Skip to main content

South Africa

Volume 470: debated on Tuesday 8 January 2008

Recent events in South Africa show that the country continues to develop and strengthen its democracy. South Africa is, and will remain, an important partner for the United Kingdom on a range of key bilateral, regional and wider international issues.

What assessment has my hon. Friend or her Department made of the impact of the change of leadership of the African National Congress on the Government in South Africa? Is she concerned that our strategic allies face political uncertainties, or pressures, not only in southern Africa but more spectacularly in east Africa?

My hon. Friend raises an issue concerning internal matters in the African National Congress. As far as the United Kingdom Government are concerned, South Africa is a key partner. President Mbeki is due to remain in office until the next South African elections, and we will continue to work closely with him and his team throughout this period.

Given the continuing catastrophe in Zimbabwe, what pressure are Her Majesty’s Government bringing to bear, through the South African Government, to bring to an end the totally unacceptable activity that continues in Zimbabwe?

The UK Government consider the role of South Africa to be very important in seeking to address issues in Zimbabwe, and we believe that regional action is likely to be the most effective. We continue to back President Mbeki’s mediation role through the South African Development Community initiative. Deadlines have been missed, which is unfortunate, but we are told that negotiations are entering their final stages, and we will continue to talk to South Africa about this.

Following up the question from my hon. Friend the Member for East Londonderry (Mr. Campbell), what recent political developments give the Minister confidence that Thabo Mbeki and the South African Government will put increased pressure on Mugabe to return Zimbabwe to democracy, and perhaps also suggest that the elections for the presidency a little later this year should be monitored and supervised internationally?

As I said, we have been told that the final stages of negotiations under the SADC initiative are under way, but I am afraid that there are no new signs of optimism in relation to the process. The hon. Gentleman is right to raise the issue of elections; we would want those elections to be moderated and supervised internationally.