§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr Garel-Jones.]8.28 pm
§ Mr. Michael Colvin (Romsey and Waterside)
I count myself fortunate to introduce this Adjournment debate at such an early hour. First, I apologise to my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I appreciate that to be present this evening she has had to give up an important engagement of long standing which may have particular importance for her constituency. I apologise to her, anyone inconvenienced and her constituents. If it is any consolation to her, I did not expect to be here this evening either. It is mainly because of the failure of my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Sir A Kershaw) to come up to scratch that we are having this important debate—the official international recognition of the Republic of Bophuthatswana.
I am struck by the good attendance at this Adjournment debate. There are four times as many Conservative Members present as there were the last time I spoke in an Adjournment debate, although it is noticeable that there is a slight absence of Opposition Members. That is particularly good on an evening when we have no two or three-line Whips to ensure our presence in the House at this hour and it reinforces the importance of the subject.
Many of my hon. Friends have said that they support my call to the Government to recognise the state of Bophuthatswana, but that they cannot speak in the debate because they have never been to that country. It is clear from her presence on the Front Bench that my hon. Friend the Minister of State feels no such inhibition, but I feel that some of the officials in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office responsible for briefing hon. Members on countries should be given the opportunity to visit those countries so that their briefings can be based on the facts of the situation.
Those of us who will be taking part in this debate can speak with some experience of Bophuthatswana, as we have recently been there as guests of the Government. I hasten to add that that makes us not the spokesmen of that Government, but better informed Members of Parliament than we would otherwise be. We went there with many preconceived ideas about the country and found some of them to be extremely wrong. I wish to tell the House why I was wrong and why I call upon Her Majesty's Government to review their policy regarding recognition of a country that already enjoys de facto independence.
First, on behalf of hon. Members who visited Bophuthatswana, I thank the President, His Excellency Lucas Mangope, his Ministers, his officials and all his people for the way in which they treated us. The warmth of their welcome was typical of the Tswana people. More than that, they knew that we wanted no doors shut, and that, if we wished to meet Opposition politicians, trade unionists, students and anyone whom we felt might be critical of the Government, then it should be made possible, and so it was. In truth, the Government of Bophuthatswana have nothing to hide. Their frankness and openness was refreshing and rewarding, as it enabled us to draw conclusions based on fact rather than on conjecture.
86 Where and what is Bophuthatswana? Most people, when I told them I was going there, said, "Surely you mean Botswana." Therein lies a Freudian slip, because it was one territory until Britain divided it into two at the turn of the century. The long-term and laudable aim of the Tswana people is one day to see the two parts of their land reunited.
My hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone) has suggested that Bophuthatswana wasborn out of the womb of the obnoxious policy of apartheidin South Africa. Certainly, the so-called homelands policy—the basis of the grand strategy of apartheid—has much to do with the decision by the Republic of South Africa to relinquish control of what is now Bophuthatswana — a move, incidentally, which is regarded by the Tswana people as regaining their independence, which was given away by the British 100 years ago.
The homelands were not created by South Africa; they have been there for centuries. The Batswana, and that means the people of Tswana, did not move in from central Africa. They were settled in what is now called the Transvaal Highveld by the 11th century, and there is evidence to suggest that their presence there was as early as the 5th century. By the time that the whites arrived in the early 19th century, this peace-loving people occupied the land from the Drakensburg mountains in the southeast up to and including the Kalahari desert in the northwest—an area dissected from east to west by the Limpopo and Molopo rivers.
In 1836, the great trek began, when the Boers, accompanied by the 1820 English settlers, crossed the Vaal river and began to infiltrate Tswana territory acquiring land without regard to tribal authority. Following the defeat of the rapacious Amdebele in 1836—he had been pushed out of Zulu land by the great leader Chaka—the British administration from the Cape rendered considerable assistance to the Batswana in supporting them against the Boers.
In 1852, by which time there was a steady stream of white people pouring into the country in search of land and wealth, the British, without warning, recognised the independence of the Transvaal under Pretorious, renounced all treaties and alliances between Britain and the black people north of the Vaal river and entered into an agreement not to provide firearms to non-white people. Thereby, black people became unable to defend themselves against the Boers or any others who might try to pillage them.
The Batswana were devastated by this rejection of their loyal and friendly approach towards the British, and found themselves at the mercy of unscrupulous Boers of the new South Africa Republic who attacked even friendly communities in their search for food, cattle and orphans to "apprentice" as cheap labour on their farms. Then, following the discovery of diamonds in the Kimberley region, the Tswana territory was plundered by mercenaries and freebooters determined to acquire land by fair means or foul.
As my hon. Friend the Minister will know from reading our colonial history, England did not look after the interests of the Batswana. The so-called Keate award—Keate was governor-general of Natal—defining their territory was ignored. When the British finally annexed the 87 South Africa Republic, the Batswana rejoiced in the belief that the British would at last secure their borders and halt the influx of white mercenaries, but they were betrayed.
Early in 1885, the whole area became a British protectorate by Order in Council, but later that year, following the intolerable situation caused by landowners seeking legal validity of their fraudulant land titles, the South African Parliament, acting on the advice of Cecil Rhodes, who was then a Member of Parliament, agreed to redefine the area south of the Molopo river as the Crown colony of Bechuanaland. Then, following representations by 1,500 chiefs and elders, the British Government gave a firm promise that the Tswana territory would never become part of the Transvaal, or Cape colony, but, without any further reference to or discussion with the Batswana, they were annexed to the Cape in 1895 and became part of the union of South Africa through the Act of Union in 1910.
The area north of the Molopo river, which became a British protectorate in 1885 and was the home of about one third of the Batswana, was granted its independence by Britain in 1966, adopting the name of Botswana, and became a member of the British Commonwealth. It was immediately given world recognition, unlike Bophuthatswana, which still strives to convince the world of its validity.
