§ 11.33 a.m.
§ The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Young)
My Lords, the number of your Lordships participating in this debate demonstrates how deeply concerned we all are about the situation in South Africa.
Despite the recent clamp down by the South African Government on media coverage of the unrest, we know that violence continues in the townships; that the death toll rises; and that arrests and detentions continue. Millions of ordinary South Africans continue to suffer under a system which denies them, purely on grounds of their colour, the basic human rights that we take for granted. The international community has a legitimate interest in their plight. I welcome the opportunity today to debate the situation in South Africa in this House and to set out the Government's policy.
Last week the Government made formal representations to the South African Government both in London and in Pretoria. We expressed our concern about all those detained, but we made particular mention of the detention of a whole range of people who could not reasonably be accused of being associated with acts of violence. These are not dangerous radicals. On the contrary, they are the sort of people who have been active in helping those in need and in preaching reconciliation, moderation and restraint. I refer of course to the clergymen, lay church members and community workers in moderate organisations such as Black Sash who have been detained over recent weeks. We have urged the South African Government to lift the state of emergency, to release detainees, to restore press freedom and to restore normal collective bargaining, in short, to restore the freedoms cherished in any civilised society.
I hope I do not need to reiterate that this Government utterly and unreservedly condemn the policy of apartheid and the repressive measures used to enforce it. We wish to see this unnacceptable system brought to an end as soon as possible. We should like to see established in its place a non-racial society with democratic, representative government and with proper safeguards for all minorities. As I have previously told your Lordships, we are not seeking to prescribe the particular political and constitutional arrangements that may be necessary—that is a matter 1160 for the South African people as a whole to decide for themselves. What I am saying is that until such a society is established in South Africa, the Western objective of a prosperous, stable southern Africa, with all the countries in the area living in harmony and respecting each others borders, cannot be achieved.
But, we want these changes to come about peacefully, not through confrontation. This Government have always denounced violence, from whatever quarter. We shall continue to argue that violence can solve nothing; that what is required is dialogue and negotiation, accompanied by a suspension of violence on all sides. This was precisely the message which my honourable friend the Minister of State gave Mr. Oliver Tambo, acting president of the ANC, when she met him for the first time on 24th June. At the same time she left Mr. Tambo in no doubt about our commitment to the early and complete elimination of apartheid.
The Government see the violence in South Africa as a symptom, not a cause of the deep malaise which affects that unhappy country today. We therefore consider the South African Government to be sadly mistaken if they believe that they can cope with the problem simply by applying force. The root cause lies in the unjust and morally indefensible system of apartheid and the distortion and tensions which it generates.
Gloomy though the outlook is, it would be quite wrong to paint a picture devoid of any light or shade. The honest observer should concede that the situation in South Africa has evolved over the past two years. State President Botha made the belated admission in January this year that apartheid was outmoded. Reforms have been introduced which would have been considered unthinkable even a few years ago. On 1st July it was announced that the pass laws had at last been abolished. This is a significant step forward. The South African Government have pledged themselves to consider further reforms at a special session of Parliament this summer. But the pace of reform is still painfully slow. Changes have appeared too little, too late, and too grudging. The result is that the South African Government have not got credit for them either from the black community or from the international community. The focus remains on the distance yet to travel, rather than on progress already made.
It was precisely in order to encourage the South African Government to take bold steps that we took certain measures last autumn, in concert with our partners in the international community, intended to promote and encourage the process of change. I refer to the packages of measure adopted by the European Community at Luxembourg on 10th September 1985 and the initiative agreed with Commonwealth partners at Nassau on 20th October last.
The Commonwealth initiative established the Eminent Persons Group. This was an imaginative attempt to bridge the gap between the South African Government and their domestic opponents, and to work for reconciliation. The group of respected Commonwealth statesmen included the noble Lord, Lord Barber. I know we shall all listen with great interest to what he has to tell us today. The difficulties 1161 of the task were clear from the outset. Many people were at first sceptical that anything could come of the Group's efforts. But the Group did make headway in the six-month period laid down at Nassau. It came to be trusted and respected by many who at first had been wary of it. It managed to establish a dialogue with the South African Government, with a wide range of opinion inside South Africa, and with the African National Congress. Above all, as the group's report records, it managed to produce a negotiating concept which could have given the South African Government the opportunity to make a real breakthrough in establishing a genuine process of dialogue, based on a suspension of violence on all sides. As we now know and regret, the South African Government failed to take that opportunity and the group concluded in its report that it could go no further. But it came tantalisingly close to making real progress. We are convinced that its approach was correct. We must not shut the door on future negotiations. The seven Commonwealth Heads of Government who were each asked to nominate a member of the group will be meeting in London to review the situation at the beginning of August.
When the European Community Heads of Government met in the Hague on 26th and 27th June, they agreed that the aims of the Commonwealth group remained valid. Dialogue and the suspension of violence remained the only constructive way forward. To support the process of non-violent change in South Africa and to emphasise their deep concern about the recent course of events, they decided to take fresh action of their own.
First, they called for a concerted European programme of assistance to the victims of apartheid. This programme will build on the substantial assistance already being given to the black community in South Africa by Britain and the other European states, both nationally and through the European Community.
Secondly, the Heads of Government called on the South African government to take two most important steps: unconditionally to release Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners; and to lift the ban on the ANC, the PAC and other political parties. In our view, these steps are essential to beginning a dialogue.
Thirdly, the Heads of Government said that the European Community would during the next three months enter into consultations with other industri-alised countries on further measures which might be needed, covering in particular a ban on new investments and on the import of coal, iron, steel and gold coins from South Africa.
Finally, and, I believe, most significantly, they decided to ask my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, in his capacity as President of the European Council of Ministers, to visit southern Africa in a further effort to establish conditions in which dialogue could begin. Discussions on the precise timing of the mission are still in progress, but I would wish to reiterate that it is not a fact-finding mission. My right honourable friend is going with the full authority and backing of all the states of the European Community, which comprise several of South Africa's major trading partners and which have important historical 1162 and personal links with South Africa. His purpose is not to deliver an ultimatum or issue threats. His aim is to impress upon those he meets that, as seen from Europe, South Africa can no longer afford any delay in beginning the national dialogue we have for so long urged.
Her Majesty's Government remain totally committed to continuing the search for a peaceful negotiated settlement. We shall do so with our partners in the Commonwealth, with our partners in the European Community, in consultation with other Western governments, and on our own account. We do so in full recognition that the forces which will change South Africa are primarily internal, not external. It will be a difficult process and will take time. The task of the world community is to encourage and reinforce the positive forces for change in South Africa. We should seek ways to strengthen the hand of liberal whites. We should encourage the business community who are already pressing for change. We should signal to blacks that there is only a real prospect of a solution through negotiation, and not through violence.
The Government understand the frustration that leads to calls for the imposition of comprehensive sanctions. Britain has already taken a wide range of measures to put political pressure on the South African Government. We have implemented the United Nations arms embargo, the Gleneagles agreement on sport, the further measures agreed with other European governments in September last, and those agreed with the Commonwealth partners at the Heads of Government meeting in Nassau last year. But we are convinced that general boycotts would be counter-productive. They would make the South African Government more resistant to change. They would also cause serious harm to the very people whom we are trying to help in South Africa. They would damage the economies of neighbouring countries. We do not see what would be gained by undermining the economy of the whole southern African region, and encouraging the South African Government to retreat into the laager and fight on to the bitter end for what could be many years. For there can be no doubt whatsoever that the South Africans could hold out for a long time indeed under siege conditions.
Cynics in the international community have argued that there is no point in trying to influence the South African Government at all—that they are totally impervious to outside opinion. Equally, there are hard-liners inside South Africa who claim that this is true. The Government happen to think that it would be tragic if this view prevailed. It would mean giving up all hope of a peaceful negotiated solution. I firmly believe that we must do everything we can to make a peaceful solution possible. This is the view of the European Community as a whole. It is for this reason that they have entrusted my right honourable friend with the mission that he is due to undertake.
So long as there is any hope of a peaceful solution, we must keep on trying to work towards it. We must leave the South African Government in no doubt of the urgent need to grasp the opportunity that still exists before it is too late. I hope that your Lordships will join 1163 with me in wishing my right honourable friend every success in his difficult task.
§ Moved, That this House takes note of the situation in South Africa.— (Baroness Young. )
§ 11.46 a.m.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House for acceding so readily to the request for a debate on this grave issue. We are also glad that he is to make the final speech. The noble Baroness has made a clear opening statement of the Government's policy. We agree with many of the points that she made and I shall deal with some of her arguments as I proceed. But both she and the noble Viscount must know that we on this side have profound reservations about the effectiveness of the Government's policy. That is not to say that we disregard the enormous political, economic and social problems involved on the road to a settlement. There is a price to be paid, although no one is sure what that may be. What we are certain of is that it would be much less than the ghastly price that will be exacted if there is no early settlement, and if the South African Government persists on the road to inevitable disaster. The consequences of that catastrophe for the world are unpredictable.
The House will recall that we debated the problems of South Africa as recently as 30th April. Noble Lords who took part dealt with the developing tragedy and expressed their views about it. But it is our worst fears in that debate that have been proved right, and the crisis in the meantime has become far more acute. For the purposes of a balanced debate, it is right that I should say at the start that there are matters of first principle upon which we and the Government agree. We want to see an end to apartheid and we want to see measured progress to a plural democracy. The noble Baroness has made clear that this is the Government's attitude. At the conclusion of The Hague summit, the Prime Minister also repeated the Government's total opposition to apartheid. It is right therefore to stress that all parties in this Chamber are fundamentally opposed to apartheid and desire to bring it to an early conclusion. Where we differ is on the measures to be taken to deal with this great evil. I shall come to them in a moment.
In the two months since our last debate a number of important things have happened—that is, in addition to the mounting crisis in South Africa itself. First, the term of six months, set by the Commonwealth Heads of Government in Nassau, has come to an end. Secondly, the Eminent Persons Group appointed by them has published its report. Finally, last week's EC summit at The Hague, at which the Prime Minister played a major role, has taken place. The noble Baroness dealt with this in some detail in her speech. But at the end of The Hague meeting the Prime Minister seems to have got the objectives of the Commonwealth meeting at Nassau and the EC decisions mixed up. The overwhelming Commonwealth opinion is one of dismay and disappointment with the reaction to the crisis at The Hague. We must await the next Commonwealth meeting here in London early in August for a 1164 considered view. Yet, the Prime Minister, as reported in The Times on 28th June, said that Sir Geoffrey Howe's proposed mission was the next stage following the recent report by the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group and that it would be absurdto cast away a chance that is still there".The Foreign Secretary is an old friend of mine; I hold him in high regard and also wish him well in his mission. But, it requires a quite remarkable imagination to believe that Mr. Botha and his friends are prepared to contemplate proposals that would come anywhere near international acceptance. I hope that I shall be proved wrong, but the messages from Pretoria over the last few days are certainly not encouraging.
It is also clear that the eminent persons themselves did not regard a visit by the Foreign Secretary as the next desirable stage in the proceedings. They came to a very different conclusion. Before anyone starts criticising them in this debate—and I hope that no one does—I would remind the House that the noble Baroness herself said, in the debate on 30th April, that they hadwon a great deal of respect and co-operation on all sides… Its credibility is reinforced by the broad base of international support which it now enjoys … the mission represents much of the best prospect at this time for a positive international contribution to a settlement in South Africa. [Official Report, 30/4/86; col. 380.]The noble Baroness has used more or less the same words today. She went on to say that Her Majesty's Government would give the group all possible help, using their long-standing links with South Africa to best advantage. We all supported the sentiments of the noble Baroness at that time and wished the group, which included the noble Lord, Lord Barber, every success. We on this side are delighted that the noble Lord is in his place today and we look forward very much to hearing what he has to say because his knowledge of the problem at this crucial time is more detailed than anyone else's in the Chamber.
However, whatever qualities Mr. Botha has, subtlety is not one of them. He quickly showed what he thought of our long-standing links and of the Eminent Persons Group when he sent his troops into three of the front line states, at the moment when the group was approaching its final conclusions. That effectively scuppered the Eminent Persons Group's efforts to achieve progress, but it did not—mercifully—scupper their report and it remains in my view a historic document. In April the noble Baroness spoke of the "credibility" of the group. I hope that the Government still believe in the credibility of the group, and in the credibility of the group's report. I am sure that the noble Viscount will give us his view of that when he winds up.
Let us be clear what the report said. It came to five conclusions of basic importance which may be summarised very briefly as follows. First, on the issue of apartheid it says:We have examined the South African Government's 'programme of reform' and have been forced to conclude that at present there is no genuine intention on the part of the South African Government to dismantle apartheid".That is a fundamental conclusion of great importance to this House as we debate the issue. Secondly, they concluded that emergency laws were broadly in force. 1165 Since then, of course, far more draconian measures have been introduced. Thirdly, Nelson Mandela and other political leaders remain in prison and, as we know, many more have been imprisoned without trial since then. Fourthly, political freedom, they say, is far from being established. If anything, it is being more rigorously curtailed. The ANC and other political parties remain banned. Fifthly and lastly, the group said this:The cycle of violence and counter violence has spiralled and there is no present prospect of a process of dialogue across lines of colour, politics and religion and the establishment of a non racial and representative Government".Since the group published these five conclusions matters have deteriorated further. But it formed the view on what the noble Lord and his colleagues saw, and on what it heard across the whole spectrum of opinion, namely, that the South African Government are not ready to negotiate measures towards representative government except on their own terms and those terms fall far short of black expectations. They also fall short of well accepted democratic norms and principles. The group said specifically,It"—that is the South African Government—is in truth not yet prepared to negotiate fundamental change".It said that there could be little doubt that the alternative to a negotiated settlement—and an early negotiated settlement—would beappalling chaos, bloodshed and destruction".That is the reality of the situation. This is what we face as we contemplate what action this country and others should take in the face of that possible cataclysm. In my view the group has done its job. This "credible" group included the noble Lord and Mr Malcolm Fraser, honourable and practicable men on the Right—if the noble Lord does not mind my saying so, although not too far to the Right—of the political spectrum who would certainly not have put their names to the report unless they believed in it. I was greatly impressed by the article written by Mr Fraser in The Times on Tuesday.
It is against that background that we must look at The Hague decisions. Sadly, once again the Prime Minister took the lead against positive measures and for further delay. The old arguments were deployed again. They have been met with a predictable response right across the world. But what did the Eminent Persons Group itself say about economic sanctions? It commended "concerted action of an effective kind". It went on to say this, and no doubt the noble Lord, Lord Barber will underline it:We point to the fact that the Government of South Africa has itself used economic measures against its neighbours and that such measures are patently instruments of its own national policy. We are convinced that the South African Government is concerned about the adoption of effective economic measures against it. If it comes to the conclusion that it would always remain protected from such measures, the process of change in South Africa is unlikely to increase in momentum, and the descent into violence would be accelerated".That is a profound conclusion and a profoundly important judgment on the Government's own policies, their unwillingness to face reality, and to plan for the longer term in the interests of South Africa and the rest of the world. But the Government's views have always been clear. They are that sanctions will fail; 1166 that they are no good; that they would injure the black population and create economic difficulties for us in Britain. The Eminent Persons Group takes a different view and so does almost everybody else except the Government and two or three newspapers. The Government have at different times, but in other circumstances, called for support for sanctions: sanctions against the Argentine, against Libya, against the Soviet Union, and against Poland. They did so not merely because they thought that it would influence those countries to change course, but because they—Her Majesty's Government—with our support wished to express their abhorrence about what was going on in those countries. That is always the primary reason for sanctions. As I understand it, that was the view of the majority of our EC partners in The Hague.
The practical question about sanctions is precisely what they should be and how far they should go. Specific measures for the future were agreed in The Hague. I assume that the noble Viscount, when he concludes the debate, will confirm that the Government will join in imposing those sanctions if the Foreign Secretary returns emptyhanded. Personally, I do not think that sanctions by dribs and drabs are "effective measures". The Afrikaner will not be impressed by that. The liberal Afrikaner—and there are splendid liberal Afrikaners in South Africa—will not be assisted. Nor will the Commonwealth be impressed. We must consider what the consequences of all this will be for the future of the Commonwealth.
We have heard what President Kaunda and others have said, but I am sure that they will give very careful thought to the implications of jeopardising the future of the Commonwealth at this crucial time. However, of course, as I am sure the noble Viscount will again agree, it is the actions of Her Majesty's Government which will finally decide the future of the Commonwealth in due course. In all this, Britain's tenure of the presidency of the Community and the Foreign Secretary's mission are of focal significance. As I said at the start, we wish him well in his task.
I noted that the Prime Minister defined the Foreign Secretary's task in another place on Tuesday at cols. 823 and 824 of Hansard. She said that if those objectives were not achieved the Government must in a short space of time join in a further effort. She referred to the objectives as set out in the communiqué:In this context the European Council calls on the South African Government:—to unconditionally release Nelson Mandela and the other political prisoners;—to lift the ban on the African National Congress, the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania and other political parties".Those are the objectives of the right honourable and learned gentleman's visit. However, the future is awesome. I have not seen it so well described as by the Economist a few days ago when it said:Change in South Africa is ever less likely to be negotiated, let alone decided, through a ballot box. It will come through the blood-stained power-broking of sectional interests; guns, armour, arbitrary arrest, backed by patronage and bribery, pitted against riot, arson and terror. Governments which set their policemen outside the law, which ban priests and community peacemakers, which deny free dissemination of information, which suspend constitutional rights, usually plead that repression is the pre-condition of future freedom. The history of modern politics replies that that is rubbish.1167 Of all places on earth, this Parliament and this House must agree that that is so.
We hope, therefore, that the right honourable gentleman's visit will be a success. I pay a tribute to liberal elements in South Africa, to Mr. Nelson Mandela himself, and refute the rubbish that is talked about him as a tool of communism. He is an enlightened liberal politician, as are Mrs. Janet Suzman and so many others. The solution at the end must emerge from them, from within the community in South Africa itself. Our task is to see that a just society, a fair, free and democratic society, emerges. I hope that the Government will bend their will and their efforts to that end.
§ 12.3 p.m.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, it is common ground between us on all sides of the House that we abhor apartheid. Let us remind ourselves that apartheid is not an old cultural pattern in South Africa. It was invented and introduced as late as 1948, although it is true that it was built on the great discrimination before those days. It is also common ground between us that we abhor the intolerable bloodshed; the police action; and the action of the armed forces which is taking place in South Africa at present and which appears week by week—indeed, day by day—to be deepening and becoming ever more serious.
However, I am not sure that it is such common ground between us that the time is running out, that there is very little time left to avoid a descent into the abyss in which only violence will be seen to be the deciding factor in what is to come. We must remind ourselves that it is particularly running out for those moderate, patient African leaders who attempted for so long not to use violence but who were driven to the use of violence because they did not have the use of the ballot box. However, those patient African leaders are beleaguered themselves on all sides. They are not only opposed by the white Government; they have behind them and coming around them the younger, intolerant blacks, and if we are reduced to negotiating with them the future will be very bleak indeed.
It is surely in our own greatest interest, if we really believe that there must be peace in South Africa—and surely we all do—to back people like Bishop Tutu and others who have stood patiently and tried to avoid the retreat into violence. However, they could so easily be swept aside and they will be swept aside unless very soon they can see that the black leadership that has been their leadership up until now will lead them to success.
The fact of the matter is that today there is only a choice between a decision based on violence and a decision based on negotiation. The Government believe and acknowledge that. However, what is the negotiation to be about, and who is to do the negotiating? We accept, as the noble Baroness, Lady Young, has said, that there have been important changes. It is good that the pass laws are to go; and there are other changes that we welcome. However, that is not what it is all about. It is all about the distribution of power. It is about getting rid of a system which does not recognise basic democratic rights and 1168 that those democratic rights are based on persons and not on groups.
The basic error of apartheid has been the belief that you can develop so-called democratic governments by dealing separately with groups of persons but denying the rights of individuals. That is the matter about which negotiation must take place. Sooner or later it will mean—indeed, it must mean (because how can this Parliament say otherwise?)—one man one vote, with of course safeguards for the rights of minorities. That and that alone is what effective negotiation has to be all about.
Who is to do the negotiating? Surely it has to be—and here I think we are in agreement—the people who are at present in prison. Emphatically, and first and foremost, because he has become a symbol as well as being a person, it has to be Nelson Mandela. It has to be the ANC. It has to be the people who the people of Africa themselves recognise as being their leaders. And it has to be done sooner rather than later.
Six months ago we had the Nassau Accord. On that occasion we agreed to the Nassau Accord and said that if there was not positive movement in the direction that we wanted to go we would take stern action; there would be stronger measures to enforce what the Nassau Accord wanted to bring about. The remarkable report by the Eminent Persons Group has made it crystal clear that there has been no such advance. It has made it crystal clear that without advance, and advance soon, the situation can only become rapidly worse.
For our part, we on these Benches wish that the Government had delayed no longer. We wish that they had stood by what they said at the time of the Nassau Accord and were prepared now to introduce those stronger measures. Indeed, let us call them "stronger measures" if it makes it easier, rather than calling them "sanctions", provided they amount to the same thing. We wish that they had introduced those stronger measures to show the South African Government that they really mean what was said at Nassau; that they really mean that there has to be negotiation to force the establishment of genuine democracy in South Africa—genuine democracy led by men in whom we can have some confidence because of their past record—and not wait until it is too late.
We wish that that step had been taken now; but it is not to be. There is to be yet another three months for consultation. Sir Geoffrey Howe is to go for further consultation to see what he can do to bring about a negotiated settlement. We all wish him, in the full sense of the words, God speed. He is up against the most difficult task that he, or perhaps any other Foreign Secretary, is likely to have to tackle in our lifetime today. It is, as I see it, perhaps the worst crisis that has been faced since the crisis when we had to face Hitler in 1939. It is going to be a most enormously difficult task to undertake.
But has Sir Geoffrey a chance unless he goes with the South African Government realising that if he fails, if he does not get agreement, then in reality the Government will use tough action? Surely he has to negotiate from a basis of strength. The South African Government have already seen that we have stepped backwards from what we suggested we were going to 1169 do at the time of Nassau. If they continue to believe that we will dilly-dally after this three-month period, what hope has the Foreign Secretary that he will get them to move from the position that they have taken up at the present time? Therefore, surely he must go out armed with the knowledge, and able to say, that sterner measures really will be taken if nothing is achieved at the end of those three months.
There is so much at stake not only in South Africa itself, not only in the problem, between black and white and the coloureds and Asians inside South Africa: there is a great deal at stake, too, for this country; for our position of leadership inside the European Community. It so happens that at this moment we have the presidency. We shall not have it again for six years. We do not want to be seen to be leading from behind. We have not a great reputation for having shown leadership inside the EC.
There are many who think that The Hague Agreement would have been stronger, would have been more positive, but for the action taken by the British Government. That is not the sort of leadership that we want to demonstrate within the EC. The British presidency and Sir Geoffrey Howe's mission to South Africa give us a chance (a chance that we have missed so often in the past) to show that we really are leaders inside the EC. Let us seize that chance with both hands, and use all the forces that we have to see that the results of this mission lead to effective change and not just to more talk.
Then there is the position of the Commonwealth. We know that all over the Commonwealth there is deep criticism of the slowness with which we have taken action against South Africa. There must be the deepest criticism, too, of our failure to take action now with the results of the Nassau Accord being so puny, and indeed the report that has come from the Eminent Persons Group. The Commonwealth is a great creation, of which this country is rightly proud. It has an influence such as no organisation of nations in history has ever had.
Are we going to throw that away—that instrument for good; the best result of Empire that any Empire has ever had? What other Empire has ever left behind a record as good as the record of the Commonwealth? Are we not going to use the power that the Commonwealth gives us? Are we going to say that when it came to the point we were not prepared to use our strength? Then there is our own strong economic interest inside South Africa. South Africa is a rich country. It has a great economic future if it is handled aright, and we have a big part to play in the development of that great economic future.
That brings me to the last point I want to stress. Politics and economics are inevitably intertwined. There is a far better hope of a good political future if the economic prospects of the country are rosy than if they are dim. Can we not, in a number of ways, give a lead to help on the economic front?
One of the most important developments must be the growth and development of people among the African population who are able to take a leading role in the economic and industrial development of the country. The great companies operating in South Africa have had various records in their relations with 1170 their African staff, but some of them have done a great deal indeed to bring on skilled men and skilled supervisee, skilled managers, so that there can be a core of trained African specialists able to contribute to the economic development of their country.
I believe that at the present time there are some legal limitations that the South African Government imposes on the extent to which those companies are able to bring forward their African staff. One thing at least we can surely do is to see that there are no restraints whatsoever put on European companies in the development of their African staff. We can do more. Can we not get them together and ask those companies what, in addition to what they are already doing, they can do to promote the development of African managers, African skilled men, and African trade unions? So when the day comes—and the day will come; countries, unlike individuals, cannot take retreat in oblivion, there always is a tomorrow—will it be a tomorrow with a real economic prospect or a tomorrow of economic chaos? As the Africans come to the power that, sooner or later and by one means or another, will be theirs, we must help them to be economically prepared to do it.
One thing that the Government could do straight-away is to increase greatly the number of places for South African blacks in our universities and polytechnics (and indeed the EC could do this, too) so that they could have trained manpower ready for the economic development of their country when that day comes, as most surely come it will.
§ Lord Burton
My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, may I ask her one short question? She talked about one man one vote. How many other African countries have one man one vote?
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, because it has gone wrong in other places is no reason why we should not continue trying elsewhere.
§ 12.17 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Birmingham
My Lords, I should like to record my thanks for the arrangements that have been made for this debate, and also for the words of wisdom that we have just heard. I must confess that I am rather glad that I am not a bishop in South Africa today. I would be likely to be in detention, like the Assistant Bishop of Johannesburg. It would be most unlikely that my wife would be able to visit me; my children would probably be detained—fates which have been experienced by bishops in South Africa. Whole congregations in my diocese might have been arrested, despite the fact that President Botha wrote only on 29th May last guaranteeing freedom of religion and worship in a letter to the EPG.
He also guaranteed freedom of the press and of expression in general. But now, only a few weeks later, thousands, as we know, have disappeared from view. It seems to me that the situation for a black African in South Africa today is not altogether unlike that of a Jew in pre-war Nazi Germany: liable to arbitrary arrest, subject to violence and sudden disappearance without trace. We must think of what the situation 1171 looks like from their point of view and not just from ours.
