe and sanctions as the best way to encourage exactly the same developments in South Africa?

I share my hon. Friend's view. The right hon. Member for Gorton witnessed an argument on this matter between Helen Suzman and Mr. Mandela which, I believe, once again Mrs. Suzman won. It is crazy to be seeking to bring back international capital to South Africa in six months time and to be trying to drive it away now.