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Column 1140there are no lists of detainees giving details of where those people are being held or who they are. The Administrator-General does not know how many people are detained and he is not aware of how many are detained by the South African security forces which are not directly answerable to the Administrator-General in their operations. There will be some detainees in South Africa and some in Namibia. The United Nations must meet the lawyers, Churches and other groups working with prisoners in order to compile a list.
No such meeting had taken place by 31 March. If we are waiting for the Administrator-General to deliver up those people, that would show an optimism about the good faith of the Administrator-General which simply is not justified. There is a need for a sufficiently resourced team to set about that work in a way that does not cause it to have to rely on the Administrator-General.
Mr. Ahtisaari said that those in exile
"must have the chance to come here, to their native land." I visited the director of the RRR committee which is a partner organisation of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Namibia. That committee is responsible for the reception, resettlement and rehabilitation of those people--that is what the three RRRs stand for. It had not received a penny from the UNHCR. It relies entirely on money from the World Council of Churches and the Lutheran World Federation. The RRR committee is not a great organisation. It consists of a small group of Church people from the denominations in Namibia who are seeking to provide the infrastructure for those three aspects of the process--reception, resettlement and rehabilitation.
I urge the Government and the Minister of State to make urgent representations to our ambassador at the United Nations to make sure that we put pressure on UNHCR to deliver the money now. We are talking about movements of people, the numbers of which can vary. Estimates range from 40,000 to 80,000, but it is thought that a realistic figure is between 58,000 and 68,000. Many of those people are children under the age of 11 who leave the camps but have no schools to attend.
Where are the returning people to live? There are already problems about accommodation, and huge infrastructure problems will hit that country in the next few months. The timetable is clear and says that by mid-May, which is just a month away, refugees and detainees should begin to return to Namibia. At this time the infrastructure needed to receive them is not in place. We need to give aid now for that process. We must not take the view that we should wait and see until independence. We need to get in there now.
Mr. Andrew Hunter (Basingstoke) : I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way, not least because I committed the discourtesy of missing much of what he has said. He mentioned a matter which I raised in a recent parliamentary question. I support the basic principle that there should be additional infrastructure support for Namibia before the independence process reaches its conclusion.
Mr. Boateng : I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. His intervention is a sign of the way in which these issues unite all strands of opinion in the House. This is not a matter of party political controversy and I am sure that the Minister of State will take that on board.
Column 1141The need is there now and we cannot afford to wait, because if we do massive harm will be caused to the country and its people. The special representative went on to say :
"Laws which could interfere with free and fair elections will be abolished."
In Namibia a huge edifice of discriminatory law of one sort or another has been created. It is designed to break up the country into various ethnic homelands of one kind or another. There are 13 different ethnic education authorities, each with responsibility for an ethnic group. That is a totally unworkable and bizarre system, but the matter goes beyond that to a law designed to stifle the free dissemination of information and expression of opinion under the Police Act and various Defence Acts.
I was concerned to discover that two of the leading lawyers that I met in Windhoek were not aware of any member of the legal profession or anybody concerned with human rights in Namibia who had been consulted by the United Nations about identifying those laws. Is the United Nations to rely once again on the Administrator-General, the very person who put those laws in place and who has been administering them all this time? Will he be asked to detect and identify the laws? That stretches the bounds of credibility, but that is not all.
While I was in Namibia, two days before 1 April Gwen Lister, the editor of The Namibian, and Anton Labowsky, a distinguished trade unionist and lawyer, were summoned under the Police Act for disseminating information about security forces two years before. The summonses were issued under one of the laws that will have to be repealed after 1 April, and the same Administrator-General who is apparently to be relied upon to identify and repeal those laws issued the summonses. He did that to stifle, suppress and hold back Gwen Lister and Anton Labowsky during the course of the independence process.
We cannot rely on the bone fides of such a man and the United Nations and UNTAG must be empowered and emboldened to take a stance that will enable them to draw on all available sources of information and action to bring about the repeal of those laws. Without such repeal it will be impossible to move to a successful settlement. We are all agreed that there must be an end to violence and intimidation from whatever source. We addressed that matter earlier in the debate. Such violence and intimidation are never acceptable but we know the difficulties about containing them because they were experienced in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia. But it must be done. Every political party, whatever its belief, must have a chance freely and fairly to put its case to the people.
