I am grateful for the opportunity to discuss southern Africa and, more specifically, the question of the Government's approach to the problems of that region.
Let us make no mistake about it: South Africa has for many years operated a system of government that must be abhorrent to anyone who claims to espouse the causes of democracy, justice and equality. It is a regime that operates a system based on racial division and is prepared to act with unspeakable barbarity to maintain the rule of the white minority over the black majority. Moreover, in its desperation to perpetuate itself, that regime is prepared to violate almost every aspect of human rights and all conventions regarding national sovereignty and integrity in southern Africa. Therefore, we are talking about the fate of a whole continent and the lives and liberty of many millions of black people.
The facts are well known throughout the world. There is widespread national agreement, especially among black countries, that the regime must be brought to an end. As I discovered at the recent international conference at Arusha in Tanzania, the whole world is now saying, "Yes, apartheid must go." However, our Government, the supposed upholder of world democracy and freedom, say, "No, apartheid must stay."
Whenever the international community demands action to bring the system to an end, the British Government, to their shame, say no. They even collaborate with the dictators in Pretoria. The Minister must explain why that is so. Why are the Government increasingly isolated? The Government have it within their power to bring apartheid to an end. Why are they sitting back and doing nothing, while black men, women and children are being murdered, imprisoned and tortured in South Africa, Namibia and the front-line states?
Why are the Government refusing to join the international call to stop the apartheid executions? Worse than that, the Government seek to brand those 44 black people awaiting execution as terrorists and refuse to recognise the real terrorists of southern Africa — the Botha regime, its military forces and its surrogate military forces in Angola and Mozambique.
Let us put the record straight. The African National Congress is not a band of terrorist thugs. It is an organisation that represents the majority of black opinion in South Africa. It has existed for 75 years with the objective of freeing that country from the disgraceful system of apartheid. The ANC has conducted itself with great wisdom and dignity and throughout its existence its leaders have been men and women of the highest calibre and insight. Only when all other means of advance had been exhausted was the decision taken to engage in an armed struggle. Negotiations, argument and reason over half a century had failed. It became clear in 1961 that force could only be met with force. Those engaged in fighting the military might of South Africa are truly freedom fighters, and it is for the crime of trying to liberate their black brothers and sisters that many of them have now been sentenced to death.
As I said before, 44 people on death row are now awaiting death by hanging. They are guilty of no crime, other than that of fighting for their freedom and liberation from racism in its most extreme form—apartheid. The Government's position is scandalous. They have refused to intervene with the South African Government, to demand clemency from the racist regime. Perhaps because the Prime Minister herself is in favour of hanging, the Government have not taken this straightforward and humanitarian step.
At the United Nations Security Council on the day after Govan Mbeki's release, Great Britain refused to join a call by the Council for clemency for a young South African under sentence of death that very day. It should be noted that the United States of America voted for such clemency. Clearly, our Government are not prepared to join the United States in this matter, unlike their performance in other matters. The people of Great Britain and the world need to know why the Government are prepared to stand idly by and not lift a finger to save the people who are awaiting death by hanging.
If the Government are not prepared to intervene we need to know why. The Minister must tell us why today. Is it perhaps because of the colour of skin of those people? The Government have made representations to the Soviet Union about the plight of its dissidents. They have made representations on behalf of Polish people and others in eastern bloc countries. They have a lot to say to Mr. Gorbachev about human rights, but they say nothing to Mr. Botha about the black people whom he is consistently murdering in South Africa and southern Africa. We demand that the Government make similar representations to save the lives of black people for a change. I look forward to the Minister's reply about that.
I turn now to the release of political prisoners. Govan Mbeki was recently released. Agents of the Pretoria regime in this House hailed that as a sign of Pretoria's willingness to negotiate and of the fact that it was prepared to reform apartheid. The truth is far removed from that. I can do no better than to quote a press release from the African National Congress in this regard. It is dated 12 December, and says:
The African National Congress vehemently condemns the restrictions that the apartheid regime in South Africa imposed today on Govan Mbeki. These restrictions, imposed under the present state of emergency, confine him to Port Elizabeth. This latest action by the Government, coming after the banning of a rally in Cape Town last month, which was to have been addressed by Mr. Mbeki, is evidence that the regime is now indirectly placing conditions on his release, which is contradictory to what the world was made to believe.