What are the criteria required for international recognition of the Republic of Bophuthatswana? According to the Foreign Office, they are: first, that the contry must have defensible and fixed borders; secondly, that its Government must exercise effective control—in other words, have their own defence and police forces—and, thirdly, that it must have control over its own independent foreign policy. We must look to see how far Bophuthatswana measures up to those requirements. First, the borders of Bophuthatswana are far from final. The country is fragmented, but the policy of consolidation is succeeding. Even during our visit to Bophuthatswana, the number of separate territories was reduced from seven to six by the closing of the Marico corridor.
Negotiations with the South African Government and landowners in the areas to be consolidated continue apace, and, as we have seen from the recent referendum in Mafiking, even the whites in a strongly Afrikaaner area know a good thing when they see it and have joined Bophuthatswana voluntarily. Full international recognition would give a spur to the South African Government to hasten the process of consolidation.
The second requirement—effective internal autonomy—is, to my mind, fully met.
The third—full freedom of action in respect of external relations—is more difficult. Bophuthatswana has its independent foreign policy, but it is in a Catch-22 situation. Until countries overseas are prepared to establish official contacts, how can foreign relations be built up? It was clear to us that other countries, most notably West Germany, are already talking to Bophuthatswana and are reaping political and economic rewards. Why is Britain losing out?
I have touched only on the main issue of recognition. I have set the scene and given the House a bit of a history lesson, but in this case, history is vital to assess the need and the right of Bophuthatswana to recognition. There are other vital matters, and I am sure that my hon. Friends will 88 speak about those. There is the matter of the economic strength of the country and the feeling of nationhood. There is the pride of its people and the long-term aim to reunite them, perhaps one day by joining Botswana next door. Bophuthatswana has a legitimate right to international recognition and, because of our colonial history, we have a moral obligation to be the first country to acknowledge that right and to act urgently to honour it.
§ Mr. Andrew Hunter (Basingstoke)
It will seldom be disputed that there is virtue in brevity, and in this debate that would be appreciated by all hon. Members. I welcome and applaud the fact that my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin) was fortunate enough to be able to introduce this motion because its subject is the forgotten element in the wider debate about southern Africa. We have debated southern Africa and South African affairs in appreciable detail, but the forgotten element has been the homelands and those who have chosen for a variety of reasons to opt for independence.
I should like to take up two or three of the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside, and I should first like to comment on the so-called conditions for recognising independence. Territorial boundaries are an absurdity, an illogicality. If Bophuthatswana were six islands surrounded by sea, rather than six parcels of land surrounded by land, it would be recognised. It must logically be irrelevant that there happens to be land rather than sea between the parcels of Bophuthatswana. Let us be consistent in talking about foreign policy. Not one country in the eastern European block is self-determinate in foreign policy. For the life of me I cannot see why the Government and the Foreign Office demand that of a country in southern Africa.
Some people would say that Bophuthatswana is the child of apartheid, but that is only partially true, because it is the adopted child of apartheid. It is the real child of British colonial and foreign policy over the best part of a century. I read with despair and listen in utter dejection to comments from our Foreign Office that run against that mainstream suggestion. Our colonial policy over the best part of the century is the reason why the Tswana people, or the great majority of those who as a result of our policy happen to be in southern Africa, have chosen to take their present course of action. We must acknowledge that by our policy we created and recognised Botswana but we have discreated or untreated—whatever the jargon may be, and I am coining phrases—Bophuthatswana and we must put it right. The Gracious Speech contains the words:My Government will continue to work for peaceful and fundamental change in South AfricaI think this is the fourth or fifth time that I have caught your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in a debate on the affairs of South Africa and southern Africa. If we are serious when we say that we seek to identify ourselves with the forces of evolution rather than of revolution, what is the significance of the dialogue between this Government and Buthelezi? What is the significance of the dialogue between the Government and Mangope? I suspect that the answer to those questions is "negligible" and it is to our discredit that we must confess that. If we want fundamental change 89 in southern Africa and if we despise, as we all do, the horrors of apartheid and the Nationalists in South Africa, we have to identify our friends and talk to them.
§ Mr. Keith Best (Ynys Môn)
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin) and my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) on making such significant contributions to this debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside drew our attention to the historical implications of the evolution of Bophuthatswana. We owe him a debt of gratitude for that. My hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke took that into a wider context and that is the theme I should like to develop.
My hon. Friend the member for Romsey and Waterside mentioned Botswana. What is the difference between Botswana and Bophuthatswana? Bophuthatswana has three times the population of Botswana. Admittedly, not all its people live within the territory of Bophuthatswana, but undoubtedly the great majority of the Tswana people live in or around Bophuthatswana rather than in Botswana. Yet Botswana is a sovereign nation and enjoys international recognition and, most importantly, is recognised by Her Majesty's Government. Bophuthatswana is not so recognised and that is purely because of its problems, because it was born in 1977 and to some people's way of thinking it was born out of apartheid while Botswana had a different origin. 1 shall return to that theme because it is one of the great injustices of history that has confronted Bophuthatswana.
To blame a people for the way in which their nation came into existence and permanently to condemn them to he internationally unrecognised is a harsh judgment on a brave, peace-loving people who fought with the British against the Zulus and who have looked consistently, and continue to look, to Britain as their closest friend. Consistently we turn our back on the Tswana people. That cannot be right in today's world.
My hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke gave an informed view of the problems that we have seen in Africa. When we divided Africa we did it by drawing lines of longitude and latitude on a map. Those boundaries were quite indistinguishable on the ground and we used rivers such as the Molopo as convenient boundaries. But we took insufficient cognisance of tribal boundaries. Those were the boundaries of nations because the black peoples of Africa have their own nations and those who fail to realise that fail to begin to comprehend the problems of Africa.
Why is it right that we should draw arbitrary lines on a map dividing people and then say that one part of that people can be recognised as an independent state and another part cannot? Surely that is the supreme anomaly.
