§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Mr. John Davies (Knutsford)
We must be grateful for the procedures of the House which enable us to raise this evening an issue which to many seems of overwhelming importance. I am glad that we have been able to do this through the good fortune of Mr. Speaker's ballot, particularly since the Opposition have been asking the Government to provide time for a discussion on Rhodesia, which is a most vital matter.
It must be said that, with due care, it looks as if a solution to this longstanding, agonising problem might be just about within our grasp. For that reason I attach enormous importance to the handling of the problem at this juncture by the Government and by others who are directly concerned. Every word counts in handling a most difficult and sensitive situation.
We could reasonably enjoin the Government and those with whom they are in frequent and perhaps daily discussion on the other side of the Atlantic to give careful consideration to the impact of their words on what might be the long desired solution of this long-standing problem. Ill considered remarks, uttered at the whim of the person concerned and in sharp reaction to new circumstances, could be terribly damaging to the outcome of events. I hope, therefore, that there will be no more of them and that there will be only carefully thought-out and carefully reflected statements on this issue.
The story of the Rhodesian problem since UDI is one of countless opportunities which, for one reason or another, have, unfortunately, failed to come to fruition. Today we have before us just such another opportunity, and it is 1078 incumbent upon every one of us to try to ensure that this time it does not fail to come to fruition. We have been in a new phase for the last 18 months. That new phase started with the intervention of Dr. Kissinger in the problem back in the early autumn of 1976. But even since then the problem has been characterised by progressive delay, by late decision and by late conversion to situations which were evolving, and as a result there is once again a grave risk of missing an opportunity to solve the problem.
That comment is true of the conduct of the Geneva conference. I acknowledge that during 1977 the Foreign Secretary put an immense amount of effort into seeking to move towards a solution, but I think that that comment is also true of the handling of the so-called Anglo-American initiative. It is also, unfortunately, dismally true of the response that has been given to the other major breakthrough in the whole situation, which was the acceptance by Ian Smith last November of the principle of universal suffrage.
We now have the agreement reached in Salisbury on 3rd March which again offers just the opportunity to which I have referred. Does it hold within itself the seeds of a solution to a long-standing problem which is regarded by every hon. Member as one of the greatly desirable aims for this Parliament to achieve? How blessed it would be to start the new Session of Parliament without the incubus of the uncertainty and irresolution of the Rhodesia problem hanging round our necks. It is important to try to find a solution to it.
I think that the immediate grudging and discouraging attitude that has been the character of the first reactions to the agreement, both on the Government side and on the other side of the Atlantic, has done poor service to the hope that I express. If one looks in all fairness at the agreement reached in Salisbury, who can say that it offends in any way the Six Principles which both sides of the House accepted as necessary to bring about a true and lasting agreement? Who can honestly say that the agreement, which provides for the whole motion towards majority rule by an orderly process and election, with the necessary intervention of an interim Government, 1079 and with the serious endeavour to seek to protect minority interests—which has always been accepted, and which is embodied in the Six Principles to which We all adhere—offends in terms of its relationship to the principles to which we have committed ourselves absolutely?
I realise that we have yet to see whether the proposals are acceptable to the people as a whole, as provided for in the Fifth Principle, but to some degree the favourable presumption that there is of that should be given some weight. How can anybody genuinely reject the apparent spontaneity of what I believe to have been the largest meeting ever experienced in Salisbury following the return there of Bishop Muzorewa?
§ Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that there are conflicting reports about the attendance at that meeting. Does he accept that one newspaper says that the meeting was far smaller than the last occasion on which Bishop Muzorewa returned to Salisbury? A lot depends on the newspaper that one reads. I am referring to The Times. Conservative Members may scoff at The Times if they wish, but that is what it says.
§ Mr. Davies
I say this in the spirit of trying to move towards a solution. In view of the obvious discrepancies in reports, I took the opportunity of consulting what I considered to be a reliable source of information in Salisbury. I am assured that the meeting was the largest political gathering ever experienced in the country, and that it took place in weather conditions which were little better than our own yesterday, which might have been regarded as a discouragement.
If we are looking not for unfavourable comment but for a presumption of favourable effort, which surely must be our will, what we have in front of us offers at least the encouragement to adopt a presumption in favour rather than against. I find it hard to understand why there has been no offer of help to bring the agreement to fruition. There has been grudging acceptance, with the Prime Minister saying that the proof of the pudding is in the eating and, if the pudding proves edible, we shall have to digest 1080 it, with the Foreign Secretary saying much the same in different words.
What is needed is a genuine extension of help to make the arrangements stick and to make them work. We could offer genuine and useful assistance to those who seek what I believe to be the right objective.
I am pleased to see the Foreign Secretary here. I have asked him many times why there is no mission in Salisbury and why we do not have there people of the necessary stature and ability to be able to tell him of the depth of feeling of people in Rhodesia. We have no such people in Salisbury and we have to rely on incidental advisers as to the validity of various claims.
In the last few days, private talks have taken place in Pretoria between British Government officials and people from Rhodesia, but they should not have been necessary. We should have had people in Rhodesia in whom we had confidence to guide and advise us in a very difficult situation.
I realise, no less than anyone else, the need to achieve ceasefire before moving on. That is highly desirable, but no ceasefire is worth buying at the price of surrender to those who exercise the fire power. If a ceasefire can be achieved only by abandoning the course of reference to the people in order to bring about peace, we have hardly lived up to the principles to which we have attached ourselves.
Much the same must be said of our attitude to the acceptance of leaders of the Patriotic Front to participation in the agreement. They cannot exercise a veto and, although the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have emphasised that they would not be prepared to see the Patriotic Front holding a veto, in a sense it is already doing that by virtue of realising that the requirement to have the Patriotic Front involved is so great that there is a sword of Damocles effect on the agreement which has been achieved after so much difficulty.