While I was in Namibia I met Church men, laity and people who are active in the political process and people who are not. They all expressed concern that there would be difficulties unless UNTAG had people on the ground and until the United Nations was able to disseminate free, fair and impartial information. As in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, we need United Nations information vans to tell the people the truth. We cannot rely on the South West Africa Broadcasting Corporation or on the overwhelming majority of the printed press in that country to do that. Most of the media has clearly taken sides, and that was clear simply by watching television even if one could not understand every word. There is a heavily biased media in favour of South Africa and its interests.
Column 1142I met one pastor who gave me personal testimony about the army going into the schools and seeking to explain to the children the meaning of resolution 435. When a headmaster called on the Church to come in and explain and to put its view, the Church did not even have a professional video unit. It is not rich in the resources needed to explain and to convey information. It is desperately crying out to the international community for such resources, and one hopes that that cry will be heard. When the pastor went to that school, someone from the local education authority came in and challenged the headmaster and said, "Why are you asking this Church man to explain resolution 435 to the children? Why have you not asked a member of the defence force?"
I have no reason to doubt stories that I heard of South African army personnel going from village to village, ripping the shirts off villagers who supported SWAPO and requiring them to wear DTA shirts, or of army personnel going from village to village carrying pictures of Ethiopia and saying to the villagers, "If you vote for SWAPO, this is what will happen to your country." The telegrams from Oxfam representatives and the fax information from the churches in Namibia show that that is happening now. It is not a figment of SWAPO propaganda ; it is the truth. There has to be an answer and a counter to that. I hope that the Minister will ensure that we put the case for an enhanced information presence amongst the UNTAG forces in the Security Council in the days and months ahead.
I hope, too, that the Minister will recognise the extent to which already the election campaign is being fought in Namibia by those who have the closest possible connection with South Africa. It must be said that the DTA is South Africa's surrogate. No one believes for a moment--certainly South Africa does not believe--that anyone other than SWAPO will win the election. After all, SWAPO has been the flag carrier of independence and has been at the forefront of the armed struggle. The people know why they have the prospect of independence. In Namibia they will no more vote for the DTA and its allies than the people of Zimbabwe did for Bishop Muzorewa. People are not that gullible. They will vote for SWAPO.
What South Africa seeks to ensure, by fair means or foul, is that SWAPO will not get two thirds majority necessary for it effectively to write the constitution. That is the concern of South Africa. That is why it is waging a massive propaganda war and why it sought to use the Prime Minister in the way that it did, both at Windhoek and subsequently in the House when she gave the answer that she did to the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber. The hon. Gentleman was told that all the information would be available to him and that he should read what the Secretary-General had said. Then it emerged that the Secretary-General's statement was confidential and was not available. I have news for the House--it is available, and as from tonight it will be in the Library. I have a copy here and I will put it in the Library. It shows that the Secretary-General made it crystal clear that it was not possible to say that SWAPO had an offensive intent. The whole House will be able to see the document in the Library later tonight because it is right that it should be in the public domain.
That is all part and parcel of the campaign of misinformation and the attempt to manipulate the media and the political process that are being fuelled and funded by South Africa. I saw it with my own eyes when I
Column 1143attended the beginning and end of the DTA rally in Windhoek on 1 April. It was an interesting experience. The comparison with the SWAPO rally, which I also attended, is worth making. The DTA rally was to take place at a ground which had been chosen as an act of provocation--immediately adjacent to the ground that SWAPO had originally chosen--but SWAPO withdrew because there was a danger of violence if the two rallies took place side by side.
The DTA rally took place on a ground that was well equipped with pavilions and tents. It had a massive stage and a huge amplification system. The SWAPO rally, on the other hand, took place without any tents or pavilions. The SWAPO leadership and speakers spoke from the back of a van. Even my local party would not have been happy with the communications system. Nevertheless, the SWAPO rally attracted about 25,000 people, while the DTA attracted only about 6,000. That is the difference between the two parties on the ground. It is interesting that the DTA should attract so few people, despite all that expenditure, which included a horse show. The DTA is noted for its horse shows, which are used to draw people in. I also witnessed the free distribution of shirts at the start of the DTA meeting. One wishes that one's own party were in a position to throw T-shirts off the back of a lorry, as the DTA did to reward people for attending that rally.