Of course South Africa is not the only tyranny in the world today. But there are special reasons for our concern over South Africa. The Treaty of Vereeniging, which ended the Boer War, contained the fatal clause:The question of granting the franchise to the natives will not be decided until after the introduction of self-government".It was this which has led step by step to the total disenfranchisement of blacks, coloureds, and Indians, and to apartheid.
I think I am right in saying that South Africa is the only part of the British Empire in which we did not grant independence to the majority of its citizens. So there seems to be a special responsibility that we have for that, to say nothing of the vast sums of money that we have invested there and the large number of people from our country who have emigrated there.
The Churches too have a special interest in South Africa, because it claims to be a Christian country. If the Churches here do not speak up they seem to be concurring with these false claims, and we need to support Bishop Desmond Tutu, Doctor Beyers Naude and Dr. Alan Boesak, those courageous opponents of apartheid and who are for peaceful change. Your Lordships may not know that there came from the South African Churches last year a document, the so-called Kairos Document, which has been likened to the Barmen Declaration of the Confessing Church in Germany about the Nazis. In it they wrote:If we call for reconciliation and negotiations now before repentance and equality have been established, we will be calling for reconciliation between good and evil.The Churches over here have responded quickly to the crisis. The Methodist Conference last week called for mandatory sanctions. The Roman Catholic Cardinal has said thatthere is an urgent need for increasing pressure—economic, moral and political.The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland asked for targeted sanctions on South Africa and our General Synod of the Church of England, which is due to start meeting this afternoon, will discuss a motion to deploy sanctions against South Africa.
I am aware that the last time I said in this House that the Churches were united (on the Shops Bill) it did not have much effect upon your Lordships' House, but I hope that you will be more impressed by the Churches' unanimity on South Africa.
Now that the EPG has reported, I think we ought to know without equivocation whether or not Her Majesty's Government endorse the proposals, and, if not, why not? After all, the group was set up through British initiative. When it was set up there was much cynicism over its appointment—which proved entirely unjustified. I read from the last page of that report:Is the Commonwealth to stand by and allow the cycle of violence to escalate? Or will it take effective action of another kind? Such action may be the last opportunity to avert what could be the worst bloodbath since the Second World War".I think it is fair to ask, does Her Majesty's Government endorse that judgment or not? That is a fair question to ask in the light of Sir Geoffrey Howe's mission. It would be most grievous if our hesitations and 1172 vacillations were to mean, in the words of the EPG, that thecost in lives may have to be counted in millions".Of course this may just be a holding operation because measures, to be effective, would need to be agreed between the EC, the Commonwealth and if possible the USA. Perhaps underlying this terrible delay is the hope and expectation that within three months effective measures could be agreed all round, but the difference of opinion between the Dutch Premier and our own Prime Minister on whether effective measures will be taken after the three months are ended if success has not been achieved by Sir Geoffrey Howe, is not a very hopeful sign. The impression is given in this country—the "impression" I say—that instead of leading opposition to apartheid we are in the rear of any movement. We are becoming the despair of our black friends. We are in danger of losing our own moral integrity. Coming as I do from the West Midlands, of course I do not want more unemployment as a result of any measures that we take, but some effective measures could be taken which would not have that effect. The greatest pressure of all that could be put on South Africa would be in connection with the repayment of its loan by creditor banks.
Let us not forget that effective measures are what many black South Africans are asking for. It will be painful for them both in South Africa and in the front line nations, but they say, and we must listen to them, that they will gladly bear that burden for the sake of justice and to get the matter settled.
Like others, I wish Sir Geoffrey Howe well. I shall pray for the success of his mission. There is the possibility that he may succeed in gaining the release of Mandela and the start of negotiations, but it seems to me that the stakes are piled very high against him. As Mr. Fraser wrote:What can he learn in a day or two that is not covered in our Report?The back-tracking by the Botha Government in their letter of 29th May to the EPG—might not that happen again to Sir Geoffrey Howe? What hope of success will he have unless he can get the sympathy of black Africans too? That will be hard to gain. Every day of delay means we are giving more and more space to extremists to stir up hatred between whites and blacks and between blacks and blacks. If we can send an immediate signal now I feel there is still hope of comparative peaceful change, because Mandela, if he were released, commands the respect of the young and he would assert his influence for orderly conduct.
Like other noble Lords, I must mention the Commonwealth. I have a very great respect and love for the Commonwealth: one in four of all peoples on the planet, one-fifth of its landmass united in a common brotherhood which brings together black and white, rich and poor from all continents and many peoples, the greatest experiment in voluntary co-operation that this world has ever seen. May we be assured that whatever decisions will be taken they will not endanger the future association of the countries of our Commonwealth?
I end with a plea for moral leadership in our present crisis which, as I have tried to show, we have a duty to 1173 give; with a plea for the clarification of our position against the EPG Report, and I ask whether further action can be taken to help end the tyranny and injustice in South Africa—an action which the EC will endorse and which will unite our Commonwealth and not divide it.
§ Viscount Massereene and Ferrard
My Lords, I wonder whether the right reverend Prelate will correct a statement he made, in so far as that the coloureds and Indians do have representation in the South African Parliament. The right reverend Prelate said that they have no representation.
§ The Lord Bishop of Birmingham
My Lords, it is true that the coloureds and Indians are on the President's Council, but to say that they have representation in Parliament is another thing altogether.
§ 12.27 p.m.
My Lords, for more than 10 years I have been travelling regularly to South Africa, and during that time I have also visited most of the front line states, some of them more than once. So, when I was nominated by the British Prime Minister to be a member of the Commonwealth Group I was already familiar, indeed very familiar, both with the horrors of apartheid and also, which is important, with the understandable apprehension of the whites in South Africa, many of whom nonetheless, despite that apprehension and to their credit, have been pressing for more radical change.
There has been so much comment on our report that I think there is a danger that the principal task we were given is sometimes overlooked. It can be simply stated, and I should like to quote it because this is what we were sent to South Africa to do: to,initiate, in the context of a suspension of violence on all sides, a process of dialogue across lines of colour, politics and religion, with a view to establishing a non-racial and representative government".Elsewhere in the accord, as has already been mentioned by my noble friend, we were specifically enjoined not to involve ourselves in the forms of political settlement. Those were for the people of South Africa themselves to determine.
At the outset, as I think your Lordships know, we took what turned out to be a very important decision. That was that throughout the whole of our time, the whole of the six months and more, we would operate in non-public ways. Unlike some who have recently been to South Africa, we decided that we would seek no publicity and make no public statements until our mission had been completed. That was, for those of us who had been engaged in politics in our earlier careers, quite a sacrifice to make, but it proved to be a very wise decision.
There is obviously so much that I could say about the way we set about our mission, but I must be brief. The report outlines our visits to the front line states. It goes on to deal in some detail with our talks with the African National Congress and the United Democratic Front, with Buthelezi and with Mandela. It also refers in some detail to our meetings with Government Ministers. There were 21 meetings in all with Government Ministers, culminating as your 1174 Lordships know in a very important meeting with the eight most senior Ministers who formed the Constitutional Committee.
It was after our first round of meetings and talks that we formulated our proposals. We deliberately headed the two sheets of paper on which was set out the proposals: "A possible negotiating concept". In accordance with the mandate which we were given by the Commonwealth, the African National Congress and others were to enter into negotiations and to suspend violence. That was what they were to do and that is what was included in our negotiating concept.
As far as the South African Government was concerned, for its part it was to agree to certain steps. What I should like to do now is to explain to your Lordships why we selected those steps and why we thought them to be wholly reasonable. The first requirement was the release of Nelson Mandela—and I may say that it pretty soon became clear to us that the South African Government itself would have liked to release him but, as the House knows, they found it impossible to find a formula which was acceptable to the South African Government and also acceptable to Nelson Mandela.
It was self-evident—and I think it was tacitly understood by the South African Government—that you could not logically release Nelson Mandela without also releasing other political prisoners, certainly other political prisoners in the same category. That was the first requirement. The second requirement really flowed inevitably from the first. That was the un-banning of the African National Congress. I say that because, as the ANC is banned at present, if Mandela and his colleagues were released then it follows as night the day that one word from them about the ANC and either the Government would be permitting them to flout the law or they would be back in jail. So it was inevitable that one consequence of their release would have to be the unbanning of the ANC.
It follows again logically from the un-banning of the ANC that there would be no point in doing that unless the third requirement was fulfilled; namely, freedom of assembly and a return to normal political activity. And the fourth requirement in our negotiating concept was the suspension of detention without trial and the removal of the military from the townships. I think it is important to note that we did not ask the Government to remove the police from the townships; it was the military from the townships which we put in our concept. We left this so-called "possible negotiating concept" with the Government because we told them that we thought it would be sensible to try to obtain their reaction (and if they required any modifications that we might accede to, to consider those) before we put the concept to anyone else.
We left it with the Government, in fact, for two months. They neither accepted it nor rejected it. After those two months were up, we went for what, as far as I was concerned, was my second meeting with Nelson Mandela. It was a long meeting. It lasted over two hours. I wanted particularly to get his personal reaction to the concept, which, of course, he had not seen until then; bearing in mind that, if he were to accept it, it would have involved negotiations and, 1175 quite clearly, it would have involved a suspension of violence during those negotiations. I wanted to ask him what he thought about that, whether he personally could accept it.
I was also, if I may say so to your Lordships, very conscious of the fact that he had been in prison for well over 20 years, and, of course, I knew that our conversation was not private. Indeed, there was no pretence that it was a private conversation. I said to him: "Before you answer and give your views on our concept, I would point out that it has already been with the Government for two months and they have not given a 'Yes' or a 'No' ". Therefore, I said that as far as I was concerned I would fully understand if he did not wish to comment at that stage but would like to consider, and take time to consider, the proposals.
He read it carefully once through and his answer was that, while he could not speak for the ANC, as far as he personally was concerned he would accept the concept as a starting point. I must say that I had no doubt at all, from what he went on to say after that in the discussions which we held, that if the concept had been implemented his would have been a powerful voice for calm throughout South Africa. And I am absolutely convinced—and I weigh my words carefully—that he would have used all his efforts to bring an end to violence if in fact that concept had been accepted.
There is much that I could say about Nelson Mandela. I shall simply say to your Lordships that to my mind—I met him on two occasions, and I had almost three hours with him altogether—he is a remarkable man; intelligent, articulate and, if I may say so, also a man with a sense of humour. As we were leaving after my second meeting with him, in front of the brigadier who was in charge of the Poelsma top security prison, I said to Mandela, "I think I am probably the only other person here who has also been in jail". "Yes, "he said, "I know. You were a prisoner of war". I said, "As a matter of fact, I escaped through a tunnel from Poland". I said, "It's all down in print". He replied, "Lord Barber, send me a copy. That could be very useful. And to make sure that I get it, send it through the British Ambassador." There is much more that I could say, but time does not allow me.
Shortly after we had seen Mandela—and one must remember that the concept had been with the Government for some two months—we returned to Lusaka. As far as I was concerned, I was very encouraged by what Mandela had said, that he personally could accept the concept.
We returned to Lusaka for our second meeting with the ANC. It was in fact a very long meeting. Including a buffet lunch, we talked for over six hours on that occasion. I would remind your Lordships that the concept at that stage had been with the South African Government for more than two months. We decided that, as we had not got a clear answer from the South African Government, the time had come when we should show it to the ANC. So, for the first time, we gave them copies of the concept. As I say, we had a long discussion. They said that they would need some time for consultations, but they promised that they would give us an answer within 10 days. Therefore, our intention was to go ack to Lusaka in 10 days' time.
1176 After that meeting we returned to South Africa, to Johannesburg, where we then had a meeting with the leaders of the United Democratic Front. We told them where we had got to and explained the background to them, and we showed them the concept for the first time. They looked at it and they said they would like to consider it. We asked how long they would require before they could give us an answer. Having told them that the ANC were going to give us an answer within 10 days or so, they said that they would do their best to give us an answer within 10 days or so. So I think that your Lordships will appreciate that at that stage our hopes were rising.
We then returned to Cape Town, to the seat of government, for what we understood to be probably the most important meeting that we had had so far with Ministers; namely, with the Constitutional Committee, the eight senior Ministers. We were informed beforehand that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss with us our concept, to question us about it, and that after that they would advise the State President. So that was the purpose of the meeting.
As your Lordships know, about an hour or an hour and a half before we were due to meet we began to get reports of the raids which had taken place on the three neighbouring countries. I think that I should remind your Lordships that two of the seven members of the Commonwealth Group had been nominated by heads of government of the countries which were being attacked. So they felt very strongly about what was happening. Even though the raids had obviously been planned well in advance, I could not myself understand why, if in fact the South African Government really wanted to do business with the Group, they could not have aborted the raids. To allow them to take place on the very morning we were to have this important meeting seemed to me to be very strange. Certainly, the situation was hardly conducive to goodwill in the meeting which followed. Yet I think it is to the credit of my colleagues on the group that, in the general overriding interest of trying to get a peaceful solution, we all decided that at the meeting none of us would make any reference at all to the raids which took place; and we did not do so.
I will not weary your Lordships with the details of the meeting. Suffice it to say that in the end the South African Government could not bring themselves to agree to only a suspension of violence by the ANC during the negotiations. They wanted an undertaking from the ANC to renounce violence for all time, regardless of the progress of negotiations. That is something to which the ANC would never have agreed. It was also a requirement which we considered—certainly I felt this very strongly—to be an unreasonable requirement. After all, during the negotiations involving Rhodesia—I have not checked this, but I think I am right—the parties did not even agree to a suspension of violence. So, as your Lordships know, sadly, our mission did not succeed.
Perhaps your Lordships will permit me to say a brief word about the matter of sanctions or further measures in relation to the Commonwealth Group. The Nassau Accord makes it quite clear that, whatever the personal views of members of the Group or the desirability or otherwise of further measures, this is a 1177 matter for the heads of government. I quote from the accord:It is our hope that the process and measures we have agreed upon will help to bring about concrete progress towards the objectives stated above in six months. The heads of government mentioned in paragraph 5 above"—that is, the seven nominating heads of government—or their representatives will then meet to review the situation. If in their opinion"—that is, the opinion of the seven—adequate progress has not been made within this period, we"—that is, the 30 or 40 heads of government at Nassau—agree to consider the adoption of further measures.Furthermore, in our report, while we expressed the view which has been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, that the South African Government was concerned about the possible adoption of further measures and, while we called for concerted action of an effective kind, we made it clear that we were not determining (and I quote again from our report):the nature or extent of any measures which might be adopted, or their effectiveness.Those were not matters for us. Those members of the Commonwealth Group who have expressed views on these matters were speaking for themselves in a personal capacity. I should add—I simply state this as a fact since it has been raised in the press—that the foreword by the Commonwealth Secretary-General does not form part of our report.
In conclusion, I return to the main theme of my remarks. Although our proposals had the personal endorsement of Nelson Mandela, in the event—and I think this is important—they were never finally tested with the ANC or the UDF. So far as the South African Government are concerned, summing it up, I believe that they simply could not bring themselves to take what seemed to them to be a leap into the unknown. So my right honourable and learned friend the Secretary of State will be following in our footsteps. I would only say that all those who genuinely want to see faster progress towards the elimination of apartheid will give my right honourable and learned friend their full support.
§ 12.43 p.m.
§ Lord Brockway
My Lords, I begin with an acknowledgement. Like other Back-Benchers, I normally do my own research for my speeches here; but not on this occasion. I have had the invaluable help of Joan Hymans, a foundation member of the anti-apartheid movement, in what I am going to say; and I wish to thank her.
I have been to many African countries—I counted them last night and the number is 13—but I have never been to South Africa. I probably would not be admitted if I wanted to go, but all through my political life I have been linked very closely with what has happened there. The Boer War occurred when I was still at school. I began as a fervent patriot, wearing the badges of General White and of General Buller (was it?), but before the end of the war I was converted by Lloyd George and became a pro-Boer.
In the 1906 election, South Africa was involved because of the conditions of indentured Chinese labour in Johannesburg. In 1910 came the Act which 1178 gave self-government to South Africa. Nearly all of us recognised it as an Act of great generosity. It contained Clauses demanding justice for the African people.
In the years which followed, one lost interest in South Africa. We were absorbed by the women's suffrage campaign, by the confrontation between the House of Commons and the House of Lords, by the conflict in Northern Ireland, and by the war itself. But just before the war a delegation came to Britain representing the African native national congress. They came to protest aganst the Lands Act, which prohibited any African from owning any land whatsoever. They indicated to the Government their support of the British cause in the war, and they received from the Government a very remarkable response. The Government promised that,At the close of the war we shall do all in our power to help you regain the justice and freedom to which, as loyal British subjects, your people are justly entitled.The British Government, 72 years ago, made that promise to the African people.
In 1919 I published an interview with Solomon Plaatyaye, which began the agitation in this country against apartheid. It revealed how already South Africa had gone far towards applying apartheid, and there was questioning in the House of Commons. Mr. Plaatyaye was a remarkable man. After only three years' schooling, he became a fluent writer in the English language, and general secretary of the African National Congress.
Between the wars, interest in South Africa diminished. We had our own problems of unemployment and then the rise of Fascism. But we heard that the South African police arrested Africans in pick-up cars in the townships and sent them to work as prisoners for Afrikaner farmers, often under very harsh conditions. We heard that Mahatma Gandhi had been thrown out of a train for daring to sit in a compartment which was reserved for whites.
Interest revived in South Africa after the war. Under the Public Safety Act, Africans were kept in prison without trial for increasing periods, and when discharged arrested again and imprisoned. In 1959 Chief Luthuli, the head of the African National Congress, proposed to the committee of African organisations in this country that they should refuse to buy goods from South Africa. That advice was widely followed. There are many who still practise it today, but not enough really to affect the situation. It is interesting that that appeal had the same response from its opponents as the proposal for sanctions today. It was urged that Africans themselves would suffer mostly if there were a boycott of South African goods.
Then came the new emergency laws. Three thousand Africans and white supporters were imprisoned, there was evidence of torture in prison and reports of dying from alleged pneumonia. The African National Congress was banned, its leaders who escaped going underground and forming the "spear of the nation" which hit back with acts of sabotage. Some limited success was obtained when exiled white supporters of the Africans proposed a sports boycott, which led to the Gleneagles Agreement, which spread from the Commonwealth to many countries. Because of the keenness of Afrikaners for sport, the South African Government dissolved 1179 segregation in certain areas of sport, though it left the nationwide picture the same.
This was followed by the demand for economic sanctions. Despite the opposition of our Prime Minister and President Reagan to sanctions, I think it is certain that within the next few months certain limited sanctions will be imposed. I support them, because British investment sustains apartheid in South Africa. Principle should come before profits. But I recognise that sanctions alone will not defeat apartheid. It will probably lead very soon to increased confrontation in South Africa, leading to a bloodbath which is likely to lead to African governments joining in a war against South Africa.
We cannot be surprised that the African National Congress should engage in violence, giving up the policy which Chief Luthuli practised and for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize, of applying in South Africa non-violent non-co-operation. Gandhi made that policy succeed in India. It could have succeeded in South Africa; but the African people, like other peoples, do not have the conviction or the self-discipline to practise it.
The final victory of the African people in South Africa is undoubted. They have shown themselves prepared to accept suffering for their cause, the suffering which sanctions would cause and the greater suffering which will follow. History suggests that, when a people is prepared to accept suffering for its cause, victory will come. There are the precedents of India, of Hungary and of Ireland. Seventy-two years ago, the British Government promised that it would help to bring justice to the Africans in South Africa. No government has done so. Let us hope that when the opportunity comes we may have a government in this country which, at last, may fulfil that promise.
§ 12.59 p.m.
§ Lord Crawshaw of Aintree
My Lords, I hope my noble friend will not mind if, because of the time, I do not follow his line of argument. None of us was prepared for the full reality of apartheid. As a contrivance of social engineering, it is awesome in its cruelty. With those words begins the book of the report, and for another 140 pages one follows a story of human suffering which is appalling and which brings disgrace upon any country which allows these things to happen. I have not been more moved since I read about the holocaust and the 6 million Jews who went to the gas chamber. The only difference here is that they have not gone to the gas chamber, although many of them might have been better if they had done so.
It is a sad day for me to have to speak in this debate. During the war I knew the friendship of many people in South Africa. For three years, one of my constant friends was an officer who had come into our unit from the South African forces. What I say here today I say because I have an affection for South Africa. I do not say it out of any bitterness or to seek to gain a point on anybody: but time is running out.
Quite often I used to cause surprise among my former colleagues in the Labour Party because I extolled the virtues of the British Empire and the good 1180 that it had brought to the world. That was probably one of the reasons why one of my first speeches in another place urged my party to draw British forces out of Malaysia. I had learned the lesson—a lesson which unfortunately many politicians do not learn—that what is good in one era is bad in another, and that what was good in 1886 is not good in 1986.
Of course there is the problem of whether sanctions will work if sanctions are imposed. Sanctions will work only if the people have the will and if governments have the will, to make them work. Some people will quote sanctions against Abyssinia in 1935, when I was in my teens. I thought "The League of Nations has done this. We are going to have victory for justice in the world". But what happened? It did not pay this country to impose sanctions. We were more worried about whether Mussolini would go in with Hitler or whether he would come in with us when the conflict came. We finished up with that disgraceful proposal in which we in the whole of our pact sought to carve up Abyssinia, the country which we were pledged to try to support under the League of Nations.
Then we come to the Rhodesian crisis. They say that sanctions did not work. Of course sanctions will not work if you do not want them to work. The history of those sanctions has still to be written; and when it is written there will be some very red faces among some of the main businesses in this country and among many people who are directors of those companies. We have still to know about that. Sanctions have never really been tried.
I see that the right reverend Prelate has left the Chamber. I am sorry about that because I wanted to raise a particular point, but I still intend to raise it. About eight years ago I had the privilege to serve on the Synodical Committee Board for Social Responsibility. On that board we dealt with issues such as the matter we are dealing with today. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, was chairman of that board. I remember eight years ago, at the time when Rhodesia was in turmoil and civil war, discussing South Africa. I said that it was an insult to this country that the Church I belonged to should have these investments in South Africa and refuse to take them out, having regard to what was happening in South Africa. I still say the same today. We heard from the right reverend Prelate that there are sanctions one can impose without hurting people. Well, forget about that. All sanctions will hurt, and we have to be prepared for them to hurt. Let us not be hypocritical and pretend to impose sanctions.
At that time eight years ago—and I have not changed my views today—I remember saying that, if in the next 15 to 20 years we have not solved this problem in South Africa by imposing sanctions of some sort and by the Church withdrawing its money from South Africa, what is happening in Rhodesia will be minimal in comparison with what will happen in South Africa. I say this out of sadness because these things will happen.
When we discuss the imposition of sanctions we always turn it on to the black communities in South Africa, saying, "They are going to be hurt". I wonder what would have happened if, after five years of Hitler in the 1930s and after we had seen him subdue one place after another, the crisis in Poland had come up 1181 and a Prime Minister had come on to the wireless and said, "Well, of course, we can do something abut this but it means that perhaps we shall be bombed and our sons and husbands will be killed. I don't think I ought to do it". Does anybody really believe that we would have done anything different if that had been put to us in 1939? The stakes were so high and the stakes are as high in South Africa today. If we as the leader of the Commonwealth cannot take a lead, I think the days of the Commonwealth should be over—not will be over but should be over. That is one of our main roles.
What was I suggesting about eight years ago on sanctions? I was not suggesting blanket sanctions, because I agree with the noble Baroness that, if you impose those straight away you will drive them into a position in which they will say, "Right, we shall fight rather than accept it". What I proposed eight years ago was that we should draw up a list of sanctions in order of severity which we could impose over a period of time dependent upon whether South Africa responded. I say here and now today that I urge the Government to consider this line of approach. If it is all done at once we shall have that bloodbath because they will fight, and there will be nothing worth saving in South Africa at the end of it. But if we propose sanctions to be imposed over periods of time dependent upon whether there is any response, I believe we shall have some success.
What would be the response if we tried to say that we should not impose sanctions because it might hurt the black community in South Africa or the states? I believe that I know what would be the response of those who have lived their lives in South Africa since 1948 under this regime—and certainly the younger people who are now looking forward to having to live their lives in the same way. Their response would be, "Yes, it is going to hurt us, but we are not prepared to continue to live indefinitely under this sort of regime for the safety of the world in general", because one never knows, when a conflict starts, as it definitely will start, what the consequences will be. If Her Majesty's Government try to get out of this issue, if they definitely say, "No, we think the risks are too great; we are not going to do it", that is one thing, but for goodness sake do not let the Government pretend that they are going to impose sanctions and let the same thing happen as has happened in the past.
§ 1.8 p.m.
Lord St. John of Bletso
My Lords, I join noble Lords and noble Baronesses in expressing my deep concern at the current state of emergency, the widespread detentions, including the detention of trade union leaders, and the severe censorship of the mass media in South Africa.
At the outset I wish to put my standpoint forward in the sense that I am a permanent resident of South Africa. I have lived all my life out there and I am totally opposed to the system of apartheid. I am a strong supporter of a totally non-racial South African democracy. I have come here today not representing the business interests, nor representing any of the political party interests, but more to try to present a balanced view and add some perspective to the complex South African issue. I am aware of the large 1182 number of speakers we have here today and so I shall try to restrain my comments to 10 or 15 minutes.
Some two months ago I initiated a debate in your Lordships' House in which I asked Her Majesty's Government what measures they would like to see in South Africa consistent with economic growth and security for all people. I think it is important to reiterate that there have been major reforms in South Africa in the past three years—in fact more reforms have taken place in the past three years than in the past 30 years. These have included the raising of influx controls and pass laws, the abolition of the Immorality Act, the Mixed Marriages Act, job reservations, and more recently the granting of freehold rights to blacks in urban areas. Those reforms are the start, but we urgently require the repeal of the remaining vestiges of apartheid. That must include the Group Areas Act, the Land Act, which the noble Lord mentioned, the Separate Amenities Act and the Population Registration Act.