I should like to read to the House part of a letter delivered recently to my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary. It is from Bophuthatswana and it says:At this critical period in the affairs of all those who live in Southern Africa we believe it to be more essential than ever that we freely discuss the future progress and development of our country with Britain who, over the years, has played such a marked role in our affairs. The imposition of sanctions on South Africa will result in untold misery and suffering and a very serious setback in national development for all those who now emerge from a long period of domination and despair. Since the Botswanans gained their independence on the 6th of December 1977, apartheid has been eradicated, racial discrimination is unknown, and a democratic free enterprise system has been established.90 [Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, for whom I have the greatest respect, particularly as she has turned up this evening when I appreciate that there are many other engagements that she ought to be attending, says from a sedentary position, "That is not true." If it is not true, I challenge my hon. Friend and her officials to provide the evidence from personal contact with the Botswana people in Bophuthatswana.
After I first went there in 1983 I had the privilege of meeting my hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to report on our visit. We remarked in particular on the sad ignorance of those who were directly advising my right hon. and learned Friend about what goes on in Bophuthatswana. On that occasion I was assured that that would be remedied. Sadly, as a result of parliamentary questions that I asked, to which I shall refer in a moment, it is apparent that that assurance has not been honoured.
I urge my hon. Friend the Minister of State to ensure that she is properly advised about what goes on in Bophuthatswana. That means that she must ask the officials to go to southern Africa to find out.
The letter continues:Industrial expansion has provided job opportunit} for an ever-increasing percentage of our population, young and old, for a much greater and more satisfying role in the development of our country. Housing programmes, the expansion of shopping and social facilities, enhance our basic infrastructure and the production of platinum and other minerals from our mines provides much of the cash to finance our imaginative development programme. Political expression, without fear of censure, is encouraged in a parliamentary system almost identical to that in England. We clearly fulfil all the requirements of nationhood and firmly believe that our colonial history under Britain, should serve to dictate that sympathetic support be granted to us, in our desire to speak for ourselves, in our quest for international recognition. We are not, and never again will be, part of South Africa nor will we ever again be dominated by either White or Black Ethnic groups.In a message from His Excellency President Lucas Mangope in the Bop Bulletin of August 1986 he explained the origin of Bophuthatswana, It is quite unlike that which some of our parliamentary colleagues would have us believe. He said:When our brothers in British Bechuanaland were given independence in 1966 and their country became Botswana, we in what had been Southern Bechuanaland sought independence from the S.A. Govt. Initially we were unsuccessful in our claims, but to our joy in 1977 S.A. acceded to our request…Because of our close historic links with Britain and the natural respect and affection in which your country has always been held by the Tswana people, we hope that it will be Britain who will take the lead in welcoming us to the international community.I feel deeply a sense of responsibility for what British Governments and the British people, through this House of assembly, have done in the past. I believe, sadly, that our record in southern Africa has not been especially commendable in certain aspects. The position of the Tswana people is a manifestation of that. My hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside drew the attention of the House to that fact.
Having been given an assurance in 1983 when I went to the Foreign Office that more information would be forthcoming to advise my hon. and learned Friend. my hon. Friend the Minister of State and others who have to speak on these matters, I asked a parliamentary question on 23 October 1986 as follows: 91what requests have been received from Bophuthatswana for visits or discussions by his officials; and what response has been givenThe answer was:We eschew official contacts with Bophuthatswana.That may be so. It may be that Her Majesty's Government eschew official contacts with Bophuthatswana because it is not recognised by this country. However, we have asked that Her Majesty's Government should be properly informed about what is going on there.
I also asked my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs:when was the last time any of his officials visited Bophuthatswana and if he will set out a schedule of contact his officials have had with Bophuthatswana since March 1983.That was the date when I visited the Foreign Office. From my hon. Friend the Minister of State who is sitting on the Treasury Bench I received the following reply:We have no official contacts. There have been occasional visits by officials for consular purposes. A comprehensive list is not available."—[Official Report, 23 October 1986; Vol. 102, c. 974.]That kind of answer is insufficient for those of us who want our Government to speak with knowledge on matters relating to southern Africa so that we can influence, we hope, the rest of the world. That knowledge can come only through unofficial, not official, contacts with a people who desperately want to be recognised.
I received a further answer from my right hon. and learned Friend when I asked him:what evidence he has of the practice of apartheid in Bophuthatswana".He replied:The existence of Bophuthatswana is an expression of the practice of apartheid in South Africa as a whole."—[Official Report, 29 October 1986; Vol. 103, c. 171.]That completely misses the point. I was concerned about whether there was racial discrimination of any form within the boundaries of Bophuthatswana. Conservative Members who have recently been there know that the answer to that question is that there is no racial discrimination. It is a truly multiracial society, without any hint of reverse discrimination against white people. It is a society in which three of the Ministers are white, although the great majority of Ministers are black.
My hon. Friend the Minister of State may say that the existence of Bophuthatswana is an expression of the practice of apartheid in South Africa as a whole, because of the prominence of Bophuthatswana. But how would my hon. Friend regard that same question, if looked at from the point of view of national identity and self-determination? Does it not put an entirely different complexion on the question of whether there is apartheid if one says instead that this country is desperate for a national identity and that it wants self-determination as a people, as a black nation, that has proved itself in the past? But there is an anomaly. All that we have heard so far from Her Majesty's Government is that Bophuthatswana is not recognised and that there can be no official contacts with that country of any kind.
Today I received a letter from a journalist who is employed by the Bophuthatswana television service, which is now being actively blocked by South Africa because of its multiracial aspect and because of the effect that it might have on South African citizens. That says something about 92 the nature of Bophuthatswana. The letter asks whether I can help this journalist to come to a conference in Brighton to learn about the way that journalists work in other parts of the world. That conference is to be held fairly shortly. The journalist enclosed in his letter the reply that he had received from the British Council in Pretoria. It read:Thank you for your letter of the 26th September, 1985, making enquiries about British Council Awards.These awards, are I regret to say, only for people who are living and working within the Republic of South Africa.We cannot have it both ways. Either Bophuthatswana is within the Republic of South Africa and is a mere creature of apartheid and is not recognised in any other way, or it is a separate country. If the journalist who wrote to me asking for assistance receives a letter from the British Council in Pretoria saying that he is ineligible to receive any assistance because that assistance is available only for people who live and work within the Republic of South Africa, that is an anomaly which must be sorted out. Surely, the way that must be sorted out is by this country taking the lead and recognising Bophuthatswana for what it is—a country comprising the Tswana people, a truly multiracial society where a people want to establish national identity and self-determination, a people who have consistently allied themselves with the British. They look and have consistently looked to this country for assistance. We must not let them down.
