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Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, West) : Does my hon. Friend agree that the battle of Cuita Cuanavale makes the case for sanctions? Because of the arms embargo, the aged Mirage of the South African Government was out- gunned by the MIGs of the Angolan Government.

Mr. Grant : My hon. Friend is correct. It was clear during those battles that the South Africans could not match the firepower of the Cubans and Angolans.

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It is important to understand the complexity of South African society. Few of those who have not visited the country can appreciate it. I had only a slight taste of it in a few weeks, but I know that it is an extremely complex situation.

At the moment, South Africa is very volatile. It is not unlike a boiling pot, because to take off the lid suddenly without turning down the fire would be to risk the escape of a cloud of steam that would scald all those people--of whatever colour--who are gathered around it. The task that faces Mr. Mandela is to turn down that fire so that successful negotiations can ensue. It is precarious and challenging, and such an undertaking needs the full understanding of hon. Members here.

I have no doubt whatsoever that the Mr. Mandela whom I was privileged to meet is equal to that task. He exudes a strength, calmness and authority that is remarkable in a man who has been incarcerated for 27 years. He is astonishingly without bitterness, but remains standing full square behind the principles for which he has sacrificed so much--the principles of a non -racial and democratic South Africa, in which black and white people alike can share equally. It is clear from what he has said since his release that he is a responsible and wise statesperson, who is now ready to play his part in steering South Africa into the future, and who knows full well how perilous and inflammable the scenerio is.

What, then, should be our role in Britain if we genuinely wish to see a peaceful transition towards democracy in South Africa? I believe that we should see ourselves as outsiders--as outsiders with a grave responsibility, given the sorry contribution that this country has made to prolong the system of apartheid, but as outsiders nevertheless. We should not seek to inflame the situation by raising red herrings about the danger of a white backlash or by raising the bogey of the armed struggle.

If there is danger of such a backlash, Mr. de Klerk is well aware of it, and it is something that he is well able to handle. Mr. de Klerk does not seem to have been surprised by the ANC's continuing commitment to the armed struggle, and nor should the British Government. It is a weapon that the ANC must hold in reserve in the negotiations that lie ahead in the event of there being no movement to dismantle the institutions of apartheid, which have themselves perpetrated so much violence against the mass of South African people.

The Prime Minister seeks to make petty distinctions between different kinds of sanctions. She talks, for example, about voluntary sanctions, but to the man or the woman on the omnibus in Soweto or on the train going into Johannesburg, those distinctions do not mean very much. To them, the fact that the British Prime Minister talks about the removal of sanctions is a matter of great anxiety and grief. They are not concerned about, and they are not aware of, the ramifications of discussions with the Commonwealth leaders or the European Community. Frankly, they could not care less, but they are concerned when they see what they believe to be a sell-out by Britain.

Nor must we rush to destabilise the position, as the Prime Minister has done, by pressing for the removal of sanctions. The demand worldwide is that sanctions should stay until the pillars of apartheid are removed. To remove sanctions now would be the height of irresponsibility. It would strengthen the hand of the South African

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Government against the mass of the people who have already given so much to reach this position, and who are already at a disadvantage in any future negotiations.

If the British Government really want to find a way forward, they should be helping to ensure parity in the capability of both sides to negotiate. It seems that the Prime Minister wishes to see the mass democratic movement going naked into the negotiating chamber. Mr. Mandela and the mass democratic movement are already at a gross disadvantage. They do not have the backing of a vast army of civil servants or all the paraphernalia of diplomacy that the South African Government clearly have. They have few resources. Their key personnel are scattered throughout the world, subsisting in impoverished exiled communities.

Our Government should therefore compare their attitude to South Africa with their attitude to the restoration of democracy in eastern Europe. There, they have given £25 million to assist the process of democracy. They should therefore come to the House with similar proposals for funding the democratic forces in South Africa. Britain has done enough damage in South Africa. Let it now be bold and positive. Let us put our money behind all that we have mouthed about supporting the oppressed people in South Africa. The soundest investment that we can make is to ensure that, when there are future negotiations, those people are properly prepared to play their full part.