This also demonstrates the fact that the Government are not prepared to allow the chosen and accepted leaders of our people to address and speak to them freely without any hindrance or harassment from the racist authorities, thus giving the lie to Government claims that it is prepared for dialogue or any kind of negotiations whatsoever.
It is ridiculous for the Botha regime to claim that Govan Mbeki, or his actions since he was released, will affect the release of those leaders still in prison or the lifting of the current state of emergency. The responsibility of the continued incarceration of the others and the state of emergency, is that of the regime.
This is the reality surrounding Govan Mbeki's release. After 24 years in gaol he is still in prison, unable to speak freely. The only difference is that his prison is larger. The British Government have said nothing about the restrictions placed on him since his release. Let the Minister speak clearly today on that matter.
What about the other prisoners who, for more than 20 years, have been incarcerated in such prisons as Robben Island — Wilton Wkwayi, Andrew Mlangini, Elias Motsoaledi, Ahmed Kathrada, Raymond Mhlaka, Walter Sisulu and, of course, Nelson Mandela? We know that the Prime Minister has called for his release, but that is nothing special. Everyone calls for his release. Pop stars write songs about Nelson Mandela; it is trendy to call for his release. People print T-shirts about him. Even Chief Buthelezi, a mortal enemy of the ANC, calls for his release. So the Prime Minister's call is nothing special, and she knows it. She needs to do rather more than make a call before she can gain the respect of the House, the country and the international community.
While on the subject of Chief Buthelezi, I want to mention some of the actions of that gentleman, who appears to be a friend of the Prime Minister. She has quoted him in the House in support of her case against sanctions. Of course, he is against sanctions because, in his lust for power, he believes that, by collaborating with the Botha regime, he will reach the position in which he will reign in a Bantustan in which blacks, liberal whites, Indians and coloureds would live under his control. Sanctions are against his interest, and that is why the Prime Minister and he are at one on this issue. I must warn the Prime Minister, however, that she is in bad company. Buthelezi and his party have been responsible for some of the most outrageous attacks on ordinary people in South Africa—
A recent report in the Financial Times on 22 November 1987 concerns the so-called factional fighting in the Natal provincial capital of Pietermaritzburg — in particular in the Edendale valley—in which 150 blacks have been killed in recent months. Buthelezi rejects the accusations by social and church workers, and I—[Interruption.]
Order. If hon. Members disagree with arguments, the usual way to rebut them is through the dialogue of debate, rather than in unseemly shouting across the Chamber. I hope that we shall have less of it.
I want to quote from the article in the Financial Times. It states that Buthelezi
rejected accusations by social and church workers, as well as the UDF and Cosatu, that the main perpetrators of the violence are Inkatha-linked 'warriors'. But their names crop up time and time again in a stack of sworn affidavits produced in a Pietermartitzburg court this month. The affidavits, from victims of violence, not only cite individual 'warlords', they also complain of tacit police connivance with the conservative `vigilantes'. The accusations are similar to those now being brought to light in a separate court case in Cape Town. This concerns the destruction of the Crossroads squatter camp 15 months ago. Photographic and videotape evidence has been used to show police standing by or actively assisting Crossroads vigilante witdoeke as they tore down shacks and assaulted defenders of their makeshift homes …
Few of the inhabitants of the Edendale townships probably appreciate the deeper political significance of the fighting now destroying their lives and property. It could almost certainly be stopped by determined police action. The fact that fighting continues indicates that what is happening in Edendale is part of a much wider strategy aimed at weakening the ANC.