The need to persuade those concerned has not been adequately undertaken by the Government. Before the Foreign Secretary went to Malta, I urged on him the need to use that exceptional opportunity to press upon Mr. Nkomo and Mr. Mugabe how unwise it was to believe 1081 that this matter could be settled only by resort to force and how necessary it was to make them believe that, at some stage, they must submit themselves in a proper and orderly way to the process of democratic choice, and that that, in its way, could best be undertaken within the framework that was painfully being hammered out. In the event, the Foreign Secretary did little in exercising his power of persuasion at that time and Mr. Nkomo and Mr. Mugabe were not persuaded.
There has been a similar situation in regard to activities and discussion with Zambia. That country is having the utmost economic difficulties and needs a peaceful settlement of the Rhodesian problem. It could get that settlement if the agreement were participated in, agreed and carried to fruition by all concerned. But can anyone imagine that the interests of Zambia would be served if the internal settlement, so-called in Salisbury, were swept away and if there was a persistence to try to procure the result through a Patriotic Front offensive? On the contrary, that would perpetuate indefinitely all the economic problems with which that country is faced and which hon. Members on both sides are anxious to relieve.
§ Mr. Ioan Evans (Aberdare)
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that there will not be a peaceful settlement in Rhodesia unless those forces outside are brought into the negotiations? Why has the right hon. Gentleman moved away from the Anglo-American initiative, which could well form the basis for a settlement, and about which all parties at one stage seemed to be moving towards agreement? Why do we not go back to that initiative which has the support of the Security Council of the United Nations?
§ Mr. Davies
Unfortunately, it has the support of virtually no one else. It is only quite recently that Mr. Nkomo has even brought himself to discuss the Anglo-American initiative. Previously he rejected it out of hand, as did Mr. Mugabe and others in Rhodesia. The chance of using something which was universally rejected as a vehicle for achievement seems already totally forestalled.
But here we have something which, for the first time, unites what are believed to be those who enjoy majority support from both sides in that country. Surely the 1082 argument must lie in favour of trying to support to finality the arrangement. The terrible impression that has been given is that we are in some way committed to a solution which would only, I fear, persist in maintaining the economic problems of Zambia.
I should like to refer to the recent Security Council debate. All people who are genuine believers in the principles of democracy were deeply concerned at what happened in that debate. It cannot but be said how unacceptable it appears when we have the spectacle of a world organisation, committed in the most solemn way by its articles to the procedure of settlement by peace, prepared to listen to the men of war rather than to the men of peace.
I well understand all the difficulties and all the sensitivity of African relationships. I understand how important it may be not to exacerbate tensions in order to induce great difficulties, particularly with those with whom we have large and extensive commercial dealings. But we are dealing with the life and future of a whole people. That is really what is at stake. No considerations of self-interest should be allowed to supervene in order to make us in any way a conspirator in something which seemed to me to be totally unworthy of the United Nations in its treatment of the issues before it. The act of abstention is something which I regard as a blot on our history in the United Nations. The French have an expression which says that the absent are always wrong. On this occasion I fear that we were wrong.
There is still time to try to achieve a solution within the terms of the arrangements which have been proposed. But this requires the Government now forth-rightly and determinedly—without forswearing their pursuit of a ceasefire and absolutely committing themselves to an agreement which yet has to receive the full acceptance of the people as a whole—to stand up and try to support that arrangement in order to bring it to a finality, which will be a great relief to us all.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Dr. David Owen)
It may be of some help if I intervene now, if for no other reason than 1083 to bring the House up to date on some of the activities of the past week. I very much welcome the opportunity provided by this debate and the good fortune in the ballot of the right hon. Member for Knutsford (Mr. Davies) which has given us the chance before the House rises for the Easter Recess to discuss an issue which all of us who have been studying it—there are many hon. Members on both sides of the House who have taken a close interest in it—will welcome, and it is in that spirit that I welcome it.
First, let me report on what has been happening over the last fortnight. I thought it right that I should meet Secretary Vance and, as it turned out, President Carter to review the situation to decide how we should proceed after the announcement of the results of the Salisbury talks. We agreed that the best response we could make to this situation would be still to strive to bring all the parties of the dispute together. I know that that is not easy, and we have no illusions that it will be. We have sought to hold a meeting as soon as possible and to achieve a forum to which everyone would be able to come.
We noted that there was a surprising degree of common ground on some essential principles, and it is important for me first to map out that common ground.
It is common ground that Zimbabwe should become independent in 1978. The formal position of some is that it should be no later than 31st December, but many would welcome Zimbabwe coming to independence before that, and they will push for that. It is common ground that the Government should be elected by universal adult suffrage with votes at the age of 18. It is common ground—though here it is more difficult to achieve a definition—that elections should be held in conditions which will permit them to be conducted freely and fairly.
These issues, particularly the first two, were not common ground at any of the previous conferences, and certainly not in Geneva. So I do not believe that what we are trying to do in bringing all the parties in the dispute together is merely to reconvene the Geneva conference.
§ Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South-West)
Does the right hon. Gentle- 1084 man agree that he is in effect saying that the internal settlement should be totally put aside and that there should be a new meeting and a new settlement, and that all that has been achieved in Salisbury after months of negotiations to which the Patriotic Front was invited should be forgotten?
§ Dr. Owen
That intervention shows why it is unwise to give way early in a speech.
This is a rather fundamental point and we may have to consider it. One of the central problems is how to bring all the sides together. It is perfectly obvious that if we were to ask all the sides to come together and immediately to disavow their previously held positions we would not get a meeting of all the parties. I have made it abundantly clear and have stated so publicly, and I welcome the opportunity of repeating it tonight, that at the meeting as envisaged no one need concede in advance any previously held positions. Attendance at the discussions would carry no recognition and would confer no legality on what is and what will remain an illegal Government. It would require no one to depart from a position previously adopted, whether in Malta or in Salisbury. Nor would it require us to depart from what we still believe to be the ideal solution, which is the basis of the Anglo-American initiative and of our White Paper in September.
All the parties, therefore, would come retaining their positions, but it would be foolish to call such a conference if everyone came so firmly entrenched in the views that he was unable to listen to those put forward from the other sides and was unable to make any movement.