5.25 pm

Mr. George Gardiner (Reigate) : The tragedy of today's debate is that it has arisen out of such a negative Opposition motion. After paying their tribute to Nelson Mandela, which is hardly a matter of dissent in the House, and after some rather grudging acknowledgments to the moves that President de Klerk has made, the motion concentrates almost entirely on sanctions policy which, I submit, is irrelevant to the opportunities opening up in South Africa for dismantling the apartheid system.

Sanctions pressure has never been particularly welcome to the black population of South Africa. I have made many visits to South Africa, including a couple last year, and have always taken all the opportunities presented of talking to leading blacks. I have never found them pleading with me to urge my Government to impose more sanctions.

Mr. Nellist : Who paid?

Mr. Gardiner : I have never been asked to urge others to cease buying the products that provide those people in South Africa with their livelihoods. I have never been urged to ask British industrialists to disinvest and to sell their companies' equity in South Africa to white South African groupings.

Mr. Nellist : Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Gardiner : However, they have talked about and urged the need for improvements in their schools--[H on. Members :-- "Give way."]

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker) : Order.

Mr. Nellist rose --

Mr. Gardiner : No, I am not giving way to the hon. Gentleman.

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Mr. Nellist : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Gardiner : They have pleaded with me and talked about increasing investment in their schools--

Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. I have a point of order to hear. I call Mr. Nellist.

Mr. Nellist : Would it not have been more correct, in terms of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if the hon. Gentleman, who has admitted correctly that he has been to South Africa twice, had at least shared with the rest of us what it has just taken us a few seconds to look up in the Register of Members' Interests? He was paid on one occasion by the South African coal industry and on the second by the International Freedom Foundation.

Mr. Gardiner : I should have thought that the whole point of that was served by the declaration made in the register. I return to the point that I was making before that bogus point of order. When speaking to blacks in South Africa and to the leaders of their communities there, I have not found them speaking on the matters that Opposition Members seem to expect. Their concern has been about investment in their schools and clinics and, above all, in jobs for themselves and their families. Of course they have always said that they wanted to see the release of Nelson Mandela, not necessarily because they share all the objectives of the ANC but because they saw him as a symbol of the black condition in South Africa. Of course, they looked forward to having a vote in the future towards the government of their country, but they do not want that on an empty belly.

We have heard the arguments today, and on earlier occasions in this House, between Conservative Members who think that our opposition to a sanctions policy has helped to speed the process of reform in South Africa. We have heard the arguments advanced by the Opposition who claim that sanctions policy has achieved that. That is an argument of historical interest but, quite honestly, it has become arcane. It reminds me of the arguments that I witnessed when I was a student in the 1950s, when undergraduates debated among themselves which side they would have supported in the Spanish civil war if they had been alive at the time. History has left such questions way behind. I make one concession to the Opposition on sanctions. There is no doubt that sanctions have had some effect. When I was in South Africa in February I paid a return visit to Mamelodi, a well run black township to the north of Pretoria. I spoke to the mayor of Mamelodi, a gentleman whom I met previously, and asked him what effect sanctions had had on his area. He said, "Well, Mr. Gardiner, I can only put it this way--last year in this town we had an unemployment rate of 9 per cent. This year we have 22 per cent." That has been the outcome of the sanctions policy.

If sanctions have had any effect, they have impoverished the black population. Evidence of that is crystal clear if one looks at the opinion polls, conducted by a range of independent organisations, of black opinion in South Africa. They have found that between 70 and 80 per cent. of the black population do not want to see further sanctions imposed against them.

Mr. Quentin Davies (Stamford and Spalding) : Does my hon. Friend agree that in the light of the evidence that he has just adduced, and the other evidence available to us, it

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is inconceivably two-faced and duplicitous-- if that is not an unparliamentary expression--for the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) to allege in his speech that it is disgraceful that British companies create unemployment in South Africa and, two seconds later, urge divestment by British companies and speak in favour of sanctions?