South Africa is clearly attempting to control all the sovereign front-line states in the region. Its objectives in
doing so include that regional states refuse to permit liberation movements to operate from their territories and take steps to prevent them from operating clandestinely; that they do not develop strong economic or, more particularly, military ties with Socialist countries; that they maintain, and even deepen, their economic links with South Africa and refrain from supporting calls for sanctions against South Africa; and that they moderate their criticisms of apartheid.
To achieve those objectives, South Africa has created a number of surrogate forces which regularly enter those sovereign states illegally and kidnap, maim, rape and murder their citizens. I refer in particular to the Reconnaisance Commanders, UNITA — under the leadership of the infamous Dr. Jonas "Judas" Savimbi in Angola — the Mozambique National Resistance and Renamo in Mozambique, the LLA — the Lesotho Liberation Army — and so on. The actions of those forces have catastrophic results for the economies of the front-line states. In Mozambique alone, during a two-year period, more than 140 villages, 840 schools, 900 rural shops and 200 public health installations were destroyed. Transport networks were also bombed and destroyed. The total cost of the MN R destruction has been conservatively estimated at $3·8 billion.
Aggression and destabilisation policies by the apartheid regime in South Africa have been directly or indirectly responsible for the deaths of 140,000 children under the age of five in Angola and Mozambique during the year 1986–87 alone, according to UNICEF, and for the deaths of at least 100,000 other people in Mozambique alone in the 11 years to September 1986. South Africa has been responsible for making 4·5 million people in Mozambique dependent on food aid to avoid starvation. It has deprived 2 million Mozambicans of access to health care and 315,000 school students of access to education. The loss of the economies of the nine South African Development Coordination Conference states amounts to $2,000 million annually, with accumulative damage estimated at about $18·7 million up to 1986.
The South African Government and their agents are responsible for the assassination of President Samora Machel in Mozambique on 19–20 October 1986. They are also responsible for attemps on the lives of Prime Minister Mugabe—
Order. The hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Grant) has not said anything that is a matter for the Chair. However, I wish to repeat a statement that has been made so often from the Chair, namely, that in referring to people outside the House, hon. Members should have regard to the fact that they cannot defend themselves. Hon. Members should therefore exercise restraint in their expressions.
I would not normally interrupt the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Grant) in such a debate, but I would be grateful if he could substantiate his very serious allegation about the death of President Machel.
There is evidence that a false beacon was placed in South Africa, so that the pilots of the aeroplane carrying President Machel back to Mozambique were lured into a mountain.
I have. A commission of inquiry was set up, composed of officials from Mozambique, the Soviet Union and South Africa. It was supposed to investigate the tragedy, but the South African officials withdrew during the investigation and refused to co-operate further with the commission. I believe that to be clear evidence that the South African Government were directly involved in the killing of President Machel.
In addition to assassination attempts on key political figures in the front-line states, the South African Government have taken a number of other specific actions. One of the most outrageous aspects of their total disregard of international conventions and national sovereignty occurred in November, when President Botha and members of his Cabinet, concerned about the battering that their surrogate forces were encountering in Angola, decided to pay them a morale-boosting visit. It has since become known that that was not the first time that they had done so. What did the British Government do about that? Where was their condemnation of that blatant breach of international conventions? Were they silent because it involved black countries? Do they think that they are all the same and that it does not matter if a white dictator wants to stride across the borders, encouraging the maiming and murdering of black people? Perhaps the Government do not feel compelled to speak about freedom and democracy for those countries.
Where is the British Government's condemnation of the increasingly regular practice of kidnapping people in the front-line states who speak against the Botha regime? This Government's standards have slipped. Even the Tory Government of 1963 were prepared to exercise international pressure about such issues. When Dr. Kenneth Abrahams was kidnapped in Botswana, illegally transported to South Africa and put on trial, the then British Conservative Government put diplomatic pressure on the South African regime to such an extent that Dr. Abrahams was eventually released and returned to Botswana. That is not the case nowadays. Instead, this Conservative Government stay silent about kidnapping.