§ 9 pm
§ Mr. Michael Knowles (Nottingham, East)
I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin) on initiating the debate. The position of the Tswana people in southern Africa can be easily overlooked. One cannot overlook a large nation such as the Zulus, with 6.5 million people, but the position of the 1.5 million people of the Tswana nation can be overlooked, and it has been on many occasions in the past, not least by this House.
Hon. Members have said that when they visited Bophuthatswana they went there with the usual prejudices, as I did. It is just over a year since I last went there. As an outsider, I saw it as a creation of apartheid—part of the homelands policy. It may be true that, for the South African Government, that is where it started, but that would not be accepted by the Tswana people. They had existed as a nation and lived in that part of South Africa for 1,000 years. They needed no stamp of authority from the South African Government to say that they were a nation. However, they were recreated as a state in the modern sense.
The first thing that the Tswana people did in their constitution was to ban apartheid. My hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Mon (Mr. Best) mentioned the irony that, while a case can be made that Bophuthatswana was created as part of the apartheid policy, in Bophuthatswana itself apartheid is absolutely forbidden. I saw no practice of it whatsoever. When the town of Mafeking—now Mafikeng —was incorporated in Bophuthatswana, the white people had to make up their minds whether they were prepared to live in a non-racial state. Some of them were not. They left and went back to South Africa, because they could not face that prospect. However, many did stay, and they had to make the necessary adjustments. The Tswana people are a peaceable nation. It was assaulted by outside forces—the Zulus, the Afrikaners and the British. It was battered, pushed and deprived of the land which it had had for centuries.
93 An interesting aside is that, by all the criteria which can be applied to democratic states to judge whether a country can be free, Botswana is the only internationally recognised state in Africa which qualifies as a fully democratic state in all senses of the word. Bophuthatswana is inhabited by precisely the same peoples. It is not surprising that it should be a pleasant and an agreeable place.
Due to its colonial history, Britain owes a debt to that nation. I looked in a reference book for the legal criteria for a state. Four criteria were given. The first was that it should have a permanent population. Bophuthatswana fulfils that definition. Secondly, it should have a defined territory. It fulfils that. Thirdly, it should have a Government. That is certainly true. Fourthly, it should have a capacity to enter into relations with other states. Bophuthatswana fulfils all four criteria.
The only argument that has been advanced to the contrary is based on consolidation of territory. Until recently there were seven blocks of land. They have now been reduced to six, and in five of the six it is possible to see the way forward to consolidation. If that consolidation takes place, there is a real problem for the British Government, for it is a ground upon which the British Government have tended to fall back for denial of recognition.
Another argument that I have heard advanced sotto voce—to be fair, I have not heard this argument advanced by occupants of the Government Front Bench—is that Bophuthatswana is a tribal state. That is as true or untrue of its neighbour Botswana, which can also be described as tribal. There is a case for saying that there would have been much more peace in post-colonial Africa if all the states had been tribal rather than arbitrary lines on a map drawn by colonial powers, which have created collisions between different nations which have never agreed in the past and do not agree now. A great deal of warfare has taken place in Africa. It would have been so much better if the natural ethnographic lines had been followed.
Is Bophuthatswana independent of the Republic of South Africa? The answer is probably that it is as much or as little as any other state in southern Africa. We do not appreciate how much South Africa is a regional superpower. As we accept national independence in western Europe, how independent of South Africa are Lesotho or Swaziland? I suggest that the answer is as much or as little in reality-as Bophuthatswana. Some of my hon. Friends have mentioned other neighbouring states. The simple reality of economic, military and political power is that the Republic of South Africa dominates the area.
§ Mr. Knowles
That is realistic. Many of the neighbouring states, for good political reasons, do not want to acknowledge that fact, but it is a fact. Every so often South Africa, in economic as well as military terms, makes its power felt. We may dislike and disagree with it, but that is the reality.
Is Bophuthatswana economically viable? The country's statistics show that 96 per cent. of its budget is produced 94 within its borders and that only 4 per cent. comes in the form of subventions from South Africa. We all know that Governments can trim figures around the edges, but I would say that those figures are about right. That means that Bophuthatswana is much more viable than the other homeland states that have been created.
It must be acknowledged that Britain behaved badly in the past, and we are now starting to act unfairly again towards these people. In the past we have acted in a manner that can be described as unfair for what seemed to be good and pressing reasons, and I suspect that in the light of history we shall be found guilty both now and in the past. We must think again.
There is a danger in the whole of southern Africa of total confrontation to the detriment of all the peoples who live there. All steps, such as the Zulu-Natal indaba and a fresh examination of Bophuthatswana, must be taken to prevent that happening. We must stop the potential grounds for confrontation setting hard with disastrous results for all the peoples of the area. That is most necessary, and there is an opportunity for the British Government to take the lead.
§ 9.5 pm
§ Mr. David Ashby (Leicestershire, North-West)
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin) on choosing this subject for debate and bringing it to the attention of the House. I have a special interest in South Africa; I was born there. I was born in Maputo. I lived the first 10 or 11 years of my life in South Africa before coming to this country. I returned to South Africa in 1962 at the age of 21 years. What I saw in South Africa so horrified me that I remained there but a month or so before I returned to this country and immediately took up British nationality. I loathe apartheid with every bone I have. It is because of what I saw there that I am here today.
When I went to Bophuthatswana a month ago, I saw something that was not the South Africa I knew or the South Africa that I loathed. I saw something very different. I saw a happy, multiracial society in which individual merit was the sole criterion of achievement. I saw a people who were young, enthusiastic, hard-working, and trying very hard and succeeding. I saw in every sense a state and a country worthy of our support.
I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister and other people from the Foreign Office go there and see for themselves the sort of things that I saw, so that they can make the judgments that my colleagues made there. 'There is nothing like visiting a place and getting to know it and finding the hard facts for changing one's mind.