Mr. Deputy Speaker : If I heard the hon. Gentleman correctly, he said that the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) was duplicitous.

Mr. Davies : I was referring to the words that he spoke, not to his character.

Mr. Deputy Speaker : If the hon. Gentleman says things that reflect on the integrity and character of a right hon. Member, he should withdraw his remarks.

Mr. Davies : I withdraw my remarks entirely. They were intended as a reflection on the internal logic of the right hon. Gentleman's speech.

Mr. Deputy Speaker : I assume that the hon. Gentleman is making an unqualified withdrawal.

Mr. Gardiner : I agree entirely with the sentiments expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Stamford and Spalding (Mr. Davies). When it comes to discussing sanctions and whether they should be continued, I refer to the words uttered by Chief Buthelezi at the end of last week :

"Blacks see the international community being brutally unconcerned about both the wishes and the well-being of the victims of apartheid."

I can only hope that those words are heeded by the Ministers who will be congregating in Dublin next week.

All hon. Members welcome the process that has been begun by President de Klerk. It is a challenge to the whites in South Africa, to the blacks, to the African National Congress to make a suitable response to that initiative by dropping its arguments in favour of an arms struggle, and to other groups. I referred to Chief Buthelezi and the Inkatha movement, and there are others. It presents a challenge to us to do all that we can to encourage negotiated reforms and to help secure the wellbeing of blacks in the process.

As the reform process became stalled under the previous president, blacks managed to obtain and build up for themselves an economic clout in the fast expanding informal sector of the economy. One has only to go to South Africa to see the black taxis, which we would call mini buses, and which are the fastest growing industry in the country. Provision shops are being run from back rooms of houses, and building materials are being supplied from back yards. There is no lack of enterprise among the black community.

Mrs. Currie : I am interested in what my hon. Friend says. Does he agree that tourism would be a good way of encouraging the sort of developments that he has mentioned, and would provide employment? Am I right in thinking that tourism is one of the sanctions that still operates and is quite effective? Does he agree that there is something not quite right about hon. Members,

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particularly Opposition Members, being tourists and going on jaunts to South Africa and then deciding that the rest of us should not be able to do so?

Mr. Gardiner : I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. The Government accepted a voluntary discouragement of tourism. I am glad to say that it has not had a great deal of effect because tourism provides a great number of jobs for the black community in South Africa. What South Africa needs above all else to coincide with negotiations on its constitutional future is investment in industries large and small, with all the spin-offs in the townships and the informal sector. I am glad that the British Government have seen the need for that and are raising the voluntary curbs on investment. I applaud that.

I urge my right hon. and hon. Friends to switch much more into the positive vein and go all out to encourage investment to help South Africa along the way. That will provide a foundation for the new vision that is opening up in that country. It will ensure that when all Africans get the vote, as I am sure they will, they will inherit a meaningful economic foundation to enable them to use their vote in the most responsible way.

5.36 pm

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North) : It is extremely difficult in this short but welcome debate to know where to start, where to finish and what to put in the middle. It would be a good idea to start with the Government's amendment. In their speeches, Government Members seek to make us accept that their intentions are bona fide, that we are all working for the same objectives, and that there are no real differences between us or about what the end product should be, but minor differences about how we get there.

The Government's amendment says that they welcome the move towards a non- racial constitution. That jars with what the Government did at the United Nations General Assembly last December. They gave their assent to a wider- ranging document suggesting what the conditions for negotiations should be and what the new South Africa should be like. No sooner had they signed it- -a most dangerous thing--than they entered a reservation. Britain was the only country in the United Nations to enter a reservation that it was against the possibility of a new constitution for South Africa based on a non-racial voters roll. What hypocrisy there is in their amendment that they welcome the moves towards a non-racial democracy, after having entered such a reservation at the United Nations. It is hardly surprising that we find it difficult to accept that we are all working on the same side and that it is only a matter of differences of approach.