What have the Government said about the kidnapping of Abraham Ishmail by South African agents in Swaziland, which is a sovereign state, on 15 December 1986, and who is now being brought to trial in South Africa? What protests has the Under-Secretary made? In what way has he worked within the international community for Abraham Ishmail's release? If, as I suspect, the answer is nothing, will the Minister today undertake to make representations to Pretoria for his release? I want a specific reply to that question.
It is claimed that the Government have a policy to assist the front-line states with aid so that they can fight the war of economic aggression that has been launched by South Africa. The Government talk about aid to the front-line states and to the SADCC countries. The anti-apartheid movement has estimated that present aid to front-line states is only 57 per cent. of the value of the aid, at its 1979 value, when the Government took office. Therefore, there has been a reduction of about 43 per cent. in the actual aid given to those front-line states since 1979. A massive programme of aid is required. Those figures show the tremendous burden that is placed on the front-line states and on other countries by South African aggression. The Government must change their policy and give more. They must stop giving such mean-minded and miserable amounts of aid to those countries and ensure that a proper amount of finance is given to them in the form of aid.
Sanctions are a major issue. I believe, as do the Labour party, black people in Britain, black people throughout the world and leaders of all black countries, that sanctions are the only way forward. The Eminent Persons Group—eminent people drawn from all over the world—made a report to the Bahamas conference of Commonweath Heads of Government. That report was accepted by those Commonwealth Heads of Government. On behalf of the United Kingdom, the Prime Minister signed a joint declaration at the end of the conference to support sanctions. However, she has since refused to implement those sanctions, and that remains her position today.
In fact, despite all the evidence showing that the imposition of sanctions is beginning to hurt South Africa, the Government have made a total about-face and do not now support sanctions. Indeed, during the past few months the South African business economy has gone on the offensive towards Britain. We have seen, for instance, the opening of an office in London by the South African coal industry to ensure that propaganda is pumped into the British economy so that more British business people will invest in South African coal and other industries.
Sanctions are the only way forward and must be applied for several reasons. One is the internal situation in South Africa. Huge numbers of black people have been massacred in towns all over South Africa by the South African police and defence forces. We have seen the brutalisation of black people by the vigilante squads and the so-called "Kitzconstabels". They are often criminals who, after only four or five weeks training, can enter the townships to harass and brutalise black people. After only four weeks training, those people have the same status as police officers in that country. Practically anyone in a uniform can seize and detain a person for 30 days. There have been examples of the railway police and the army arresting people and detaining them for 30 days.
Although there have been gross violations of democracy in South Africa, and South Africa has illegally occupied Namibia, where at least 100,000 South African troops are stationed so that there can be cross-border raids into Angola, the British Government have vetoed action to implement United Nations resolution 435, which condemns South Africa's illegal occupation of Namibia and tries to force that country out.
Therefore, there are several reasons why sanctions are the only way forward, not least because the black people of South Africa have stated that they are prepared to accept that further sacrifice to ensure their freedom. In the face of all those facts, and the attitude of the international community, I ask the Government to denounce the Botha regime, that fascist and racist regime in South Africa, and to denounce the cross-border raids into Angola, Mozambique, Botswana, Lesotho, Zimbabwe arid other countries. I ask the Government to demand that the racist regime in Pretoria unconditionally releases the political prisoners who are held in its camps and that it removes the death penalty from those people, especially the "Sharpeville Six" who are currently awaiting the death sentence.
It is time that the Government got their act together. I pledge, as does the Labour party, to carry on the struggle uncompromisingly until we force the Government into the 1980s and force them to take action that is aimed at freeing black South Africans so that a Government will be elected in South Africa who will be non-racist, non-sexist and democratic.
One appreciates the reasons why the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Grant) feels strongly about this subject. Indeed, many hon. Members feel the same and we had a debate on it only the other week.