In addition to the repeal of the apartheid laws, for prolonged peace negotiation must take place. That negotiation must take place with the widest spectrum of peoples in South Africa. It must include the ANC as well as the political prisoners. Here I refer specifically to Nelson Mandela. I sincerely hope that sanity will prevail on the South African Government to release Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners. I believe that the only way to obtain a long-lasting settlement will be by speaking to people over the widest spectrum. There is no quick fix to the situation there. Change cannot take place overnight. There is a very diverse population.
Here I make brief mention of the Eminent Persons Group. I listened with intrigue and fascination to what the noble Lord, Lord Barber, had to say and to his very moving comments about Nelson Mandela. I wish that I could have met him myself. I believe the group made a tremendous amount of progress in laying the foundation to future negotiations. But six months is not sufficient to achieve the type of objectives which they set out to achieve. I hope that the Foreign Secretary, Sir Geoffrey Howe, will achieve results where the Eminent Persons Group left off. I hold great hopes of his trip to South Africa and I join the House in wishing him all the very best. I believe he will be warmly welcomed in South Africa.
The world is at the moment debating what actions to take against South Africa to pressurise its government to bring about these meaningful changes and end the state of emergency. Here I want to mention economic sanctions. I believe that economic sanctions will be totally counter-productive. The immediate effect would be the massive unemployment of blacks. There will also be mass hunger. At the moment the population growth is 2.6 per cent. per annum and last year there was a negative economic growth rate. The chances are that there will be a negative economic growth rate this year. South Africa needs a 4.5 per cent. economic growth rate to create jobs for those who are coming onto the job market. Every year 300,000 blacks enter the job market. At the moment 8,000 jobs per month are being lost. Disinvestment has been partly responsible for that loss of jobs. For the future political prosperity of South Africa a strong economy is necessary.
1183 Many of the sanctions lobbyists argue that the majority of blacks want sanctions. I put this thought to your Lordships. Sanctions do not bring about overnight solutions. They are long, drawn out and hurt everyone concerned—blacks, whites, everyone. But I put it to your Lordships that if every black person were to drop tools and stay at home for two weeks they could bring the means of production in South Africa to an almost total standstill. Would not that be a more effective measure than economic sanctions? I would go so far as to say that to use economic sanctions is a violent option. Much of the unrest in South Africa is not due only to political frustration but also to economic frustration. The position in the townships with the tsotsis, the vigilantes and the comrades is very complex and it is a very worrying time in South Africa. I can only believe—and I say this sincerely—that with rising unemployment there will be rising unrest.
I believe that rising unrest would play into the hands of the right-wingers as well as the left-wingers who want violence and unrest. I also believe that the decline in the strength of the economy will result in many young talented people leaving the country. The country needs young talented people. I quote a few statistics. Last year 40 per cent. more people emigrated than in the previous year. Of that 40 per cent. half were professionals. That is a worrying fact.
As I said earlier, economic sanctions have had little effect in previous cases. I cannot see them having any more effect on South Africa. Sanctions also run the very real risk of placing the South African Government back into the "laager" mentality. I believe that the South African Government are on an unstoppable and irreversible reform programme. All that sanctions can do is stunt progress.
Last week I spoke to Alan Paton, the great liberal writer; he wrote Cry the Beloved Country. He said to me that the international community will not succeed through sanctions in coercing the South African Government into making the reforms they require at this moment—the end does not justify the means. Also most important are the threats that the South African Government would retaliate with trade sanctions against the front line states. It is horrific how much the front line states are dependent upon trade with South Africa. It would affect Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zambia and Malawi. I hope that such retaliation will never take place. There are almost 2 million expatriates working in South African mines. The monies they generate are sent to almost 10 million dependants outside South Africa.
Apart from the arguments against, I should like briefly to mention the role of the multinationals and the business community within South Africa. They are putting constant pressure on the South African Government to reform. Many may argue that they are not, but they have recently started a project called "Project Free Enterprise" in order to promote blacks into managerial levels. Apart from those pressures on the South African Government, they have also put a tremendous amount of money into improving such resources as education, which is desperately needed in South Africa, improved housing and job creation. For example, the advertising agency for Coca Cola put £50 1184 million into education and Gillette put £30 million into housing.
Others have asked what other pressures could be put on the South African Government if we do not threaten it with economic sanctions. I believe that strong diplomatic pressures must continue. I go so far as to say that all trade with South Africa should be regulated by EC codes of conduct and the Sullivan codes. These are proving to be a tremendous success with the multinationals in the business community. The world underestimates the moral pressures placed on the South African Government. That is not just my opinion but that of Alan Paton, too. All too often one uses the stick method. I believe that we could well use the carrot method.
The South African economy desperately needs an injection of capital, but I am not saying that moneys should be given to benefit the Government—quite the contrary. Monies are desperately needed to improve the education system and housing for blacks, as I mentioned earlier. But what are the immediate stumbling blocks to progress? They are the state of emergency and martial law. We all hope that sanity will prevail on the South African Government to lift the state of emergency as soon as possible. The police and the defence force are not seen as protectors of the peace in the townships but more as oppressors. I believe that repression leads to radicalism. I hope that, when an ultimate solution is sought, trust will be maintained. It is indeed mistrust which is causing one of the major stumbling-blocks to progress: mistrust by the blacks of the sincerity of the white reforms; mistrust of the police and the security forces; equally, mistrust by the whites of the ANC and the so-called swart gevaar; and, equally so, the fear of reverse discrimination when the blacks come to power.
What are the immediate visions for the future? As I said, there is the hope that the state of emergency will be lifted; also—something that has not been mentioned today—there is the National Party Congress which is due to take place on the 12th and 13th August. It is the third time that such a congress has taken place since the Nationalists came to power in 1948. Speculation has it that joint power-sharing in the KwaZulu-Natal area has been accepted in principle. It may quite possibly be implemented. I spoke to Dr Koornhop on the 'plane coming over and his group has tabled for the repeal of the Group Areas Act. I have not seen the agenda, but possibly they will also lay the foundations for a new constitutional dispensation with provision for blacks represented at government level. All these proposals will have to be taken to a referendum, and I believe that there will be a referendum following the congress towards the end of the year.
In conclusion, I believe that the choice in South Africa is one of danger or disaster—danger because the whites will obviously have to take the risk, by lifting the ban on the ANC, that they will lose power and lose everything. But it is the only sane way for the future, because if they do not make the moves now, I fear that there will be disastrous consequences. So what will the model be for South Africa? Many models have been propounded: a non-racial federal democracy; decentralisation of the state powers; a Bill of Human Rights; protection for minorities; a strong and 1185 independent judiciary. I have brought with me a book that was published last week, entitled South Africa: The Road Ahead, and I shall be placing it in the Library. It is a book which contains a broad spectrum of South African views and I believe that it has some very sensible ideas for the future. But the most crucial and vital criterion for a real and lasting change in South Africa must be that the solution be found by the peoples themselves.
§ 1.22 p.m.
§ Lord Murton of Lindisfarne
My Lords, it gives me the greatest pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso. He knows so much about the country in which he lives. I should like to declare an interest, too. It is not a financial interest but one of family ties. As an infant child, my wife accompanied her parents from England to South Africa and lived in Johannesburg for nearly 30 years before returning to London. Her sister still lives there and has quite a large family; therefore my wife has many nephews and nieces who still live in South Africa. My own sister, over some 38 years, has lived successively in Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Cape Town. Her daughter and her young family live in Johannesburg at this present time.
There is nothing unique in this situation. There are at least 2 million persons of British descent or British birth in South Africa and their family links in the United Kingdom must be legion; and of course among those of us who have links with South Africa there is deep anxiety about what is happening there at the present time.
Of course, South Africa is a sovereign state which left the Commonwealth of its own accord, but the hostility against it of the other African states, and more noticeably those within the Commonwealth, I am afraid continues unabated. Well did the present South African ambassador, Dr. Denis Worrall, state to the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee the other day that this present anti-South Africa campaign is one of the best financed and internationally orchestrated which his country has had to endure. I am no apologist for the present internal policies of the South African Government upon which I would not presume to sit in judgment, and although the principle of apartheid is as abhorrent to me as it is to most other people, yet I believe, as does Dr. Worrall, that there could be a more constructive approach to the problem than, to quote him, "just beating the hell out of the South Africans".
Over the past 18 months the world press has given great prominence to the unrest, violence and killings in the townships; but there is much greater violence and infinitely more killings, I would suggest, in Sri Lanka and, although, this too has been fully reported, there does not seem to have been the same moral indignation aroused within the Commonwealth. In my personal view sanctions just do not work. The former Rhodesia, where the white population is or was outnumbered by black in a ratio to 22 to 1, managed to survive for 15 years, relatively poor country though it was, before a final settlement was reached. In South Africa, the ratio of blacks to whites is nearer 5 to 1 and the economy has great underlying strength, particu- 1186 larly in natural resources. Moreover, the white Afrikaner in particular is an enduring race.
Most of southern Africa is economically dependent upon the Republic of South Africa and sanctions would have a serious effect upon the living standards of neighbouring states, as has already been well pointed out. The Commonwealth Secretary-General, in his foreword to the report of the Eminent Persons Group, writes that the ordinary black people through-out South Africa are prepared to endure any additional suffering which sanctions might involve in order to effect a change. I am glad to note that my noble friend Lord Barber made it clear that that was the Secretary-General's own personal view. But I wonder what its neighbours would do if, as a result of sanctions being imposed, the Government of South Africa decided to repatriate all black migrant workers because there was no longer any work for them in the Republic? I would suggest that Moçambique for one would suffer a total financial collapse and maybe other countries would too.
Like most of your Lordships I have read the report of the findings of the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group. They had a most difficult task to carry out and I should like to pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Barber for the work which he did, because it must have been quite onerous and very very difficult and required great diplomacy at all times. As I was once in his office as a Treasury Whip, it is nice to think that I can still pay tribute to my former master.
It is an interesting document which has been made public with commendable speed. Yet I fear—and it is not the fault of the noble Lord, Lord Barber, and 1 am sure he will not mind my mentioning it—that it is in some respects rather unbalanced. It runs to 176 pages, yet the equivalent of only a handful of pages (I think not more than ten in Chapter I) are given up to describing some of the considerable reforms which have so far taken place in the dismantling of apartheid; the rest I suppose inevitably must be criticism.
I think that the noble Lord, Lord St John, has put right the question of the reforms because he spelled them out most succinctly. I was interested to see, among the posed photographs of some of the eminent persons—which reminded me in more happy times of a CPA annual report—that one or two rather emotive illustrations appear, showing the interior, say, of the single men's hostel in Soweto. Though it does not say so, I believe that this was built for migrant workers. I confess that I have not been inside it and certainly it looks untidy and somewhat stark. On the other hand, I do know Soweto and would suggest that it is generally a well constructed and well ordered town. I also know something of its problems and of the individual acts of violence which are frequently committed and have been over the years long before the present unrest, mostly an unpleasant series of knifings by night.
At this present time it would be folly to withdraw the police from the township patrols; otherwise the blacks would attack each other. The first to be liquidated would be the central and local government officials, and those responsible persons whom the Pan-Africanist Congress refers to as "tricameral puppets". Thereafter trouble would quickly escalate between the moderate blacks and the, mostly younger, radicals, 1187 who have become politically indoctrinated, mostly through the activities of the African National Congress, which has been debated this morning.
The ANC, according to the South African Government, is dominated by the South African Communist Party, some 19 members, so we read, of the 30-member ANC national executive committee being known members of the SACP. In that regard I wonder whether that leopard could change its spots in the event of its being given official approval.
In that regard also, the conclusions of the eminent persons make dark reading, particularly the following:The campaign against collaborators and the ruthless elimination of the agents of white authority will continue. More and more black townships will be rendered ungovernable and the process of creating popular structures of self-government within them will gather momentum. The number of street and area committees will increase and their functions will progressively enlarge".On another visit, when I spent some time in the parliament building in Cape Town, I had the opportunity to have a number of meetings with the chairman of the finance committee, whose functions broadly approximated to those which I myself carried out at that time in another place. He represented a constituency bordering on Namibia and he claimed a good knowledge of some of the 13 major languages and native customs which exist in South Africa. I put to him a hypothetical question: if white supremacy were surrendered or overthrown, what then would take place? His reply was succinct, "Chaos and bloodshed".
I asked him whether the black races alone would or could form a representative alternative government. "No", he said, "There would be inter-tribal fighting on a huge scale and the Xhosas would come out on top. They would beat the Tswanas, the Sothos, the Coloured and"—surprisingly, in my eyes—"even the Zulus". No ballot box for them!
My informant was by no means an extreme member of the National Party. He was not a Verkrampte; indeed, he was more Vertligte, because he has a deep interest in and much concern for the future welfare of the black population.
Apartheid is being dismantled. Only yesterday some of us who take a close interest in South African affairs read that the residential areas of Johannesburg's central business district are now multiracial and that probably more than half of that city's downtown population is no longer white.
My wife had a letter just after Christmas from a retired headmistress, who is a very respected lady and herself the daughter of a judge. She writes:So far, the unrest hasn't touched our homes and the daily routine of our lives; but always there is the mental distress, and we wonder what the outcome of it all will be. Apartheid is slipping away. You would see a very great difference in Johannesburg, but things can't move too fast".South Africa must shape its own destiny. The realities have to be faced. Three hundred years of history and custom cannot move quickly; change must come slowly. But inevitably there will come a change, which one hopes will lead to a multiracial future. Meanwhile, it would be wicked indeed for encouragement to be given to the more extremist view. Even the release of Mandela could cause a serious 1188 security problem at this time, although I think that it is probably desirable that he should be released. But if that is to be so, it would be good advice to Mrs. Mandela to cease making statements about "necklaces" and boxes of matches. That sort of thing and the utterances of the ANC are not conducive to a peaceful dialogue. I suppose that the answer in the long term is much better education; big improvements in housing; and the encouragement of the growth of a black middle class capable of accepting full responsibility.
Meanwhile, I greatly commend my right honourable friend the Prime Minister for her refusal to be stampeded into further sanctions at this time, and I am sure that it is the fervent wish of all of us that only good may come of the imminent visit of my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary to that troubled country.
§ 1.34 p.m.
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham
My Lords, I listened with great interest to the noble Lord, Lord Murton, but it was not clear to me what he thought we ought to do except to wait for increasingly liberal actions by the South African Government. I can only say that no lesson from experience suggests to us that that will get us anywhere at all.
Apartheid is different from all the other tyrannies in the world. We in this country and in the West generally have the great good fortune to live in free democracies. In so much of the rest of the world there are tyrannical forms of government, but the peculiar feature of apartheid is that it says to one group—to the blacks—"Your subjection is to be permanent". It is based not on any considerations of what a person may or may not be fit for but on the simple biological fact that he has a black skin. It is that which makes apartheid intolerable in the world and which accounts for the great tide of public opinion—which has so surprised the noble Lord who has just spoken—that has circled around apartheid itself.
Not only is apartheid a permanent form of tyranny but it creates for us this problem. We, the United States and our other allies claim to be defending the world against the threat of Communist tyranny. I suggest that we cannot do that with one hand while condoning apartheid with the other. Not only is the position logically intolerable, but we shall not have the resources to do it. We shall pile up for ourselves so many enemies in the world that our attempt to maintain freedom in the West will be jeopardised by the fact that one country after another in the uncommitted world will move over into the Communist camp.
The noble Lord suggested that a large number of leading figures in the ANC are Communists. If that is so, whose fault is it? Had they had more encouragement from the West in the past that would not have arisen. The suggestion has been made—and rejected of course—that Nelson Mandela is some kind of Communist. If he were, whose fault would that be, in view of the treatment that he has received from the South African Government and the apparent lack of interest in the West about the treatment accorded to him and to many like him?
1189 What has been happening in recent years? It is true that there have been some degrees of pressure put on the South African Government in the field of sport, for example, and there have been some concessions—the repeal of the immorality legislation, the mixed marriages legislation and the pass laws. But it is still true that it is not open to a black man to choose freely in what part of his country he wants to live, and, above all, he cannot vote on the matter. Whatever social and economic restrictions he is subjected to, he cannot decide whether they should continue. He cannot have a voice in whether they continue to be the policy of his country.
That accounts for the judgment of the Eminent Persons Group that there are no grounds for supposing that the South African Government are moving towards a real dismantling of apartheid or an approach to the concept with which the Eminent Persons Group started. That stands out very clearly from its report.
It raises of course the question that it does not go on to answer. If you believe in measures against the South African Government, what kind of measures are they to be? I was much interested in what my noble friend Lord Crawshaw said when he put forward the idea of a list of sanctions of increasing rigour which could be put into practice over a period of time according to whether we received any response from the South African Government. I think that that may be the way to proceed.
I should like to draw the attention of the House to the words of one of the members of the Eminent Persons Group, Mr. Malcolm Fraser, writing recently in The Times:As a minimum, air links and consular facilities should be terminated, financial restrictions made more severe and an import ban imposed on South African coal, iron and steel products, uranium and agricultural products. This could be more easily policed than a ban on the export of general merchandise to South Africa".I do not put that list forward as the final answer to the problem. It is at least worth considering.
If one does not want to go all that far to begin with, one should consider how far it is possible to go. That depends partly on what agreement we can achieve with other countries. I put that forward merely as a list of ideas that our government might have in mind when they are discussing this matter with their fellows either in the EC or the Commonwealth.
The debate has for the most part not been partisan save for the approval given to the Prime Minister by the noble Lord, Lord Murton of Lindisfarne. I disagree with that most profoundly. It is important in this debate that our disagreement with the Prime Minister's approach to the whole problem should be voiced. She has managed somehow, whether she intended to or not, to give the impression that she does not like taking measures against apartheid. When the Commonwealth conference decisions were made some six months ago, she was frankly rejoicing at the extremely limited measures that were taken. At the recent European summit her attitude was the same.
The Prime Minister has made it clear that if the Foreign Secretary—we all hope that he will not—comes back empty handed, there is no obligation on this country to take any measures. Expressed emphatically we have not put forward any ultimatum.
1190 That seems to be a series of signals to the South African Government saying, "You need not worry too much. You have friends on the other side of the Mediterranean. We shall see to it that you do not come to any serious harm." That is the wrong message to send to the South African Government at present.
I view the whole situation with profound pessimism. It is possible, either of its own motion or under the increased pressure of sanctions—under its own motion, wildly unlikely, under the pressure of increased sanctions at any rate possible—that the South African Government would move to what could be regarded as a real beginning in the dismantling of apartheid. If so, I shall be greatly and attractively surprised. Unhappily, I see no such process going on at present.
We happen to be debating this matter on the 120th anniversary of the publication of the American Declaration of Independence. I imagine that we are all aware of the opening words of that statement:We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal".Cynics have pointed out that some of those who drafted the statement were slave owners. We should do the founding fathers of the American constitution an injustice if we did not realise that many of them were aware of what was implied by the explosive doctrine that they had set forth. It has not been those words which have been so much in my mind today but the words of another prominent American, Thomas Jefferson, who, writing about the institution of slavery in his state of Virginia, used words that any wise, white South African might well use today:I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just".
§ 1.44 p.m.
§ Lord Gladwyn
My Lords, I shall confine myself to a few general reflections which might conceivably bear on action. I start with a personal experience. At the beginning of 1936, now just over 50 years ago, I was appointed by Mr. Eden, as he then was, to be a member of a League of Nations sub-committee in Geneva set up to consider and make recommendations about the application of sanctions, which was a new term then, taken in principle by the League of Nations against Italy because of the flagrant violation of the Covenants, inherent in her invasion of Ethiopia. It was one of the most futile committees I have ever attended, and that is saying a lot.
As my noble friend Lord Crawshaw has already said, none of the measures that we pored over for so long at that time had the slightest effect on Mussolini. Only one sanction would have had any effect and that was agreement, not only by members of the League but by America, to refuse to ship any oil to Italy. That would have meant declaring a blockade and, as we all know, a blockade can only be made effective by the use of force. As there was no agreement to use force, which might have ended in war, and for which at that moment we were totally unprepared, the Duce proceeded, as we all know, on his wicked way.
It is always risky and perhaps unprofitable to seek historic parallels for situations which may be very different. I think, however, we can say with some confidence in the light of experience that sanctions 1191 against an errant member of the international community are unlikely to induce that member to abandon the policies which give offence, unless the nations applying sanctions are determined, in the last resort, to impose their will by some manifestation of force, for example, by a blockade.
If this judgment is at all acceptable, and it may not be, how might it apply to the insistence that South Africa should not only formally renounce apartheid but should now negotiate a new constitution based on the principle of one man, one vote with representatives of the African National Congress, local nationalists and other groups?
Not having had the opportunity to study the situation on the spot, I may well be wrong. No doubt those who think differently from me may explain later in the debate why that may be so. But from what I have read and have been told—more especially perhaps in the light of what that admirable South African Liberal, Mrs. Suzman, said recently in The Times—it seems that none of the sanctions so far contemplated could be counted on to induce the present South African Government to go as far as that. They might conceivably, under the threat of such sanctions, release Nelson Mandela. At the moment that seems pretty unlikely. They might introduce a few more rather superficial reforms—we must not ignore the reforms that they have already accomplished—and they might even do a separate deal with the Zulu chief, Buthelezi, but that would probably be as far as they could be induced to go.
I repeat that I am merely saying what I have heard. If I am wrong, I stand to be corrected. On the other hand, the distress and unemployment in South Africa, which would of course follow drastic economic measures, may in the opinion of some and perhaps in the opinion of many, result in the Pretoria Government losing control and being succeeded by another prepared to do what was demanded of them.
If we are realistic we must assume that, given the unlimited powers now in the hands of a large and well organised police force, that could only be said to be certain if other than economic measures—and they could only be forcible measures—were taken or contemplated by those countries, notably Commonwealth countries, which were determined to impose their will. At least, that is the conclusion that I believe we should be well advised to draw.
It seems likely that severe economic measures would unfavourably affect some of the nations participating in them, notably ourselves, while many of those most eager to apply them would hardly be affected at all. It may be that the effect on this country would not be as unfavourable as some suggest, but it would be considerable. That is obviously one of the reasons why a common policy, even among members of the European Community, is not easy to come by. Against that, it may be recalled that during the American civil war, which after all was fought on a not dissimilar issue, cotton operatives in this country entirely approved of the decision not to trade with the southern states, in spite of the grave distress that this occasioned in Lancashire. It was a question of conscience then and I suppose that any British workers who might find 1192 themselves reduced to the dole or any British companies that might suffer grave loss, or even become bankrupt, would all regard it as a question of conscience now. At least, if severe economic measures are embarked upon, that must presumably be taken for granted.
My own rather tentative proposal—I only throw it out as an idea—is that if sanctions with the declared object of forcing (I repeat "forcing") the South African Government to end apartheid in the way proposed are taken at all, they might best be taken by the Security Council of the United Nations as a result of a formal vote under Chapter VIII of the charter in accordance with which the five permanent members of the council, along with all other members of the United Nations (because such a decision would be binding on everyone) would have to take, jointly, all measures including, if necessary, military measures, designed to oblige the South African Government to conform with what might, I suppose, be considered to be the common conscience of mankind. True, such action could only be taken legally under the charter if it was held that South Africa had committed the equivalent of an act of aggression—that is charter language— which might, I suppose, be considered to be inherent in the bombing of the capitals of neighbouring states. If an actual revolution was then in progress in South Africa it might, I imagine, also be argued that the South African Government were in effect indulging in aggression against a large majority of their own people.
My main conclusion in any case is that far-reaching economic measures (I repeat "far-reaching economic measures") are only likely to achieve the result that we all desire if they are taken with more or less universal consent—for otherwise, the whole operation would be plagued by leaks—and with the firm intention not so much to persuade but actually to oblige the South African Government to abandon the position to which they are at present committed even if this means organising something that may in the last resort be the equivalent of a second Boer War. Things might not, of course, come to such a pass. Probably, they would not. The Boer government might well surrender well before then. But the government would have to be somehow convinced that their position was entirely hopeless.
If such a firm and generally held intention is not for any reason present—I would regard the attitude of the United States and Japan as being the most important in such circumstances—then, although some additional measure seem now to be inevitable, no extreme measures will presumably be taken in the pretty confident hope that no government of South Africa will be able to resist both external indignation and internal pressure increasingly to modify the present system in the sense desired, so as ultimately to arrive at something not far off one man, one vote, or its broad equivalent.
Whatever course is followed—I am only trying now to indicate what I personally believe to be the broad choices—let us not be under any illusion. It was difficult enough, as other noble Lords, I believe, have said, to arrive at such a solution in Rhodesia, where the whites numbered only 2 or 3 per cent. of the population. It will be much more difficult to do that in the Union where they number 24 or 25 per cent, and where there are substantial Indian and coloured 1193 groups. We must assume that such considerations are present in the minds of the leaders of all those civilised and democratic nations who undoubtedly agree on one thing, namely, that the evil system known as apartheid must be completely abandoned in South Africa if peace is to prevail, even if the process of replacing it by a more civilised system may take rather longer than is sometimes now thought. By all means, let us hope—it is perhaps a rather forlorn hope—that the projected mission of Sir Geoffrey Howe will be successful in furthering this end. If it is not, surely it is high time that we all agreed on the best practical means of overcoming the rather fundamental difficulties that would still be in the way of achieving what all reasonable people most sincerely desire. That will not be easy.
§ 1.56 p.m.
§ Lord Saint Brides
My Lords, as the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, reminded us, it was an ill day for South Africa and for the world when in 1948 the National Party with its racist ideas replaced the Smuts Government and introduced an avowedly white supremacist regime. It was underpinned, as we all know, by creating the system of institutionalised injustice which we know and abhor as apartheid. It has taken the Nationalists all this time to realise into what a blind alley they then led their country, and to begin to dismantle some of apartheid's less essential but still iniquitous manifestations, like the Mixed Marriages Act, the pass laws and now, it seems perhaps also the Group Areas Act.
But, of course, the heart and core of apartheid is the exclusion of the blacks from political power. So far, the Nationalists have not been able to conceive of a way to bestow some political power on the blacks without their diminishing severely or indeed forfeiting their own. Nevertheless, events both inside and outside South Africa are visibly and, indeed, remorselessly, pointing in this direction. To that extent, South Africa stands again today, as it did in 1948, at a crossroads. It is a matter of concern to the whole world that this time it should choose the right direction and not the wrong one, as it did 38 years ago.