The second best starting point for my speech is last Sunday, at 2.05 pm, on that historic occasion when Nelson Mandela walked out of prison. It is difficult to describe the excitement, interest, exuberance and near euphoria felt when he came out of prison. He has not walked into freedom, because the pillars of apartheid remain. He does not have a vote, he cannot live where he likes and there are a number of things that he cannot do. The state of emergency remains and there are still many political prisoners yet to be released. Paradoxically, Nelson Mandela is a much freer man than President de Klerk.

I fully accept that President de Klerk has made significant moves. He went much further on 2 February than I had expected, and I welcome that. I welcome the

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unbanning of the ANC, the Pan-Africanist Congress and the South African Communist party. I welcome the unbanning of all the other organisations previously restricted.

The prospect of negotiations, or a real dialogue to freedom, is a wonderful thing. The sad thing is that it did not happen 20 or 30 years ago. The suffering during that time has been enormous. What a different country South Africa would be today if only the white Government of South Africa had recognised that they had to negotiate and bring about a peaceful transition. Many tragedies could have been avoided if there had been decisive action.

We are told that we should look not to the past but to the future. We all have a tremendous hope for the future, but the lessons that we have learnt from the past must govern and guide our future actions. I remember, and I am sure that it is in the memory of most hon. Members, the long process of the independence of Namibia. It is 12 to 15 years since the South African Government accepted the principles of UN resolution 435 and the principle of negotiation along the lines of the United Nations plan for that independence to come about, as it will do on 21 March. The South African Government used every dilatory and delaying tactic in the book, but South Africa does not have a time scale of 12, 15 or 20 years to make some real progress. We have sometimes spoken in the past, perhaps too glibly, about the last chance and the last window of opportunity. But if this chance is allowed to slip away, the future of South Africa will be too dreadful to contemplate. That is why we must keep up the pressure. That is why we must ensure that, until the process of change has really become irreversible, the pressure cannot be lifted.

I accept that there is a genuine difference of opinion about sanctions, although not all my hon. Friends agree. When the sanctions argument started, there was a great deal of discussion on the Left, never mind between the Left and the Right or between both sides of the House, about whether imposing sanctions was the right policy. We must remember that the call for sanctions came first from the people of South Africa, who said that, if we could not help them in any other way, we should help them through sanctions. I am not saying that sanctions have been fully effective or that sanctions alone have brought President de Klerk to his present position. I am not saying that at all. I have too much respect for the people of South Africa, who have fought in many different ways.

I say quite frankly that I have too much respect for the members of Umkhonto we Siswe and for those who have fought apartheid through passive resistance to make that claim for sanctions. But they have had an effect. The right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel) quoted President de Klerk's election manifesto. He could have quoted what he said on 2 February, when he made it clear that South Africa could not stand alone, that it had to be part of the world community and work together with other countries.

What annoys me intensely about the Prime Minister is that she refuses even to give a nod or to genuflect in the slightest way, not just to the effects of sanctions but to the struggle of the people of South Africa. I do not like to personalise things, but the Prime Minister's egocentricity casts her in the role of the wicked fairy in Snow White, asking, "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the cleverest of them all?" Given her hostility to anyone who disagrees with her, it is not surprising that we charge her, as I charge

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her, with colluding in and collaborating with the oppression of the people of South Africa. Why could the Prime Minister not have waited? Why could she not at least have allowed more time to pass before rushing in?

President de Klerk has made many moves, but we should never forget that, when he was elected, he said,

"Do not expect me to negotiate myself out of power."

Yet the negotiations must be precisely about the transfer of power from the minority to all the people of South Africa irrespective of their race, creed or colour. That is a noble vision, which Nelson Madela restated after his release. He restated the steadfast principle which our Prime Minister, for some reason unknown to any of us, cannot stomach.

Many conditions were laid down during the United Nations special session, yet the Government have admitted that not all the conditions have been met. The state of emergency has not been lifted, the Internal Security Act remains in place.

Mr. Gerald Howarth : Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hughes : No, I cannot. This is a short debate and many hon. Members wish to speak.