At the moment the response to this invitation has been disappointing. On Monday and Tuesday of last week I discussed the issue with the Patriotic Front. I discussed the issue in London with Bishop Muzorewa towards the end of the week as he was passing through on his way back to Rhodesia. A senior official from the Foreign Office, who has been closely involved in all the negotiations and, perhaps, more important than anything else, had heard the meetings with the Patriotic Front and with Bishop Muzorewa, went to South Africa and discussed with representatives from the 1085 regime the situation over two days on Friday and Saturday of last week and also took the opportunity to discuss it with a representative of Mr. Sithole.
During that period we have tried to have discussions with all the relevant parties. All of them, for a variety of reasons, are either preserving their positions or tending to take up an impossibly rigid position. On the one hand, the Patriotic Front is saying that it would come only to a conference that was based on the Anglo-United States proposals. On the other hand, the Salisbury talkers say that they would come only to a conference which took as read everything that had occurred in Salisbury. I am not saying that they should change their positions. I am only asking that the conference should not be constrained within those obvious restrictions, because were it to be so there plainly would be no point in our meeting.
§ Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion)
I should like to put the record straight. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to his talks with Mr. Nkomo, Mr. Mugabe and Bishop Muzorewa. Is it also the case that he saw Chief Chirau and had full talks with him?
§ Dr. Owen
I saw Chief Chirau, as I have intended to see everybody in the Rhodesian talks. My door has been open to a remarkable extent because I am very well aware that there are many different views. I have seen the centre parties. I often wonder that we do not give enough credence to the fact that there have been many white Rhodesians who have wanted to see black majority rule. I have seen deputations of farmers and others.
We have recognised that we shall not get people to the conference by our excluding various people involved hi the Salisbury talks. The exact extent of their delegation is up to them. But I have always held that the negotiations are best confined to the representations at Geneva. I think that that has stood us in good stead. But I have not excluded representation of the Salisbury talkers at any new conference which I hope it is possible to hold.
People will say that we should not hold a conference, that it is impossible to achieve it. I have constantly to reiterate that we cannot possibly achieve a cease- 1086 fire unless there is a negotiation. That negotiation must involve, at the very least, the two major elements that are fighting each other. The absence of this dialogue has been most depressing in the whole problem over Rhodesia. Not since Geneva has the Patriotic Front been able to sit down in the same room as the Rhodesian Front and Mr. Smith's regime. The absence of such a meeting has made it difficult to achieve the necessary compromise and detail which will have to precede any ceasefire.
There are those who say that we should give this up, that there is no point in searching for a ceasefire. I was pleased to hear the right hon. Member for Knutsford say that he thought that it was reasonable for us to pursue a ceasefire. I believe that there is no other task for us. We must pursue a ceasefire right up to the last moment. The last moment when the next decision will have to be taken is were there to be an election. That would be a decision in which we would have to take account of the Fifth Principle on which we have firmly and resolutely stood.
Anyone who has read the speech of our permanent representative to the United Nations and his explanation of vote will have seen that we have reserved completely the position not just of successive Governments but of the House in relation to the Fifth Principle.
In searching for a formula for a ceasefire we come up against the problem that has beset bringing about a negotiated settlement, the problem of law of order. Whether we like it or not, in Africa as in some other parts of the world there is a strong feeling that he who controls law and order—particularly the armed forces, but also the police forces—is able to determine the shape of an election and to overthrow the result of an election if he does not like it. That is a reality which lies behind many of the fears of the Patriotic Front and many of the other African countries. That is why they always attached a great deal of importance to there being in the transitional period an absolute transfer of power.
That was the problem that beset Geneva—inability to get to grips with the question of who should hold the law and order portfolios. The distribution of those portfolios was the greatest difficulty, and it is still the problem that 1087 besets us. It was only in an attempt to overcome that problem that we postulated that the Resident Commissioner should have an executive role and should be the commander in chief of the armed forces and hold authority for all forces, whether the Rhodesion defence forces or the liberation forces, and in the creation of the Zimbabwe national army.
The absence of the Resident Commissioner is one of the major differences in the internal settlement. In his absence and the absence of definite and specific proposals on law and order lies one of the major anxieties about what has been achieved in Salisbury. It is seen, and with justice, that there has been no basic change in the control of the forces of law and order within Rhodesia. They are seen to be a continuation of the Smith army and of what is called in African countries the Smith police force.
To a great extent, these are early days. It is envisaged in the internal settlement proposals that the portfolios in the Lower Council shall be shared. I imagine that it is envisaged that there will be one white Minister of Defence and one black Minister of Defence. It is argued by Bishop Muzorewa and Mr. Sithole that they are committed to the principle of involving the liberation forces in the structure of the new army and are determined to exert their influence and control. However, when Bishop Muzorewa was in America there was a raid on Zambia and he was publicly critical of it. He expressed concern and made it clear that it would be inconceivable that the new Government should not have control over that sort of thing.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes rose—
§ Dr. Owen
I shall give way shortly.
The Smith regime would probably say that it never intended to have a transfer of power, that although it is prepared to start introducing some of the nationalist leaders into the structure of power, the only time there would be a transfer of power would be on independence day. There again lies a major difference between the internal settlement and the Anglo-American proposals, under which there was to be a transfer of power on the formation of the transitional Government 1088 and a transfer of power on independence day. The problem about not having a genuine transfer of power until independence day—
§ Mr. Robert Hughes rose—
§ Dr. Owen
Perhaps my hon. Friend will allow me to develop the argument.
The problem about delaying the transfer until independence day is that the power that controls the period in the run-up to the election and during the election is seen not to have made a fundamental shift. It therefore becomes much harder to satisfy people that a fair and free election has taken place. If there is also a continuation of the armed struggle and the fighting it becomes doubly hard to convince people that a fair and free election has taken place.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes
Is it not correct that Bishop Muzorewa and Mr. Sithole say that they knew nothing about the raid into Zambia? If there were an apparent agreement to share power, is it not an ill start to such an agreement that on something as important as a raid into Zambia at least advance notice was not given to those who would apparently share the consequences of that action?