I should like to comment on some of the points raised by the hon. Gentleman. As his hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central (Mr. Caborn) knows, I was in Southern Africa only a few weeks ago. We should not over-emphasise the influence that we, outside, tend to think that sanctions will have on the South African Government and on white public opinion in South Africa, nor fool ourselves that it is necessarily a one-way trade. There was great internal pressure for the United States to apply sanctions and to disinvest. That was done. United States companies had about 400 subsidiaries in South Africa, but that figure is now less than 200. Those companies have now sold out their major holdings. Indeed, some British companies have also done so — Barclays bank is the outstanding example. However, the result is that the United States now has little influence in South Africa. South Africans do not need to worry any more about the United States. That country has fired its big gun, but South Africa has survived.
My view is that we shall see apartheid disappear in all its forms. However, it will take a lot longer and I anticipate a long struggle ahead. I considered that last year's idea that if the African National Congress put its Spear of the Nation fighters into South Africa, that tenet, combined with sanctions, would result in the immediate crumbling of the South African state, was a mirage, and so it has proved. The view of South Africa now is—
Will the hon. Gentleman explain to the House why, after 75 years of trying to fight for freedom in South Africa, the African National Congress turned to arms 25 years ago? He is not informing the House about any alternative. The United Nations, the EEC, the Commonwealth and all international organisations, except this Government, support mandatory economic sanctions, or sanctions of some form. Will the hon. Gentleman briefly explain the alternatives to the House?
I should like to answer that point, Mr. Deputy Speaker. There is a case for putting pressure through economic sanctions but it must be combined with other things and one must continue to talk to all the people involved. In the end there must be dialogue and people must talk to one another. If one pushes any one of the parties into a corner, be it Inkatha, led by Buthelezi, the ANC, which Inkatha regards as an Xhosa organisation, or the whites, especially the Afrikaaners, one will not reach a settlement, one will achieve only ongoing bloodshed. I shall conclude as I wanted to speak only briefly and wish to give my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State the chance to make the Government's point.
The hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Grant) finished his speech by requesting that the Government should get their act together. I listened to the mixture of prejudice and waffle that he came out with, and feel that he should reflect on his priorities. It does the cause that he purports to further no good to come forward with such an extreme, badly researched set of arguments. It does the reputation of the House no good either.
It is a mistake to try to look at the problems of South Africa in isolation. As the hon. Gentleman rightly said, the problems of South Africa affect southern Africa as a whole. At the heart of the problems of southern Africa is the system of separate development known as apartheid. Despite what the hon. Gentleman said, the Government's policy towards apartheid is absolutely plain. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made clear at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Vancouver, apartheid is a repulsive and detestable system. The Government wish to see it ended and wish to see it ended soon.
The hon. Gentleman is not alone in objecting to racial discrimination. I do not know whether, as he claimed in a recent debate, he is
entitled to speak on behalf of black people in the United Kingdom and in the rest of the world".—[Official Report, 13 November 1987; Vol. 122, c. 739.]
I find that assertion rather extraordinary coming from the hon. Member who had the worst personal result and the greatest swing against him of any Labour candidate in the last general election. The Government speak for the people of this country when we call for justice for black and white in South Africa, and for a peaceful end to apartheid.
In his long speech, the hon. Gentleman raised a number of specific questions and I shall seek to answer them. He referred to 44 people awaiting execution in South Africa. It is entirely typical of his superficial approach that he has not done his homework here. In the case of the Sharpeville six, the German ambassador in Pretoria called on the South African Government's deputy foreign minister on 4 December and appealed on behalf of all the member states of the European Community for clemency for those people. The European Community is currently considering other cases.
Our policy is clear. We are prepared to join appeals on humanitarian grounds where the case is clearly political and there are extenuating circumstances or grounds to doubt the fairness of the legal process. Each case is considered carefully on its own merits and we use exactly the same grounds for our decisions making in respect of South Africa as we do in respect of other parts of the world.
The hon. Gentleman referred to our refusal to appeal for clemency in the case of Mr. Lapunta. That has been referred to by the Minister of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mrs. Chalker), but we considered that case and concluded that it was a criminal case and not a political offence. On those grounds, applying the same criteria as we apply to other countries, we were not prepared to make representations.