Free transport was also provided. SWAPO members in Windhoek told me that they had come down from the hinterland in free transport provided by the DTA. They boarded the van and then changed their T-shirts once they arrived at Windhoek. However, it was not just a matter of handing out free T-shirts at the beginning of the rally. Had I not seen it with my own eyes, I should not have believed it, but the DTA also handed out corned beef at the end of the meeting. If one attended from the beginning, one had the chance of a free T-shirt, but if one stayed to the end--not always easy to do on any political occasion--there was a can of corned beef as well. Should there be any doubt about that, I have photographs of the corned beef being distributed and carried away. I took those photographs myself, when I attended the end of the DTA rally that afternoon. They show Herero ladies in beautiful costumes based on Victorian and German costumes of the period, smiling and waving, and carrying away their cans of corned beef. Although I took those photographs myself, I think that they should be deposited in the Library so that right hon. and hon. Members have evidence of the corned beef reward for those who withstood the DTA's rhetoric. They will therefore be placed in the Library with the Secretary-General's report for Members of Parliament and other interested persons to examine.
The question that must and will be asked by those concerned with the peace process in Namibia is where the beef lies in the resolution and determination of UNTAG to see that process through, and in the resolution and determination of the Security Council to provide the means and the resources to achieve that. It is no use simply blaming UNTAG. The fact remains that all too often UNTAG finds its hands tied by a lack of resolution and of will on the part of the Security Council. The challenge to the House and to the international community is to put the beef into the peace process, and in so doing to give that little boy in Oshikati and the rest of his family in Ovamboland, together with all the other little boys and girls in Namibia and their families throughout that territory, the chance, hope and opportunity to enjoy a
Column 1144peaceful transition out of the bonds of apartheid and into the international community as a non-racial democracy within the Commonwealth. That is what they want. We have seen the trust of the people of Namibia betrayed in the past. We must not be a party to their betrayal in the future.
Mr. Michael Knowles (Nottingham, East) : I thank the hon. Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng) for his courtesy in allowing me to speak in what is very much his debate. It is kind of him to let someone else speak, particularly when he knows that I shall not agree with everything that he said. It is partly a product of our system I agreed with and can accept that much of what he said, but inevitably I shall concentrate on the issues on which I disagree.
The hon. Member for Brent, South was absolutely right about the personal tragedies--especially that of the small boy in Namibia. It is a tragedy for any small boy caught in such a war anywhere--be it Namibia, or anywhere else in Africa, in Afghanistan or in central America. Little more than a generation ago it was also true of many young children on this continent. That is always the effect of warfare. A bloody guerrilla war has been going on for a long time in Namibia, and the hon. Gentleman rightly drew attention to the fact that South African forces undoubtedly bear this in mind.
Nevertheless, I find it hard to accept the hon. Gentleman's version of 1,800 SWAPO guerrilla troops straying across the border and practically carrying election literature and ballot boxes. That does not seem likely and I know from accounts from Namibia that, even according to the kindest of interpretations, it did not happen in that way.
I can well believe that SWAPO thought that it should be an equal partner in the agreements, but it was not--and deliberately so. The agreements were between outside powers. SWAPO is now one party among many standing for election. It is not the sole representative of the Namibian people. If that were so, an election would not be necessary. The African National Congress stance on South Africa comes to mind that all that need to be discussed are the modalities of the transfer of power. However, SWAPO has to compete with other political parties in the election market.
Mr. Hunter : The hon. Member for Brent, South said that chance, hope and opportunity were what the Namibian people should be given, as should all people of southern Africa. Will my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, East (Mr. Knowles) extend his argument to include or expand the proposition that SWAPO is not the vehicle to give chance, hope and opportunity when it so manifestly abuses the peace process that is being implemented?
misapprehension that they could return to Namibia, and some paid a high price--indeed, the ultimate price--for that misapprehension. Who issued the orders to them? Eighteen hundred troops do not cross a border in such a solid way by chance or misapprehension. It was a deliberate move and the higher command of SWAPO must have issued the orders.
At the last count I saw 42 parties were to run in the elections, although I expect that it will boil down to six or seven. One advantage that Namibia has, and will have when it becomes independent, is that its black politicians have been in place for a long time, so when it gains independence it will not be a direct transition from colonialism. The fact that there are black administrators who run large enterprises will be an advantage. As the hon. Member for Brent, South knows, there is a considerable infrastructure in Namibia, including road networks and industries. The cost of the war has been appalling, but there is much left on which to build.