Our foreign policy, not just in this century, but in the last century and the century before, has been littered with double standards. It is always a matter of what is expedient, not of what is truthful or right. Bophuthatswana would not be in its present position if it were not for double standards or a broken promise—a promise given to those people that they would not be incorporated in South Africa but would be with Botswana today. That broken promise brings us to this position today. We say it is born out of apartheid. In fact, that promise was broken in 1895. It was made some 80 years before the refounding of the state.
In a sense, the period with South Africa was only an interregnum—nothing more than that. It was nothing more than an aberration, something that lasted for some 95 80 years. In 1895, part of the problem was that the people's best lands—their tribal lands—had been stolen. They were not getting the protection of the British Government. The British Government no longer protected them when they put them into the Cape colony. They are not protecting them today when they refuse to recognise what is left. It is fragmented in seven parts. The Bophuthatswana people have a right to the best part of their lands which were stolen from them. The South African Government must recognise that right and restore these lands to them. This cannot be done overnight. The matter has been negotiated. When we were there, we saw one corridor that was being closed.
My hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside is right in producing the standards for recognition which I know he got directly from the Foreign Office. There is in Bophuthatswana a de facto, if not a de jure, Government. One has to recognise that. By every criterion, it is a Government who are in control of their area.
It is sad when, today as in past centuries, we talk about double standards. My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary has gone to South Africa happy to try to see Nelson Mandela. We are happy about trying to speak to the African National Congress. But we do not speak to people who are recognised leaders in their own areas. We do not speak to President Mangope and Chief Buthelezi. We do not discuss with them the future of their country.
§ Mr. Hunter
I wish to encourage my hon. Friend to stress his point because we have heard the Government's declared policy to seek peaceful and fundamental change in South Africa. Yet, as my hon. Friend said, a Minister is prepared to talk to those who seek violent and fundamental change. We must take that point to heart and ask the Minister to explain exactly why she will not talk to those who want peaceful change.
§ Mr. Ashby
I could not agree more. If the Government are not to talk to President Mangope and to other moderate, reasonable and sensible black leaders, will they tell me this country's policy on South Africa? There does not seem to be a policy. The only policy that the Government have is to say, "We do not like apartheid. We do not want it."
South Africa, like many countries, is made up of a number of different tribes. One tribe is in control, the white tribe, but only a section is in power. What will the Government do about all the other tribes? The greatest tribe in southern Africa is the Zulu tribe. I do not think that the Bophuthatswana people would take gladly to being governed by the Zulu tribe.
The Government have to think carefully about a policy for South Africa. It is about time we had such a policy. We should not have constant double standards which give recognition to Lesotho, Swaziland, Malawi and other such countries but not to Bophuthatswana.
We have heard that Malawi is economically dependent on South Africa. Bophuthatswana is not such a country. It is viable economically. It has an industry but, above all, it has vast platinum reserves and diamond reserves. It does get some help from South Africa. If it were recognised as an independent country, help would be forthcoming from other countries—the type of help that most Third world 96 countries are given by First world countries. It would be more than happy to receive that help from us or any other First world country rather than from South Africa. Bophuthatswana does not have to be dependent on South Africa. The help that South Africa gives is only a small part of its financial deficit.
In refusing to recognise Bophuthatswana, we are in danger of throwing the baby out with the bath water. There will undoubtedly be a conflagration if South Africa carries on its present course. I see no future for South Africa when the Boers are so adamant that they will not accept a multiracial society. Why should areas which are self-governing, peaceful and multiracial be dragged into that conflict? Why should a viable country with a people who are prospering and will prosper be dragged into conflagration? Why should they not be excluded from it and given opportunities? Why should we as a nation insist that they be drawn into the conflagration? That is what we are doing.
I have to accept in this world of double standards, in which we can point to the fact that Bophuthatswana should be recognised and is economically viable, that, in a sense, Britain cares not about people but about concepts and that we cannot, for purely political reasons, recognise Bophuthatswana. We cannot recognise it because it would upset Zimbabwe, Zambia and perhaps Mozambique. Those are our reasons for not recognising it, although we do not wish to admit it and we do not wish to say those words. That must be the reason.
Why do we have this world of double standards? Why do we have the double standard that, although we say that this country exists and is part of South Africa, we refuse to help it in any way? The Government have just announced £14 million-worth of help for the education of non-white South Africans. How much of that will go to Bophuthatswana? It has an education system, multiracial schools and the means of disbursing and using that money in the best possible way. But education there has been neglected by Britain and South Africa.
§ Mr. Ashby
Bophuthatswana's education has been neglected by Britain, which is responsible for it, and by the South African Government. It has had to pick up the pieces and put together an education programme for its people. It is succeeding in that. It has a university, schools and an education system, but it could do with help. Although we do not recognise Bophuthatswana, why cannot some of the money at least be channelled there—[Interruption.] I see that I am getting somewhere. I feel that I have touched the Minister's heart strings. I am most heartened by that, and I hope to hear during her reply that substantial help and money will be provided for black education in South Africa, and that much of that money will be spent in an area which could use it and where it would be used to its best advantage.
Even though we do not recognise the country, at least we should not refuse to have anything to do with it or refuse to give it any of the aid that goes to black people in South Africa. We cannot have those double standards.
Finally, I ask for something which is almost unattainable—truth, honesty and for officials to go 97 there and see for themselves that Bophuthatswana meets all the criteria, and certainly all the criteria that are met in Lesotho, Swaziland, Malawi and Botswana. My hon. Friend the Minister will no doubt say that many of the Tswana people live in South Africa, not in Bophuthatswana. But at least the Botswanan people have a homeland. Many of those people are in a position similar to the people of Malawi and Mozambique who have gone to the Rand to work in the mines. They have gone to the land of economic advantages. That does not mean that they will remain there permanently. Indeed, most of them will not. Most will return to their homes, but it must be recognised that South Africa is an economic attraction—a magnet—for almost all of Africa south of the equator. Workers from many countries are attracted to South Africa because of the high wages and the work available. The workers of Bophuthatswana are no different from the workers of Mozambique and Malawi, but the latter have a homeland and are entitled to it.