None of the pillars of apartheid have really been tackled, and President de Klerk has said nothing at all about his vision for the new South Africa, beyond the fact that he wants to see some sort of negotiation and dialogue. We would do well to listen to the people of South Africa, who are saying clearly that they do not want sanctions lifted until the process has become irreversible. It is not yet irreversible. We wish it well, but if we take the pressure off now the temptation will be to delay and delay in the hope that somehow, sooner or later, the white Government of South Africa will not have to take the major step and make the major change that is necessary. I have no doubt that we shall soon see a democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and united South Africa. But what Nelson Mandela has described as the long road to freedom is not yet over. The suffering along that road has been immense and more suffering may yet have to be faced by the people of South Africa before they get their freedom. It has not been in vain in the past and it will not be in vain in the future.

Many people have stood proudly, shoulder to shoulder, with the people of South Africa in their struggle. It is surely not too much to ask even of this Government at this stage to do something positive to end apartheid. We live in historic times. I regret to say that the Government have so far not lived up to their responsibilities. But if we and the Government all act with a sense of history and on the side of freedom, there will be something that we can all enjoy and celebrate.

5.46 pm

Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington) : I confess that I am mystified by the Government's policy on South Africa and I cannot, in all conscience, support it.

One would think from the innocuous words of the Government's amendment to the motion that there was little that was contentious in South Africa apart from some constitutional issues. But the harsh reality of apartheid is ignored. The oppression of 80 per cent. of the population and their deprivation of civil rights is passed over. The internal violence and the destabilisation of the economies of the surrounding countries is completely passed over.

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Nelson Mandela is saluted, but there is no recognition of the fact that his emergence on the scene is the one new factor that gives us all the best chance of solving the big problems and bringing peace, stability and reconciliation to this important but unhappy country. Discussing South Africa without discussing apartheid is completely unrealistic. Apartheid is an evil and wicked doctrine, used by unworthy people to justify the retention of power by the minority, a minority which uses whips and dogs upon those who protest against it, which deprives the majority of the vote and even of the right to live where they choose in their own country--all in the name of racial superiority. It is contemptible. I would have expected better from the Government in condemning it in an amendment of this kind. I accept that the British Government are sincere when they say that they want to get rid of apartheid, but if so, they conceal their intentions well. They applied what few sanctions there are timidly and half-heartedly when under pressure to do so, and they now seek to withdraw them at the first sign that they are working.

The present willingness of the South African Government to come to terms with its African majority has been prompted by a combination of internal and external pressures. Our reluctance to add to that pressure, and even to seek to abate it, may have helped to keep open the lines of communication between Downing street and Cape Town, but it cannot have brought about the South African Government's change of policy. My right hon. and hon. Friends in government are made to look foolish by asserting otherwise. I am not convinced by all the intellectual arguments addressed to us by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary in the House this evening.

I am concerned most about the apparent disregard of our Government for the possibility of establishing friendly relations with a future predominantly African Government of South Africa. Our interests surely lie in being a good friend and an ally of the predominantly black democratic Government that will eventually emerge. In practice, we seem to be writing ourselves out of any role in South Africa's future.

The present South African regime is on its last legs. Nelson Mandela's release has acted as a catalyst, and things will never be the same again. Pray to God that his life will be preserved. As with eastern Europe, the move towards democracy in South Africa is unstoppable. We British have no interest to serve in propping up a doomed regime--only in so far as we can assist in ensuring a peaceful transition to democracy.

Tribalism is a curse in Africa and in South Africa as elsewhere.

Mr. Bowen Wells (Hertford and Stortford) : As in Ireland.

Mr. Stanbrook : In Ireland also, as my hon. Friend says--but it is a particular problem of government in South Africa.

South Africa is fortunate in that there is now someone on the scene who commands loyalty and allegiance across tribal boundaries, with some chance of achieving reconciliation and being able to negotiate on behalf of the majority of Africans in South Africa. Mr. Mandela will, I

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believe, be able to command the overwhelming support of the people of South Africa once it has the smallest chance of becoming a democracy.