The difficulty with the Council of Churches in Namibia is that it is often seen, whether fairly or unfairly, as a mouthpiece for SWAPO. The point has been made that we need much more aid for Namibia, especially to back up the democratic processes. It was pointed out, for instance, that there was not enough money for the UNHCR. My right hon. Friend the Minister will be aware that a large tranche of aid was voted by the European Parliament the other week to help the democratic process. We must ensure that the money is used for precisely that purpose--that it does not disappear into holes and is not misappropriated. That responsibility will lie primarily with the European institutions, but I do not doubt that my right hon. Friend will have a say in the matter, as indeed she should. The hon. Member for Brent, South rightly said that this settlement is entirely different from the position reached in Zimbabwe. He made a point which must, I believe, always be made about any circumstances in southern Africa--that, however much it may be deplored, the truth is that the economy of southern Africa as a whole depends entirely on South Africa, its railway systems and its ports. Most ironically of all, even on Namibia's independence its main port, Walvis Bay, will still legally be an integral part of South Africa because of a settlement reached in 1896, when the British occupied it and it was passed on to the Cape colony. A final irony is that when Namibia rescinded some of the apartheid laws, people who broke the Immorality Act in Walvis Bay would be arrested and tried in South Africa but put in gaol in Namibia, where breaking the Act was no longer a crime--a truly bizarre situation. Matters will not necessarily become easier with independence, and in some respects they may even become more difficult.
I support what the hon. Gentleman said about increasing the size of UNTAG. More troops are needed on the ground, as well as more administrative support. Of course, that will not ultimately overcome the problem of dependence on South Africa--both on its administrators and on its supply routes--as the hon. Gentleman hopes because to get equipment through to support the United Nation troops requires the use of South African facilities. That is another example of the complexity of the problem and the difference between Namibia and Zimbabwe. Nevertheless, I believe that the extra cost of bringing in administrators and troops will be worth while because the alternatives are worse--either the settlement will break down and we shall go back to where we were, or find ourselves in a worse position and if independence breaks down we shall end up with a second Congo, which would be horrific. There must be a right to return for the exiles
Column 1146and all those who went into exile must be accounted for. The hon. Member for Brent, South commented on the South African record, but one must also comment on the SWAPO record. There are some nasty rumours about what has happened to some of the exiles and detainees in SWAPO hands.
The solution will not be easy. We know all too well that the concept of the nation state, which has been foisted on Africa as a whole, is a western European concept based on the boundaries drawn by the colonial powers and does not accord with the reality of the stage of development in many countries. The idea that political parties are anything other than expressions of national or tribal feeling is nonsense. When many make the prediction that SWAPO will win the election, it is based on the simple statistic that the Ovambo people, who are SWAPO's main support, now constitute about 52 per cent. of the population. In 1980, they were about 46 per cent. of the population. Many Ovambo were previously in Angola because of the colonial division drawn through the middle of their territory but have now come to Namibia, so there is an additional 6 per cent. of Ovambo who are refugees from Angola. There is no way to distinguish between those who are theoretically Namibian citizens and those who are theoretically Angolan citizens.
As 52 per cent. of the population support SWAPO, it is likely that SWAPO will gain a majority, although I am not sure that it will gain the two thirds needed to set up the constitution. As the hon. Member for Brent, South said, that is currently the key argument about the settlement. We need more resources in Namibia now to ensure that a settlement takes place. The alternative of a breakdown after independence, which would be a replay of the Congo or Angola where there were nearly equally balanced power blocs, is too awful to contemplate. Every hon. Member would agree with that point of view. 9.53 pm
Mr. Bernie Grant (Tottenham) : I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng) on raising this debate. He has brought a measure of sense into the debate that did not, I am afraid, exist when the Prime Minister spoke in the House a week ago last Tuesday. I also want to congratulate him on going to Namibia and being there at a time when the situation was very dangerous for him and, of course, for the people of Namibia.
The hon. Member for Nottingham, East (Mr. Knowles) mentioned to me some time ago that he had been invited to South Africa by the South African Government. He admitted to me that he had been shocked by apartheid in practice, but clearly he was not shocked enough to be able to change sides and join us in opposing the apartheid system perpetrated by the South African Government. I shall not be as friendly as my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South. There are a number of culprits who need to be named and the first and chief culprit is the Prime Minister herself. She has been aware for some considerable time of the situation in Namibia.