No other nation has shared as we British have in shaping South African history. And no other nation today possesses the collective knowledge that we do of that complex country. It follows that we are, or should be, uniquely well qualified to gauge—to the extent that this can be done from outside the country—what needs to be done to put right what has gone wrong there; and uniquely well qualified to judge how best our own still considerable influence and that of the world at large can be used in support of this objective.
Of course, we must respect the depth and sincerity of the feelings and views of our EC and Commonwealth partners. But we ought not to feel inhibited from telling them how we view the situation in South Africa from our own standpoint of greater involvement and greater knowledge. We shall find, moreover, that recognising this, countries the world over are likely to follow our lead.
At Nassau, as the noble Lord, Lord Barber, reminded us, the Commonwealth called on Pretoria to initiate a process of dialogue across lines of colour, politics and religion with a view to establishing a non- 1194 racial and representative government. President Botha, for his part, told the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group:Our political programme provides for power sharing subject only to the protection of the rights of all minorities, and we are reconciled to the eventual disappearance of white domination".The Nassau formula is seen by most of its sponsors as leading to the immediate setting up, in the same way that this was done after the Lancaster House agreement over Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, of a majority regime based on one man, one vote. This is the solution hallowed by our own British practice in all the dependent territories that we have decolonised since World War Two (though not of course in 1910. when we created the Union of South Africa). President Botha on the other hand has said;Reasonable South Africans will not accept the principle of one man, one vote, in a unitary system. That would lead to the domination of one over the other and would lead to chaos".Here is the crux of the whole matter. At any rate in the Commonwealth, whose Asian, African, Caribbean and Pacific members together constitute the most politically advanced and best governed section of the whole third world, one man, one vote, and majority rule are regarded as the only valid and respectable basis on which to found a successor regime. But most, if not all, of the Afrikaners—and I dare say a good many English-speaking whites as well—regard the prospect of black majority rule in South Africa with dread and repulsion. They believe that under such a government they, their children and grandchildren at best would be treated as second or even third-class citizens in their own country, and at worst would be compelled to emigrate—but to where? They say that South Africa, where their ancestors began to settle in the 17th century, is just as much their home as French Canada and New England are the homes of the French Canadians and the New Englanders today.
The Afrikaners, as has already been brought out in this debate, and as we British have had ample opportunities to discover, are a tough and tenacious people with deep roots in South Africa and none now elsewhere. In this respect they are quite different from their English compatriots who still have roots of language, kinship and culture with this country. Afrikaners differ still more from the British settler community in Kenya or Rhodesia whose presence there went back at most one long lifetime. If a parallel is to be found among the world's nations with the Afrikaners, the nearest candidates are that other tough and tenacious lot—the Israelis—whose delared national intention is likewise one ofJ'y suis, j'y reste".Neither one people nor the other will submit tamely to the loss through the ballot box of what they passionately believe is their own country.
It seems to me that in this supremely difficult situation, though Britain indeed has a major role to play, we ought to play that role with shrewdness and sensitivity, and a determination not ourselves to foreclose options among which it is for the blacks and whites of South Africa to choose, once negotiation gets underway. Indeed, if we here in Britain were to declare resoundingly that we favoured one option or the other—for example, the option of immediate black majority rule—the result could well be to harden the 1195 attitudes of both sides, black and white, in South Africa to the point at which a successful negotiation became impossible. Where we can—and it seems to me most certainly should—use our influence to the maximum is in seeking to ensure that negotiations are soon and sincerely begun. I believe this to be the prime object of the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary's forthcoming visit to South Africa.
We must accept the view of the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group that negotiations will not begin without some sort of continuing pressure from Britain and other countries upon the South African Government. In realistic language this is because, without support of this kind from outside South Africa, nothing the blacks by themselves can do will suffice to bring the authorities in Pretoria to the negotiating table, in view of the powers of repression which the latter have at their disposal and can turn on at will, but so far have used only in part.
As the right honourable lady the Member for Clydesdale, Dame Judith Hart, said on 17th June in another place, we should reject measures such as the banning of air flights and avocados which serve merely to express our disapproval. Far more effective, she thought, would be precisely aimed measures taken after careful economic analysis such as financial sanctions and disinvestment by transnational corporations in key sectors of the South African economy with the object not of destroying it but of influencing it. I thought her speech was a remarkably shrewd and constructive one. I was interested and encouraged to hear the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso—in his telling speech just now—also make clear what an important role the transnational corporations have played and, he believes, will continue to play, in this situation.
My Lords, forty years ago I was sent to South Africa—my first ever diplomatic post—by the then Dominions Office, later the Commonwealth Relations Office. I was surprised to discover that to Smuts and his contemporaries the words "racial problem" meant the relationship between the British and the Boers. The reconciliation between them on which Smuts's rule as Prime Minister was based, was one of his major achievements; and the liberal Afrikaner element, to whom the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, referred, contributed notably to it. But would that Smuts had addressed himself with equal zeal to what he called "the native problem". It would have been an easier one to solve then than it is now.
But if it is to be solved now, what Britain does or does not do in the time ahead of us could well be of decisive importance to the outcome. As I see it, we British ought to stand between the two real parties to this argument, the blacks and the Afrikaners, and—avoiding all temptations to demonology or hagiography—see and recognise the strong and very human qualities which both sides at their best possess. History has prepared us for this task and, however frustrating and ill-rewarded it turns out to be, we ought not to shirk it.
§ 2.7 p.m.
The Earl of Selkirk
My Lords, I should like first to apologise to my noble friend if I do not stay to the end 1196 of this debate. I had not realised that it might continue until such a late hour.
I am delighted to speak immediately after my noble friend Lord Saint Brides because, when talking about the debate a fortnight or three weeks ago, he asked whether this question had been considered through to the end. Are we doing so with this question? There are 22 or 25 million people living in South Africa. Where will they be in 20 years' time? I think that we are in an awful hurry in thinking that there is a simple solution. The noble Lord really implied, "I do not think that it is simply a question of apartheid;"—which, after all, is a diluted form of slavery—"it is a question of power".
Power is a very dfficult matter, and we are becoming perhaps a little hurried about it. I read last Sunday in the Sunday Times that we are reaching something approaching war hysteria built up by the media, with the BBC leading the bloodthirsty pack. Those words are a little too close to the truth to be absolutely comfortable. I wonder even whether the BBC is treading a little outside the terms of its charter in the careful examination it makes of and advice it gives to Her Majesty's Government on foreign policy. That is not a matter for the BBC; it is a matter for the Government. Be that as it may, it is a pity that it does not see some of the difficulties which arise in South Africa, and in that regard I should like to refer to one quotation.
Dr. Kissinger was not exactly a coward in conducting foreign affairs. So far as I know he went boldly into the most difficult problems in international affairs. But after visiting South Africa he said that of all the political problems he had met that of South Africa was the most difficult.
I believe that that is true, and it is true for a number of reasons. There is the division of hatred between whites and whites and between coloured and uncoloured. I talked to a friendly chap in Johannesburg and asked him "Which races do you hate?" He said "One, two and three". I asked, "Which are the ones that you like", and he told me. He was a splendid man and he said, "Five years ago I thought that all whites were snakes, now I know that it is not true". The situation is changing rapidly.
For a century and a half or more we have been fascinated with Africa, with its people, the country, the animals and so on. It is interesting to note that the South Africans are the most indigenous people in the world. It is there that man started maybe 2 million years ago. To those who study them, the strength of their customs and habits is fascinating. However, they do not adjust themselves very easily to the concept of this world. We do not adjust ourselves to this terrible 20th century in which fantastic changes are taking place, and so how can they do it with any great ease?
We have a pretty heavy responsibility for South Africa. We have fought the Zulus, we have fought the Boers, we have fought the Matabele and goodness knows who else. We like to think that we have made a contribution in the form of medicine, transport and administration. However, in general, the Africans say that the colonial period was a disaster for Africa. You can argue about that as you like, but one matter is clear: we have never taught the Africans how to govern themselves and that is not at all an easy thing to do.
1197 The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, talked about democracy. What is democracy? The Russians have democracy; all kinds of people have democracy. Hitler had a form of democracy. We have prided ourselves on 700 years of democracy. I do not know what Simon de Montfort would think of the present parliament or what we would think of the parliament of Simon de Montfort. However, there is an element which we have developed and which I believe is very special. I am referring to what I would call a "loyal opposition". You can denounce the Government, as almost every Opposition has done, even the worst government —that of Ethelred the Unready. Every government has been denounced regularly and freely. But there remains an esential loyalty to the country. The tribal system of Africa was essentially a one-party system. You were a member of a tribe and there was no opposition. You had a leader. That is the basis of their thought. It will be very difficult for them to accept the form of government which we think is sensible.
The other day I was reading Macaulay's story of the revolutions in the 17th century. The point which he sought to make was that there is no such thing in politics as progress; there is action and reaction; advance and retrogression. It was the violent and disagreeable periods of that century which enabled our parliament to evolve.
We must recognise that South Africa must learn by its conditions. We cannot teach it. The South Africans must teach themselves. We can help them, but they will resist as any sovereign state will resist any kind of outside interference. Indeed, in some ways it is more difficult for them to abolish apartheid altogether just because we are pressing them to do so. It is a question of: "Are you doing this under government pressure?" If I may say so, the Opposition are always telling the Prime Minister that she is a lapdog of Mr. Reagan. This is a common complaint. If you are under the pressure of some outside government it is more difficult for you to do the very things that you want to do.
I was rather hopeful about my noble friend Lord Barber's speech. He obviously came moderately near to getting an agreement. I think that was hopeful. Anybody who knows South Africa knows quite well that the government have been fully aware for at least five or 10 years that they have to get reconciliation if they can. I do not think anyone who knows the Government would deny that. I do not say that they are succeeding, but there is no doubt that they are aware of that and are conscious that they cannot go on unless they get reconciliation.
I hope therefore that the Government will go on bringing pressure. I do not think that economic pressure is the way, but pressure in the manner in which the Commonwealth delegation went there. I am not certain that the sort of pressure that my noble friend Lord Barber brought to bear will not be successful in time. We are dealing here with a solution which will come only after decades. It will not come this year or next year. It is a slow process of the utmost complexity, and it can only be solved by constant pressure and encouragement. Fear is not a good instrument to use against a nation state. Nation states do not like it. I remember that on almost the last occasion when I met Sir Winston Churchill he said: "Never give way to threats".
§ 2.16 p.m.
§ Lord Pitt of Hampstead
My Lords, I must begin by pointing out that the anti-apartheid movement started in the basement beneath my surgery. In my student days South Africa and the southern states of America were the two areas which occasioned the greatest concern, as they were regarded as the areas which showed the evil of racial segregation and racial oppression at its worst.
Last September I received an honorary degree at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina. There is nothing particularly remarkable about this as Shaw is a black university. What was surprising, however, was that I was handed the key to the City of Raleigh by the white Mayor of Raleigh, and given the freedom of that city. Raleigh was one of the centres of the sit-ins at lunch counters during the civil rights campaign. I also visited Atlanta, Georgia, and Nashville, Tenessee, both cities which were previously segregated and are now fully integrated.
Unfortunately, in the case of South Africa progress has been in the opposite direction. The law has been used to enforce segregation and the separation of the communities on racial lines. A population registration Act enabled the authorities to determine the race of every citizen in some arbitrary way which enabled them to label people as white, coloured, Indian, or black. The Group Areas Act determined where each racial group should live. Then the homelands policy enabled the authorities to deprive millions of people of their South African citizenship and gave them a mythical citizenship in a tribal homeland that they had never known, and with which they had no connection, except that their parents belonged to that particular tribe.
This of course justified the existing law requiring all blacks to have passes to prove their right to be in white South Africa. These they were required to show at all times, and were imprisoned if they did not possess them. The black townships were constructed with limited access roads to enable them to be easily controlled.
Now every action evokes a reaction. The black reaction is reflected in the history of the African National Congress. The African National Congress was formed in 1912 to defend the rights of the African peoples which had been seriously curtailed by the South Africa Act, and which were then threatened by the Native Land Act. The Native Land Act 1913 deprived the Africans of their land, and land security. The Colour Bar Act which followed shut off Africans from skilled trades and blocked their advancement through these channels. The Urban Areas Act 1923 established native locations, and the Native Administration Act 1927 made the Governor General supreme chief over all African areas, which were thenceforth ruled by proclamation.
In 1936 the Native Representation Act abolished the Cape franchise and gave three white men the duty of representing 8 million Africans in a House of 150, representing 2 million whites. Yet until 1949 (which is one year after the coming into power of the Nationalist Government)—that is, for 37 years—the African National Congress adhered strictly to constitutional struggle. It put forward demands and resolutions. It 1199 sent delegations to the Government in the belief that African grievances could be settled through peaceful discussion and that Africans could advance gradually to full political rights.
But white governments remained unmoved and the rights of Africans became less instead of more. Only in 1949 did the African National Congress change its stance, and even then it eschewed violence. The decision taken then was to protest against apartheid legislation by peaceful but unlawful demonstration against certain laws. Of course, peaceful demonstrations were unlawful because they were not allowed by law.
Thus the defiance campaign was launched in 1952. More than 8,500 people defied the apartheid laws and went to gaol, and yet there was not a single instance of violence during that campaign on the part of any of the defiers. However, the Government responded to that campaign by passing the Public Safety Act and the Criminal Law Amendment Act, which provided harsher penalties for offences committed by way of protests against laws. Yet despite this the protests continued and the African National Congress adhered to its policy of non-violence.
In 1956, 156 South Africans of all races—members of the Congress Alliance which comprised the ANC, the South African Indian Congress, the Congress of Democrats, which is a white organisation, and the Coloured Peoples' Organisation—were arrested and charged with treason. They were accused of trying to overthrow the South African Government by violent means. The prosecution was largely based on the Freedom Charter. The Freedom Charter may be regarded as radical, but certainly it did not advocate the violent overthrow of the state. The trial lasted for four years, and in the end all were acquitted.
Demonstrations and protests continued. In 1960 the security forces lost their control and 69 black people were shot at Sharpeville. The government reacted by proclaiming a state of emergency and declaring the ANC an unlawful organisation. The ANC refused to dissolve and went underground. In the same year, in 1960, the government held a referendum among white voters on the question of becoming a republic. The Africans demanded to be consulted before this step was taken but they were ignored. They took a decision to hold an All-African Conference to call for a national convention and to organise mass demonstrations on the eve of the unwanted republic if the government failed to call a convention.
The government failed to call a convention and they organised the stay at home. The stay at home was peaceful. The government, however, introduced new and harsher laws and sent heavily armed troops and armament into the townships. Yet it was not until December 1961, nearly 50 years after its foundation, that the military wing of the ANC was formed. The ANC has been anxious, and is still anxious, to avoid civil war and has endeavoured to avoid unnecessary loss of life.
The government of course has always responded in the opposite way. In 1963, Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and others were charged with trying to overthrow the government by a violent revolution.
1200 They were charged under the Sabotage Act, the Suppression of Communism Act, and the Criminal Law Amendment Act. The charges against one were dropped, another was acquitted at the conclusion of the trial and the others were found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Your Lordships have heard today a moving tribute to Nelson Mandela paid by the noble Lord, Lord Barber. The imprisonment of the leaders of the Congress Alliance has not prevented the continuation of the struggle. The struggle has intensified and the government has increased its use of force. In 1982, it passed the Internal Security Act which consolidated the security laws. In 1976, similar mass murder was committed by security forces in Soweto.
The South African Government seems to have recognised at this stage that things cannot continue as at present but they seem unable to bring themselves to effect the required change. They seem to think that all that is required is the rearrangement of affairs in a way that will create an appearance of progress without really effecting any change in the present structure of society. The government appears to be willing to juggle with affairs, to divide the various social groups and to keep power in white hands.
Unfortunately, that is no longer possible. The drift into chaos can only be halted by a complete change of thrust. The government needs to abandon the idea of a South Africa of communities dominated by the whites for a South Africa of individuals living in a society in which there is equal opportunity for all individuals regardless of race or colour. Willingness to accept this will make it possible to negotiate a reasonable settlement. Failure to accept this can only lead to a continuation of the slide into chaos.
The whites in South Africa are anxious to defend their present privileges; but these privileges are only possible because of the foreign investment and cheap black labour. So long as the foreign investment is available, they have an incentive to fight to control and to keep black labour. Investment in South Africa is therefore investment in apartheid. The statement that one can abhor apartheid and yet think one should continue to invest in South Africa is contradictory. It is necessary to see it clearly. The withdrawal of investment from South Africa is the first requirement of any declaration of determination to get rid of apartheid. In fact, it is the most important manifestation of any detestation of apartheid, because it is that investment which enables them to maintain it.
But more than that is required. I began by contrasting South Africa with the southern states of America. Those states did not become desegregated by being left to their own devices: if left to their own devices they would never have become desegregated. They were pressurised into doing so by the actions of the federal government and the United States supreme court. The comparable authority in the case of South Africa is the United Nations, representing the consensus of world opinion. Mandatory sanctions through the Security Council are therefore what are required. So far as concerns this country, it is necessary to face the fact that vetoing Security Council resolutions in order to protect South Africa is condoning apartheid. This country therefore must 1201 stop vetoing Security Council resolutions and co-operate with the rest of the world in imposing mandatory sanctions on South Africa. The sooner she does that, the sooner she will be relieving the world of this cancer.
This country needs to decide whether we are allied to South Africa or to the rest of the world. We cannot have it both ways. The visit of Sir Geoffrey Howe to South Africa will be useful if he takes the opportunity to spell out the facts of the situation to the South African Government. He should say to that government that they need to be prepared to repeal the Population Registration Act and the Group Areas Act. I was very glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, say that it is on the agenda for their national party conference because that is one of the things they need to do. They also need to face the necessary reintegration of the tribal homelands into South Africa.
They need to do all these things if they wish to have a peaceful solution to the problem. Nothing short of this will do. They must be particularly discouraged from continuing to think that they can manipulate the system in a way that will leave them still controlling 87 per cent. of the land while the bulk of the population have to make do with a little over 13 per cent. A society which provides opportunity for the social and economic development of all the people is what is required. If that is the objective, the pace of progress towards that goal is negotiable. The goal itself, however, cannot be negotiated away.
§ 2.34 p.m.
§ Lord Alport
My Lords, may I begin by thanking my noble friend, the Leader of the House for giving us the opportunity of having this debate at this time, which has enabled us to hear a number of distinguished contributions, including that of the noble Lord, Lord Pitt of Hampstead?
It particularly enabled us to hear a first-hand report from my noble friend Lord Barber of the Eminent Persons Group. Let me pay tribute to that able and impressive report. I do not oppose sanctions. I am sure that constitutional reform on a basis of negotiation with the accepted leaders of the ANC, such as Mr. Mandela, freed from 20 years in prison, and his associate Mr. Tambo and the present leadership of African nationalism, offers the best chance for black and white in South Africa of avoiding months, and years perhaps, of violence, insurrection and bloodshed. If sanctions can help to bring this about, let us by all means try them; though in my darker moments I wonder whether it is right for workers in the United Kingdom to be called on to lose their jobs in order to try to persuade "British and Boer" in South Africa to face up to the political and moral realities of their own country.
My own views of what the future holds for that beautiful, ill-starred country are derived from an amalgam of experience and heredity; in particular, of course, from an intimate association with the events surrounding the evolution of Rhodesia into Zimbabwe. As the noble Lord, Lord Murton of Lindisfarne, has already said, if, despite international ostracism and economic sanctions, white Rhodesia —with a far more liberal stance on race relations than 1202 in the Afrikaner dominated South—could sustain a civil war for 12 or more years with a white population of a quarter of a million and limited resources, how long could South Africa hold out, with its white population of between 4 million and 5 million, a powerful economy and a tradition of political ruthlessness in excess of anything we saw under Ian Smith—15, 20, 25 years, who knows? And if 25.000 died in Rhodesia's civil war, how many would die in South Africa—a quarter of a million or half a million? There would be a bloodbath, indeed, and most of that blood would be black.
I suggest to your Lordships that we should make our assessment of the realities in South Africa not in economic or financial terms, but on a basis of the history of that country—as my noble friend Lord Saint Brides has said—over the past 350 years, and on the psychology of its Afrikaner rulers. We should remember the centuries of isolation, the overwhelming significance of the Great Trek, the Battle of the Blood River, the Boer War, the teaching of the predikants of the Dutch Church, the realities and symbolism of the laager, all of which have a much more powerful hold on the Afrikaner mind than the frontier has on the mind of the people of the United States.
Superficially, much has changed in South Africa during this century. For the Afrikaner nothing has changed. There is as much prospect, in the light of the historical and psychological factors which dominate the vast majority of white opinion in South Africa. of achieving a settlement satisfactory to the vast majority of the blacks by discussion and negotiation—and here I follow the views of my noble friend Lord Saint Brides—as there is of the Israelis handing over political power in Palestine to the PLO. As Mr. Pik Botha asked an Australian journalist in an interview last week, "Do you expect us to commit suicide in order to survive?"
There is an arguable parallel between the situation facing the Jews in Israel and the Afrikaner in South Africa. Both are a small, resolute minority surrounded by a huge population of a very different race and culture. Both have a belief in their entitlement by divine sanction to live in an historic homeland. Both, if the chips are down, have nowhere else to go.
I have great sympathy with the reluctance of my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary to undertake the mission assigned to him by the Heads of Government at The Hague. If, in President Reagan's words, Mr. Botha in recent correspondence has told the President of the United States "to bug off", Sir Geoffrey Howe faces a distasteful and humiliating experience, which can only further reduce such remnants of influence which Great Britain has over the policies and actions of the Afrikaner Government of the South African Republic.
The scenario which I have outlined during the past few minutes is admittedly pessimistic, and some would say, defeatist. Now I turn to the possibility which I think could happen. It is something which I think will not necessarily happen or even should happen, but it is the nearest I can get to an ultimate solution which gives some fulfilment to the legitimate aspirations of black and white in South Africa; something which would provide a basis for discussion and negotiation between their respective leaderships; 1203 and something which might after the inevitable violence and loss of life of the next few months and years provide the basis for a settlement.
Let me quote from an article written by Dr. van Zyl Slabbart, who, as your Lordships will remember, was until very recently the leader of the Progressive Party in the South African Parliament. He said:It is conceivable that partition may be a last resort option in a no-win sitution; but quite likely the line will be drawn where the battle has ended, and not where it has been thought out in morally and intellectually defensible terms".The practicalities of partition have been considered by academics for the past decade and more. I am told that it has been studied unofficially in the Foreign Office. Faced with an apparently insoluble racial-political and constitutional problem, partition has frequently been the solution of the last resort. If I give my own version as to how it might be applied to South Africa, I merely offer it as a possible pattern for the future.
Partition would involve the establishment of a northern black state—Azania—and a southern state with a dominant white, Indian and coloured population. The frontier between them might run from the mouth of the Orange river in the west; east along its course to the Vaal; north along the Vaal to the Modder river; and along that to the Lesotho frontier, round the Lesotho frontier and then southward to the sea.
There would be great advantages if Namibia were incorporated in Azania, perhaps on a federal basis as that would be the most agreeable. Botswana, Swaziland and Lesotho would no longer on that basis be fiefdoms of a white Afrikaner state; and Indians and coloureds would be relieved of some of the fear of discrimination by a black government as has happened elsewhere in Africa. Azania would have 70 per cent. of the present population of the Republic, and, exclusive of Namibia which has great potential riches, 75 per cent. of its GDP. It would have the great wealth of the Rand—its gold mines and its industry—it would have the port of Durban and the agricultural riches of the North Transvaal and the Free State.
The white state, South Africa, would comprise mostly the old Cape Province, representing the historic homeland of Afrikanerdom and the part of South Africa where British constitutional institutions first took root. Partition on these lines would be anathema to the neo-Nazis of Mr. Terre Blanche and the AWB, who are still fighting the Boer War and the rebellion of 1914. But heaven forbid that policy in South Africa should be formed in their image. If they were ever to gain power, then there would be no hope for the white community in that country.
I do not underestimate the difficulties. It would involve a population transfer of 2 million to 3 million perhaps, though whites would continue to live and work in Azania as they do in Zimbabwe, and blacks would work in South Africa as do men and women from Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique in the South Africa of today. But if the international community is genuinely concerned to find a solution to this problem, there are instruments by means of which help could be provided to finance the transference of population and to establish post-partition viability.
1204 No doubt the whole idea will be dismissed here and in South Africa as being absurdly visionary and impracticable. I know only too well that it is always a mistake to embark on political speculation before anyone is ready to listen. The Afrikaner-dominated Government in Pretoria will, for the time being, absolutely and certainly suppress insurgence with censorship, the sjambok and the gun. There will be sporadic and ineffective strikes—far less widespread and damaging than those to which we in Britain have become accustomed. Business leaders, as they are at present doing, will scurry round protesting, not on moral and political grounds, but because of the effect of those strikes on the economy.
For the most part, the whites will continue to live with their illusions. The circumvention of any sanctions will become a patriotic duty and a profitable business. Japan will buy the coal and steel which Britian prohibits. The United States will exclude all strategic materials from any sanctions it may impose. Italy, France and Spain will increase their fruit, vegetable and wine exports to Britain at the expense of South Africa. Divisions will be encouraged by Pretoria among the black community in the republic—particularly Chief Buthelezi's Inkatha movement—and there will be increased talk about hiving off Natal and Zululand.
Then, next time, the outbreak of violence in the black areas will escalate and in due course the situation will reach a climax of a full-scale revolution with all the human and economic destruction which that will entail. One day—perhaps not in my lifetime—the Afrikaner and the white community will, in Dr. van Zyl Slabbart's words, face a "no-win situation".
It is perhaps too much to hope that before that day arrives it might be possible to find a solution for the problems of a country which God has so richly endowed whereby black and white can share a marvellous inheritance without first reducing that inheritance to ruin and inflicting indelible suffering on human beings—black and white alike.
§ 2.47 p.m.
The Viscount of Falkland
My Lords, this is a truly remarkable debate, and I thank the noble Viscount the Leader of the House for giving me, at any rate, a chance to contribute to it. I think it is a pity that with competition from summer events in this country—tennis, and so on—a wider public is not going to have access to some of the remarkable speeches made today. It would be invidious to select any, but perhaps I may say that every word and sentence told in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Barber. I also pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, who gave an astonishing, historical account of South Africa and what has led up to the situation today.