We must welcome President de Klerk's initiative, but we should put our money on Nelson Mandela and give him all the help that he needs to bring peace, reconciliation and democracy to a great African country.

5.52 pm

Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley) : I echo the comments already made in welcoming the release of Nelson Mandela as the most significant development in South Africa for many years. I welcome, too, the speech of the state President to the South African Parliament on 2 February. Conservative Members suggested that President de Klerk took a great risk in making that speech. Although I acknowledge that it was a courageous speech, involving some risk, if President de Klerk had chosen not to take that line, there would have been an even greater risk to his Government and the consequences for South Africa might have been so disastrous as to make problems in other parts of the world appear insignificant.

Nelson Mandela, the African National Congress and other organisations have a role to play in achieving a peaceful solution and a free South Africa where all races are equal. One of Nelson Mandela's most significant statements in his speech earlier this week was that he does not want to replace white domination by black domination. Such statements guarantee a role for him in future negotiations.

I had a motion on the Order Paper for Monday that was not reached which concerned the conditions under which the Prime Minister should undertake an official visit to South Africa. The necessity for such a debate was strengthened by the right hon. Lady's recent comments on sanctions and investment. Because of those statements, our country is regarded by blacks and whites in South Africa as the strongest supporter of apartheid outside their country. I have visited South Africa twice and Namibia, and all their peoples, black and white, consider the British Prime Minister and Government as apartheid's strongest supporters. The Prime Minister's statements since President de Klerk's announcement tend to support that view.

The Foreign Secretary and the Government should take due note of the role that Britain must play in South Africa which is of great importance for a number of reasons. We are an important member of the Commonwealth and of the European Community, and we have a special relationship with America and, whether we like it or not, this country's investments and commercial interests in South Africa are also significant. All those factors mean that, when our Prime Minister speaks about South Africa, she does so from a position of greater stature than almost anyone else outside South Africa itself. Although President de Klerk has opened the door, one can never be too sure what lies behind it. At this stage, President de Klerk has not given any indication, or taken any action, to suggest that apartheid will positively be ended in South Africa. Although our policy on relaxing sanctions and investment restrictions should be kept constantly under review, it would be premature to take any action before receiving from the South African Government a positive sign of their intention to abolish apartheid. The country's racial registration legislation

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must be repealed, as it underpins the whole basis of apartheid. The Land Act, the Group Areas Act and other statutes must also be abolished.

A few years ago, the Prime Minister made the important statement that she believed that the form of South Africa's future Government was a matter for the people of South Africa to determine. I share that view, provided that one is talking of all the people of South Africa, including the 80 per cent. who happen to be black. I once asked the Prime Minister whether that statement meant that she accepted a future black majority Government for South Africa, but she weaved and dodged and did not answer. The following day, The Daily Telegraph commented that that was an unanswerable question for the Prime Minister, because although she really wanted to say no, she could not--but she could not say yes either.

At the end of the day, the Prime Minister must recognise that if we want universal suffrage and freedom in South Africa, it will mean a black majority Government. However, that does not mean that we wish to replace white domination by black domination--to use the words of Nelson Mandela. He wants a free South Africa that can use its tremendous benefits to the advantage of all its people.

I recognise that when apartheid ends in South Africa there will be major problems. It will be difficult to ensure that the blacks have opportunities for education, health treatment and many other things. The South African economy may be the strongest in the continent, but it will be unable to bear the burden alone. One positive step that the British Government could take would be to say now that if steps are taken to end apartheid and to give freedom to all the people of South Africa, we will assist the country to tackle the problems of the 80 per cent. of their people who are deprived at present. At this time it would be wrong for the Prime Minister to make an official visit to South Africa, and it is wrong for us to talk of investment and of ending sanctions. We need more positive signs, and we should encourage President de Klerk for the moves that he has made.

Ultimately, I hope that there will be genuine talks around a table--talks that will include Nelson Mandela and other people who are genuinely selected to represent the different races in that country. I hope that we will see a day when apartheid ends, and we can welcome South Africa back into the Commonwealth.

