HC Deb 06 December 1951 vol 494 cc2530-2
1. Mr. T. Driberg

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations if he will now make a statement on the policy of His Majesty's Government with regard to the chieftainship of the Bamangwato and the return to their own land of Seretse Khama and his wife and Tshekedi Khama.

3. Mr. W. T. Aitken

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations if he can now state what are the Government's intentions regarding the request of Tshekedi Khama for permission to return to the Bamangwato Reserve.

The Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. John Foster)

His Majesty's Government have decided that Tshekedi Khama's private rights in the Bamangwato Reserve should not be restricted for longer than is necessary in the public interest. He has already renounced the Chieftainship; and His Majesty's Government are convinced that the interests of peace in the Reserve demand that he should be excluded from the political life of the tribe. The sooner this exclusion is shown to be effective, and it is His Majesty's Government's intention to make it so, the sooner will it be possible to allow him progressively greater freedom to look after his private interests in the Reserve and ultimately, if all goes well, to let him live there as a private person.

As regards Seretse Khama, the Government intend to adhere to the policy of their predecessors as set forth in the White Paper on the Bechuanaland Protectorate which was presented in March, 1950.

Mr. Driberg

While welcoming the hopes held out to Tshekedi Khama in that answer, may I ask the hon. and learned Gentleman how the interests of peace and justice in the tribe can be served by continuing injustice to Seretse Khama, injustice based essentially on a concession to racial prejudice?

Mr. Foster

I do not accept the underlying assumption in the supplementary question of the hon. Gentleman. The position of Mr. Seretse Khama is very different. It was his own action in following his private inclinations without regard to his public obligations that led to all these difficulties. However, the decision of His Majesty's Government does not preclude revision before the five years have expired.

Mr. Aitken

Will the Under-Secretary of State give an assurance that, although excluded from Bamangwato politics, in view of this man's undoubted ability and high integrity he will be given an opportunity of real service in other directions?

Mr. Foster

Certainly, Sir. His Majesty's Government would like to take advantage of the very outstanding abilities of Mr. Tshekedi Khama.

Mr. Clement Davies

May I ask what is the full meaning of the answer in reference to Tshekedi Khama? Is it the desire and intent of H.M. Government that Tshekedi Khama should return home and dwell freely amongst his own people as a private person and as a farmer; secondly, until that happens, is he to be allowed to go to the area of the Bamangwato tribe and move freely among the people there; and, thirdly, during that time, and at all times, will he have the full protection of H.M. Government?

Mr. Foster

Yes, Sir. The answer to all three parts of the Question is "Yes," providing that time is allowed for the tribe to realise that Tshekedi Khama is not going to enter into political life. In other words, there are two parts to the policy. One is that the tribe should be sure that Tshekedi Khama is not going to take any part, directly or indirectly, in the native administration in the Reserve, and, on the other hand, H.M. Government are very anxious that Tshekedi Khama should go back and live in the Reserve if he shows that co-operation.

Mr. Thomas Reid

May I ask the Minister if he anticipates that there can be any real peace in this tribe unless Seretse Khama is appointed Chief?

Mr. Foster

Yes, Sir; H.M. Government do anticipate that.

Mr. A. Fenner Brockway

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the tribes have declared their very strong opposition to the return of Tshekedi Khama unless Seretse also returns, and that Seretse has indicated that, if he is recognised as Chief, he will do his best to enable Tshekedi Khama to return as well?

Mr. Foster

The policy of the Government, as I have said, is to ensure the return of Tshekedi Khama as soon as possible, provided that he co-operates, as the Government feel sure he will, in not taking any part in political life. On the other hand, the Government feel that, when the tribe realise this, they will withdraw their opposition to Tshekedi Khama going back to the Reserve.

Mr. Brockway

On a point of order. I should like to call attention to a definite matter of urgent public importance—

Mr. Speaker

That has to be done after Questions.