I had a slight reservation about the report of the Eminent Persons Group which has been corrected by your Lordships' debate. Perhaps for good reason the group paid little attention to the historical background of what has happened in South Africa, particularly since the union. I am concerned because nowadays—perhaps because we are less articulate—we use the word "apartheid" as though the 1205 abolition of apartheid was some magic formula for peace in the continent of Africa. Apartheid is no more than the crystallisation, which appeared in 1948 when the National Party took power in South Africa, of cultural attitudes and hard Afrikaner beliefs which have existed right from the time when the first batch of Dutch people arrived there in the 17th century. As the Boers developed their agriculture it became harder and, although I will not go over the historical ground, it became harder still as the British took over the Cape Colony.
The African has never had any rights in South Africa. He has no more rights now than he had at the time when he first came into confrontation with the Boer. The Boer came into confrontation with very little when he first arrived there because the inhabitants were sparse and quickly disappeared. His first confrontations came when the migrations occurred, with the growth of population of the Bantu peoples over the centuries. Of course, the difference is that in South Africa we are not dealing with a colonial situation where someone has arrived and taken over a population, colonised the country, and had problems similar to those in other parts of Africa. It is a situation in which the migration of peoples has aggravated the problems and has hardened the attitude of the settlers. Those hard attitudes of the settlers still remain in South Africa.
I should like to say to the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, that I know many South Africans. I have spent many years in black Africa—though I have never set foot across the border for many reasons—and have often been in front line African states and know something of African attitudes. I have many friends in South Africa who express exactly the views that he has expressed, which are moderate, optimistic views. But my African experience tells me that as a result of this process of hardening over the years the African in fact understands far better the Boer mentality than that of the liberal South African. The African understands where he is. It is hard and it is clear, and he can take hard, clear action to confront it.
The Liberal South African view—and it is the view of the British, not only in South Africa but in other parts of black Africa—has led the black African to mistrust this attitude. It has led him to disappointment and loss of pride in himself as well as loss of self-confidence. At least with the Afrikaner (the Boer) he knows that he has no chance of being let down because he has already been let down. He is fighting an intransigence with which he knows there is only one way to deal, and that is ultimately to conquer it.
Of course, in South Africa today we have a movement of black African opinion, supported by the rest of black Africa, which is the result of population growth and education. I wish that more people were listening to this debate because one of the things that people say in this country is that black Africans are better off in South Africa than they are in some of the other African states. They are—they are paid more money. In a country like Kenya 80 per cent. of the people are unemployed. Of course people are better off in South Africa, but they have the knowledge and the taste for the better life and are not prepared to continue feeling themselves deprived of a share of the 1206 wealth of that country, nor of the proud position in that country of which they have been deprived for so long.
I think that is the situation. I was disappointed to hear the noble Baroness say when she opened the debate that our aims were to restore human rights. When have there ever been human rights in South Africa? And restored from where? There have never been human rights in South Africa. I remember my grandfather, who was in the Boer War, telling me that there were no rights for blacks in South Africa. The stories I heard were quite deplorable, and they have not improved. Reading from her brief, the noble Baroness said that we wished to see a situation of no confrontation. South Africa has always had confrontation. The only way that anything can be accomplished is by confrontation. We have now reached the ultimate in confrontation because South Africa is no longer helped by neighbouring countries which practise a similar ethic. The Portuguese retired from the territories of Moçambique and Angola, and we know what happened in Rhodesia. The South Africans stand alone, still with their hard core of beliefs which go back to the Middle Ages.
One has to respect the Boer mentality because it is sincere, and the African knows that it is sincere. It is a feeling that he has a God-given right to the land. It is written in his books that he has a God-given right to the land and a God-given right to work the land. Anybody who impedes him is in fact going against God's word. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, will agree with my rather glib analysis of the situation. The people of other races are there to work for him and to fill a subsidiary position in his view of the world. The African understands that, and he will take action against it. But he does not understand our attitude. In the old Western films the Red Indians used to say of the white man, "He speaks with forked tongue". That is the reaction of many blacks today to the British Government's attitude.
As usual, Britain and other Western countries are only playing with the problem. We have extreme black views in South Africa. Even the ANC cannot control the young blacks. I do not think that we can go back to a situation where it can. If Nelson Mandela were released tomorrow, I think that he would find it extremely difficult to bring his influence to bear on the young blacks of the townships. They are not communists or Marxists; they are young men with a taste of blood and a taste of power. Those are emotive words. For them it is much better to do something exciting, even if it is being killed or killing others, than being unemployed, miserable, or knocked about by a policeman.
All that has happened as a result of young black militancy is that the South African Government have hardened until we have reached the position today where thousands are in detention, the police arrest without charge or explanation and torture is commonplace. Any human rights organisation will tell your Lordships of the interrogation under torture that takes place. I need not catalogue the monstrosities.
The scenario that I put forward, knowing black Africa, is bleak. We have reached the point where the African will not be content just to see apartheid 1207 dismantled, to use a phrase that has frequently been used in our debate. He wants power, and he will settle for nothing less.
How does the industrialised world cope with that problem? I agree with Mrs. Thatcher that it is extremely difficult. It is hypocritical to say that we can jump in immediately and take sanctions against South Africa. That will not stop the trouble. As noble Lords have said, it is a false argument that it matters to the African. He does not care about suffering. He does not care about being killed, and so he will not care about sanctions. It may hurt him but he is hurt by many other things as well.
Sanctions would also be broken. With the borders that South Africa has and the interested parties, it would make the chicanery and brigandry of Zimbabwe seem child's play. The carpet-baggers and the buccaneers would be in and huge fortunes would be made by individuals and corporate bodies. As I think my noble friend Lord Crawshaw said, when the story is written about sanction-busting in Rhodesia there will be a lot of red faces in this country and in others.
That is the situation. We have to do something, whether through our banking system or through withdrawing investment in South Africa. The situation may have gone too far in South Africa, if I may take that pessimistic view, but what about the rest of black Africa? It has been poorly served since independence. We have debated that many times in your Lordships' House. It has not progressed materially, and it is in a state of political chaos. That is because Britain and other countries have not properly seen the development of black Africa. They see it vaguely as a market for our industries and as a source of raw material.
We can do something practical and constructive. The Government cannot lose by putting pressure on the South African Government. In my view the penalties that people suggest that we shall pay through unemployment here, and so on, are not realistic. We must do something. What is more important, we should consider our attitude towards the rest of black Africa, regardless of the outcome of this dire situation, to see that we lose no reputation in black Africa and the Commonwealth as a whole. That is the situation. Time is running short.
The black African has dignity, humour, forbearance and pride. His pride has been hurt. He retains his sense of humour. I was glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Barber, give us an example of African humour, from a man hard and sore pressed. That is often found in black Africa. We have done scant justice to the black African in the whole continent. No justice has been done to the black African in South Africa. A terrible day of reckoning is probably at hand. Anything that we can do at this stage, even if it damages us, to avert or minimise the horror that could arise, would be a job well done.
§ 3.1 p.m.
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, it was suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, that the House should in some way express its displeasure at the attitude of 1208 the British Prime Minister. I believe that in this matter the British Prime Minister, in opposing as far as she found it possible the idea of sanctions against South Africa, has shown a realism about the truth of the situation which it behoves us all to recognise before we discuss the affairs of that sad country.
Today's debate, particularly the speeches, from different points of view, of the noble Lord, Lord Alport, and the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, contribute to a realism which was wholly absent in some of the opening speeches, where people talked as if this was a simple matter of will. We only had to wave some kind of coercive wand and we would obtain in a meaningful sense, one man, one vote.
How is a country such as Great Britain, which in the course of 300 years has failed to solve through democratic processes the problems of a neighbouring island where the divisions are not of race, culture, language or colour, but only between two branches of the same religion, to say that we can solve the problems that have been built up, as the noble Viscount rightly said, between the movement of populations and clashes between those populations, over a matter of centuries? It is showing an arrogance that passes the understanding.
Any form of sanctions involves some interference with the economic process. Whether particular groups in this country or in South Africa are directly harmed, a general diminution of the creation of wealth must affect not merely the inhabitants of South Africa as it is today but neighbouring countries, which in a variety of ways depend and will continue to depend upon the South African economy.
The noble Viscount pointed out, and it is understandable, that black South Africans are not consoled by their relatively higher standard of living compared with Africans in other parts of the continent, nor by the fact that they see around them people with a far higher standard of living. They do not see why they should be permanently excluded from the common enjoyment of the potential and actual wealth of the country. But that raises a question that the noble Viscount did not ask. It is this. Have we in mind when we propose trying to affect the course of events in South Africa a new political situation that will ensure that that wealth continues to be created and is indeed further expanded? Although sharing with other noble Lords an abhorrence of violence—I do not really like people being burnt to death as part of a political argument—I am almost more worried by the evidence that such potential leadership as now exists in the ANC and other groups has not fully confronted the problem of transition, particularly in its economic aspect.
I should like to give two examples. The BBC, that has been referred to in the course of the debate, put on a couple of weeks ago—in fact, put it on twice because it rightly thought it to be of interest and importance—a recording of conversations between two leaders of the ANC and four or five Afrikaners of the more liberal wing of that community in the hope, as the BBC presenter explained, that by free discussion in London, away from the immediate pressures, they would find some common measure of agreement. Although one could see that there was in the far distance a measure 1209 of common agreement with the white South Africans looking forward to a multi-racial society in which there would be access for all to the fruits of industry, it was clear that the two representatives—they were senior representatives—deputed by the ANC in Lusaka had not given any thought and could give no constructive idea as to how these constitutional changes would be brought about.
They said that there would be elections, one man, one vote. They did not say who would organise the elections or how the elections would be policed. Would they be policed by the present South African police, by the United Nations or by other African countries? The mere mechanics—the mechanics are, after all, of great importance in the transfer of power—of such a transfer had not even been confronted.
The other example, again on radio—noble Lords may have heard it—was an interview with two representatives of the South African mining union attending the NUM conference. The question put to them was this. Given the fact that much of South African business recognises the enormous and permanent damage done to the country by apartheid—as the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, in a very illuminating speech pointed out—did they think that they could work with the business leadership in order to bring about a better condition of affairs? Both the representatives of the South African mining union, with complete openness and, one must say, with complete honesty, said "Not a bit of it. They wish, no doubt in a modified form, to preserve a capitalist system of production. Our interest is to create a socialist system of common ownership. We can have nothing to do with the business community however enlightened it claims to be".
These are the facts. They are the facts that we have to face. It is true that the ultimate idea that political power through the vote is what all peoples are entitled to have is something that we should take, and always do take, seriously. But it is also true that wherever in the history of the Commonwealth, and even outside it, an attempt has been made to suggest this formula for countries deeply divided, partition happens before democracy or, as in the case of the Indian subcontinent, at the same time. Even where it appears that the problem has been solved, as in Sri Lanka, now 40 years later we begin to get the same problems. People do resist being run—or resist even the fear of being run—by persons from whose communities they find themselves wholly alien.
In these circumstances it is to my mind Utopian and idealistic to say that we must only consider the individual, not the community. We have to recognise the existence in South Africa of communities. We have been told how blacks have a common consciousness. We must hope—perhaps in the form that the noble Lord, Lord Alport, put it to us, or in some other way—that a solution will be found which enables political expression to be given to all the peoples and groups both of South Africa and of its neighbours with whom its destiny is permanently and irrevocably bound up.
§ Lord Denham
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I wonder whether I might say a word. Before 1210 the debate opened this afternoon I did, with the agreement of the usual channels, make an appeal for brevity. We are falling sadly behindhand in time. The House and the staff of the House—who serve us very well indeed—have been worked for very late hours recently. While we do not wish to curtail debate on such an important subject I think that if we could keep speeches shorter, as my original appeal asked, it would be a service not only to everybody in the House but also would even improve the standard of the debate.
§ Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
My Lords, may I support very much what the noble Lord has said. I should think that if speeches were limited to between five and seven minutes we could make very much faster progress.
§ 3.13 p.m.
§ Lord Greenhill of Harrow
My Lords, I shall do my best to conform with what the Whips have said.
Although I think today's debate is a notable exception, it seems to me a great pity that the problem of South Africa is being looked at so much in the terms of our own domestic politics. Some people in Parliament, and many in the media, seem more concerned in exploiting it for this purpose than in finding a way through a profoundly difficult and urgent situation.
It is not solely a British problem. It is not a Commonwealth problem only, but a world problem. It is a moral and political problem in which all countries should be involved. It is inevitable that emotions will run high and I think we want to thank the noble Lord, Lord Barber, most profoundly for dealing in such a calm and vivid way with his difficult mission and for giving such a good glimpse of the personality of Nelson Mandela.
I listened to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, with great interest. I find myself very much in agreement with it. We have to bear in mind that he comes straight from—if I may use the phrase—the scene of the crime. This is not a problem that can be solved at a stroke. One of the lessons of the report of the Eminent Persons Group is that it reminds us just how deep-seated is apartheid and how its abolition, however desirable, and however certain, will call for the most radical changes at the very heart of South African life. It will call for changes of laws, repeals of Acts, changes of structure, organisation and redistribution of land. Given the best will in the world one must face the fact that this cannot be done in terms of weeks and months but only in terms of years. It is totally unrealistic and wrong to suggest that the white—and the black—population can and should be coerced into accepting a revolution in its position except after negotiation involving a gradual adjustment of ideas by all parties. We are dealing not with a few people but with millions of people.
However, the fact that it will take a long time does not mean that there is not great urgency. The Government, possibly unwittingly, have sometimes given the impression that there is no great urgency. That is of course quite wrong, not least because it is inevitable that some violence will continue as long as no settlement satisfactory to the parties is reached.
1211 The fundamental question is: can Afrikaner attitudes be changed? There has already been movement, but is there a hard core of people control-ling the instruments of power and oppression who are beyond redemption as the Eminent Persons Group imply? At the moment it may seem to be so, but was it not significant that Mr. Pik Botha publicly referred to a black president? True, he was instantly rebuked, but it surely shows that some people in high places are thinking what was once unthinkable.
In post-war history we have seen changes that were at one time unimaginable: de Gaulle in North Africa; the virtual end of the caste system in India (in many ways similar to apartheid); and the traditional attitudes of the southern United States, to which the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, referred. Even now, some people seem prepared to think, or to plan on the assumption, that Ulstermen will one day accept the Anglo-Irish Agreement. I do not believe that the obstinacy of hard-line Afrikaner opinion is not being affected by what is happening within and without South Africa. Change will assuredly come, but it will take time.
As for African opinion, the British Government have been mistaken in delaying talks with the ANC and then rather narrowing the issues discussed. However, I am sure that Sir Geoffrey Howe will seek to widen the issues.
Many noble Lords have, as I have, spoken with Oliver Tambo and Chief Buthelezi. They both give the impression of reasonable men. Whether or not they speak for all their followers, I do not know, but I suspect that they do. If they would say and imply more clearly in public what they say or imply in private, the nationalist Government might come to take a different view. Both Mr. Tambo and Chief Buthelezi say that they would serve under Nelson Mandela, and that in itself would make black and white compromise easier. The release of Nelson Mandela is central, and we understand that that will be the main thrust of Sir Geoffrey Howe's message. However, at the same time we must remember that there are deep-seated differences within African ranks which have existed over generations and which will not disappear overnight.
Who is to get these negotiations going and are wider and stronger sanctions a necessary part of the process? The Government are quite right to proceed step by step. Some measure of agreement has been reached by members of the European Commission. It is understandable that Sir Geoffrey wishes to see for himself the situation on the ground and to convey the views of the Europeans to the Afrikaners. However, I hope that he will lose no time in getting in touch, and remaining in touch, with the Americans, the Japanese and other Western industrial powers. Only in that way can we see what measures are generally acceptable to those who may have to apply them and reach a collective judgment as to their chances of success.
In such a situation as that, it is disappointing that we are not able to put greater faith in the United Nations, which ought to be able to express a world resolve in this matter. Last week I spoke to a recently retired senior official of the United Nations and asked him 1212 could he see a role for the organisation. He could give absolutely no hope. It is possible in my view that some additional selective sanctions can play a part in getting the parties to the negotiating table, but I am sceptical of those blacks who claim that their people are ready to accept the consequences of massive sanctions.
In summary—and I see that my time is up—I believe that the right policy for the Government to follow is as follows: first, they should conduct urgent discussions among the Western industrial powers to see whether there are additional economic pressures which could advance a settlement. Secondly, they should make contact on as wide a basis as possible with the nationalist political and business leaders and with the leaders and business people of the other communities in South Africa, and our own business people can play a good part in that. Thirdly, they should encourage greater dialogue by Western powers with the African leaders with a view to evolving reasonable policies and filling the gaps to which the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, drew attention.
Fourthly, they ought to continue attempts to reduce violence on both sides in the sure knowledge that the use of force will for some time remain a negotiating factor. And, fifthly, a clear indication should be given to other Commonwealth countries and to the non-aligned that this Government attach priority to this problem. The ultimate aim should be an international conference, or conferences, of the parties to try to work out a solution, possibly with the co-operation of the UN and other individuals. That should be the aim, and that is the way I think we should reach it.
§ 3.22 p.m.
§ Lord Ferrier
My Lords, I shall take to heart the words of the Chief Whip. Your Lordships will be relieved to hear that I am able to put aside a great deal of what I was going to say. Having attended the whole of the debate so far, I am reminded of a remark by Alistair Cooke, who said, "Anybody who is not confused about the situation is obviously ill-informed". To me, that is the outcome of this debate. It is obviously a complex subject and we have had placed before us a wealth of information, and not only from speeches such as those of the noble Lords, Lord Barber and Lord St. John of Bletso.
I shall take up your Lordships' time for only a few minutes, for two reasons. First, I am interested because I lost one uncle killed and two uncles wounded in the South African War, so I am not predisposed to be in favour of the Boers. I am sorry that my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel is not here today, because my last brush over Africa took place in the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. A particular group of padres with the cry, "Someone must speak for the Africans", managed to manoeuvre so that my noble friend's plan—which he had worked out with Mr. Welensky for a Central African Federation—could not be carried out. It has sometimes occurred to me that if only that had not happened this confusing situation today might not have arisen.
My mind now turns to the question of information. It is interesting to me in that I had this occasion to speak of the African situation in the Church of 1213 Scotland assembly, and the word "bloodbath" seems to fall easily from the lips of the padres. I rather feel that the padres and the BBC are all in the same gang over this. This cannot go on; the people who are addressing themselves to this complex and serious situation, instead of talking about bloodbaths should talk about negotiation, which is what our Prime Minister is doing and what our Foreign Secretary has set off to try to induce.
I am looking forward to hearing the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Soper, who will follow me. Perhaps he will help to do what I feel is so necessary. We should concentrate on the idea not that there is to be a bloodbath but what can we do to make sure there is not one? Having said that, I think I ought to sit down. However, I feel that the broadcasting authorities, particularly those concerned with television, should try to keep this down; let us talk about settlement by negotiation and not about bloodbaths.
§ 3.26 p.m.
§ Lord Soper
My Lords, I am grateful to the speaker who has just sat down because he has given me a text for what I have to say. I shall undertake to be brief, albeit at the expense of perhaps being unduly dogmatic. I find that there are two professional statements that need to be made from my point of view. The first is that apartheid is itself sinful and a particular kind of sin; that is to say, it is original because it is sin within an establishment which is committed principally to that sin, rather than occasional, to which we are all committed, some of us more regularly than others.
The second statement is that I firmly believe that we are in an apocalyptic situation. It would be very difficult to look with faith—we can look with hope—on an easy solution to the problems which now confront the whole world, let alone the particular situation in South Africa.
I want to refer in particular to the religious situation. Of the 15 members of the Verwoerd Government, 14 of them were practising members of the Dutch Reform Church: I cannot find who the other fellow was, but he certainly was not a Methodist. The relationship between apartheid and the commitments that are found in the Old Testament that would satisfy the idea of a privileged nation cannot be ignored. Mentioning this in the open air I remember a fellow not so long ago asking me whether it was not true that God told the children of Israel to pinch somebody else's territory. Thereafter they called it their own. That attitude of proprietorship is not only incidental to the whole attitude of the Afrikaner, but it is, I believe, a potent element in the perpetuation of the apartheid system which I abominate.
It is also true that within the other Churches in South Africa, particularly those who attract black people in particular to their membership, there is the same totalitarian view which I introduce, if I may, into this debate this afternoon, because I believe here is one of the essential characteristics of the perpetuation of apartheid. It relies upon dogmatic assertions coming from the Old Testament as to the privileged rights of certain groups to inhabit the earth and to enjoy its fruits and so forth, and regarding those who have to be 1214 their servants and slaves as picking up the crumbs where they can.
It is not only the Afrikaner who finds this support from his own Dutch Reform Church; it is also found within the general compass of charismatic religions so often practised by blacks where this situation is also repeated. It is necessary to appeal to the Churches in this country to recognise that they have a particular potent opportunity now of declaring another kind of Christianity than that which raises the whole question of totalitarianism and privilege.
This I believe to be so, and there is a hopeful side to it. The Dutch Reform Church only a few years ago repudiated the intimate relationship between the privileges they enjoyed and the Old Testament from which they derived those privileges; and the Dutch Reform Church said that that particular kind of apartheid could not be justified from the Old Testament.
I believe that that is a hopeful sign, and the result of it has been that there have been vociferous movements within the Dutch Reform Church and not a few outside it; and—and I mention this with some pride—a changed attitude among the Methodist churches in South Africa. I believe this to be an element which must be taken into account; for unless we stop talking about what we want to do and then looking up the appropriate text to defend it, we shall, I think, be continuing in this kind of injustice.
I have one minute left. What do we do, practically? My noble and ecclesiastical friend mentioned the decision of the Methodist Conference which was august, of course, but there was one part of it which was not mentioned and I should like to repeat it very quickly. It commends to all the boycott campaigns of the anti-apartheid movement, particularly those against Barclays Bank and Shell Petroleum. I would support that. Furthermore, I would support with great enthusiasm what can be done by ordinary people in this country in initiating the kind of attitude of refusing to purchase those things which come from South Africa, however much they might like them and find them cheap. Here is a way in which I believe we can express at a level of ordinary life the things which I find totally impossible to recognise at the moment in terms of parliamentary action with a quick result.
My final comment is this. It is simple in my judgment, and it is inevitably difficult at the same time, to think of what is right and of what can be practically undertaken. If I have not much faith in what can be done, I have a great deal of hope, and I believe that that is a virtue which is consequent upon discipline and obedience rather than upon prescience and knowledge.
§ 3.32 p.m.
§ Lord Vernon
My Lords, the House will be relieved to hear that I have torn up the majority of my speech because most of the points have already been covered by previous speakers. I was going to make three main points. The first is that when we talk of sanctions there is insufficient appreciation in this country of the nature of the Afrikaner and of his mentality. Their love of country is based upon an almost religious fervour and 1215 they will gladly fight for it rather than surrender. In this respect, I agree so much with what the noble Lord, Lord Saint Brides, and other speakers have said.
Secondly, I was going to suggest that because of South Africa's military power and economic self-sufficiency, economic sanctions would be ineffective—which is not the same thing as saying that they should not be applied. Moreover, as Helen Suzman and other courageous opponents of the Botha government have pointed out (and some of your Lordships will have read her article in The Times a couple of days ago) sanctions will in practice serve to unite the white population and create a laager mentality which can only make a settlement more difficult. I believe also with my noble friend Lord Gladwyn that sanctions will be ineffective unless they are supplemented by military or other measures.
However, my principal reason for intervening in this debate was to suggest that Sir Geoffrey Howe should go to South Africa with a positive new approach to the problem. This approach is the same as that put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Alport, in what I thought was a most constructive speech.
The noble Lord, Lord Alport, suggested partition as the ultimate solution of this appallingly difficult problem. I agree with him. The South African Government will not like partition because it means giving up four-fifths of their country. The black South Africans will not like it because they will not achieve 100 per cent. of their demands; but for that very reason the proposal probably has some merit. My suggested plan is somewhat different from that of the noble Lord. His proposal envisaged that Cape Province should be given to a white South Africa. I doubt whether that would be acceptable. My own proposal is that the Afrikaners should be offered a large part of the Transvaal, which has such mystical associations for them. I was also going to suggest that instead of having one other multi-racial state in South Africa, there should be three states—Natal, the Cape and the other half of the Free State/Transvaal—largely because the disparities in the non-white population of the country are such that I think three states are likely initially to be more effective than one. In due course possibly these different states could come together in a single state; but in any case they could be joined in a common market.
If the South African Government is unwilling to consider any substantial concessions, then I believe the British Government have no option but to introduce progressive sanctions, in collaboration with the Commonwealth and the European Community. However, I hope that the Foreign Office will at least give some thought to the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Alport, and to my own because, whatever may happen in the immediate future, in the longer term some form of partition is, in my view, inevitable.
§ 3.37 p.m.
§ Lord Moran
My Lords, for some nine years I was concerned in my working life with the problems of Africa and I spent three years in South Africa. Although that was 20 years or so ago, it gave me at first hand some idea of the difficulty and the complexity of 1216 the problem which, in South Africa, overshadows all others. All the policies that are today denounced so passionately have been efforts—nearly all unsuccessful —to deal with that problem.
It was clear enough 20 years ago that the system could not and would not work because it was based on an effort to keep the races apart. That could not be done in South Africa because the whole economy rested on the use of black labour in mines, in factories and on farms. Moreover, if the economy was to remain competitive, blacks had to do ever-increasingly sophisticated work and so they had to be highly trained; and highly trained men will sooner or later demand political rights.
Faced with the problem that dependence on black labour made total physical separation of the races impracticable, the South African Government tried to overcome it by setting up homelands in the townships near the cities for workers without families. But this only created, in the townships at any rate, centres of concentrated unrest. I found Soweto, both in theory and in practice, a thoroughly disagreeable concept. Then and later, I was sorry that voices in South Africa like that of Mr. Harry Oppenheimer, who as a South African put forward practical and realistic proposals, were not listened to.