I beg my hon. Friend the Minister to send her officials to Bophuthatswana to find out about the country. When she has discovered the facts, she will change her mind. But if she will not change her mind, she should not apply double standards. Do not let Bophuthatswana suffer simply because it exists. Give it a chance with the rest.
§ The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mrs. Lynda Chalker)
I listened with interest to the speeches of many of my hon. Friends, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin). I thank him very much for the things that he said about an engagement this evening that had to be broken in order to be here. I am glad that I heard what my hon. Friends have said, and am glad that they have had the chance to speak, as some of them did only last week when they visited my right hon. and learned Friend in his office. On that occasion he sought to answer many of the questions that have again been raised tonight. Those who have visited Bophuthaswana have obviously formed a very deep and abiding impression about it. So far I have not been so fortunate as to visit that country, but I hope that I shall do so one day.
Tonight my hon. Friends made accusations against members of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office who cannot reply in kind for themselves. I genuinely have no reason to believe that any of my briefing is incomplete. Anything that I say will be said in good faith about a situation that is a good deal more complicated than some of the speeches might have suggested.
The case has been developed by my hon. Friends with their customary eloquence and their concern for the Botswana people and others in Bophuthatswana. I appreciate that, but this Government's policy towards Bophuthatswana is, incidentally, the same policy that is applied by every other Government in the Western world. My hon. Friends have tried to say that it is misconceived.
I have been interested in the way in which my hon. Friends have put their case. The historical background with which my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside commenced was extremely interesting. However, the borders of Africa—and, indeed, Europe for that matter—are literally full of historical anomalies. I am sure that my hon. Friends will agree. One cannot wipe them away by lines on maps. As a young girl, I remember 98 seeing one of the straight lines across a country that was full of mountains and streams and thinking how daft map-drawers were.
If we stick rigidly to the belief that these borders are of real historical importance, it will not help when it conies to making policy. My hon. Friend the Member for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr. Ashby) said some pretty hard things and was very emotional. I want to try not to do that but to talk about the facts as I know them. I want to go away from the debate, to read what my hon. Friends have said and to check it out.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn (Mr. Best) expressed concern that the things about which we had asked three years ago did not seem to have been worked upon. I assure him that I shall have a look at that.
Let me talk about the facts, which are crucially important for this House and our policy. Bophuthatswana was created by the South African Government, and it is sustained by them, to further their policy of separate development. I speak purely on what has happened. I say that clearly and now, because nothing that my hon. Friends have said should be allowed to detract from the reality that the homelands policy is the policy of the South African Government.
In its unadorned form, apartheid holds that the African population of South Africa are not South Africans but various ethnic nationalities.
All ethnic nationalities make up a population such as that in South Africa, and in other countries also, but I remind the House that the so-called homelands were created to provide a home for such ethnic nationals. Bophuthatswana is one of those homelands.
§ Mr. Hunter
I want to clarify one point in our thinking. There is a difference between homelands and the homeland policy. The homelands were not created by the nationalist Government, but the homelands policy was. Will my hon. Friend bear that distinction in mind and continue to advise us on that point?
§ Mrs. Chalker
I will bear my hon. Friend's point in mind. However, I do not understand how it is possible to have a homelands policy, and for what the South African Government refer to as the homelands not to be part of it. I will look further into the matter and, perhaps. I may ask my hon. Friend a few questions after the debate.
Bophuthatswana is one of the homelands. It is obviously quite natural that many of the people want to grow and develop. I appreciate the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Leicestershire, North-West in that respect. The homeland was to be made independent in 1977 and I want to consider what that really means. In fact, no state other than the Republic of South Africa recognises Bophuthatswana as an independent state. In 1977, a unanimously adopted resolution of the Security Council demanded that the South African Governmentabolish the policy of bantustanization.The United Kingdom respects that resolution because we believe that the bantustans or homelands are an integral part of grand apartheid. I am sure that my hon. Friends do not want apartheid to continue. I am saying that grand apartheid was the policy developed after the second world war by Dr. Verwoerd and this policy has been continued. It is true that the South African Government have started to make changes, although not as many as my hon. Friends would wish.
99 In a debate which has sometimes muddled fact and fiction I must state, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said so often, that we abhor and reject apartheid. We also reject the so-called independent homelands as an instrument of that apartheid. I understand that there is a great deal of feeling within Bophuthatswana for so-called independence because they want to set the seal, perhaps, on their area. The negotiations have, in fact, set the seal on the policy of separate development. The development has included—and we must remember this—the relocation and forced removal of hundreds of thousands of black South Africans and it has caused much suffering to many of those on whom it was inflicted. Many of the people who were moved have later settled down, but the same policy continues to be resisted even among those it is supposed to benefit.
As my hon. Friends will know, the South African Government intended to grant a fifth territory—KwaNdebele—independence at the end of this year. However, its Chief Minister has withdrawn his request for independence in the light of the considerable opposition that the proposal has provoked. That may be a slightly different position from that described by my hon. Friends tonight, but it shows clearly that there is a difference in the views of those who have the option to go forward for so-called independence and those who were in that position some time ago.
§ Mr. Best
Our complaint arises from the way in which my hon. Friend the Minister puts the matter, lumping together all 10 homelands, including the four independent states, and saying that if one is not viable or an aberration they must all be judged in that way. We are asking her and her officials to consider Bophuthatswana quite separately. I am sure that she will accept that it is the only one of the 10 that is economically viable. We also challenge what has been said about its origins because we believe that it was the Tswana people who wanted independence. Leaving that aside, however, is Foreign Office policy now to be based on a 1978 Security Council resolution or on the situation as it is now rather than eight years ago?
§ Mrs. Chalker
We are certainly considering the situation as it is now, and I shall return to some of the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Leicestershire, North-West if there is time. However, I cannot allow my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn to put words into my mouth as I specifically did not say what he has accused me of saying. I believe that if a Government such as the South African Government have a policy of separate development and homelands are part of that, we must look to the reality of how things have arisen and where we are now and go forward with a policy which takes account of what the people in the homelands and many other people throughout the Republic of South Africa are saying.