§ Mr. John Davies
My comment relates specifically to what the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) has said. Surely it is a fact that at that time, and indeed now, the interim administration had not been instituted, so there could be no question of such notice being given. What the right hon. Gentleman is saying represents something of a travesty of the reality, because surely the overall control—certainly as it has been explained by Bishop Muzorewa and the Rev. Ndabaningi Sithole—vests in the Executive Council which vests in four people who will operate by consensus. It seems to be irrational to say that that does not represent a major change of overall responsibility. Clearly it does. What the right hon. Gentleman is saying—that there will be no transfer—is not reconcilable with the specific proposal made for the interim regime.
§ Dr. Owen
I shall deal first with the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes). There would be the difficulty that an interim Government had not been 1089 formed. All it portrays is the problems we would face were that sort of action to be taken in the future when those members of the Executive Council would be undoubtedly identified with those who would claim that this sort of issue would have to come to the Executive Council. We have yet to see how exactly the Executive Council will work, but one of the problems that has been associated with it is that Mr. Smith has continued to call himself the Prime Minister. As I understand it, the Executive Council is formed under the 1969 legislation, which allows for an executive council. I imagine that its members will be appointed under the 1969 legislation and that the Parliament stays in control and will be responsible for enacting the legislative action.
I am not saying that there has not been a change. There has undoubtedly been a change, or will be a change, but it is not a transfer of power. Power is still vested in the structures of the illegal Parliament and in the illegal regime, though there has been a sharing—I think that would be a more accurate description of it—in the terms of the Executive Council and in the Lower Council. It has yet to be determined exactly how much sharing of power and of control there has been, and in particular in these sensitive areas this raises very serious problems.
On top of that, there has been a serious problem over the whole question of the future independence constitution. It has always been envisaged, under the Sixth Principle, that it would be right to protect minorities. I have upheld that principle all the way through. Because of that principle, I was prepared to advocate specially elected Members, because I felt that it was not sufficiently competent for this House to say that there should be two or three white Members of Parliament, as it could have been if there were no provision for specially elected Members of Parliament. It might have been fewer. It depended a little on where the constituency boundaries were.
We were advocating a different proposal. I do not claim a monopoly of wisdom. The proposal was put forward in the Anglo-American proposals, but I somewhat ruefully look back on the difficulty I had in persuading some of the nationalist leaders now involved in the 1090 internal settlement of the validity of the various arguments about what needed to happen.
However, those nationalist leaders have conceded—it is important to recognise that it is a conceding, because they have openly said that they wanted something different at different times—28 members out of a Parliament of 100, 20 of them to be elected on a restricted roll, eight to be elected on the universal roll. The dual roll system has been very strongly criticised both inside Rhodesia prior to the arrangement and no doubt since. We know, again, that certain of the nationalist leaders did not wish for that.
This has been offset, as I have explained to the House before, to some extent by the provision which Bishop Muzorewa won as the price for going for a 28 provision, that the 28 would never form the Government, so they could never formally form a coalition Government with a minority party to overthrow the results of the majority. However, the extent of that concession on individual voting will be very hard to put into any constitution. I put it no higher than that. I hope that they would not be able to vote on the President and also not be able to vote on the impeachment of the President.
But it raises other very serious questions, such as whether they are able to vote on Supply or money matters, or on some of the central matters which any Government have to be able to carry in order to stay in power. I am pointing these things out only because individually and singly many of these concessions could be lived with. What we have to do is to cumulate them. It may be that some of the measures were necessary for the sake of confidence, but, on top of the arrangements we now have, the external nationalist leaders are still outside the settlement.
§ Dr. Owen
I would answer the right hon. Gentleman by asking, who are we in comparison with the people of Rhodesia as a whole? That is why I think we have to come back to the Fifth Principle. Let 1091 us suppose that we were to reach a position in which we, as a matter of our own judgment, thought that this package or arrangement was not satisfactory to the people of Rhodesia as a whole. The fact remains that I do not think that this House has ever wanted to give responsibility to any individual nationalist leaders, whether they were members of the Patriotic Front, or Mr. Sithole or Bishop Muzorewa.
When the right hon. Gentleman's Government were in power, the agreement forged between the then Government and the illegal regime was put to the Pearce Commission. There were very different reasons for choosing that type of commission, when the Government had aligned themselves to some proposals. In Africa at the time—and, indeed, in this House at the time—there were many people who thought that we were selling out, that the Pearce Commission was a fix and that we would not stand by the Fifth Principle.
To those people in Africa who at the moment are suspicious and anxious about the British Government's standing by the Fifth Principle, I would say that the record over the last 12 years shows that this House will not lightly ignore the Fifth Principle. I do not believe that the way in which the Fifth Principle can be tested in the future will be by that type of commission. I think that that commission was peculiar to the circumstances of the time, when the Government were aligned with the proposals. I say in fairness to the then Conservative Government that when the Pearce Commission reported negatively they had no hesitation whatever in saying that they could not go forward with the proposal.
I think that what we shall now see, as I understand it, is that those concerned are determined to bring this to an election. The right hon. Member for Knutsford has drawn attention to the questions that people will want to ask—and the sorts of questions that we in this House will want to ask—if this situation arises. I hope that it will not. I hope that before then we shall have had a ceasefire. I hope that before then we shall have been able to get a wider measure of agreement. 1092 But, were it to come to an election being held, several questions would arise, such as how many of the total electorate voted, whether it was in circumstances in which there was an intrusive military presence, whether there was any evidence of intimidation, whether the procedures of the election were faithfully carried out, whether there was any censorship, whether there was freedom of movement throughout the country, whether people who wanted to come in to observe the election were able freely to do so, and to satisfy themselves, and what was the general feeling and the atmosphere in which the election was held.
I believe that that is a decision which will not be left just to a Government. It will be a decision that this House will insist on taking. I am prepared, and have been prepared at all times, to defend that ultimate principle.
I hope that any such election or test of opinion will not take place against a background of armed conflict, because we would all admit that it is very much harder—if not almost impossible, some would say—to conduct a fair and free test of opinion in such circumstances. I believe that, prior to that, the duty of the Government here is to work for a genuine ceasefire, with the involvement of, if possible, all the nationalist leaders, and that we should try to bring the proposals and their implementation as close to the Anglo-American proposals as we can.