But there have been very significant changes over the last few years, above all in the attitude of the South African Government itself. In the evidence which the South African ambassador gave on Monday to the Foreign Affairs Committee of another place, he made it clear that the homeland policy and what he called "classic apartheid" had failed and that the South African Government was now attempting to guide South Africa from what he called "apartheid of the past" to (in his words) a multi-racial future and the achievement of a fully respresentative government. Dr. Worrall argued that one person, one vote in a unitary state was unacceptable to the white South African; but he said also that South Africans would have to accept that numbers in the final analysis would be decisive.
That sort of language is light years away from what the Afrikaner establishment was saying only a few years ago. Indeed, the reforms introduced already— above all, the abolition of influx control—have been, in South African terms, far-reaching. But, as so often happens in history, it is just when things start to improve that a revolution is apt to break out.
Of course the authorities have done many foolish things. For example, their attitude to the Cape coloureds, who were not fundamentally antagonistic to the Afrikaners, always seemed to me extra-ordinarily inept: every overture from the coloureds was rebuffed.
When I was in South Africa, I saw a good deal of Mrs. Helen Suzman, whose article in Wednesday's copy of The Times answering that of Mr. Malcolm Fraser many noble Lords will have seen. She was then, as she is now, a skilled and courageous opponent of nationalist policies. For a long time she was their only real critic in Parliament. With nearly all she said I warmly agreed but, much as I respected her views, I found myself differing from her on one central and fundamental issue: what would happen if the whole structure of nationalist policies were to be abandoned 1217 or overturned? Mrs. Suzman, I believe, held that a fair and stable multiracial society could and should be created in South Africa. I wish I could think that she was right. My own observations and experience there led me to a different conclusion.
I came away convinced that there can be no halfway house in South Africa. Either you must have a white dominated society or you must have one man, one vote, which would lead to black majority rule and, in due course no doubt, a one-party regime, soon to come in Zimbabwe. Not all the precedents for this elsewhere in Africa are encouraging. In any event, given all that has happened in South Africa, I think one man, one vote would necessitate the departure of most of the 3 million whites, many of them to this country, though they have been in South Africa for generations—about as long as the Bantu tribes which came down from the North.
White South Africa has produced many notable people and the disappearance of this society would be an impoverishment of the world. It can be argued that, since the blacks are the majority, South Africa ought to be ruled by a black government. But it is, at least, an open question whether the profound change needed to bring this about would be in the interests of Britain. From a strategic and economic point of view, it seems to be doubtful.
The struggle now taking place in South Africa, if it continues, will be a savage one on both sides and, as anyone with experience of Africa knows, there is bound to be not merely violence between blacks and whites, but bloody inter-tribal conflict between blacks and blacks. That has started already. It may be that Afrikaner domination will emerge unbroken; we should not under-rate the toughness of the Afrikaners. Or it may be that the blacks will ultimately be successful. It is just possible that some solution may be found on a federal basis. But I am quite sure that this is a problem that can be resolved only by South Africans.
I agreed with what the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, said about the BBC. On this issue, it seems to have lost its sense of proportion. It goes on and on about South Africa. I am not surprised that, by its own admission, the corporation has received many letters accusing it of losing its balance on this issue.
To come back to the main problem, what ought we to do? Sanctions, as the Government have explained, would do us serious damage. The Foreign Secretary has pointed out how many jobs in this country depend on trade with South Africa—and it is an important trade. Up till 1984 we were exporting more to South Africa than to the whole of Latin America. We still have not far short of £3 billion invested there—£1 billion more than in Latin America and the Caribbean. Sanctions would put all this at risk. Besides damaging us, they would damage the economies of South Africa and of neighbouring African countries, creating unemployment and misery among blacks rather more than among whites. They would stop the process of black advancement in the industrial economy.
But perhaps they would give an impetus towards a violent uprising, which is possibly what the activists here really want. But how would that benefit the people of South Africa? And if full economic sanctions 1218 should be imposed, and should achieve nothing, what happens then?—logically, I suppose, armed intervention. We have had one disastrous war in South Africa. Do we want another?
We all wish the Foreign Secretary well in his task. But it will clearly be enormously difficult to achieve anything substantial except to buy a few months' time. That, maybe, is what Her Majesty's Government have primarily in mind. But, by adopting the language of their critics, retreating inch by inch and making concessions, each of them not in itself too damaging, in order to buy time, they are being pushed ever further in a direction in which they evidently do not wish to go. And the concessions do not appease the militants; they encourage them to push harder.
Other Commonwealth members call for full democracy in South Africa, conveniently ignoring the fact that many of them are one-party states in which minority opinions are given short shrift. It is easy for other Commonwealth countries which have no major interests in South Africa to call for extreme measures which, in most cases, would cost them nothing.
There are mutterings that individual countries might leave the Commonwealth or even take sanctions against us, unless we do what they want. Such threats can only weaken the Commonwealth, for no organisation can continue indefinitely on the basis that members threaten to withdraw or take hostile measures, if another partner does not do exactly what they want. The Commonwealth is a very useful organisation, a body in which representatives of countries of all races can meet and discuss the many problems they have in common. But it is not more than that; and though clearly we do not want the Commonwealth to suffer damage, there is such a thing as paying too high a price to prevent that.
It would be unwise to do ourselves serious economic damage in order to achieve nothing constructive. We have economic problems enough, and when I listen to your Lordships' debates about them I sometimes think with some envy of the Japanese authorities, who have managed to avoid becoming embroiled in any of these insoluble external problems, and simply go on promoting their own economic interests, wholly to the advantage of the fortunate people of Japan.
The noble Lord, Lord Stewart, argued forcefully that there is something unique about the offence of the South African authorities. I respect that argument. But anyone who has spent all his working life in my profession knows that the world is full of horrible regimes, of endless cruelty, injustice and oppression. We have never been able to do anything about the brutalities committed in the Soviet Union and in other Communist countries. They would, as the noble Lord, Lord Grimond, has pointed out, never dream of admitting foreign television crews or Eminent Person Groups to observe these things.
In practice we do all we can to increase our trade with the Eastern bloc. The tradition of Gladstonian indignation in this country is an old and honourable one. But when Mr. Gladstone was alive we were the richest and most powerful nation in the world. Today we need to recognise our limitations. Part of our dilemma today is that we have tried to play rather too active a role on the world stage. Now the pigeons are 1219 coming home to roost. This is not to say that we need keep silent. I am sure we are right to say what we think about South African policies. I believe we should not hesitate to do the same about oppression in the Soviet Union and elsewhere. We are I think right to use our diplomatic and other contacts vigorously to try to influence the South Africans in a sensible way. But in the last resort we must recognise that it is their problem, not ours; and to allow ourselves to be dragged by the prevailing clamour into applying further sanctions, general or particular, would, I believe, be a profound mistake.
§ 3.47 p.m.
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, my noble friend Lady Young set out exactly what are the Western world's interests in South Africa—a government which is acceptable to all its people, prosperous in itself, contributing to the trade and wealth of the rest of the world; and this can be achieved only by change. What that change should be I do not dare to suggest. That unknown change, however, can be brought about only with enormous difficulty, and, I regret to say, probably not at all.
The noble Lord, Lord Barber, said in his notable speech that the South African Government could not bring themselves to release Nelson Mandela. I thought that that was probably the most significant thing he said, because by saying that he acknowledged that the South African Government themselves have acknowl-edged the essential need for change but have been frightened of carrying it out.
It is our job, I suggest, to help the Boers realise that this change is the only possible ultimate hope of their salvation and survival. There are two ways of trying to produce change: one is by the stick and one is by the carrot. The population of the Boer republics in 1904 was 439,000 whites, not all of whom, obviously, were Boers. It took 500,000 British imperial troops to conquer those two Boer republics. That is approximately 1.1 soldiers per man, woman and child in the whole of the republics. In the process, 20,000 children, 4,500 women and 1,500 men died in concentration camps. That is not a record of which we should be particularly proud. To seriously think that the Boers are going to be influenced by the swopping of their market for cheap coal, as advocated by Mr. Frazer, when, surprise, surprise, the Australians have a surplus of it; by the swopping of the South African fruit and vegetable market for that of Spain and Portugal; and for the cutting off of air links, as advocated by the Canadians when Air Canada does not fly to South Africa—this strikes me as making Alice in Wonderland look like a mathematical thesis.
I do not want to be the man who goes to a British engineer at London Airport and says, "I am all right, Jack, but you are going to lose your job because we are going to stop you servicing South African Airways". I do not want to be that man, thank you very much, and I hope nobody is going to advocate that he should do it and that the man, his wife and two children should be laid off, and probably the black cleaner who cleans the aircraft as well. I do not want to be had for that.
1220 The final irony is that Equity will not allow actors to perform in South Africa. Is it because the noble Lord, Lord Olivier, delivering Hamlet's soliloquy to a black veldt Boer audience, is frightened of being contaminated by the views? Is it not more sensible to think that perhaps his presence there might add enlightenment to those people? Large numbers of blacks deplore sanctions, Chief Buthelezi among them. As has been said, Helen Suzman also deplores sanctions.
The noble Lord, Lord Barber, has allowed me to quote this, and it is an important point. As far as Chief Buthelezi is concerned he would serve under Mandela if Mandela were elected as black leader. Mandela said he would be able to work with Buthelezi. This shows that there are black men of quality in South Africa.
I go the other way. We have to produce a carrot. We have to help the Boers to change. It seems to me that we ought to increase our trade. The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, made the point about the action of British companies promoting internally and helping the blacks to develop. If you do that the rigidities and the idiocies of Afrikaner officialdom will break down under the pressure. That is the way to do it. A prosperous country means that more people have more to lose. Surely we should increase our trade with South Africa and increase our contracts so that its government can be brought out of the laager and accept that some form of change is abolutely inevitable, that some form of change is the only hope of salvation.
I do not always say that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister is a paragon of perfection, but on this occasion I think she is showing intellectual courage and moral grandeur. She realises, as I think most of us do on this side of the House, that it is more important to change and help than it is to take up strident attitudes of knowing best from a great position of comfort and ease.
§ 3.52 p.m.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, in opening the debate the noble Baroness, Lady Young, revealed the depth of misunderstanding which is present within the Government when she used the phrase, already quoted by the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, "restore freedoms" as an objective of this Government's policy.
I suppose that I am the only Member of your Lordships' House who has lived with Africans, Asians, Cape coloureds and whites in South Africa. I say "lived with" and not "visited". I was living with them before there was a single apartheid statute on the South African statute book. I saw the segregation, the inability to go with one's coloured friends, African friends and Asian friends, to a restaurant or cafe. I experienced the stopping and searching of my car if there were any non-Europeans in it. I was part of a crowd that was charged by the police force outside the Cape Parliament. I actually went with the police on searches in Johannesburg and saw how they treated the Africans. Restore freedoms, my Lords? No, there were no freedoms for the non-Europeans before apartheid. It is an insult to suggest that it is the policy of this country to restore freedoms—freedoms that were not there, never have been there and which were 1221 laid down in absentia, when this Parliament passed the Act of Union in 1910.
To his credit W. P. Schreiner, the courageous Afrikaner, came to this Parliament and appealed to parliamentarians not to pass that Act because of its segregation clauses and because it was embodying in constitutional law the principle of colour segregation. This was before the institution of apartheid in 1984; as was the land Act 1913, which was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Pitt, which divided the country and gave only 13 per cent. of the country to four-fifths of the population, the urbanisation limitation which took place in the 1920s and 1930s, the job reservation which took place at the same time and the abolition of the African franchise in the Cape in 1936. All this happened before apartheid.
I mention these facts because it is wrong for us to consider that apartheid is a policy as monetarism or nationalisation are policies. It is not a policy; it is a way of life, and it is a way of life based upon the first principle of the Boer republics of the nineteenth century that there shall be no equality in Church or State. That is what we are dealing with. It is not a set of laws.
As I said before, I participated in the attempts of the non-Europeans by peaceful means to achieve reform. As was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Pitt, there were the days of protest, the passive resistance campaign, the freedom charter, the pass law defiance; along with Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo. What were we met with? We were met by the Rivonia trial, by Sharpeville, by Soweto, and by the murder of Steve Biko and many others. I believe I am almost certainly the only Member of this House whose close colleague and first hostess in South Africa, Ruth First, was murdered by the South African Government forces by means of a parcel bomb after she had spent 117 days in solitary confinement in prison in South Africa. This peaceful movement for reform was met by a period of increasing militarisation which has not yet come to a conclusion.
In 1960 the South African defence force stood at 21,500; in 1983 it was 82,400. This militarisation of the South African regime was only made possible with the help of Britain and the West, and indeed with the help of the Soviet Union. It is very useful to the South African Government in its handling of diamonds. All the appeals from non-Europeans during this period were scorned, but we should note that this period of militarisation and increasing apartheid took place during the period of maximum economic growth in South Africa. Do not let us hear this story that economic growth undermines apartheid. It was during the period of high economic growth that apartheid was strengthened and the South African state became more and more draconian.
Those who say that there is a danger of a military coup in South Africa just do not know what they are talking about. There is no necessity for a military coup because the military men and the military machine—the military complex in South Africa—has more and more taken over the decision-making process and is stronger and stronger with the government. General Malan is the most powerful member of that government and it is the military control of the government which makes a coup 1222 unnecessary. It has taken control of political decision-making such as the Declaration of the State of Emergency.
I come finally to sanctions. It would be easy to suggest a sanction that would be totally effective, at least in bringing down the South African economy. We have only to stop buying gold. Indeed, all that needs to happen is for the United States and the IMF to start selling gold and thus reduce the price. That would deeply undermine and probably destroy the South African economy.
But I hope that the noble Viscount who is to wind up will not devote his attention, as has been done by all government Ministers so far, to arguing the case against comprehensive sanctions. That is a weak argument. It is taking the extreme and ignoring the other suggestions that have been made. Once they have said that comprehensive sanctions will not work or would be disastrous, the Government seem to show no concern.
What is the alternative? Other sanctions have been suggested, such as selective or targeted sanctions, but the Government do not discuss them. At Luxembourg last September they delayed the imposition of a carefully selected group of sanctions and at Nassau the following month they postponed the decision. Last week, they blocked the desire of the majority of EC members to put into organised process a set of sanctions. That has had a consequence which has been spelt out by the Eminent Persons Group in its report:The question in front of Heads of Government is in our view clear. It is not whether such meaures will compel change. It is already the case that their absence, and Pretoria's belief that they need not be feared, defers change".Since that change was deferred and that absence was pronounced by the British Government in Nassau last October, blood has been spilt all over South Africa. I suggest that by that action the British Government have some responsibility for the spilling of that blood.
The Foreign Secretary is to be sent to South Africa. I do not believe that either the Foreign Secretary or the noble Viscount the Leader of the House believes that that is the right policy. But whatever they believe, the effect is yet further delay and postponement; again, according to the Eminent Persons Group, producing further violence and the spilling of more blood. It is a decision which is responsible for further violence in South Africa.
As the Eminent Persons Group makes quite clear in its report, the South African Government have no intention whatever of giving up white supremacy. That is the key issue. It has been said, and it has been said particularly by the noble Lord, Lord Soames, that sanctions did not work in Rhodesia. Anybody who was engaged in the Rhodesian exercise knows that sanctions did not destroy the Smith regime, but they helped to undermine it. Nobody is suggesting that sanctions will do anything more than help. In Rhodesia they played a crucial part.
One part of the noble Lord's argument that I can never understand—and it is duplicated by members of the Cabinet—is the claim that the imposition of sanctions will only stimulate home manufacture in Rhodesia or South Africa. They cannot have it both ways. If that is the case, sanctions will not create unemployment: they will increase employment. As 1223 the noble Lord knows, to some extent that is what it did in Rhodesia. It increased local manufacture to substitute for imports and by so doing increased employment. The Government cannot have it both ways.
As has been said, the South African Government will not abandon white supremacy because of the imposition of sanctions. It may well be in British interests—I believe that it is—for sanctions to be imposed. Civil war has started. It started two years ago. The noble Lord, Lord St. John, told us that people are leaving South Africa. Yes, they are; but white people are leaving South Africa this time. Last time it was black people. After Sharpeville and Soweto there were a great many black refugees. This time they are staying and fighting.
It is in British interests to impose sanctions because this is a situation in which we must be counted, and upon which side we stand could determine this country's role throughout Africa. Above all, sanctions can have, if properly organised—I suggest organised in conjunction with the front line states, African representatives and white opposition representatives from South Africa—one important effect on the growing violent and tragic situation in South Africa. That is, to weaken the state power to oppress the non-European population. We helped to strenghten that state power in the 1960s and 1970s. We are still doing it. The important role of sanctions in the future is that they can undermine the state power of the South African Government in their war against the black majority.
§ 4.6 p.m.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, it is interesting to reflect that if there were a black government in Pretoria carrying out exactly the same policies as the present mainly white government—by no means an inconceivable scenario—35 of us would not be debating South Africa on a hot Friday afternoon in mid-summer on the day that the men's semi-final is being played at Wimbledon. There would be no calls for sanctions from the United Nations, the EC or the Commonwealth. Worldwide press coverage would be less than one-tenth of what it is now.
We can also be sure that if the majority of Europeans and Asians were to be forced out of a black-ruled South Africa, as over 2 million Europeans and Asians have been squeezed out of other parts of the African continent over the past 30 years, essentially because of the appalling population explosion which has meant far too many people chasing far too few jobs, wordwide media coverage and political interest would be almost nil, except in those countries which would have to cope with the exodus directly.
What is being demanded of South Africa which is not being demanded of all the other oppressive and tyrannical countries in the world which drop napalm upon Afghan tribesmen and their families, which torture dissidents in psychiatric hospitals—it is interesting to note that Amnesty International recently reported that 62 per cent. of the member countries of the United Nations employ torture either systematically or spasmodically—where pregnant 1224 women are stoned to death for adultery, where religious minorities are massacred, where 350 political prisoners are killed by helicopter gunboats and naval bombardment, which kill by bullet or minefield those of their citizens that wish to leave the country, or which allow their citizens to escape in unseaworthy boats across shark and pirate-infested waters? At least South Africa is not guilty of that crime. On the contrary, 1.5 million blacks have come to South Africa to work, and scores of others have come to study medicine, some from as far north as Zaire. Voting with one's feet, I believe it is called.
The first demand being made upon South Africa is the lifting of the state of emergency. I wholly concur with that, now that the immediate danger is over: it seems that there was a genuine danger. Now that 780 people have been charged with specific offences, the state of emergency must be lifted without delay. It is intolerable that people can be held for 180 days incommunicado withough being charged. It makes it difficult for those of us who have some knowledge and considerabe sympathy with the South African dilemma to go on defending that country publicly as long as the state of emergency is unnecessarily in force.
The next demand being made is the release of Nelson Mandela. It is worth reminding your Lordships that if a Ukrainian, a Latvian, a Jewish or Baptist dissident or a Moslem from central Asia had done in the Soviet Union what Mr. Mandela did in South Africa, with equal justification, he would not be alive today to tell the tale. Having said this, I should have liked to see Mr. Mandela released on humanitarian grounds a long time ago. But one has to think now of the morale of black moderates who are bearing the brunt of radical attacks, as well as the white, brown and black victims of car bombs, and their friends and relations.
I understand why Mr. Mandela does not want to give too many cards away by condemning all violence unequivocally, including violence against non-human targets like electricity pylons or oil storage tanks. But could he not at least follow Bishop Tutu in agreeing to publicly condemn the necklacing of black policemen and town councillors and, secondly, car bombs and other random attacks on civilians? Apart from smoothing the path for negotiations, such a step would tend to dampen down any violent reaction that there might be to his release from black and white alike.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, does the noble Lord understand that no word of Nelson Mandela can be published anywhere in South Africa?
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, I am saying that as a quid pro quo for his release, he should agree to say this publicly. I have no doubt that the government would permit this if he were to agree.
The next demand being made is for total abandonment of apartheid, partly on the wholly fallacious assumption, as the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, reminded us, that abandonment will usher in automatically a Utopia of peace, harmony and prosperity, and partly because apartheid has become the universal hate object of the moment. It is curious that this hate should have come to a head now, when so much apartheid has been abandoned legally or in 1225 practice, rather than 20 years ago when I first visited South Africa. At that time, apartheid was at its most ruthless, all-embracing and mean-minded. The real standard of living of the black and coloured populations was one-third of what it is today. At that time also, grossly unequal pay for equal work really did apply as it no longer does. I am afraid that, in this respect, the Eminent Persons Group's report got it wrong.
It is rather as if people had remained almost mute throughout Stalin's purges and atrocities only to launch hysterical attacks on the Yugoslavian communism of the 1950s and 1960s. It is interesting that such highly charged emotions are not to be found in black African countries adjoining South Africa where South Africans travel very freely and are always welcome, as are the inhabitants of those countries who travel freely to South Africa. This has no doubt to do with the fact that South Africa trades with every single state on the African continent, openly or surreptitiously.
Just as unfairness to blacks did not start in 1948, as the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, has reminded us—South Africa was scarcely a paradise for blacks under the rule of the much revered General Smuts—so not every single aspect of apartheid is either unfair or undesirable. One thinks of that highly impressive self-governing state, Bophuthatswana, the size of Denmark and 94 per cent. self supporting, thanks to its mineral deposits. I realise that a great deal of people have totally closed minds on this subject. But no unprejudiced person who takes the trouble to visit and study that state and meet its dignified and dedicated leaders and people, with their optimism and enthusiasm tempered by realism, and imbued both with the work ethic and strong spirit of liberalism, can fail to be impressed. If only its size and resources were doubled or trebled—the same applies to the Transkei and other viable homelands—many of South Africa's problems might be solved. Here, the noble Lord, Lord Alport, has gone to the heart of the matter.
Descending from such weighty and far-reaching matters to the Group Areas Act, yes of course in theory it ought to be abolished. But repeal should begin with new housing developments and with existing areas that are relatively affluent. One horror that South Africa has been spared is race riots. I was a schoolboy in America in 1944. I well remember the terrible race riots in Detroit in that year when 34 people, 90 per cent. of them black, were stabbed or beaten to death with baseball bats in broad daylight. This is what can happen if you try to force the pace in working class areas where people have to live cheek by jowl. I need hardly remind the House that similar communal riots took place in Algeria and Cyprus in the late 1950s and early 1960s, in Malaysia in the late 1960's, in Sri Lanka in the 1980's and in Lebanon and the Indian sub-continent almost all the time. For heaven's sake, let us not introduce one more problem to those already existing in South Africa.
The main demand now, however thinly disguised, appears to be one man one vote in a unitary state. This seems to most whites—not only governments supporters—to typify the way in which the outside world is always moving the goal posts while never giving credit for the substantial changes already 1226 achieved. More importantly, as the South African ambassador said the other day, it is effectively asking whites to commit cultural and political suicide. We must remember that there are many more white South Africans than there are either Norwegians or more pertinently, Israelis, with whom other noble Lords have compared the South Africans. They have been in South Africa on average for as long as Americans have been in the United States and much longer than white Australians have been in Australia, although, unlike the Americans and Australians they did not virtually exterminate the indigenous population.
What would threaten their survival in a unitary state is the appalling population explosion of which I spoke earlier. This does not affect only whites. A respected moderate black has said—if I remember his words correctly—"The sound we have to fear is not the rumble of Russian tanks but the patter of tiny feet." In that beautiful country, Swaziland, the population is expected to rise by no fewer than five times in 45 years. But with far too many people chasing far too few jobs in the age of the microchip, electoral pressures will see to it that most of the jobs going will be reserved for the majority, whatever the good intentions of black leaders may be; and I do not doubt the sincerity of those intentions. In a unitary state, white doctors, architects, chartered accountants, airline pilots and so on will probably be all right in the short to medium term, although I am not at all sure about their children, still less their grandchildren. In contrast, prospects for white railwaymen, taxidrivers, plumbers, electricians, bank clerks, shop assistants, and so on, would not be at all good; and this second group outnumbers the first. I doubt whether there would ultimately be room for more than one million to one and a half million out of the 4.8 million Europeans currently in South Africa; nor would the Indians fare all that well.
Apart from jobs, there is also the security aspect. On the African continent one can have a fine independent judiciary and a superbly drawn Bill of Rights. But as both South Africa and Zimbabawe among others demonstrate when it comes to the crunch the only thing that matters is who controls the army and police force. South Africa's problems have never been simple ones and no simplistic solution is likely to work. A federal or cantonal solution cannot be entirely easy to achieve; but some scheme along these lines would offer the best hope of security for all varying linguistic and cultural groups, and not merely the Asians and Europeans. All external pressures and promptings should be directed towards that end, which at least offers a lifeline, rather than forcing the minorities into a corner with potentially disastrous results.
§ 4.17 p.m.
§ The Earl of Lindsey and Abingdon
My Lords, being possibly one of the few Members of your Lordships' House who was born and lived in South Africa for the first thirteen years of my life prior to the present Nationalist Party coming to power in 1948, it has remained one of my interests in life to follow the historical, political and economic development of that country. As has been put forward by far more experienced Members of your Lordships' House than me this afternoon the past history of South Africa reflects very much of what is happening today in that 1227 beautiful and unhappy country. As the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, pointed out in his speech, we have to go back as far as the Act creating the Union of South Africa in 1910 and the aftermath of the Boer War to see the seeds of apartheid being sown.
Even before the last war substantial British and Jewish interests in South Africa were directed towards investment and creation of wealth in South Africa's vast natural resources. The less attractive jobs of governing the country in the lower echelons of the Civil Service and communications were left to the Afrikaner people—the so-called white tribe of Africa—with nowhere else to go. Unfortunately I am unable to go along with the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Alport, of dividing the country along racial lines and boundaries. Indeed, if that was his suggestion, then he has got it entirely the wrong way round. If the extreme right-wing Afrikaner element gained control in South Africa it is much more likely that it would create the old white Boer republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State.
I believe even at this late hour that a negotiated settlement can be achieved and I therefore support Her Majesty's Government and the right honourable and learned Secretary of State in his endeavours. The alternative suggestion of sanctions will not work—it will work far less than it did in Rhodesia. It will only lead to further hardship and unemployment among the blacks. Anyone who knows the Afrikaner people will know that if they are put under any form of external pressure they will fight that resolve to the end, taking the rest of southern Africa with them.