Certain facts about government and elections in Bophuthatswana should be recognised. There were numerous calls for a referendum on independence, but none was held. Chief Mangope said that the people of Bophuthatswana could make their views known in the August 1977 general election, but half the seats in that election were filled by the chiefs who supported Mr. Mangope and only half were elected. Only one third of the 100 Tswana entitled to vote bothered to register to do so and of those registered only 50 per cent. went to the polls. Most Tswana in the rest of South Africa boycotted the whole process, and it must be recognised that the Tswana are not just in Bophuthatswana. A similar picture emerged in the 1982 elections. Sadly, therefore, what was advised should happen has not yet happened in an election there.
My hon. Friends made great play about the criteria for recognition. I wish to deal with the argument that Bophuthatswana, whatever its origins, now satisfies our criteria for recognition and should be treated as we find it today. Let us consider what that means. Bophuthatswana is a collection of several separate pieces of territory—now six—said to form an independent state. Ostensibly, it is the homeland of the Tswana people, but no state other than South Africa recognises it as an independent state. My hon. Friends have correctly described our criteria for recognition, but the fragmentation of the territory of Bophuthatswana within South Africa, the pattern of the population and the economic dependence on South Africa more than justify our refusal to recognise Bophuthatswana.
One of our criteria is that the territory should be clearly defined, which has not been the case. Recently, the South African Parliament passed the Borders of Particular States Extension Amendment Act, the result of which was to stipulate the incorporation of black communities on the borders of some of the homelands into the homelands themselves. We understand from our people in South Africa that Bophuthatswana is likely to be particularly affected by this provision and that several thousand people are involved, many of whom are non-Tswana.
These are the facts gathered by consular officials who visit Bophuthatswana from time to time. Others go through it and meet people unofficially. Not all meetings have to he official to be valuable and to provide background information. Such unofficial contacts continue. My hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn said that there were insufficient visits, but when dealing with a country as vast as South Africa or with a territory as widely dispersed as Bophuthatswana, it is not always easy to catalogue whom one met and where. For good reasons, I would not wish to do so, but I assure my hon. Friend that the contacts go on and when I was briefed last summer, I knew that much of the briefing came from visits made by officials to various homelands.
We want an end to apartheid and the establishment of a non-racial democracy. I am sure that the people of Bophuthatswana want to play their part in that. The problem is how best to achieve that end. That brings me back to much wider considerations. The policy is, and should be, evolving through peaceful contact. When we meet people who have proceeded by violent means, we try to persuade them how wrong it is to use violence and that nothing will be cured by it.
§ Mrs. Chalker
I should like to continue with my speech. Hon. Members have spoken for the best part of an hour, and it will be quite difficult enough to answer their many questions as it is.
A good deal of the debate has concerned whether Bophuthatswana is dependent on South Africa. My hon. Friends argued that, unlike other homelands, it is economically viable and not wholly dependent on South 101 Africa. My hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn knows from one of the answers that I have given him recently that, according to estimated figures, published not by us but by the South African Institute for Race Relations, the South African Government provided grants and loans worth 362 million rand in 1983–84. That should be compared with Bophuthatswana's budgeted spending of 731 million rand. Furthermore, Bophuthatswana participates in the South African customs union from which it derives substantial transfer payments. I am not criticising, but simply saying that the Bophuthatswana economy depends on the wider South African economy in other ways.
§ Mrs. Chalker
We must also take account of the wages of commuters and migrants from all sorts of places, including independent neighbouring countries. The fact remains, however, that the South African Government provides grants and loans worth nearly half of Bophuthatswana's budgeted spending.
§ Mr. Best
Has my hon. Friend actually asked for the estimate of revenue for the year ending 31 March 1987 rather than peripheral information? If not, I have a copy here which I can supply her with. She will then see that budgetary aid from the Republic of South Africa is 72 million rand, that the Development Bank of Southern Africa provides another 30 million rand—she may wish to include that in her calculations of dependence on South Africa—and that Bophuthatswana's total revenue is 1,086,989,000 rand. Those grants represent about 10 per cent. of total revenue, which is an entirely different proposition.
§ Mrs. Chalker
My hon. Friend obviously has some different figures and I shall be most interested to see them. I started the debate by saying that not only would I look carefully at everything everybody said, but I would also be making inquiries where that differed from the impression that I have formed. But I tell my hon. Friends in good faith that the figures that I gave just now are published figures and I shall look at my hon. Friend's figures again.
Given the South African Government's commitment to a part of its territory—Bophuthatswana—it is plainly not economically separate, even if it has, perhaps, a smaller percentage of its revenue coming from the South African Government than I said earlier.
§ Mrs. Chalker
No, I wish to finish this point, if my hon. Friend will allow me.
The assessment of economic viability has also been reported on by another reputable source—the South African magazine Financial Mail. On 29 March 1986 it said:The accumulated debtof Bophuthatswanain the 1986–87 fiscal year could run at 875 million rand.I have no reason to think that is false. Speaking more generally of the homeland policy, Financial Mail continued:Certainly, if separate development were to be measured in terms of its monetary cost, it can now be said to be a dismal failure…I do not quote that to show that my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn is wrong, but simply because that 102 has been the accepted wisdom for a long while. If that is not so, we shall have to look at it further. However, that comes from South Africa.
My hon. Friend talked about the people and I was sad to hear one of my hon. Friends say that we do not care about the people of Bophuthatswana. Of course we do. They are not forgotten by Her Majesty's Government, as my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) seemed to think. The homelands are—
§ Mrs. Chalker
If I am allowed to finish my sentence, I might have a chance to clarify the matter.
The homelands, which are an essential part of the South African Government's policy of apartheid, are certainly not forgotten. We have condemned apartheid time and again in the House and I am sure that the House will continue to do so, as will all my hon. Friends. But the people there are not forgotten and that is the important difference.
§ Mrs. Chalker
I am coming to that.