They should come closer to the Anglo-American proposals not because those proposals have been put forward by the British Government and supported by the American Government. That is a reason, but it is not the dominant reason. The major reason is that they have received an ample degree of international acceptance. When I say that, I do not mean just the Organisation of African Unity. I do not mean just the front-line Presidents. I ask this House to take into account the international factor. Britain does not live in isolation. Others will form a judgment about whether the settlement is acceptable to the people of Rhodesia as a whole. Our friends and allies will form a judgment.
If any hon. Member reads the reports of the Security Council debate, he will 1093 find the contributions of the Federal German Republic, of France and of Canada voicing the same sort of anxieties about this settlement, as I have, not in a destructive sense. They, like us, abstained on the resolution. They did not wish to be seen either to have voted for the resolution, which would have been seen to be an attitude of total condemnation, or to have voted against it, which would have been seen to be an endorsing of the settlement.
Amid a range of criticism, we have to recognise that the Western industrialised allies—friends of ours with experience in Africa; we are not the only ones with experience—and with the experience of decolonising which France has had, themselves have doubts about the settlement, the form of it and its viability. They themselves are urging that we should do our utmost to involve the Patriotic Front leaders and widen out the consensus.
That is the goal which the British Government, helped by the Americans and the whole international community, should now try to work towards. So I am not prepared to believe that it is inevitable that we accept at its face value the reluctance of the parties at present to come into a wider meeting. Somehow, somewhere, I believe that it will be necessary to have such a wider meeting, and certainly I intend to work for such a meeting.
§ Mr. John Davies
Will the right hon. Gentleman do me the favour of reading carefully what he has said to date this evening? If he were to do that, he could not but be struck by the fact that he has dwelt on every doubt and every negative consideration of the problem. He has not dwelt on what seems to be the extraordinary change which took place as a result of involving three heavily supported black leaders in Rhodesia in discussions with the white regime, leading to agreement with them and seeking to carry it through. Surely the immense challenge of that deserves a much more forthcoming response.
§ Dr. Owen
I started by identifying the three areas on which I thought there was common ground, and they are quite important areas. If I reiterate them it is only to re-emphasise them. They are that Zimbabwe should become indepen- 1094 dent in 1978, that elections should take place on the basis of universal adult suffrage, and that there should be free and fair elections. That is the basis on which there is common ground on which I think we can build. If I go on to point out the other difficulties and differences, if it is no other consolation it is to point out that this is what other countries are saying as well.
If Zimbabwe is to reach a secure future, it is not enough merely to convince the Government and most of my hon. Friends—and I believe in their hearts many Opposition Members—that this is not yet an adequate settlement. I point out these matters because that is the overwhelming view of the international community. I have resisted the temptation to condemn the settlement outright, because I believe that that would be wrong. Instead, I have advocated trying to widen the areas of agreement.
On the question of the United Nations there is one aspect that I shall single out—the reluctance to allow Bishop Muzorewa to speak. I believe that that was a great mistake. I have always held a belief in the universal membership of the United Nations. It has been a positive strength of the United Nations, despite much anguish that has been caused, that it has been possible for it to be used as a vehicle for spokesmen of liberation movements. Sometimes I have not wished to hear from some of the liberation movements that have been able to speak but, on balance, it has been of advantage, particularly in the Middle East, that they have been able to do so. It would be of advantage, in the Rhodesian context, if they were able to speak.
I think we should ensure that everyone is able to speak. Had Bishop Muzorewa been able to put his case in an international forum, much more cognisance would have been taken of the things that he has said about the need to get support from the international community.
In the long term it must be in the interests of Zimbabwe to get a broader international agreement. The lifting of sanctions is a decision that needs to be taken not just by individual countries but by the United Nation as a whole. The idea of Zimbabwe becoming independent without some basic support in the world is not one which anyone with the future of that country at heart would welcome.
1095 International acceptance is the objective of British policy, and of anyone who wishes a successful future for Zimbabwe. Much will have to be done to heal some of the wounds.
We shall be guided by the Fifth Principle. The British Government will need to be satisfied that any basis for independence is acceptable to the people of Rhodesia as a whole. We shall take account of the Sixth Principle that, regardless of race, there should be no oppression of the majority by the minority or the minority by the majority. We regard any settlement on the Six Principles as a right settlement. We shall strive to bring an end to the war and achieve a ceasefire. We shall also strive to involve the Patriotic Front, the internal nationalist leaders and the Smith regime.
I was glad that the Leader of the Opposition said at Question Time the other day that she thought it would be an advantage if Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Nkomo were involved in the negotiations. I do not know whether the right hon. Member for Knutsford saw Mr. Nkomo and Mr. Mugabe in London, but I hope that Conservative Members will make themselves available to speak to nationalist leaders and expose themselves to their views.
I urge the House to bear in mind the legitimate anxieties, criticisms and fears expressed throughout the world, particularly in Africa, about the settlement. I do not believe that in its present form it is adequate and will bring about the sort of transfer of power that all of us wish unless in certain important areas there is a broader measure of agreement than that which exists. We shall work towards that over the next few weeks and months.
I have no doubt that there will be criticisms, as there have been, from those who will press me for instant solutions, and for instant acceptance, and urge me to go for soft options. We will not do so. Whether the criticism comes from Africa or from hon. Members, opposite this Government will stand by the principles of a fair and just settlement. Many hon. Members on both sides of the House have stood up for a fair and just settlement over the past 12 years. It would be a negation of all that we have stood for over 12 years, under successive Governments, if we were to turn and run and endorse something that will not last and 1096 will only give comfort to those in Africa who believe that we are not committed to these principles. It would simply give comfort to those who witness our internal debates and wonder whether we are prepared to stand up for fairness in a non-racial society.
I have confidence that this House will never agree to a settlement that is not genuinely acceptable to the people of Rhodesia as a whole, and I intend to work towards that end.