On 31 January 1989 I asked the Prime Minister this question : "Is the Prime Minister aware that the United Nations
secretary-general has been compelled by the five permanent members of the Security Council, including Britain, to propose a reduction in the number of United Nations troops in Namibia from 7,500 to 4,650 during the transition to independence? Has she heard the views of President Mugabe
Column 1147of Zimbabwe, who has stated that the five permanent members of the Security Council have been fiddling with the moralities of resolution 435? In view of the fact that she will shortly be visiting Zimbabwe and that South Africa continues to support armed bandits and assassination gangs, will she review Britain's position in this matter and insist that the original numbers of troops be maintained?"
That was a pretty straightforward question. In reply the Prime Minister said :
"I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would wish to uphold a decision of the five permanent members of the Security Council. We shall honour it. The agreement was an excellent one and was obtained by the co- operation of those five members plus the co-operation of South Africa and Angola. I believe that we should do everything in our power to see that it is fulfilled. As far as this country is concerned, we pay our full subscription to United Nations peace-maintaining forces everywhere."--[ Official Report, 31 January 1989 ; Vol. 146, c. 163.]
As usual, the Prime Minister avoided the issue, but there is no way in which she can say that she was not warned about the position. We talked in great detail about the reduction in United Nations troops. I asked the Prime Minister whether Britain, as one of the five permanent members of the Security Council, would intervene and insist that the original number of troops should be maintained. She refused to do so. The Prime Minister owes the House an explanation not only because she refused to take any notice of that point, but also because of her subsequent actions.
My hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South referred to the fact that the Prime Minister quoted from the so-called confidential document. I am pleased that she has taken the initiative and that that United Nation document is to be placed in the Library. However, we still need an explanation from the Prime Minister about the matter. After her evasion of the truth, in her usual arrogant way she sent along the Leader of the House to apologise for her. She did not and she could not bring herself to apologise in person.
The Prime Minister also said that SWAPO was guilty of
"a most serious challenge to the authority of the United Nations." There is no provision in the United Nations plan that prohibits the entry of SWAPO personnel into the country prior to the commencement of the plan. The real challenge to the United Nations was the breach of the ceasefire. There is no evidence that SWAPO opened fire first. All the evidence from independent sources blames the South African police and Koevoet for launching unprovoked attacks against SWAPO. We challenge the Prime Minister to produce evidence that SWAPO was the first to breach the ceasefire.
Mr. Hunter : Is the hon. Gentleman asking the House to accept that the United Nations process for the implementation of resolution 435 includes armed--I stress the word "armed"--SWAPO guerrillas entering Namibia after 1 April? Does he understand that that was part of the agreement?
Mr. Grant : As far as I am aware, United Nations resolution 435 does not prevent SWAPO guerrillas from entering the country. That is what is important. If there is nothing to prevent SWAPO guerrillas from entering the country, they are at liberty to do so. It is, after all, their country. It is not the United Nations' country or South Africa's country. They have a right to enter the country whenever they wish.
Column 1148The Prime Minister also said that SWAPO had committed itself to the Geneva accord. The words "Geneva protocol" would have been more correct. Under that accord, SWAPO is required to stay north of the 16th parallel in Angola. SWAPO was not a party to the accord, as my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South mentioned, nor has it ever endorsed it. The only undertaking that SWAPO gave was to agree to a unilateral ceasefire in accordance with the protocol. Nor does this protocol form any part of the United Nations plan. Again, we challenge the Prime Minister or her right hon. Friend the Minister of State to produce evidence that SWAPO has ever committed itself to the Geneva protocol.
The question with which I and, I am sure, other Members on both sides of the House are left is this : why was the Prime Minister so gullible? Why was she so easily taken in by the propaganda of the South African forces? I hope that the Minister of State will answer some other questions. Why, for instance, did she not make a statement to the House when she returned--
It being Ten o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.
Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.-- [Mr. John M. Taylor.]
Mr. Grant : Why, for instance, did she not make a statement to the House after her visit to southern Africa, as she did last year after she had been to Nigeria and north African countries? What was she afraid of? Was she afraid that her statements would be put to the test? Could she not have answered the questions that we wanted to put to her? Why was she afraid?
