HC Deb 09 November 1977 vol 938 cc642-9
1. Mr. Rifkind

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement on the visit of Field Marshal Lord Carver to Southern Africa.

3. Mr. van Straubenzee

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement on the visit to Rhodesia of the British Resident Commissioner-designate.

9. Mr. Aitken

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the progress of Field Marshal Lord Carver's mission to Rhodesia.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Dr. David Owen)

I will be having detailed discussions with Lord Carver on Thursday when he returns from Africa and there will be a debate in the House on Friday on the Rhodesia Sanctions Order when I hope, Mr. Speaker, that I may be able to catch your eye.

Mr. Rifkind

Does the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary accept that there is in reality no more prospect of integrating the terrorist forces with the Rhodesian security forces than there would be of integrating the IRA with the Royal Ulster Constabulary? Does he not accept that any real prospect of a peaceful settlement must involve concentration on a settlement between the Rhodesian Government and the internal nationalist parties led by Bishop Muzorewa and Mr. Sithole?

Dr. Owen

No, Sir, and I think that that is a rather foolish statement by the hon. Gentleman. If he thinks that this very complex problem can he likened to the other extremely complex problem which is Ireland, he is cheapening both issues.

Mr. van Straubenzee

But will the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary at least not close his mind on the central point raised by my hon. Friend, so that if the noble Lord, upon his return, advises the right hon. Gentleman that some movement in this direction is necessary, the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary will make it quite clear that he will be receptive to advice in that sense?

Dr. Owen

I am open-minded about any solution in Rhodesia. I am only too delighted to listen to anyone. I do not have a closed mind. What I have to try to do is bring about a peaceful negotiated solution. That is extremely difficult when one is faced by two forces, neither of which has won or lost and both of which have to be brought together somehow to a ceasefire.

Mr. Aitken

Will the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary say what progress Lord Carver or anyone else has made in reconciling the very serious differences among, on the one hand, those African leaders with internal political support—namely, Bishop Muzorewa and Mr. Sithole—and, on the other, those African leaders with external support, namely, Mr. Nkomo and Mr. Mugabe? Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that until those differences are reconciled there is really not much hope of any solution?

Dr. Owen

One of the things that has bedevilled the whole problem of Rhodesia is the divisions of opinion between the nationalist leaders. There are at least four people who could be thought of as presidential candidates among the black nationalist leaders. It is not quite as simple as to speak of external and internal support. Mr. Nkomo has an active party inside Rhodesia. He is not himself inside Rhodesia. Similarly, both Bishop Muzorewa and Mr. Sithole claim—and I have little doubt that they claim it accurately—that they have supporters among those fighting in the liberation forces. But it is not as simple as to say that it is an internal and an external situation. Both those nationalist leaders, Bishop Muzorewa and Mr. Sithole, constantly claim that they have support among the liberation forces. I think this is true.

Mr. Faulds

As the disbandment of Smith's so-called security forces is one of the major problems, does not my right hon. Friend agree that following the dismissal, the pay-off or what-the-hell of the white officers of the Smith regime, the formation of contingents containing both the African forces of Smith's regime and the independent liberation forces forged together under Commonwealth officers might be a way to solve this problem, as I have already suggested in correspondence?

Dr. Owen

I have no doubt that some form of integration of the forces will be necessary when Zimbabwe reaches independence. That is what we are talking about when we are talking about the Zimbabwe national army. All I can say to those right hon. and hon. Members who find the concept difficult—there must be very few people on either side of the House who do not find it difficult, and I do not claim that it will be easy—is that that sort of reconciliation has to take place if those groups of people who are currently fighting each other are to live in peace in Zimbabwe. This is part of the reconciliation that has to take place in an independent country.

Mr. Thorpe

I think that most hon. Members will prefer to discuss these matters in a rather more lengthy way on Friday, but does the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary agree that, unless the differing warring factions are integrated, whatever settlement is subsequently arrived at will be an open invitation for a subsequent civil war if Angola is any experience to go by, and that therefore integration is absolutely crucial to the success of any future constitutional settlement?