§ 9.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Nigel Forman (Carshalton)
I am fortunate to be called to speak following the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary, but I was doubly fortunate to be present during the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Knutsford (Mr. Davies), because I found myself entirely in agreement with its contents.
I wish to devote my remarks to looking at the way ahead in Rhodesia, and I shall try to explore what is involved in the transition. I shall try to examine what are our real chances of getting towards an independent Zimbabwe peacefully and what else needs to be done to achieve those ends.
It seems to me that the main problem is to be sure that Mr. Smith is sincere in what he is undertaking and that the balance struck in this internal agreement on 3rd March will be sufficient to enable the interim Government to persuade the guerrillas to stop fighting and the whites to stay on in Rhodesia on less favourable terms than hitherto. It is well to recall how much less favourable those terms are likely to be.
The dilemma from Britain's point of view is that Western interests in Rhodesia are not necessarily synonymous with those of the white Rhodesian population. If the situation becomes sufficiently attractive to persuade the guerrillas to stop fighting and for us to achieve a proper ceasefire, it may by that time have developed further than the whites in Rhodesia can accept. On the other hand, if it remains confined within the limits acceptable to the whites in Rhodesia, it will probably not be attractive enough to bring in Mr. Nkomo or Mr. Mugabe and, still less, to stop the war. Therein resides the nub of the difficulty.
1097 If we examine the matter and ask ourselves about priorities for the West, we are bound to conclude that the main priority is to end the war, to remove the pretext for Soviet-inspired intervention, and to see a sympathetic black regime installed in Zimbabwe. If we can do these things, we may have to press for more than the whites in Rhodesia are prepared to accept. But that dilemma has to be accepted and faced up to in the framing of British policy.
The evidence on these two main points is not too promising, at any rate when observed by a layman such as myself. In the first place, we see that Mr. Nkomo and Mr. Mugabe have said that their forces will go on fighting despite this agreement. We have also seen that the Rhodesian economy is in great difficulty. We know that the war is costing that country £500,000 a day and that there was a net white emigration from Rhodesia to the tune of 11,000 people last year. Therefore, nobody can pretend that that country is a bed of roses.
In addition, we must bear in mind Mr. Smith's personal record, in the sense that if we examine that record over the years all the way back to UDI in 1965, it is easy to doubt whether the leopard has changed its spots. One must retain these doubts if one is to have an objective view of the situation.
It is obvious that the transitional Government will have a good deal to do in a short period of time. Their chances of success do not look particularly good. So much will depend on the good will and efficiency of the whites in Rhodesia and on the progress made in the controlling and, one hopes, ending the guerrilla war.
What are the main tasks? The Foreign Secretary spoke about the ceasefire as a priority task. Surely all the Government's efforts must be bent to that end. But there must be concern about the composition of the military forces in Rhodesia over the period ahead. One sees from the terms of the internal settlement published in The Times how for the foreseeable future those forces are likely to remain white-dominated. I happen to think that that is essential for the immediate future. These are the people with professional expertise and who, contrary to what the right hon. Gentleman has said, can best guarantee 1098 that free and fair elections are held within the time scale of which we are speaking. That is not to say that they are necessarily the ideal officers to be in charge.
However, it is as well to recall that there are a number of professional armies in black Africa that have either assistance from white professionals or have white officers serving in some way in their forces in an advisory capacity. I do not see that as necessarily a bar to a peaceful and reliable law and order force in Rhodesia or even beyond that in an independent Zimbabwe.
Another key problem is the dismantlement of discrimination. If we read the terms of the settlement, we see that that is held out in the agreement of 3rd March. To my way of thinking, that will be one of the acid tests whether the changes to which the right hon. Gentleman referred are taking place. It will be on that that so much will depend if we are to have a good chance of bringing Mr. Nkomo and Mr. Mugabe back into the main stream.
The question may be put whether it is progress towards a black Rhodesia at the end of this year or to a new Zimbabwe. The answer to that question will hinge on many of the confidence factors to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. Obviously, we have to try to help create a climate in Rhodesia that will be conducive to the holding of free and fair elections. For example, we have to ensure that the registration of voters—especially women in the rural areas—is carried out purposefully and properly.
I retain some of my doubts about the agreement. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Knutsford has said on a number of occasions, the agreement is a great step forward. I believe that it is an agreement that is on trial. At this stage we must all give it our full support, but we must suspend judgment about the eventual outcome.
I was struck by a passage in the agreement dealing with the new constitution and the spirit in which it is to be approached. There is the rather artificial phrase about the drafting of a new constitution:within the terms of this agreement.That makes it clear that so much depends on how the agreement is to be interpreted. We must recognise some of the objective facts that have been pointed out by parts of the American Press rather 1099 more than the British Press. There is the fact that 3 per cent, of the population will enjoy 28 per cent, of the voting rights and retain about 50 per cent, of the land. If those figures were to apply to any other post-colonial situation, many hon. Members on both sides of the House might draw rather different conclusions, especially when we bear in mind that during the vital interim period the 3 per cent, will be supported by the assurance that it will have control of the army, the police, the judiciary and the civil service. Those sectors will remain in the hands of the 3 per cent, until independence comes about.
§ Mr. Frank Hooley (Sheffield, Heeley)
If I understand the arrangement correctly, that will apply for not only the interim period but for the next 10 years.
§ Mr. Forman
With respect, it seems that the hon. Gentleman is forgetting that there is the implication of movement away from white domination in the areas contained within the agreement. One of the hopeful things from the point of view of black majority opinion in Rhodesia must lie with the Executive Council, which must be given a chance to work and make progress. It will be examining which changes need to be made not only to remove discrimination within the sphere of petty apartheid but to ensure that the balance within the various forces of law and order and the civil service changes in a healthy direction that will enable an independent Zimbabwe to stand on its own, when eventually the whites decide to throw in their lot completely with the new regime or to find a career and future elsewhere.
Against that background, it is clear to anybody that there are daunting prospects and awful doubts whether any or all of these objectives that I have mentioned can be achieved, let alone on time.