There is another question : why did she seem to get everything wrong? Why was she so eager to accept the South African position? Did she not read--as I did--the report of the United Nations' representative in Namibia, which said that SWAPO did not have any hostile intent? Did she not think, "Maybe I can give them the benefit of the doubt"? Certainly not. I suggest to the House that the Prime Minister is, indeed, a true friend of the racists and that she cannot stand the idea of Namibian independence. That is the fact of the matter.
I should like to go on at length, but we want to hear an answer from the Minister. However, I have to say that there has been another party to this misinformation--the press, the media. I was shocked when I read reports emanating from Windhoek, from the chief reporter of The Independent, who not only accepted the South African position, hook, line and sinker, but went on to attack Sam Nujoma, the Secretary-General of SWAPO, in terms that made it clear to me that The Independent, through its reporters in Windhoek, was basically acting as the agent of the South African defence forces.
We demand that the Prime Minister come before the House and make a proper statement about her visit to Namibia, about the fact that she interfered in the peace process there, about the fact that she refused to do anything about the cut in the UNTAG forces put forward by the Security Council, of which the United Kingdom is a member. We demand that she come here to give an explanation about the confidentiality of the report of the United Nations
Secretary-General. We demand that she give evidence as to why she thinks that SWAPO has broken any agreements--and we want her to produce those agreements.
Column 1149Many hon. Members and many people outside who are paying attention to our deliberations want answers to at least some of those questions. I hope that the Minister will be able to answer some of them this evening, but the Prime Minister should certainly be here. 10.4 pm
Mr. Andrew Hunter (Basingstoke) : I shall disregard much of what we have heard because I believe it to be wrong and irrelevant to the process of independence in Namibia. The essential point is that the process must work because there is so much at stake. So much can go wrong in Namibia and the implications of things going wrong are fearful to predict with regard to other parts of southern Africa. SWAPO is no angelic force and its leader, Sam Nujoma, is no angel. It has committed monstrous crimes in the name of its pursuit of freedom and independence in Namibia. We must not forget that in past years there have been many people--black skins, white skins and people from many origins and races--trying to create a basis for a genuine democratic state in Namibia. They must succeed.
I shall say no more other than to stress the fact that one must dicount the proposition that SWAPO is a redeeming force any more than one can say that the African National Congress is the redeeming force for South Africa. There are other forces of moderation and compromise which are seeking a way to create a genuine democratic society. That must be the way.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mrs. Lynda Chalker) : I welcome the opportunity that has been provided by the hon. Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng) to speak about the latest developments in Namibia and the first two difficult weeks of the implementation of the United Nations plan for the transition to independence. These are events of major regional and international importance.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) said, independence must be made to work in Namibia. The process must succeed. It is vital to Her Majesty's Government and everyone who wants to see peace in Namibia that we do everything we can to make the process succeed. As the hon. Member for Brent, South said, success is vital to the Oshikati boy and all the other young people, let alone those who have suffered a great deal in recent years. That success can take place only if all parties adhere to the United Nations plan. It is also crucial that the authority of the United Nations is upheld. Therefore, I hope that, despite one or two remarks we have heard tonight, the House will unite in emphasising that Britain will give unstinting support, as it has already, to the efforts of the United Nations Secretary-General, his special representative in Namibia, and all those who are working for peace in that much benighted country.
Column 1150I shall respond to the remarks made about my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister by the hon. Members for Brent, South and for Tottenham (Mr. Grant). My right hon. Friend condemned SWAPO on the basis of information which had been given to the Secretary-General of the United Nations. It is clear that her judgment, on Tuesday before last, of the events that had occurred was correct. It was not only her judgment but it was shared by the United States, Cuba, Angola and the Soviet Union. I happen to know that it is shared by some African nations which are as concerned as anybody in the House to see peace in Namibia.
When the Secretary-General's report to the Security Council was delivered on 3 April it was delivered in confidence, although much of its content was known. I am surprised that the Secretary-General should use the hon. Member for Brent, South as his channel of communication. Nevertheless, the information has been known to all of us, if not the exact wording. When hon. Members have the chance to see the exact wording they will know exactly why my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I have spoken about the incursions in the way we have.
Enough of that--
Mr. Boateng rose --
Mrs. Chalker : I would like to get on, if the hon. Gentleman will allow me. He did speak for some 52 minutes. That is his right, I know, but he gave me a lot of things to answer, so perhaps he will let me continue.