Dr. Owen

I very much agree with the right hon. Gentleman. The fact of the matter is that the threat of civil war after independence is every bit as much a part of my anxieties as is a breakdown of law and order during a transitional period. One cannot just take a short-term solution and get to independence. The House would not thank me, nor would the Rhodesian people, if the end result of all this was an independent Zimbabwe wracked by civil war, as has happened in Angola. I hope that when the House discusses this it will look at the complexities of the issue and look, for instance, at the parallels which exist—Angloa is one—where outside forces have come in and taken part, in addition to a civil war.

Several Hon. Members

rose

Mr. Speaker

We shall return to this subject on Question No. 8.

8. Mr. Whitehead

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the progress of the constitutional talks on Rhodesia.

16. Mr. Cronin

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the situation with regard to Rhodesia.

17 Mr. Brotherton

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about Rhodesia.

Dr. Owen

The debate on the renewal of the Southern Rhodesia Act 1965 on Friday 11th November will, I hope, offer a full opportunity to the House to hear a report on the discussions which have taken place on the transitional and post-independence constitution in Rhodesia.

Mr. Whitehead

As the Zambians are reported in today's papers to be urging Lord Carver to drop proposals for elections under the interim administration of Zimbabwe, could not the Government reaffirm that such elections, held under universal suffrage as speedily as possible, are the best possible estimate of the relative strengths of all those who must later work together and collaborate for a free and prosperous Zimbabwe?

Dr. Owen

An absolutely essential ingredient in the Anglo-United States agreement is that it would put to the people of Rhodesia the choice of who was going to be the President and who was going to form the Government in an independent Zimbabwe. While the nationalist leaders remain as divided as they are, I can see no other way of resolving the problem of the leadership. We therefore stand firmly by the proposition that there must be lair elections during the transitional period.

Mr. Cronin

Does my right hon. Friend agree that his basic package of proposals —proposals which are sound and widely accepted—is to some extent endangered by multiple unreasonable and prejudiced attempts to modify it? Will he take a rather harder line on this and, in particular, resist any suggestion that transitory security arrangements should be handled either by the guerrillas or by the present white Rhodesian forces?

Dr. Owen

One of the crucial aspects of the arrangements for the maintenance of law and order is that the liberation forces and the Rhodesian defence forces should come under the command of the Resident Commissioner-designate and, therefore, have a unified command structure during the transitional period. As to the other matter, I very much agree with my hon. Friend. We can look at modifications and at widening the areas of agreement—I very much accept that—but once we start to unscramble the package we get hack to the situation that Rhodesia has always been in and in which all initiatives have been made: that everyone wants to take that which he can agree on and to reject that which he cannot accept. There will never be total agreement about a negotiated settlement. What we must do is produce a fair and reasonable compromise, and the White Paper is an attempt to do that.

Mr. Brotherton

Does not the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary agree that the chances of a settlement would be very much easier if Her Majesty's Government stopped giving aid to those who help and succour terrorists who murder and destroy black and white Rhodesians alike?

Dr. Owen

I agree that if we were to be giving that sort of aid, we would▀×

Mr. Brotherton

We are.

Dr. Owen

I do not know to what the hon. Gentleman is referring, but I suspect that it is the aid programme to Mozambique. I believe that that aid programme will not in any way succour guerrilla fighters inside Mozambique, and the way the projects are organised and the way that the aid programme is run to that country will ensure that.

Mozambique, Zambia and Botswana—all three countries bordering on Rhodesia —are crucial to any settlement. One of the points of any ceasefire that will have to be negotiated is that the guerrilla camps existing in those countries will have to be wound up. It is no good having a ceasefire and a transitional period in independence if those guerrilla camps simply stay there. Therefore, the support of those particular three front-line Presidents is of great importance in any settlement. I have not found President Machel unreceptive to the basic ingredients that we have put forward in our settlement package.