I suggest that the key word for the Government to bear in mind and the hallmark of their policy in the coming months should be momentum. The Foreign Secretary must do everything possible to maintain the momentum of this agreement and what follows from it to persuade the blacks in Rhodesia and world opinion within the Organisation of African Unity, the United Nations and the front-line States that the agreement deserves support and a fair trial.
1100 Secondly, pressure must be maintained by Britain and the United States acting together through diplomacy and, if necessary, sanctions to try to hasten those changes within the residual white set-up in Rhodesia which might bring in Mr. Nkomo or Mr. Mugabe or perhaps even both. The dilemma is that there are five black African leaders on the scene. In my view, five into two will not go. There is really room for only two at the top of the pile at the end of the day. One of the real problems we face is not only the black-white problem, but the internal politicking problem of a youthful and inexperienced democracy, if such it can be called.
Finally, there is the need for perspective to be maintained by the Government and the American Administration. They must not lose sight of the wider Western interests. There is a terrific prize attached to the possibility of success in getting a free and independent Zimbabwe which is conducive and susceptible to Western interests. But there is a fantastic penalty for failure. There is the possibility of the spreading of race war and all kinds of strategic dangers further afield if the situation should go wrong. No one in this House can want to bring about a situation which would make it easier or more plausible for the Soviets, the Cubans or the East Germans to continue with their lethal African strategy. The Government must do everything that they can to remove the preconditions for the success of such a cynical strategy.
In order to maximise our influence and to help bring about this preferred outcome, the Government are right to be cautious in not completely endorsing the settlement so far. I choose my words carefully—"not completely endorsing the settlement so far". On the other hand, it is necessary that the good will of the Government be fully behind this internal settlement because, according to all accounts, the chances are that it will have the mass of popular support within Rhodesia.
The real test will come when the four-man Executive Council, including the three black leaders, can prevent Mr. Smith from doing some of the things which have so far proved to be obstacles to further trust and confidence. For example, one thinks of ending the hanging of terrorists, seeing that the protected 1101 villages are dismantled—that will be important—and preventing any further cross-border raids by the Rhodesian forces into Zambia or Mozambique.
Consultation at least will be a prerequisite to these measures. Preferably they should not be undertaken at all, because I think that they are likely to be misunderstood by the other parties on the black side whom we want to draw into the final settlement.
If matters continue as before—if terrorists are hanged and so on—the internal settlement will be shown to be little more than a continuation of what has gone on for 12 years. That cannot be in the wider Western interest. On the other hand, if advantage can be taken of these confidence building measures, there is hope of real progress.
There is another aspect on which I should like to touch briefly—a kind of litmus test of the transfer of power. That is the degree to which wealth and economic rights are being or will be transferred from whites to blacks. The possible fatal flaw in this respect is that those whites who may be prepared to remain in Rhodesia after independence will probably stay only on the understanding that the transfer of wealth is restrained and perhaps does not take place to any great extent at all.
Are the whites prepared to face that reality and the need for the transfer of wealth and power? Has Mr. Smith prepared them adequately for it? For example, do they think that the blacks will be content with the trappings of political power but without the realities of economic, judicial, administrative and military power? That is the question that they should consider.
The tragedy is that the situation has developed so far over the years that we have moved into this dreadful area—forgive the jargon—of the zero sum game where it is perceived on both sides that "his loss is my gain and my gain is his loss." We must somehow move back into a more positive sum situation in which all parties can feel that they have more to lose than to gain by pursuing the war and hostility.
The day after the internal agreement was reached, The Times, in a long leading article, said: 1102It is discrimination that has made Rhodesia what it is; its removal will make Zimbabwe something completely different.For once I agree with The Times. That is one of the acid tests of this development.
What has to happen is nothing less than a decisive shift of wealth and power in order that the agreement in theory, to which we all lend our wholehearted support, can be turned into a lasting settlement in practice. I am sure that the Government can help to bring in the Popular Front by their diplomacy at the UN and OAU, with the promise of interest and aid for reconstruction later once the country has found its feet. I hope that that aspect will not be lost sight of. But at the end, as at the beginning, we are at the mercy of Mr. Smith. There is a need to have trust and faith in Mr. Smith. He is as enigmatic at this stage as he was before. We need a few benchmarks against which to measure the vital progress that must be achieved.
I shall suggest a timetable of progress. We need to see a new constitution ready by about August. We shall need to see a referendum for the white population by September. We shall need to see elections held on a fair and free basis on a new register by about mid-November at the latest. We shall need to see a new black Government firmly in office by the end of the year when Mr. Smith says that he will stand down. If these objectives are not met and such a timetable not fulfilled, the Government should not hesitate to reconsider their position.
We must not be allowed to be manoeuvred by others into supporting the wrong side if the momentum fails and civil war breaks out. The real danger is that in any civil war there would be only one victor and everyone else would be the losers. The victor would be the Kremlin and those who want to stir up problems, not only for Rhodesia but for the Western interest.
A lasting settlement cannot and must not be imposed from outside. The people of Zimbabwe must achieve their own independence in their own way. That is what in effect the Government recognise in paragraph 14 of the White Paper which stated:A lasting settlement cannot be imposed from outside. It is the people of Zimbabwe who must achieve their own independence.1103 I quote those words because, of all the proposals and statements in the White Paper, they are the most important.
The principle of Zimbabwe must be "Zimbabwe fara da se" to use the words of Cavour in another context. These words should be applied not only to the Foreign Secretary but to Mr. Young, Mr. Nkomo, Mr. Mugabe, the Soviets, the Cubans, the front-line Presidents and anyone else who seeks to stir the pot. The attitude of those outside the country should be helpful and constructive and not such as to undermine the situation.
As the situation unfolds, the Rhodesian issue will require great wisdom and subtlety from the Government. I am not sure that they have exercised that so far. It will require forbearance and sincerity from the Smith regime. It will require courage and good luck on the part of the black leaders every bit as much as political skill.
It will require great responsibility and restraint on the part of the world community, and once again I think that the Government have a responsibility to try to foster that. All this might just be possible, but I fear that the jokers in the pack may turn out to be the Popular Front leaders themselves. Which way will they go? Can five go into two, as I put it before? Will it be possible to keep personal ambition and personal rivalry out of the situation to a sufficient degree to prevent that from undermining the settlement that we all wish to see? I can only conclude by saying that we must hope and work for the best and urge the Government to do so, but we must prepare for the worst.