The hon. Gentleman made a very interesting defence of SWAPO in his contribution tonight, but he failed to disguise two vital points. First, none of the bloodshed, the deaths that my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, East (Mr. Knowles) referred to and many others have so wept over, would have occurred if SWAPO had not violated the agreement it indeed had come to with the United Nations.
The Prime Minister's intervention in Windhoek on1 April saved the peace process from complete collapse. I do not think there is any doubt in this country or in any of the other permanent member countries of the Security Council that without that intervention there could have been a far worse situation in Namibia.
I want to move on to what happened on the first--
Mr. Grant rose--
I want to move on from the first day of the agreement because throughout recent months this country has been thoroughly active in support of the United Nations plan. In recent days our Signals unit of about 170 people arrived in Namibia and was immediately deployed to the north. It is playing a leading role there, not only carrying out its signals task but manning the nine assembly points to which the SWAPO insurgents are due to report. In the light of the need to speed up deployment of the United Nations transitional assistance group, Britain made available to the United Nations at under two days' notice 55 Land Rovers and 12 4-ton trucks, which were airlifted earlier this week to Namibia. We have already contributed half a million pounds to UNHCR for the repatriation of Namibian refugees. I should like to say to the hon. Member for Brent, South that I will look into why that money is not already
Column 1151passing through to RRR and the Churches. Certainly it has been paid over because, as in all other cases, the United Kingdom pays its dues promptly to the United Nations and intends to go on doing so. In addition to that, let me just remind the House that the financial contribution from Britain to UNTAG is about £14 million. In other words, we are determined to do all we can to establish peace in Namibia. That is true of those people who collect through their Churches to send goods out to Namibia right through the whole of our population, including the Prime Minister. I refute absolutely what the hon. Member for Tottenham said. He made a number of very foolish statements tonight. I hope that I shall not have to haunt him with them in the years ahead.
Let me say one other thing about the tragic blunder that SWAPO made in sending over 1,800 troops south across the border into Namibia in contravention of the United Nations plan. I do not want to dwell on it, but there is one point that I think is very important. Mr. Grant rose --
Some commentators have claimed that the five permanent members of the Security Council were somehow at fault because the total numbers deployed by UNTAG are fewer than originally envisaged in the 1978 United Nations plan. This is nonsense. It was the United Nations Secretary-General who decided, on the basis of expert military advice which was gathered in Namibia, the size of the force required for UNTAG. He formed his report on the basis of information gathered at the end of 1988 and it was presented to the Security Council on 23 January this year.
The five permanent members of the Security Council, including ourselves, supported him immediately, butthe Security Council as a whole accepted the Secretary-General's recommendations finally only on 16 February. The General Assembly then delayed its approval until 1 March.
By telling the House those dates, I seek to explain why 4,650 persons were not deployed on 1 April. It was because we had gone through a regrettable delay, caused by the filibustering of those who disagreed with the Secretary-General of the United Nations. The six weeks that were lost at that point were crucial.
Even if all the UNTAG troops had been in Namibia on 1 April, they could not have prevented the bloodshed in the north. The House should remember that UNTAG was never designed to engage in a pitched battle with armed insurgents. It was to keep the peace and to take Namibia through the transitional process to its elections on 1 November.
Mr. Grant : The Minister emphatically said that SWAPO broke the United Nations agreement. Will she give us chapter and verse about any agreement that SWAPO made with the United Nations on this matter? Will she give us the facts, if not tonight then at some other time?
Mrs. Chalker : There was no excuse for misunderstanding by SWAPO. We accept that the United Nations plan is not a single document. It consists of a settlement proposal, followed by a large number of subsequent
Column 1152agreements and understandings which date back as far as 1978. The facts are as follows. The document to which Opposition Members have sought to refer today and on previous occasions was the then Secretary-General's report back in February 1979. That is the only document that has ever proposed that any SWAPO forces would be in Namibia at the time of the ceasefire. That proposal was made without consultation with the contact group, and it was overtaken in 1982 when SWAPO agreed that the clause should be disregarded. An agreement was reached on monitoring by UNTAG of SWAPO bases which would be in Angola and Zambia.