Mr. Grocott

Is it not the case that the overwhelming evidence from other countries in Africa has been that, whenever independence has had to be attained by means of an armed struggle, any settlement has to be primarily with those who fought in the liberation movement and not with those who tried to seek a settlement internally?

Dr. Owen

We must recognise the realities of power in any settlement, yet we must also preserve a situation in which the new Government of the country is genuinely the Government of the majority. That is extremely difficult to do. The Organisation of African Unity has hitherto made an important distinction. It recognises the Patriotic Front in relation to the armed struggle, but it recognises all nationalist leaders in relation to a fair election as being possible leaders of a future Zimbabwe. That is a distinction that I hope the Organisation of African Unity will maintain.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

Will the Foreign Secretary give information to the House, further to that which he gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Brotherton), showing, why he attaches so much importance to the views and opinions of the front-line Presidents when these people run neither efficient nor democratic societies, when the factions represented by Mr. Sithole and Bishop Muzorewa are highly critical of the importance placed upon the frontline Presidents, and when Mr. Sithole and Bishop Muzorewa represent perhaps 80 per cent. of black Rhodesians?

Dr. Owen

It is important to recognise that the essential factor is the people who will live in an independent Zimbabwe.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

That is the 80 per cent., is it not?

Dr. Owen

That is the hon. Gentleman's estimation of the percentage. They are the people who must elect their Government. But, in achieving a negotiated settlement, it would be a foolish man who thought that one could ignore either South Africa or the front-line Presidents. I assure the House that I had no wish to spend my summer holidays touring round African States. I did so because I believed that that was necessary if a settlement was to be secured.

The front-line Presidents are important for the reasons that I gave on the security issue. They are important, too, for the influence that they can bring to bear on the differing nationalist leaders and for their own genuine commitment to wanting a peaceful settlement, and their fear, of which they make no secret, of the danger of civil war in a post-independence situation.

Mr. Ioan Evans

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the illegal régime in Rhodesia is being sustained by South Africa? What international action, through the United Nations, is to be taken against South Africa? The illegal régime in Rhodesia is condemned by the whole world with the exception of South Africa and some hon. Members on the Opposition Benches.

Dr. Owen

It is, of course, impossible totally to separate these issues into packages, but one of the matters that I made clear in the spring was that we would not make trade-offs or deals with South Africa, and that we would treat Rhodesia, Namibia and the South African internal situation as separate issues. That has some advantages now, because in the Security Council recently we were dealing with South Africa's internal decisions as a separate matter.

In fairness, I must tell the House that on Rhodesia, and to a considerable extent on Namibia, the South African Government have been prepared to discuss the parameters of a negotiated settlement because they believe that it would be best for Rhodesia and Namibia for an internationally acceptable solution to he achieved. The South African Government have been helpful towards obtaining those ends. I have maintained my disagreements with them about their internal policies—very strong disagreements—and there has never been any secret between us that we disagree about those issues.

Mr. John Davies

Does the Foreign Secretary realise that there is a widespread suspicion in the area that it is the purpose of the Government, despite the expressions in the White Paper, to seek to impose a solution upon the Rhodesian people discriminately, preferring the Patriotic Front to the proper course of democratic elections in Rhodesia itself? Will the right hon. Gentleman take this opportunity absolutely to renounce any inclination of this kind, in order to silence those suspicions?

Dr. Owen

Only a fool would deny that there are not those suspicions. I do not think that they are as widespread as the right hon. Member suggests, but they are certainly there, and they are real. I take this opportunity, as I have on many other occasions, to say that we have no intention whatever of imposing a solution. We cannot do so. I have always made clear to the House the limitations of the Government's power in this situation. We can try to produce a negotiated settlement and we can help bring people together, but in the last analysis they have to want to come together. If they will not come together, if they will not compromise, we shall not get a negotiated settlement and the conflict will continue. I have never made any secret to this House of the difficulties which confront the Government. However, we stand firmly by the White Paper.