Bophuthatswana is sometimes said to be the home of the Tswana people. Let me give some figures. In 1984 the population of Bophuthatswana was estimated to be 1,667,500, of whom it is said that the majority were Tswana. However, there are significant numbers from minority tribes there. Most importantly, the claim that it is the home of the Tswana people is a hit misleading because the estimates in South Africa are that there are some 1,522,000 Tswana in other parts of South Africa.
§ Mrs. Chalker
I am seeking only to tell the House that the Tswana people are not limited, as some hon. Members gave the impression, to the territory of Bophuthatswana. They are far more widely spread, just as the English are across the world.
§ Mrs. Chalker
That question is difficult to answer because of the amount of movement of people in and out, particularly of the territory of Bophuthatswana.
My hon. Friends seem to think that the area is completely tolerant and racially mixed and I would wish that it is. However, there is more than one view on the degree of racial tolerance on Bophuthatswana. It is certainly true that when the territory was carved out of South Africa it was both to serve apartheid and the cause of separate development and to reduce the number of black citizens in South Africa, without removing their labour from the economic heartland of South Africa Even so, the regular and systematic repression of non-Tswana people in Bophuthatswana has made it difficult, if not impossible, for them to attain citizenship of that territory. I do not believe that that case would have come from so many sources if that situation had not occurred. We are seeking peaceful and fundamental change in South Africa and that means that there must be tolerance in all areas.
§ Mr. Colvin
The point that my hon. Friend is making is important and I ask her to ensure that her sources of information are correct. There are changing circumstances and attitudes in Bophuthatswana. I asked a girl there what tribe she came from and she said, "I don't know what you mean. I am a Tswana, but I was born a Xhosa." Circumstances are changing and people no longer attribute such importance to their tribal origins. We seek to argue that the territory is tribal, and that it is and for hundreds of years has been clearly defined, so it is rightly belongs to those people, who should gain independence.
Earlier in the debate my hon. Friend said that she would tackle the three criteria for recognition, but she has touched on only one—the question of consolidation. She did not do so conclusively because she did not say how many measures of consolidation there must be before Britain recognises the country. Is it five, four, three, two or only one? Will she deal with the two other criteria for recognition—that the people have control of their internal domestic affairs and that they have an independent foreign policy? She has not touched on those. Presumably that means that she assumes they are acceptable.
§ Mrs. Chalker
I have given way often. I am trying to answer the questions and points made in the original debate, but the more I am interrupted the less chance I have of doing so because I do not intend to spend all night here and you, Mr. Speaker, would not let me. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, Hear."] I know that the Whips agree with me.
Earlier when there was muttering behind me, and perhaps some hon. Members did not hear what I was saying, I spoke about the criteria of borders and economic viability, and about defensible and effective control. Those two criteria are not fulfilled. Certainly, there is no independent foreign policy, and perhaps I would have made that point in greater depth if my hon. Friend had not intervened.
In seeking to move towards a peaceful solution in South Africa, we must consider not only what happens in Bophuthatswana but throughout the whole area. I ask my hon. Friend to understand that we are considering all these questions of policy. At the beginning of the debate I said that these matters were more complicated than some of my hon. Friends indicated.
That is why, while I can argue yes and no on each precise question, it would be wrong to do so without considering the wider context, and that is why I have also said that I shall consider everything that has been said in the debate and check it up. Whatever the criteria for recognition, which do not apply just in South Africa and are not just applied by the United Kingdom, they are there for good reasons and we try to have a consistent line and measure each country against it. That is exactly what we have done with this country.
Some of my hon. Friends thought that my comment about the Tswana was unfair, but we can go only on the totality of the information, which we actively collect, and the contacts that we make. We talk to as many people as will come to us and as we can reach. My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary met Chief Buthelezi in South Africa in July and officials have met him too. 104 However, one has to remember that Chief Buthelezi—my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke raised this point—has refused to enter into talks with the South African Government. Many other leaders, — for example, the leader of Lebowa,—came to see me in the summer, and many others come to talk and give us information. I have books in my bookcase about Transkei and Venda. We get a lot of information. We are seeking to take a rather wider view than others may realise.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, North-West spoke about aid, and my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn quoted from a letter from the British Council. I do not know what the reason was for the British Council writing as it did, because that letter does not reflect Government policy. I should like to have a copy of that letter, so I hope that my hon. Friend will be kind enough to supply me with one.
One of the arguments made in the debate is that we should provide assistance whether or not we recognise Bophuthatswana. It is a question of direct assistance, because we do not recognise Bophuthatswana. However, that territory can look to those who recognise it, that is the South African Government. We are mindful of the needs of the black community as a whole. We treat Bophuthatswana as we treat other parts of the Republic of South Africa. There is no reason why a disadvantaged resident of Bophuthatswana should not be eligible for our training awards and scholarships. New money is going to help to train black South Africans, specifically announced by my right hon. and learned friend the Foreign Secretary. These people are equally entitled, with all others, to the schemes that we are putting forward. That is why I shall investigate what has been said tonight.
There have been a number of comments about the key difference between Botswana and the Bophuthaswana. It is that Botswana was never part of the Union of South Africa. Rightly or wrongly, we kept Bechuanaland outside the Union. We granted Botswana independence. The existence of Botswana cannot be described as a by-blow of the apartheid system. Nor, unlike Bophuthatswana, is Botswana dependent upon the South Africa Government in terms of its defence policy. Botswana enjoys universal recognition, and plays, as I know with pleasure, an important part in the international community. The situation is different, and while one cannot say that situations will never change, we must relate to today's situation.
The route to peaceful change in South Africa is not through support for the policy of separate development, enshrined in the homelands whch are sometimes called independent, and which have been set up for the convenience of the South African Government's apartheid system. The South African Government would be better advised to try to have genuine dialogue with free and freely chosen black leaders. It is on that basis of dialogue that change will begin and by which we will see the creation by peaceful means of non-racial democracy in South Africa as a whole. We will look at Bophuthatswana and all its needs with the greatest of care and I shall examine every word said in this debate.
Question put and agreed to.
Adjourned accordingly at one minute to Ten o'clock.