In conclusion, the sad reality is that the South African Government should have got the message that apartheid would not work after the Sharpeville shootings of 25 years ago. The gradual dismantling of that obnoxious system should have started then and not now. However, it is still not too late, but the political initiative must come from within South Africa and not from outside, pressue which will only lead to a retreat into the laager, the closing of the opposing ranks, followed by a bloodbath.
§ 4.22 p.m.
§ Lord Chalfont
My Lords, I should like to begin by expressing mild dismay at the increasing recurrence of occasions upon which it is required that noble Lords should deploy arguments on matters of extremely profound international importance in the space of five to seven minutes. That seems to me to be an unreason-able demand to place upon Members who often have deep knowledge of the subject under consideration. I ask the usual channels to pool their undoubted wisdom to see whether we can avoid these occasions in the future.
I should like to offer my congratulations to both the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and to the noble Lord, Lord Barber, for their admirable speeches at the beginning of this debate. I thought that the noble Baroness set out the Government's policy clearly and persuasively and that Lord Barber's account of his visit and of the report of the Eminent Persons Group was succinct and admirably clear to everyone who listened to him. However, I should like to take them both 1228 gently to task in that in the course of their speeches they both referred to Nelson Mandela as a political prisoner. Nelson Mandela was tried in a court of law. He pleaded guilty to several crimes of subversive violence and was convicted and imprisoned upon those charges. If words are to be used carefully, Nelson Mandela is no more a political prisoner than the man who planted the bomb in the Grand Hotel in Brighton.
I should also like to express my sense of dismay at some of the resoundingly pious advice and sentiments that are handed down to us on the basis of what seems to me to be at the very least uncertain knowledge. I am sorry that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham is not in his place, because I should have liked to point out to him that if he really believes that coloureds and Indians in South Africa have no parliamentary representation, he has been gravely misinformed. Since the tri-cameral parliament was set up in 1983, coloureds and Indians have had full representations in their own assemblies. Indeed, there are two coloureds and one Indian who are members of the South African Cabinet. It is extremely brave of the right reverend Prelate to offer us his prescriptions for a solution in South Africa based on what seems to be a somewhat precarious grasp of the situation there.
There has been much talk about ending violence in South Africa. I suggest that some of it is based on a misunderstanding of the nature of revolutionary violence and its causes and some of its inevitable consequences. A great deal has been made of the enlightened liberalism—if I may use the phrase used by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos—of Nelson Mandela, of his wife, and of Mr. Oliver Tambo. Visiting politicians are seen embracing these distinguished figures. Mr. Oliver Tambo has been received by a Foreign Office Minister. The Eminent Persons Group speaks admiringly of Mr. Mandela, and furthermore comments sorrowfully on the fact that the ANC has been apparently wrongfully accused of communist associations. Noble Lords in your Lordships' House today have repeated that horrified disclaimer.
Let us look at some of the facts. Everyone who knows anything about South African history knows that when the ANC was founded in 1912 it was founded by moderate, mission-educated black South Africans, but the present ANC is a different organisation from that. In the 1950s it established its known close links with the South African Communist Party. In 1961 it founded the Umkhonto Wi Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), a militant organisation openly dedicated to the overthrow of the South African regime by subversive violence. It is the military arm of the ANC. It concocted the infamous Operation Mayibuye, the blue-print for the violent destruction of the South African political system.
No, my Lords, the ANC is no longer a reformist, moderate organisation of mission-educated black South Africans. It is an organisation dedicated to the violent overthrow of the regime in which it lives—rightly or wrongly is an argument we can usefully have, but the ANC is dedicated to the overthrow by violence of the regime.
In a recent article in, significantly enough, the World Marxist Review, Oliver Tambo himself wrote of the ANC's plan: 1229for the seizure of power in South Africa by the oppressed masses; to take our country to the terrible but cleansing fires of revolutionary war.This does not sound much to me like the solidly-based, middle-class Tambo leadership which seems to be reflected in the popular perception.
What about Mrs. Winnie Mandela herself? She was recently seen smiling and giving the clenched-fist salute to the television cameras while she said, "Together, hand in hand, with out matches and our necklaces we shall liberate this country". I wonder how many people in this country understand the terrible meaning behind those words? Do they know of the summer Saturday afternoon in 1985 when, at the funeral of two young ANC members who had been blown up preparing a bomb, one of the ANC people present pointed a finger at a young woman in the crowd, hitherto quite undistinguished, and accused her with one word of being an informer.
Immediately she was set upon, beaten, petrol was poured over her and she was set alight. As she stood there trying to keep her burning clothes around her body she was beaten to the ground. As she lay there she was kicked repeatedly in the head by the comrades; kicked as grown men would kick at a football. She then had a large rock, which it took two men to lift, smashed repeatedly into her chest while the cheering crowd cried, "Long live Mandela". Is this, my Lords, the enlightened liberalism that we are being asked to admire?
The nature of violence in South Africa is deep and profound. It is not only, as some might like to suggest, police violence. What are the causes of that violence? Is it national liberation, purely and simply? Is it the outcry of oppressed masses for freedom? Is it totally without any communist penetration, or any Marxist element?
Again, let us have a look at some facts. The ANC has the closest possible links with the South African Communist Party. This is not something that I have made up. Here is the cover of the magazine, The South African Communist, a recent issue of it, with pictures of the leaders of the two parties and underneath "Long Live the ANC/SACP Alliance". In 1985, last year, a national executive of 30 members was chosen for the ANC. The list is readily available for anyone to read, and if anyone reads it they will find that of those 30 members, 23 are either members or active supporters of the South African Communist Party.
"So what?" some people may say. "The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in this country makes common cause with the communists in its pursuit of nuclear disarmament. What is wrong with that?" Let us look a little further. Members of the ANC, its militant arm, and other revolutionary organisations in South Africa are regularly trained in terrorist training camps in Libya. They also have camps in Angola and Tanzania where they are trained, armed and equipped by the Soviet Union and East Germany. More promising cadets of the ANC go for advanced courses in the Soviet Union itself at training camps there.
I am not trying to suggest that everything that happens in South Africa is a communist plot but it will be, and is being, exploited by the enemies of the West, and if the situation descends into anarchy—and sanctions will certainly help that to come about—there 1230 will be an economic wasteland in South Africa in which the South African Communist Party and the forces of international Marxism will come into their long-awaited inheritance. I think there should now be a moratorium in the current uproar, in the current outcry for comprehensive sanctions for one-man, one-vote, for "Release Mandela unconditionally!" Let us have instead a period of imaginative and intelligent statesmanship. That means talking, but talking not only to Bishop Tutu but to Bishop Mokoena, as well. It may come as a surprise to some noble Lords to know that he has more followers in his Christian congregation in South Africa than Bishop Tutu.
We must not only talk to Mr. Mandela and Mr. Oliver Tambo but also to Gatsha Buthelezi who has a great following not only among the Inkatha in Zululand but in the townships as well, as anyone who knows South Africa will confirm. It means ridding our minds of the foolish belief that any "measures" so-called (in inverted commas) taken by us or by the Commonwealth or by anyone else will have any miraculous or advantageous effect on the development of South Africa.
Apartheid will end. It will end because it is cruel; it is unnatural and it is obsolete. But in my view the Government are right, and I hope they will continue to be right, in withstanding the clamour in the Commonwealth, the EC, the BBC, the anti-apartheid movement and all the other progressive standard bearers whose unremitting campaign against the Government of South Africa, much of it mounted (as has already been said) through domestic political considerations; because if that campaign continues it is going to do irreparable damage not only to the interests of the West and the free world as a whole, not only to the interests of this country and the countries of black Africa, but, most important of all, to the long-suffering people, white and black, of South Africa.
§ 4.34 p.m.
§ Viscount Brentford
My Lords, the question before us, as I understand it, is how we persuade the South African Government to dismantle apartheid and give civil and political rights to all the inhabitants of that great country. I should like to refer first to some underlying and less obvious problems. The first is the lack of education among blacks, which I believe has been touched on; but there is also the lack of housing and lack of equality of health care for blacks. This has stifled desperately the maturing of black leaders, and particularly the educated and moderate black leaders that that country so much needs.
Secondly, I should like to touch on what the noble Lord, Lord Soper, referred to, which is the theological justification of apartheid by the Dutch Reformed Church. It is a relatively recent step, but this theological basis for the political doctrine makes it very difficult to root the thought of it out of the Afrikaner mind; and I will refer to that again in a moment.
Fear has also been mentioned during the debate—fear largely because of the ignorance of one race of the other. This is where apartheid has succeeded so much in the separation of people, and now this ignorance has caused fear. Fear, as we all know, is a very powerful and dangerous attitude to have.
1231 I should like to mention also what has been mentioned already by other speakers. A more important question perhaps even than apartheid today is power: who is going to hold power in the future in that country? The position is urgent, and the attitudes of the people of South Africa—not only of the government—need to be changed. There are many groups in South Africa who share the same goals. I was not going to say anything about the ANC, which undoubtedly now accepts violence and has many communists and revolutionaries within its ranks; but in the light of what the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has just said, perhaps I may read two sentences from a letter which I received from South Africa, by coincidence, yesterday:A revolutionary minority in any situation can only make significant headway if there is a widespread, spontaneous dissatisfaction among the people at large. The solution here is not armed repression but the creation of a broadly just, stable and participatory society with which the bulk of the population can be broadly satisfied and in which the seeds of revolution find no ready place to grow.I believe that is the answer to the ANC problem.
I should like also to refer to the churches. South Africa is a very strongly churchgoing nation, and there is hope there. The National Initiative for Reconciliation, which I believe is a movement of God, bringing repentence and reconciliation for wrong attitudes, is spreading. It is even spreading into the Dutch Reformed Church. I believe that churchgoers in South Africa can play a major role, and I hope that churches in this country and Christians both here and overseas will encourage their opposite numbers in South Africa to change attitudes. Churches have mixed congregations. They are working now in South Africa to change the attitudes of people, and I believe that is fundamental.
Lastly, I should like to turn to the action which I suggest Her Majesty's Government should be taking at the present time. First, they should support and encourage those people who have already been mentioned in this debate, together with others in South Africa, who are working now for peaceful change and reconciliation. We need to support leaders like Chief Buthelezi and his very powerful following. We need to enhance their position both in South Africa and internationally.
Secondly, the Government should provide money for the training and education of blacks. I am very glad that our Government are doing a lot in that respect nowadays; but the more that can be done the better, I believe, for remedying the position in South Africa. The more the social deprivation of the blacks there can be improved, the more likelihood there is of peaceful change coming. I believe the Government can do a lot to encourage businesses, and particularly those which are basically British-owned, to improve the wages and living standards of the blacks they employ. Please, will the Government say that they are doing this, loud and clear, for all the world to hear?
Finally, I should like to refer to what has been referred to many times; that is, negotiation. Jaw-jaw is better than war-war. I do not believe that anybody has yet used that cliché in this debate.
1232 The Foreign Secretary is going out—and I hope that he will be going out this month—to talk to the South African Government before the National Party Congress in early August. That congress will be followed, as has already been said, by the extraordinary session of the South African Parliament, which I believe is due to begin on 18th August. That is intended to legislate for the abolition of the remaining structures of apartheid. What will happen in practice in the light of the current emergency, I do not know. But I believe that this visit of the Foreign Secretary is crucial and, because the South African Government regards so highly the Prime Minister and our Government at this time, there is a chance for him to be able to influence the South African Government. I hope that he will press for the release of political detainees and the repeal of the Act, as has been stated so many times.
I should like to make one final point. I hope that he will press for agreement by the South African Government and the black leaders to the acceptance of a negotiator to talk to all parties and races about civil and political rights for all. There was one man who broke the impasse in Rhodesia because he was respected by and acceptable to all the different leaders in that country, and Zimbabwe came out of it. The United States has tried this role of a negotiator in the Middle East. I believe that if one person could be respected by and acceptable to all those parties, he could bring hope for peace and peaceful change in South Africa. If our right honourable and learned friend the Foreign Secretary can achieve this, I believe that he may go down in history as one of the great Foreign Secretaries of all times.
§ 4.42 p.m.
§ Lord Molloy
My Lords, I feel that the Government leave many of us on this side of the House, and indeed very many eminent people in the great British Commonwealth of Nations, in a state of some quandary, because it seems that this Government look at this international problem with concern showing in one eye and with a form of cunning calculation shining out of the other. Also, I think it is a mistake for people to make comparisons which really are not comparisons. I have in mind something said by the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, and again later by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont.
Let me deal first with the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont. All the horrors to which he referred are probably true. They are similar to what happened to white Americans who were loyal to the Crown and who were tarred and feathered by those who now rule the United States of America. We have to understand this. If we deplore what is going on, we have to look at the root cause, and the root cause can be found in one single word—apartheid. That is what the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, must understand.
The noble Lord, Lord Beloff, drew an analogy with the troubles in Northern Ireland. He said that the troubles there are between two forms of Christians— Roman Catholics and Protestants. There may be some truth in that. The complete uselessness of that argument lies in the fact that very many well-known Catholics have changed and become Protestants, and 1233 very many well-known Protestants have changed and become Catholics. I know of no black man who has changed himself into a white man, and that is what we have to try to understand.
We also have to acknowledge very seriously that there are millions of black people in the United States of America, our greatest ally, who can in no way support the government of South Africa. There are millions of black people in our British Commonwealth of Nations who will in no way support the government of South Africa. If this country of ours is to remain, as I hope it will, leader of that great British Commonwealth, I hope it will not have much to do with the policies of either the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, or the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, because—
§ Lord Molloy
My Lords, in a minute. I just want to say this. If we are not careful, this growing issue will not remain simply with South Africa. It will become a world issue, where black people everywhere will make a judgment, and I do not want them to be scolding or even finding any fault in this nation of ours.
§ Lord Chalfont
My Lords, the noble Lord can of course add on time for stoppages if he wishes. The noble Lord criticises my policies and those of any other noble Lord, but I do not believe that he has the faintest idea of what my policies are. Indeed, I have given no indication of them this afternoon. I have made some descriptive facts available to your Lordships' House. They do not give any reason for the noble Lord to deduce any policies from them.
§ Lord Molloy
My Lords, I shall try to explain it in simpler terms. The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, moaned about the horrendous and horrific things which are probably happening in South Africa. Those were born, in my judgment, not of hatred for whites by blacks but of hatred for apartheid. This is what I meant when I said that blacks all over the world will find it objectionable.
I believe that the mission of Sir Geoffrey Howe can be either of vital importance or a total dead loss. Therefore I must ask the noble Viscount the Leader of the House this question, if he will be gracious enough to consider answering it when he replies to the debate. I hope that he will not make the excuse and take shelter in calling it a hypothetical question. If Sir Geoffrey Howe's mission to South Africa is a failure, what do the Government then intend to do? Ought they not to strengthen his arm against the very tough people with whom they will be negotiating?
While it is a virtue to forgive wrongs done to oneself, to make excuses for lack of action in real condemnation of wrongs done to others is a poverty of the spirit. I hope that that will not be the spirit of this nation when we have to face up to the facts.
Lastly, let us be determined that, if in the ultimate economic measures are required and are approved by the British Commonwealth of Nations, we will have the courage to inflict them—and that is the correct word. They have to be a real infliction. Just as very many people in Europe from 1940 to 1945 knew the 1234 terrors of being bombed by the Royal Air Force, they did not mind and were prepared to put up with it. That was the sort of guts that destroyed Nazism. I happen to believe that you will find that sort of courage among black people. I do not believe that either political or physical courage is the preserve of white folk. This is what I would ask your Lordships' House to consider.
Should the endeavours of our British Foreign Secretary fail, I hope that we shall not shirk our duty—because we shall then have to believe and understand this: silent pain and humiliation evoke no response, but there will be no silence in what will happen then and there will be a great deal of bloodshed and the world will hear the cries of blacks and whites in South Africa. We have to find a way while we can stop that happening. If severe economic pressures are required, I submit to the House that that would be much better than the possible carnage that will happen if we do not have the courage to act and to lead.
§ 4.48 p.m.
§ Viscount Massereene and Ferrard
My Lords, I shall keep within the new rule of seven minutes. First of all, I should like to say—and I hope this makes the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, happy—that I did "tick off" the right reverend Prelate for saying that the coloured and the Indians have no say at all in the government of South Africa. Of course, as the noble Lord says, they are well represented. I thought I would tell him that because it might make him happier.
I know black Africa but not South Africa. I have been in Africa a few times. I was rather appalled by the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, when he said that we had not helped our former colonies in Africa at all. That was a most amazing thing to say, because as everybody knows we poured in hundreds of millions of pounds; but, unfortunately, as I think most of us knew would happen, after they were given their freedom then "one man, one vote" vanished. One cannot blame them for that because, although human life started in Africa before anywhere else for tens of thousands of years they had their tribal chiefs and their kings. For an African to have a democracy, the opposition has to be destroyed. Democracy to an African is quite meaningless; but I shall not go on about that.
I should like to say a word or two about Mr. Healey and what he is reported to have said in the newspapers—not what he said in Parliament, because he cannot answer here. I was rather angry that he said the Prime Minister was showing (I think he almost said) cruelty, and that she was indifferent to the sufferings of the Africans in South Africa. He made a few other remarks in that vein. I suggest to Mr. Healey that he should visit other parts of Africa, and even some of our former colonies, which were so beautifully administered, and should see the poverty and the agony of the Africans in those countries. He might then change his mind.
I have read the salient parts of the report by the Eminent Persons Group. (That is a funny name for a group, but I am sure they are all very eminent!) With due respect to the noble Lord, Lord Barber—and I do not hold anything against him—the report seems rather one-sided. The group do not appear to have had many conversations with the African chiefs and other 1235 such leaders. They appear to have concentrated rather more on the African leaders who are on the Left. I should like to make that point. I do not believe that the solution the group arrived at is the best one.
I have been told by many people that the ANC does not represent the whole of Africa and does not represent the majority of Africans in South Africa. My father, who knew South Africa well, had a great regard for the Zulus. He thought they were a fine race of people. The ANC, of course, is within the Russian orbit and presumably receives funds from Russia. I am told—this may be quite untrue—that some of our aid to Africa is sidetracked and goes to the ANC. I have also heard—although I do not believe it—that the World Council of Churches also sends money to the ANC. I sincerely hope not.
I am completely behind the Prime Minister in saying that, for heaven's sake, we must not impose sanctions. I would far rather see us investing more money in South Africa, because at the moment South Africa is experiencing a recession. I am told that every week 800 Africans become unemployed. If we impose stiff sanctions in those circumstances there will certainly be the most appalling unemployment and unrest. A great number of the Africans will have to go to Lesotho, or somewhere. Sanctions would be a disastrous policy and there might then be bloodshed.
What surprises me is that if South Africa is such a hell, why do tens of thousands of Africans always want to go there? Presumably it is for the higher standard of living.
I think that we ought to help South Africa with more investment. There are such organisations as the Urban Foundation, which is a South African foundation which costs £500 million a year and the object of which is to foster African community relations. That is what we ought to be encouraging. We ought not to put on sanctions and cripple their economy. I think I have already spoken for six minutes, so I shall shortly sit down. However, I hope that whatever happens severe sanctions are not imposed on South Africa because if the South African economy collapses, heaven knows what will happen.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ Lord Seebohm
My Lords, I shall be very brief. I do not think there is any point in talking about the evils of South Africa and its present regime. Everyone on all sides of the House understands and agrees on that. However, before this debate ends we should mention something about the influence of the private sector. Although many improvements have taken place in the status of black South Africans, they are not appearing quickly enough to satisfy everyone.
When I first started to make my regular visits to South Africa in the late 1950s, the bank of which I was then a director had virtually no blacks in the higher echelons of employment. Their jobs were confined to such work as that done by cleaners, lift attendants, drivers, and so on. In fact, I think it was illegal to employ them on almost any other work. Today—and I mean today—that bank has 103 black men and women who are in executive positions in the bank, and the plan is to have at least 400 in the next three or four 1236 years. There are 30 full branch managers; and (which is very significant indeed) the chief executive has a black personal assistant.
I have no hesitation in saying that British firms in South Africa—I must say mainly recently—have done as much as is humanly and legally possible to help break down the barriers between black and white, and they have frequently stretched the law to achieve this end. I believe that the change may well come through pressure from those in the private sector who have already made contact with Oliver Tambo and who are getting exasperated by the slow pace of political change. I believe that we must pay attention to what Helen Suzman has said recently. She, if anybody, knows South Africa and really understands the true situation. She was recently in America and I should like to read to your Lorships one small extract from a speech she made on 12th May:
Let me say at once that if I believed that sanctions and disinvestment would lead to a rapid demise of apartheid, the downfall of the present regime in Pretoria, and its replacement by a non-racial democratic government, I would be wholeheartedly in favour of punitive action. I have, after all, spent my entire political life working for those objectives, and let me also say that I understand the moral imperative that encourages sanctions and divestment campaigns—the 'clean hands' syndrome. Withdrawal, however, does also mean the end of whatever influence would be exerted, either through the example of fair employment practices, or the exercise of sound responsibility. I must say I am more impressed by Mobil's 40 million rand endowment fund to black education and Coca Cola's allocation of 20 million rand for special projects than by companies leaving in their trail desperate breadwinners without jobs".My whole point is that sanctions are completely non-selective. They are not imposed by those in power and they hit 24 million people, who, if sanctions work, would face starvation and a precarious existence in a shattered economy.
Finally, will sanctions work? Harold Wilson's naive statement that the Rhodesian sanctions would take weeks and not months, is to my mind not a very good augury for what might happen in South Africa. During the many years that I have visited South Africa, I have seen the preparations being made for just such a threat. I saw the first sods being turned to create the town of Sasolburg and the enormous plant converting coal to oil. I watched the growth and build-up of the arms industry, the motor car industry and so forth, with the clear intention of the South African economy becoming self-contained.
Unless all the world joins the sanctions procedure faithfully, what South Africa has not got will come in somewhere along its thousands of miles of coastline. If sanctions failed, as in my view they surely would, all that we shall have done is to shoot ourselves in the foot, losing not only our trade, but any influence that we now have, as described by Helen Suzman, in moving South Africa along in the right direction. And who of those who support sanctions will state when we remove them—when all the whites are dead, when revolution and slaughter have made the country ungovernable? My time is up. Let us be sensible and practical and support Her Majesty's Government in their attempts to bring about peaceful change.
§ 5 p.m.
§ Lord Soames
My Lords, in the brief time which I understand that the usual channels wish to be taken by 1237 any speaker there is only one topic that I can touch upon in any depth. I begin by saying how grateful I am to the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, for the quotation from Helen Suzman. It is exactly what so many of us in this country believe. If we thought that sanctions were the answer to the problem, that they would cure apartheid and bring about the regime that we should all like to see in South Africa, who would be against them? But there is a genuine doubt.
What worries me is why so many people, in spite of everything that has gone before in history, continue to put their faith in sanctions. Why do so many people say that we should impose sanctions? I think that there are two basic reasons. The first is a feeling of frustration. We all equally hate apartheid. People ask what we can do against it. They feel that it is not enough to talk about it and that something should be done. They seem to think that sanctions are the answer.
The other factor is a political one. There is a lack of understanding about sanctions and what they can bring, and it suits the Opposition—and I am not referring to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn—to say that if one is against apartheid one must be in favour of sanctions, and if you are not in favour of sanctions that means that in your heart of hearts you are in favour of apartheid. There is some of that feeling in the country. The situation is too serious to play a political game with it.
A study of history shows that sanctions have never worked. No noble Lord has given an example during the debate, and neither was there an example when I read the debate in another place, of where it has worked on any occasion, beginning with Abyssinia and Italy in the middle 1930s.
§ Lord Soames
No, I am sorry, my Lords, I shall not give way. I have been held to five minutes. Sanctions have not worked and no one has quoted an instance where they have.
The noble Lord, Lord Hatch, said that sanctions had a good deal to do with the ending of the war in Zimbabwe. I was there. An enormous effort was made by the world, and I am not saying that that had no effect at all, but it was minimal compared with what the war was doing. For every white man killed, five more left the country; for every black man killed, 10 more came into the country. It was concateny of circumstance which brought about the Lancaster House agreement and from then on, luckily enough, we sailed through. It was not sanctions, and anyone who says that sanctions played a major part in turning Rhodesia into Zimbabwe does not know what he is talking about.
Those who, regardless of history, ignore that and still say that they want to see sanctions imposed must ask themselves three questions. First, what sort of sanctions do they want to put on and in what areas? Those of us who read foreign newspapers see that one country says, "We will not buy any chrome from South Africa". Then we find that they do not need any chrome. Other countries say, "Let us stop airlines flying into Johannesburg". Others will do it. Others 1238 say, "Do not let us sell them this, that or the other". Others will do it. That is what happend in Zimbabwe.
When I arrived in Zimbabwe before Christmas 1979, the place was full of European cars coming from a number of countries. There was a great deal of oil and everything else. If sanctions are to be imposed they must be made effective. To make them effective, everyone must agree on what they are going to do and stick by it. There must be no cheating. As far as I am aware that has not happened in history.
The next question that they should ask is: what is the objective of sanctions? When would they take them off if they put them on? Is the objective to bring about the ending of apartheid?
§ Lord Soames
My Lords, the noble Lord may say "of course it is," but there is a great difference of opinion as to what constitutes the end of apartheid. Is it just the cancelling of legislation such as, for instance, the Group Areas Act? That is part of the legislation which adds up to apartheid. Does it go further? Does it go into the custom which has been built up over the years? How does one measure the end of apartheid? It is not easy. I do not think that it is enough, anyway. We might start off with that, but that is not enough. It is not what the people who say, "Put on sanctions" have in mind. Do they have in mind power sharing? Do they have in mind a central, federal or unitary government which would be largely black and white, all sharing power and taking it for granted that there will be proportions which vary from time to time after elections in the sense that we know the democratic system in this country? No, that will not be brought about easily. Is it one man, one vote, in a unitary state, in other words, a black government? My noble friend Lord Murton, asked the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, at the end of her interesting speech, why it was that as the democratic system as we know it has not worked in any other African country, she thought that it would work in South Africa. I do not think that she found it all that easy to answer. She said that the fact that it has not worked very well anywhere else does not mean that we should not try it in South Africa.