6.1 pm

Mr. Bowen Wells (Hertford and Stortford) : I had planned to say how disappointed I had been by the reactions of the House at Prime Minister's Question Time yesterday, and by the approach of the leader of the Government and of the Leader of the Opposition to the difficult question of South Africa. It seems that the two leading parties are more concerned with fighting about their domestic differences in the House, and in this country, than raising their sights, showing that they have vision and recognising the momentous events that have taken place in South Africa.

The main event has been the release of Nelson Mandela after 27 years of wrongful imprisonment for his political views. That is the vision, and the clue. Through Nelson Mandela we may find a way through the serious difficulties which face the South African people.

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Let me demonstrate that. Back-Bench Members have demonstrated more vision than the leadership. They understand. The hon. Members for Tottenham (Mr. Grant) and for Burnley (Mr. Pike), and my hon. Friends the Members for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner) and for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) showed that understanding in their speeches.

We are concerned with the difficulties that South Africa and its people face--both white and black, with all their many differences. How do we bring the country away from the state of military oppression and racial oppression, from the denial of basic human rights, towards education for black children and jobs for young black men and women, who are denied the professional qualifications that might help them to progress within society? The community is becoming more and more violent as it objects to the violence of the state and the apartheid system. How do we bring the community from violence to a peaceful, democratic and racially equal society?

We have a responsibility, and the sort of behaviour that we saw in the House yesterday at Question Time from both sides of the House, and again today at the beginning of this debate, is unhelpful, insensitive and entirely counter-productive to bringing about a peaceful solution to these difficult problems.

At the age of 70, after 27 years in gaol, Nelson Mandela has to face the problem of trying to bring about a democratic, non-racial society. He still wants to bring about all the things that he said he believed in in the wonderful speech that he made from the dock 27 years ago. His conviction, his authority and the degree to which he has suffered make him the bridge.

To argue about sanctions--whether we should take them off or not, whether they are voluntary or not--is totally irrelevant to the argument. We should be embracing Nelson Mandela's hope for the future, and helping him to bring about the reconciliation that is required in South Africa, but what are we doing? We do not encourage meetings of the African National Congress here. When Mr. Oliver Tambo had to be treated in hospital in Stockholm, the ANC meeting took place in Stockholm, not in London, because the Foreign and Commonwealth Office gave it no encouragement to do so. The FCO has ignored Mr. Tambo, the leader of the ANC, and his wife who lives in Camden and does an important job as a nurse, living in humble surroundings to keep the family together. Reconciliation and meetings should be encouraged to take place in London.

Why do we not respond generously to Nelson Mandela? Why does the Prime Minister not phone him, as President Bush did, and invite him to come here? To my knowledge, the Prime Minister has not rung him. She sent an official from the British Embassy to see him in Cape Town. That does not show any warmth or understanding of the problems, nor does it demonstrate the support that we should be giving Mr. Mandela and all those who seek peace-- people on all sides. We should remember the white community, which is extremely frightened. Its members do not know how they can continue to live under an African majority Government. They have many reasons to be frightened--because of their treatment of black people for so many years, and because of the example that has been set in the north of South Africa and in most African countries. They are not successful communities, and they cannot be described as respecters of human rights or as democracies.

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White people have serious misgivings and fears. Mr. Mandela recognises that, he has said so, and we should respond to that. Of course, the white Government and Mr. de Klerk should be congratulated on the release of Mr. Mandela. As a lifelong opponent of sanctions, I say that we should lift them as soon as it is practically possible. Surely Britain should say, "Come here and discuss it." We should say that we will reinforce the elements within South African society--black or white--to encourage them to form the bridge and to keep the peace.

A prosperous society, in which there would be new investment, and a reduction of unemployment among the black population are more likely to put the pieces together and to go through a peaceful transformation. This is no time to talk about loosening sanctions. It is a time for encouraging and meeting everyone in South Africa who wants peace and the evolution to democracy and equality. That is what I expect the Government to do.

6.8 pm

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