The hon. Gentleman referred to the release of Mr. Mbeki. We have called many times for the release of Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners and we welcomed wholeheartedly the release of Mr. Mbeki. In our view, it is entirely right that he should have been set free, but we regret the South African Government's decision to impose a restriction order on Mr. Mbeki.
The hon. Gentleman made a number of remarks about Chief Buthelezi. Many black leaders inside South Africa, including Chief Buthelezi, and the United Democratic Front, support the concept of peaceful change. In this regard, we very much regret the loss of life in the violence in Natal, as we regret the loss of life elsewhere in South Africa.
The hon. Gentleman made a number of accusations about the death of President Machel of Mozambique. The hon. Gentleman is rather ahead of the view taken by the Mozambique Government of that incident.
It is, of course, easy for the hon. Gentleman and others to call for justice to be done, but it is far less easy to achieve justice, especially in as complex a situation as exists in South Africa and between South Africa and its neighbouring states. It is easy to take refuge, as the hon. Gentleman did, in sloganising and unwarranted simplification, but no one should labour under the misapprehension that fundamental change in South Africa will come about easily or quickly. South Africa is not Rhodesia. It is not a "colonial" problem. Change has been a lamentably slow process. Indeed, it is unacceptably slow, but the pernicious and wicked doctrine of apartheid that grew up in South Africa is nevertheless being eroded. There are some changes for the better.
Nor is it enough to bewail the plight of black South Africans or rest content with describing the effects of South African Government policy on neighbouring states. The Government have always recognised that fine words are not enough. We need to persuade the South African Government that change cannot be avoided, that it is not in the long-term interest of white South Africans to avoid change and that it is in their interests to grasp the opportunity to make changes now.
To portray South Africa as a tragedy with an inevitable and unavoidable outcome is both easy and irresponsible. Peaceful change is still possible, but the warning lights are now well in sight. If fundamental changes are not made soon by the South African Government, they will in due course be forced upon them. The alternative to peaceful change is, eventually, violent change.
There are limits to what outsiders can do to help. Only those who, like the hon. Member for Tottenham, have not studied the situation closely could think otherwise. The reality of South African economic power must also be acknowledged. In economic terms alone, the problems of South Africa are the problems of southern Africa.
There is a more general and longer-term prudential limit to what we can do in South Africa. It would not be in the interests of those in South Africa who oppose apartheid and who look to a future in which it has been ended to inherit an economic wasteland. This is increasingly recognised by leading opponents of the South African Government. Additionally, it would not, in our view, be right or effective to bring short-term economic misery to black South Africans in the forlorn hope that such international pressures would force the South African Government to make fundamental changes.
This last point brings me to the contentious matter of sanctions. Many Labour Members believe that punitive sanctions against South Africa would force the South Africans to carry out those changes in which all of us in this House believe. We respect the view of those who hold to this view, but we do not agree with them. Indeed, we would hold that the implementation by some countries of punitive economic sanctions against South Africa has been ineffective. Some would say that it had been counterproductive.
There is a great deal of evidence that attitudes in South Africa towards genuine negotiations have not become more pliant since recent events. They have hardened. The result of the whites-only election in South Africa on 6 May produced a pronounced shift to the Right. This has done nothing to assist those in South Africa who want to see early, fundamental but peaceful change. The Government, however, believe that firm political signals as well as advocacy are required.
We have been scrupulous in implementing all the restrictive measures to which we have agreed, whether in the Commonwealth, the Twelve or the United Nations Security Council. Such signals are meant to alert the South Africans to the need for change. They are not meant to destroy the South African economy. Such a goal is no part of our policy.
The key to peaceful change in southern Africa lies with the countries of the region. For our part, we are dedicated to advancing the cause of change. We must all accept that peaceful change will not come easily. But a solution to the problems of South Africa will directly contribute to increased stability and prosperity in southern Africa as a whole. It is our firm intention to use every opportunity to facilitate and encourage change. Our policy is designed to cope with the long haul, and I assure the House that we have the commitment to carry it through.