Why has it not worked elsewhere? For what it is worth, I shall tell your Lordships what I am convinced is the reason. It is because one cannot superimpose upon an endemic tribal system and custom a democratic form of government as we know it. The two do not go together. There is either the one or the other. I see that going on in Zimbabwe today. It is six years since Mr. Mugabe came into power. I think that, given all the difficulties, he has done pretty well since then. His main problem has been, in effect, a tribal problem. He and Nkomo have been trying for six years to reach an accord; but they have not been able to reach it. This is why in every African state you tend to get a one party system. They cannot bring the tribes together. So they say, "Let's have a one party state". In South Africa, there are not two tribes, as in Zimbabwe. There are about eight major tribes. It may well be that my noble friend Lord Barber was told by Chief Buthelezi that he was perfectly prepared to serve under Nelson Mandela provided Nelson Mandela was elected. I wonder who he had in mind was going to elect Nelson Mandela.
1239 This is a very complicated subject. I would not be able to confront it even had I applied my mind to it from the start of my speech, let alone after 10 minutes. I would simply say to your Lordships: "Please, let's look at this seriously. Don't let's go round with phrases that fall so easily off the lips. Let's think of what responsibilities we have as Britain, and also what contributions the British Government and people could make to the future of South Africa". I do not believe for one second that this would be helped along by mandatory sanctions covering a broad area in the sense that most people mean by that.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, I shall try to stick within all the limits that have been suggested. I believe that this has been an unusually good debate, certainly better than the one that we had on the same subject two months ago. The whole House will have been particu-arly struck by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Barber, in which, by quietly informing us of the details of certain comings and goings, he was able greatly to increase our understanding of the reality in South Africa.
It is hard to accept defeat. But if you do accept it, you can survive. If you fight and fight and fight, you will not be there to accept it. You will have lost not only your political position but your political existence. It is the dilemma of the South African Government to come to understand that, despite all the history and despite all the mutual ignorance between the races.
For the South African majority who have for so long been political prisoners in their own land, we outside now have to move from general sympathy to something more active. But what? What is the aim, and whose is the aim? The aim is clearly no longer simply an end to apartheid. It has to be the accession of the majority to political power. It is their aim, not ours. We can only lend support or not, since we have no authority. So, what support?
At one extreme, we could arm them as President Reagan arms the Unita rebels in Angola. But the South African arms industry and armed forces are powerful. In claiming that the United States raid on Libya was a lawful exercise of the inherent right of self-defence, our own Government gave advance license to South African strikes into neighbouring countries, a license which they forthwith used, specifically claiming that precedent in justification. At least we could refrain from that sort of statement.
At the other extreme, the minimum, the banning of direct flights, has its attractions. There are 11 European countries with direct flights. So it is already getting quite a weighty operation if one contemplates co-ordination. Somewhere in between there is the stopping of new investment. This is already decreasing for obvious reasons. Disinvestment is happening without political compulsion, although not fast. Perhaps we should formalise those two. The more they are happening without compulsion, the easier it will be to formalise them. Beyond these, there are vast 1240 numbers of alternatives that go under the general name of trade sactions, general financial sanctions, exchanges, and so on, up to the out-and-out form now favoured by the United States House of Representatives.
Full sanctions against South Africa itself would indeed be a different matter from the sanctions against Rhodesia. South Africa has already threatened to counter-blockade its neighbours. Moreover, South Africa is not only a powerful military country. It also has, most informed people believe, a primitive nuclear weapons capability. Given that race conflict was always the main national preoccupation of the Afrikaners, what had they in mind in getting this capability? Is it absolutely unthinkable that they might threaten to bomb the ports through which world aid would be seeking to reach the distressed front-line states in an advanced blockade? They would not have to do that with nuclear weapons. That is the essence of the existence of nuclear weapons; they add weight to conventional ones.
Would any sanctions logically lead to "war"? If they were carefully and realistically conducted, clearly not. But the more "realistic" they are in military terms the less will their economic impact be. This does not mean that it would be wrong to impose them. All right, actions have disadvantages, and they are quite dangerous sometimes. The main impact of sanctions has to be political and psychological. We are expressing solidarity. We cannot directly impose any solution.
As to the effect on us, the argument is clearer. If it is right to impose sanctions to help a part of suffering humanity for whose past history we have had much responsibility, we must be prepared to put up with inconvenience. As to the increasingly talked of hundreds of thousands of dual-nationality white South Africans who might be free to come and live here if they had to, can anyone really think that they are more likely to have to if there is a transfer of power soon, rather than if that transfer happens only after 10 years or so of Vietnam-style war? Mr. Malcolm Fraser in his utterances in London recently has been extremely clear about this.
For all these reasons I am very much attracted to the suggestion of my noble friend Lord Crawshaw of the graduated list of measures, starting with the smallest that one can think of, and finishing open-ended but with increasing gravity. This could then be shown—I shall come in a moment to the question, by whom—to the South African Government saying, "In order to concentrate your minds on the reality of your situation, here is what will happen to you. Until you transfer power we shall give you due warning of each step".
These would be economic meaures; some form of sanctions. To be of any use, by definition they have to be agreed in the European Community. Here I join with others—I think that the House is unanimous—in wishing Sir Geoffrey Howe well on his mission. I would go further than that and salute a considerable achievement in getting himself sent by the European Community. It may be that at the end of the day the summer of 1986 will be remembered not for any impact on the South African situation but as quite a large step in the process of constructing a Community 1241 foreign policy, and actively doing something about it unanimously—even if the "it" in question is not very dramatic. I think it is most likely that he will come back empty handed; I am almost sure he will. But it is quite unusual that he should have got there at all with that mandate of twelve nations behind him. These measures will also have to be agreed with the Commonwealth for familiar reasons, and the more advanced the measures become, the more it will be necessary for there to be agreement with the United States and Japan. This is a tall order. But it is later than we think; and, when that is the case, tall orders are in order.
Several noble Lords have mentioned partition and reflected gloomily on the experience of India, Sri Lanka and other countries. I should like to end on a more optimistic note. When I was quite young it was fashionable to talk about the coming partition of the United States into a black south-eastern part and a white north-eastern part, with some different kind of regime for the West Coast. There was quite a lot of serious talk about that. It is all forgotten now, for the very good reason that the United States settled the matter in another way. They settled it by tackling it head on, peacefully, between the races and by abolishing the unjustices which were there until the late 1950s and early 1960s. They now have an integrated society in all corners.
If that can be done in the highly-industrialised, mineral-rich United States, why on earth should it not be done in highly industrialised, mineral-rich South Africa? Let us hope that it does not take as long in South Africa as it took from the Civil War in America to integration. It is a smaller country, and modern communications are better. If the Boers could once be induced to look outwards, they would see a great ray of historical and hopeful precedent across the Atlantic.
§ 5.21 p.m.
§ Lord Boston of Faversham
My Lords, we have been debating one of the most momentous matters of our time, and a wealth of experience and knowledge have been displayed in our debate. We all agree that urgent action needs to be taken to bring about change in South Africa. Most of us agree on what that change must eventually inevitably be. The great problem upon which we do not all agree is how to bring it about and how long it should take.
One matter is self-evident, and we should not lose sight of it: South Africa is a sovereign country. That being so, short of armed intervention—which I assume none of us contemplates—change cannot be imposed from outside. Therefore, our role can only be to persuade or to try to persuade South Africa to change. That means that we can seek to persuade through argument or action (using sanctions and other pressures) or a combination of the two.
In the interests of brevity, I hope noble Lords will forgive me if, without disrespect, I say that I do not propose to refer to more than a very few of the speeches that have been made today. I am bound to say that I begin from the position of one who at most is always highly sceptical about the efficacy of sanctions and would use them only as a last resort. 1242 Many noble Lords throughout this debate have expressed their total opposition to sanctions in any circumstances.
We have heard, too, from the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, who brought valuable experience to this debate. We know the arguments against sanctions: they are never likely to be wholly effective; they are likely to damage the disadvantaged in the country concerned; they are likely to damage the country imposing the sanctions and especially particular groups of people, possibly putting them out of work. Let us not shrink from saying that there will be violations of the sanctions policy by countries supposed to be participating in them. We know full well from our own experience with Rhodesia—now Zimbabwe—that some of those who were most vocal in the demand for sanctions were not too scrupulous when it came to serving their own economic interests. Can we be sure that that will not happen again?
Therefore, I am not among those predisposed to rush in with sanctions. So, short of sanctions, what are we left with? It is argument and persuasion. How far will that get us? Let me say straightaway that even sanctions, effective measures or selected sanctions would take time to organise further. On that ground alone the mission of the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary is worth trying. However, I would go further. It is worth trying for its own sake. If he were to succeed, if it were no longer necessary to contemplate sanctions, we would all be delighted—or I hope that we would be.
Therefore, I hope that his powers of persuasion and negotiation will prove as successful as those of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, as regards Zimbabwe. But are they likely to succeed? What is the record of the South African Government on negotiations? How ready have they shown themselves to carry things forward with all possible speed?
It is true that South Africa, as has been said today, has brought in reforms and is bringing in more. But can we rely on it to push ahead with more, through negotiations? I shall cite one example. We all know about the time spent trying to get South Africa to bring independence to Namibia. We all know the time spent by the contact group of the Western Nations— Canada, France, West Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom—trying to get South Africa to act. Yet that group was set up in 1977 and prepared for the United Nations Security Council Resolution 435, passed in 1978, providing for United Nations supervised elections and independence, and South Africa helped to draw up that resolution and agreed it. The whole process was to be completed within seven months. That group was said to have particular influence on South Africa. It seems, alas, as we know, now moribund. We still do not have independence. We have been strung along by South Africa.
Let me take one other more topical example. The experience of the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group. Anyone who has read its report knows what care it took. The group itself was made up of distinguished, respected and broadly representative people, and how privileged we have been to have one of its members, the noble Lord, Lord Barber, in our debate today. May I say that he has made a sacrifice by being here today, and we wish him a very happy birthday. His was indeed an illuminating speech.
1243 I cite just one of the group's experiences, and although the noble Lord, Lord Barber, has mentioned this, I want to spell it out as it shows, I think, the character of the South African Government. It drew up its possible negotiating concept as a basis for getting negotiations started. It knew that a precondition would be a cessation of violence. Included in the text was a proposal for the suspension of violence, and it took the view, wisely, that it was unrealistic to expect the ANC to renounce violence for all time, for it was neither possible nor reasonable to have people forswear the only power available to them should the Government walk away from the negotiating table. That was what the report said.
The Group drew the phrase from the Commonwealth Accord at Nassau which referred to a,suspension of violence on all sides".A letter from President Botha dated 24th December last year to the group, and agreeing to its visit, said:I agree that a suspension of violence is a requirement for dialogue".On 24th April this year, in a letter from Foreign Minister Pik Botha, the group again received acceptance by the South African Government of the term:suspension of violence as a basis for carrying forward the discussions aimed at negotiations".Then on 15th May President Botha gave an address in which, according to the group's report, there was an emphasis on the need for the rejection and renunciation of violence which,suggested a return by the Government to its original position".In other words, that it no longer accepted a suspension of violence as being sufficient to get negotiations going but required a renunciation of violence for all time. Subsequent exchanges outlined in the report showed this to be the Government's position. Accordingly, partly for that reason and in the absence of a positive response from the South African Government to the group's concept as a whole, the group felt unable to continue its work.
As we found with Namibia and the Western Contact Group, so we found with the Eminent Persons Group. The South African Government is a most powerful practitioner in prevarication. That is the nature of the people we are dealing with. My noble friend Lord Stewart of Fulham referred to the frustrations we have suffered.
It is not possible to refer to the experience of the Eminent Persons Group and its report without referring to what they said about violence in South Africa. My noble friend Lord Brockway is among those who mentioned that today. It gives many examples of violence while the group were there. This is one:… we were deeply moved by the account given us by one local resident. Fearing his son might be dead, he had gone to look for him in a hospital morgue. The first body he saw was that of his son, shot several times. Steeling himself from his personal grief, he determined to see how many other bodies there were there and so pretended not to recognise his son. In all, he told us, he counted in excess of 40 bodies, all of them victims of gunshot wounds, in one morgue alone".1244 The group acknowledges the clearly enormous task of the police in having to "try to maintain law and order in an atmosphere seething with discontent, distrust and hostility". But it points out that, as evidence to the Kannemeyer Commission last year makes plain:When confronted with an illegal gathering…, the police respond with a degree of force wholly out of line with that either required by the circumstances or permitted by law".And later, the group says:The Minister of Law and Order maintained in discussions with us that the police invariably act responsibly, with restraint and within the law. The evidence, however, (says the report) suggests otherwise".Another glimpse, my Lords, of the nature of the people we are dealing with. There has been violence on both sides, by white vigilantes and by black vigilantes on other blacks. Only yesterday bombings were again condemned by Bishop Desmond Tutu, we heard.
And then there was that other happening while the group was there: the South African raids on Harare, Lusaka and Gabarone, to which the noble Lord, Lord Barber, among others, has referred. Does the South African Government really want a settlement? It is not surprising in the light of all this that the group came to the conclusions that it did: that it found itself driven inexorably and inevitably to the conclusion that effective economic measures were now the inescapable alternative. And so it said:That question in front of Heads of Government is in our view clear. It is not whether such measures will compel change; it is already the case that their absence and Pretoria's belief that they need not be feared, defers change. Is the Commonwealth to "stand by" and allow the cycle of violence to spiral? Or, will it take concerted action of an effective kind? Such action may offer the last opportunity to avert what could be the worst bloodbath since the Second World War".We look forward now to hearing what the noble Viscount the Leader of the House has to tell us, especially about his right honourable and learned friend's mission. My noble friend Lord Cledwyn, in his incisive analysis of the situation, posed a number of questions. I would also ask the noble Viscount whether Sir Geoffrey will seek to get the South African Government to accept that a suspension of violence will enable it to agree to negotiate—and I note that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, used the phrase, "suspension of violence" in her speech—and to get it to spell out what exactly it (the South African Government) means by power sharing in its plans for constitutional reform. For this is the key to success.
Apartheid must be dismantled. That is clear enough. But the need now is for much more: the need is for all adults to share on a comparable basis in the government of their country—and the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, dealt with this in her compelling speech. I would ask this final question of the noble Viscount: Will the Government be seeking a clear commitment with a clear timetale—and that is of great importance—over a reasonable period, for reform leading to the total dismantling of apartheid and a new constitutional settlement providing full rights for all? For we want no more prevarication.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary will have borne no weightier burden than this. I cannot bring myself to claim to be optimistic. But I hope that all of us who are of genuine good will and who want 1245 that great country to be welcomed back fully into the community of nations will wish him well. I certainly do just that.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council (Viscount Whitelaw)
My Lords, I am very pleased that it has proved possible for your Lordships to have this debate today. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, for having expressed his thanks for this. No one who has listened to the debate could possibly fail to recognise the strength and depth of interest in this subject. As on any subject—and perhaps that poses one of the problems to which the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, referred and about which I shall say a word in a moment or two—there are those among your Lordships who speak from positions of great experience and knowledge. Indeed there is no other forum, if I may humbly say so, in our nation today where there are more people with more experience and more knowledge who can speak on many of the subjects that come before us.
That has been shown today. We have been very fortunate to have their contributions. The trouble is that there are so many of them, and our speakers have so much to contribute that really a debate of this length—and I cannot work it out now because I have sat here for so long it has numbed my memory, but certainly it has lasted from half-past eleven to half-past five—is quite a considerable debate. I think that would be felt by everyone. I am afraid that sometimes it has to be said to those who decide that they must go on longer that they will deny others the time that might otherwise have been available to them—because after all we discipline ourselves, my Lords; and that is something which does not happen in other assemblies.
I should also like to say how much I have been struck by the strength of interest in your Lordships' House in South Africa. Listening to the debate—and I think I have heard all but one of the speeches—I am equally struck by the strength of feeling that exists about apartheid. I think it is very important to put on record from your Lordships' House that there has been a universal feeling of repugnance expressed about a system that denies the most basic rights to the majority of its people because of the colour of their skins.
I do not think it is necessary for me to say that I feel that, or that I speak for the whole Government on this, as my noble friend Lady Young made it clear so eloquently earlier today. However, one has to say it sometimes because there are those, I fear, who sometimes for their own party political reasons try to pretend otherwise, so far as Members of the Government are concerned. Perhaps we are too sensitive and perhaps we mind. I do mind accusations of this sort because they are so profoundly untrue, and I always suspect that some of the people who make them know that they are untrue. So one has to say it.
However, one then comes to what is so much more difficult. It has been my experience that it is always easier to define what one does not want than to decide how to eliminate it. If we look at the problems facing us all over the world, there is a great deal of truth in that. It is not surprising, therefore, that there are deep differences among us over the means by which we 1246 might reach our end even if, as the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, said very fairly in an important speech at the start, we agree profoundly over the ends that we all wish to achieve. The noble Lord, Lord Boston, and the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, have made that clear as well.
My noble friend Lord Onslow referred to the carrot and the stick. I think I must add a third item, which was produced by the noble Lords, Lord Alport and Lord Vernon, which I think, in the same parlance, might be described as "moving the goalposts". The carrot was properly referred to by the noble Viscount, Lord Brentford, and I am grateful to him for what he said about the money the Government are seeking to make available for black education. I thought, too, that the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, speaking from very considerable experience, made a most important statement about the activities of British businesses in South Africa. He told us what has been done and what is being done; and that must be on the positive side of the account. Doing things like that—and I hope they can be more greatly encouraged—and what the noble Lord said, should be made known to a much wider audience. I believe it is on the side of what one might describe as the "carrot" and it is very important indeed.
I should refer to changing the goal posts. The history of changing the goal posts in solving the more difficult international problems such as this has not been a good one. I am not suggesting that there are many answers that have been good ones, but changing the goal posts has not been one. During my two years in Northern Ireland, a number of people came to me and saw me, time and time again, with a new map about changing the goal posts yet again in Northern Ireland. The final conclusion to which I came—and I do not think this is a provocative statement about that problem—was that changing the goal posts in the past has certainly not solved the problem, and nothing that I see now makes it at all likely that changing the goal posts would do so. I doubt whether the proposals put forward would work, but of course we are all in such difficulty that it is right that they should be put forward.
I now come to the problem of the stick. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Hatch—and I am sure he will be pleased at this—that I am not going to seek to spend my time arguing as to why comprehensive sanctions would not work. But one of the best possible reasons in the world why I shall not do so is that my noble friend Lord Soames, who knows a great deal about the subject, has done it, as I knew he would, so much better than I ever could, and I do not believe in having someone do a job brilliantly and then half doing it oneself afterwards. No one could have done it with greater experience and greater knowledge than my noble friend Lord Soames. But that was on the full-blown sanctions point.
I should just like very much to welcome the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, to our debate. It is important to recognise that he came back from South Africa specially to take part in this debate. It is also important to recognise that he is someone who lives in South Africa and who shares the same aims as have been widely expressed throughout your Lordships' House this afternoon; and that, too, is very important. 1247 He believes, holding those views, that sanctions would be totally counter-productive. It is perfectly easy to dispute his views, and no doubt the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, would do so. But, after all, if someone who holds the view about the ends that we have, and who is living in that country, believes that perhaps the means would not work, he must at least have some attention paid to him. My noble friend Lord Murton of Lindisfarne has very considerable knowledge of South Africa, and he too, was perfectly clear in his views.
May I come to some views on the other side? The right reverend Prelate, having heard some of the expressions this afternoon, may have cause to think again. He gave us a very impressive and very important list of people in different Churches who had passed resolutions in favour of sanctions and he added his views with, I thought, just a slight proviso at the end, that he was not so sure how good they would be if they affected the employment of people in his own diocese in the West Midlands. That is one of the problems that one inevitably has to face. I hope that I am not being unfair to the right reverend Prelate there. I hope he will therefore consider very carefully some of the problems that have been mentioned.
It is perfectly fair to believe that measures need to be taken, but one must analyse very carefully indeed what these measures might be, what would be their effect, what would happen, would they be effective in getting the end that we need, would they be counterproductive or would they, indeed, do harm to ourselves and do nothing at all to achieve the ends that we want? Then, could they be enforced, would they be enforced and would other countries be prepared to carry them out? These are all points which have been made in the debate and I simply say this to those, like the right reverend Prelate, who, understandably, feel very strongly on emotional grounds that something must be done. It is a phrase which I once used at a meeting to a very eminent member of my party who was much more eminent than me. When I said that something must be done, he said, "That is one of the silliest and stupidest phrases that I have ever heard anyone use. For goodness sake, never use it again. If you know what you want to do, for goodness sake say so. If you don't, admit it, but just don't just say 'something must be done'". I feel there is a danger of this phrase "something must be done" coming into this whole proceeding. I think it is a dangerous point.
But something very important emerged during the debate, and I think I can respond positively to this. First, the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, whose experience of these matters is very considerable—and the House will recognise that at once—said that he had very grave doubts. He mentioned, as other noble Lords have done, Mrs. Helen Suzman and what she said in her most important article in The Times. Her views must be heeded because, after all, she has been fighting apartheid hard in South Africa for many years. She must at least have some idea as to what she thinks ought to be done. I say to those who are going to disregard her: "Very well, disregard her, but at least appreciate the strength of her views and her knowledge".
1248 I now come to the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham. If I may humbly say so to him, I have admired—while not always obviously agreeing with him—many of the things which he did during his time as Foreign Secretary. I think there are many people in this country who would say the same and therefore one must pay attention to what he says. The noble Lord has his reservations about the measures but he equally said—and this was put forward also by the noble Lord, Lord Crawshaw—that, together with other countries, we ought to be looking at the various measures that might be taken and consider the action that would result from them and what effect they would have and whether they would be effective. That is exactly, if I may say so, what was planned to be done at the Council of Europe at The Hague and that was exactly what was agreed at the Council of Europe at the Hague. That is what is being done at this moment. It is certainly a part of the Government's policy.
I understand at once that there are those who think that the measures should have been put in effect at once. But, following what the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill of Harrow, with his great experience said, I believe it is right to consider very carefully with all the other countries involved the effects of the various measures and how they might be worked. That is what the Government are doing at the present time.
The Government are convinced that the road to a peaceful solution in South Africa leads through a suspension of violence by all sides leading to reconciliation and negotiation involving all the different groups in South Africa. We have been second to none in trying to assist that process. We have pursued the goal of dialogue in our contacts with the South African Government and with the various groups opposed to them. We wholeheartedly supported the Eminent Persons Group and deeply regret that the real hopes it generated were not fulfilled.
I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Barber, very much for taking the trouble to come to this debate this afternoon and indeed echo what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Boston, about the sacrifice that he has made. I had similar occasion a short time ago. I rather regret now when my friends do not quite come up to the same age, but he has a bit to go yet as far as I am concerned.
The noble Lord made a most fascinating speech and gave a very interesting account of what had happened in the Eminent Persons Group. I took away from what he said one phrase. He said that he felt that the South African Government could not quite bring themselves to "take a leap into the unknown". I think that was the phrase he used. That seemed to me a very important phrase because if there is a chance of them taking something of that leap and it can be done by peaceful discussion and dialogue, that surely must be a very important way forward.
I come back simply to the basic conclusions of your Lordships' debate. We have had the universal acceptance of the need to end apartheid. We have differed on some of the meanings, but I have sensed a growing awareness on all sides of the House that perhaps some of those differences were not as great at the end of the debate as they were at the start. I think that is important.
1249 Against the existing background I hope your Lordships will feel that any British government is bound to find itself fulfilling a crucial role beset by very great difficulties. Our role is bound to be crucial because we have a unique position. Not only are we a member of the European Community and a focal point of the Commonwealth, we are also a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. Historically we have close links with southern Africa, as the noble Lord, Lord Saint Brides, with his wealth of experience in Commonwealth and colonial affairs, made so very clear and underlined the importance of it.
The difficulties arise from the honestly held but widely differing views on the best way forward. Given this position surely it is vital that we work, as has been suggested in the debate, in close concert with our Community partners, our fellow members of the Commonwealth and our allies among the other industrial nations, including the United States and, as has been mentioned, Japan in anything that we do in this area. We must have urgent discussions; and these are being carried on at the moment. As the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill of Harrow, said, they must go on step by step.
The Government decided in their discussions with our European partners at the Hague on 27th June to try once more the path of diplomacy, and I remind the House once again that they said that the measures considered should be very carefully studied at the same time. That has also been pressed in this debate. The European Community governments asked the Foreign Secretary, as the United Kingdom assumed the presidency of the Council of Ministers, to make a further effort on behalf of the Community to establish conditions in which the necessary national dialogue could begin in South Africa. I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Boston, that that is the basis of what my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary will be doing. It would be wrong for me at this stage to go further into particular details. That is the general basis and the objective with which my right honourable friend will be going to southern Africa.
In reply to the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, I must say that as regards future action, while all the measures that have been proposed are being considered with our allies—and that is important—exactly what happens must in the final event depend on the outcome of the mission. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, will say that I will not answer a hypothetical question; and perhaps I may humbly say to him that he is absolutely right, because I have known for a long time that it is unwise to do so.
I am grateful to the House for its generous expressions of good wishes to my right honourable friend. I agree with the House that he faces an extremely difficult task. I believe that he is very well fitted to this difficult task. In fact, having worked with him for a long time I know very well that that is true. Therefore, I echo to him on behalf of your Lordships that whatever our feelings about the best way of proceeding 1 am sure we all wish my right honourable friend well in the endeavours he is now about to undertake.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, before the noble Viscount sits down, I invite him to speak for one minute more. I was hoping he would say something about the positive aspects of the Government's policy, and in particular about the money allocated to the victims of apartheid. I ask the noble Viscount to consider that there are universities and other institutions in this country—I particularly mention the Centre of Southern African Studies in York and the Centre of African Studies in Cambridge—which could and would, with Government assistance, be prepared to train South African Africans for their awesome duties in the future. Will he consider using some of this Government money to assist such training in advance of the responsibilities that they have to undertake?
§ Viscount Whitelaw
My Lords, I think that it would be unfair of me to reply to any one noble Lord, because I am very conscious of the time at my disposal, and I have tried as much as possible to keep my remarks within bounds in replying to such a long debate. I think it would be wrong of me to reply now in detail to any other noble Lord, so I shall write to any of those to whom I have not replied properly during the debate, and that will include the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, on the point that he has raised with me. I think that is the fairest way to proceed.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.