HC Deb 31 March 1976 vol 908 cc1291-4
5. Mr. Alexander Fletcher

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he has taken to safeguard British interests in Southern Africa; and if he will make a statement.

8. Mr. Jessel

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on events in Southern Africa.

Mr. Ennals

Over the past few months we have become increasingly concerned about the dangers of a widening resort to violence in Southern Africa. We have been actively and continuously involved in the search for peaceful solutions to many problems of the region. On the central problem of Rhodesia, I would refer to my right hon. Friend's statement in the House on 22nd March and the replies already given today.

Mr. Fletcher

Is the Minister aware that there is a great deal of anxiety in this country regarding not only trade and investment but the safety of British residents in Southern Africa? It is necessary that the Minister should make a statement to try to allay those anxieties. Does he agree that it is now time for a new British initiative which might bring together the various Heads of State in Southern Africa? Will he particularly bear in mind Sir Winston Churchill's phrase that jaw jaw is better than war war?

Mr. Ennals

This is advice which I am sure the hon. Gentleman and the whole House would wish to give to Mr. Smith, because there is growing concern in this country and in others parts of the world about the consequences of increasing violence in Rhodesia. There is concern if it means the loss of European or African lives, and it is likely to mean both.

The hon. Gentleman suggested that the British Government should now take a new initiative. He will know that last week my right hon. Friend set out the basis of an initiative. The key to open that door is for Mr. Smith, or others who represent those in power in Rhodesia, to say "Yes, we are prepared to discuss a rapid transfer to majority rule". Once that has been said, there is the basis for a British initiative. But to step in with new initiative when those in power in Rhodesia have refused to accept the principle would make no contribution at all.

Mr. Jessel

In the event of majority rule in Rhodesia, what guarantee can the Minister give for the protection of minority rights, whether those minorities be black, white or coloured?

Mr. Ennals

These are matters for what we hope will be a new constitution.

In the proposals which Mr. Nkomo presented on behalf of his section of the ANC, there were some very detailed matters—I will not go into them at the moment, but I shall be happy to do so in correspondence—in which he showed his concern about there being guarantees for the rights of the minority. But none of those proposals will come into effect until Mr. Smith accepts the basic principle.

Mr. Robert Hughes

This Question refers to Southern Africa. Is my right hon. Friend aware that, as in Rhodesia, there are great problems, for instance, regarding the constitutional position of Namibia? Is he aware that many of us for more than a decade have urged the leaders of African national opinion to be patient and to negotiate? It now looks as though that patience is completely exhausted and that, as long as South Africa intends to maintain its grip on Namibia by force, there is no alternative left to the guerrilla movement of SWAPO.

Mr. Ennals

I think that my hon. Friend knows that a greal deal of pressure is being exerted on the South African Government to recognise that time is not on their side in Namibia, as time has not been on the side of the European minority in Rhodesia. The Security Council passed a unanimous resolution, in which we played a part. The countries of the Nine have made their views known directly to the South African Government. The United States, France, and Britain have on two occasions made direct representations. Recently in this House -we have said that the South Africans ought to set themselves a target—perhaps one year—for the independence of that country. I believe that that would relieve much of the pressure which, if not relieved, will also lead to bloodshed.

Mr. Hastings

If the Government feel unable to do anything further in the present circumstances, which seems possible, if the incursions across the Rhodesian border continue to mount, which also seems possible, and if this happens with the support, directly or indirectly, of the Soviet Union, which to my mind is certain, would the Minister care to make an assessment of the not unimportant implications for the British interests and the interests of the free world.

Mr. Ennals

British interests, as defined in a variety of ways, are suffering and will inevitably suffer until there is a proper constitutional settlement in Rhodesia. As regards some of the "ifs" of the hon. Gentleman, it may very well be that unless some sense and some diplomacy are shown soon by leaders in Rhodesia, there will be an increase of the pressures and the incursions over the frontier. I think that they will be Zimbabweans who will be involved in a freedom struggle.

I have had the opportunity of discussing external intervention with the Foreign Minister of Mozambique. Mozambique has made it clear that it is not its wish to see freedom or independence brought to Rhodesia as a result of external intervention. The Mozambique Government have no wish to see foreign forces on their territory, unless they were in some way attacked. So the question has to be put to Mr. Smith: what does he think are the consequences for his country if there is no move to bring about constitutional talks?

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