HC Deb 11 July 1962 vol 662 cc1338-40
34. Mr. Brockway

asked the Lord Privy Seal what representations he has made to the Government of the Republic of South Africa regarding the case of Aaron Diboku, a citizen of Bechuanaland, who was chained at night by his South African employer and escaped home to Bechuanaland with an 8 ft. chain, attached to an 8 lb. 11 inch metal ring, padlocked to his left ankle.

The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. J. B. Godber)

Her Majesty's Ambassador has drawn the attention of the South African Government to the case. A South African named Willcox had already been convicted by a Bechuanaland court of manstealing for the removal of Dikobu from the Protectorate. Her Majesty's Ambassador has suggested that the South African Authorities should consider the possibility of further prosecution for any offence committed in South Africa.

Mr. Brockway

I welcome what has been done, but is it not a scandal that a British citizen and subject should be chained down by his employer in this way and, when he escapes, has to escape with an 8 ft. chain attached to his ankle, as well as a large metal ring. If that had been in a Communist country—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—the very strongest protest would have been made by the Government. Surely, the least that can be asked is that general compensation should be paid to this man for the infamies committed on him.

Mr. Godber

Of course, this is a thoroughly deplorable case, and I agree with the hon. Member entirely on that. The facts arc that the man concerned has been apprehended, the case has been heard, and. he has been convicted on the charge.

Mr. H. Wilson

Do not these sound mealy-mouthed words— "drawing the attention of the Government" and "asking them to consider the possibility of further prosecution", seeing that both sides of the House made very strong representations when British subjects were being held prisoner in Laos only a week or two ago? Cannot we expect the same toughness from the Government towards the South African Government over this treatment of a British subject?

Mr. Godber

There is nothing whatever mealy-mouthed about it at all, and I reject the words. This was a case in which a private individual took the action, not a Government—a very important distinction. The South African authorities did co-operate in the apprehension of the man, and in bringing him to justice.