It is clear from the Secretary-General's report of 23 January this year that UNTAG's military tasks, which are listed in paragraph 43, were without reference to SWAPO bases inside Namibia. Further to that, it was made clear that, in August last year, SWAPO forces would be deployed to the north of the 16th parallel in Angola. That matter was known and acceped by SWAPO. SWAPO told the Secretary-General in August last year that it unilaterally accepted the Geneva accord. Early this year, in New York, it was again reminded of the exact arrangements. There was no excuse for it not to know.
The actual deployment of which I have spoken and which was so delayed is most important. We have always pressed for the speedy deployment of the 4,650 men. The Finnish battalion went with the airlift of equipment from Britain and will take up position on Saturday 15 April. That will mean that all three battalions will be fully deployed by 20 April.
My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, East and other hon. Members have referred to reinforcements. We have said from the beginning that we and other Security Council members will promptly consider any request by the Secretary-General of the United Nations for further reinforcements of the 4,650, but there is no sign that that request will necessarily be forthcoming. If it is forthcoming, it will be carried out quickly. There is also no need for further United Nations troop numbers if we can keep the United Nations plan on track. Observers, of whom there are increased numbers in the 4,650, represent a more important way of proceeding in this matter. Since 1 April, when we have been more active than perhaps could have been anticipated in getting the United Nations plan on track, our representations have concentrated on encouraging each party to honour the agreed United Nations plan. As the House knows, the Joint Commission of Angola, Cuba and South Africa met urgently last weekend at Mount Etjo. It produced a declaration which we strongly support. That set up a process for restoring the ceasefire and putting the United Nations plan back in being by setting up a mechanism for monitoring SWAPO assembly and withdrawal to Angola. Our embassies in Capetown and Luanda and the British liaison office in Windhoek are active in supporting the implementation of that Mount Etjo declaration.
It would be wrong to pretend that there are no problems ; some of them we have heard about tonight. But let us not forget that the arrangements to assist with this withdrawal exercise could not have been prepared in advance because such arrangements would never have been necessary if we had not had the movement by SWAPO over the border from Angola into northern Namibia on 1 April in contravention of the United Nations plan.
Column 1153That incursion was the root cause of many of the problems that we have since seen. It is now vital that SWAPO should withdraw north of the 16th parallel in Angola, that its bases there should be monitored by the Angolans, as previously agreed, and by UNTAG, and that all sides should show restraint.
That brings me to an important matter raised by the hon. Member for Brent, South and to a question he asked me yesterday. We believe that not only must SWAPO return north of the 16th parallel and its forces be under effective supervision, but that South African forces, too, must return to the position of 31 March--that is, to be confined to base and to be monitored by UNTAG : even-handed completely. The declaration at Mount Etjo envisaged SWAPO reporting to UNTAG, but there was also provision in the declaration for a South African presence at the assembly points, and indeed for the Angolans to be present at the seven of nine assembly points which are on the border. We would naturally expect that the South African defence force and the south-west African police presence could not be on such a scale or deployed in such a way as to inhibit SWAPO reporting there. We were also concerned about reports that the security forces wished to interrogate or even to photograph or fingerprint SWAPO forces. We made our concerns known to the South African Government at a high level. The House will have noted that since then the South African Foreign Minister has said that any questions about the identity of those reporting to assembly points will be asked by UNTAG, and he has confirmed that UNTAG will supervise the agreed procedure.
Mr. Pik Botha has also stated that there is no question of SWAPO members being interrogated and that the South African Government would not object to an extension of the period for SWAPO members to present themselves to the assembly points. It is also important that members of SWAPO should not seek to hide their arms in caches and merge themselves into the civilian population in Namibia. Our concern is that all concerned--I repeat, all concerned--must abide by what was agreed at Mount Etjo.
Another important point raised by the hon. Member for Brent, South was about Koevoet. South Africa has been disbanding the Koevoet counter- insurgency units. Certainly, some of them have been absorbed into the south -west African police. He knows that we hold no brief for Koevoet, and in the past we have raised their excesses with the South African Government.
No fewer than 500 United Nations police monitors will now be there alongside the Signals regiment from Britain, and others. Those police monitors deployed in Namibia--an increase of 140 on the 1978 level--will be there to monitor and see exactly what is going on. All the South African police and defence forces will be subject to monitoring under that plan by the observers who are being sent there.
I remind the House that the sooner SWAPO forces withdraw to Angola, the sooner effective police monitoring by the United Nations of the South African forces and police force can begin. It is obvious that the task