§ 9.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
The hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Forman) made an interesting speech, and it contained a great deal with which one could agree. I wish that the kind of sentiments that he was espousing about the need for reconciliation, the need for a proper, orderly and free transfer of power, and for Mr. Smith to come to terms with the situation and prepare white Rhodesians for a transfer of power had been made in this House a decade ago by Conservative Members. One of the great pities is that the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. 1104 Amery) was not present to hear his hon. Friend's speech. Elder statesman though the right hon. Gentleman claims to be, he would have learnt a great deal from his hon. Friend. Having said that, I must at once go on to say that I did not agree with some of the things said by the hon. Gentleman.
The hon. Gentleman is right to have the greatest scepticism about the bona fides of Mr. Smith and about how far he is willing to come to an agreement. The hon. Member said that it is easy to believe that Mr. Smith does not mean it, or something to that effect. He certainly cast doubts on what he would do.
I think that Mr. Smith's record over the past decade since UDI has been one of prevarication, duplicity and even treachery. I do not blame any African leader who doubts whether Smith means what he says. Lest it be thought that I have nothing good to say about Mr. Smith, let me say that he is the greatest escapologist since Houdini. As soon as one thinks one has him tied down to something, with one bound he is away and on to another tack, and we must take that into account.
I hope that we shall approach these internal settlement proposals with a great deal of caution and scepticism, because even if they were remotely acceptable we should have to watch and make sure that the machinery is there to ensure that they were carried out. For a number of reasons I do not believe that the proposals are remotely acceptable to the Patriotic Front, to the Rhodesian people, far less to me, and to the people of Zimbabwe.
I hope, and I think that my right hon. Friend made this clear—that there will be no question of sanctions being lifted until there is a guarantee of a transfer of power. Ideally, the Bill which confers legal independence on Zimbabwe should be the Bill which lifts sanctions, because then we can be sure that the thing will work.
Why should I say that the proposals are not remotely acceptable? First, they have not been agreed with the representatives of the Patriotic Front. The people whom Mr. Nkomo and Mr. Mugabe represent are important. There is always a danger and a tendency to personalise these things as though it were an individual and personal struggle among five 1105 African leaders, as though all that was at stake was personal ambition. It is far from that. These leaders represent substantial bodies of opinion in Zimbabwe, and their views ought to be taken into account.
Two other aspects of these proposals have to be considered before we can begin to understand the situation. First, these proposals did not suddenly evolve because of a wish by the Rhodesian Front to come to terms with the situation because it wanted to see a transfer of power. The proposals began to emerge because a guerrilla war was being conducted, and that has to be taken into account. But for the liberation struggle, Mr. Smith would not even have gone to Geneva, far less start proposals in Salisbury. There is the gravest suspicion in the minds of Mr. Nkomo and Mr. Mugabe because, initially, Mr. Smith set out with his so-called internal settlement for the purpose of bypassing the Anglo-American proposals and cutting out the Patriotic Front. Mr. Nkomo and Mr. Mugabe are naturally unwilling to begin to discuss proposals which were designed to bypass their legitimate aspirations.
The point is often made—as it was by the right hon. Member for Knutsford (Mr. Davies) and the hon. Member for Carshalton—that Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Nkomo are outside the country and that there should not be too much interference from outside. We make far too much of the fact that they are outside the country. If they had not been outside, they could not have directed the guerrilla struggle, and if they had been inside, Mr. Nkomo would have been back in the sort of detention in which he spent so many years—without trial or conviction for having done anything wrong, but simply because of his views.
What if they are outside the country? I have been seeking to find a comparable situation in order to argue this case. I know that one of the most dangerous things in politics is to try to argue by analogy or by reference to historic parallels, since no circumstances are precisely similar. The nearest that I can get to the situation in Rhodesia is that when Marshal Petain became the head of government in France, the fact that General de Gaulle was outside the country did not detract from his status. He remained what he had always been 1106 —a representative of a legitimate expression of the people of France and their determination to expel, in that case, an external dominator.
The fact that Mr. Nkomo and Mr. Mugabe are outside Zimbabwe detracts nothing from their right to the respect of those struggling against internal domination and aggression. We cannot just dismiss them by saying that because they are outside the country, they do not count and have no legitimate cause to be considered.
The proposals are not remotely acceptable, but they at least deserve a reading. Very little, if anything, has changed and the only thing to which I give my wholehearted support is Clause E, which says:It is hereby agreed that Independence Day shall be 31st December 1978.If I cannot get it earlier, that date will do. For the rest, the army remains firmly in the hands of Mr. Smith and the Civil Service remains firmly in the hands that have always held it.
Reference has already been made to the fact that the Rhodesian Army crossed the border into Zambia in an act of aggression against a neighbouring State. Bishop Muzorewa, Mr. Sithole and, I imagine, Chief Chirau were not told that this was about to happen. The right hon. Member for Knutsford immediately sprang to Smith's defence by saying that there was no interim Government.
That was strange behaviour when a transitional agreement had been concluded for an Executive Council, names had been put to a piece of paper saying that everything would be different, black and white would work together, the views of black Ministers on the Executive Council would have equal weight and portfolios were to be shared between black and white Ministers and the people were to be asked for their views.
Despite knowing that Bishop Muzorewa was going to the United Nations and to Britain to try to sell the settlement, it never crossed Smith's mind that he had better have a word with the bishop and say that there might be a little local difficulty that could have international repercussions. He did not even bother to tell them. That shows that he thinks he is still in control of the situation, that he has 1107 them in his net, that they will not escape, that he can do what he likes and will treat them as he has always done—as though they did not really exist. That is a very bad start.
I do not believe that this settlement is likely to produce any change whatever. I believe that Smith intends to carry on in control of the situation. That is the tragedy. In that sense I agree with the hon. Member for Carshalton. We are faced with an equation. How does one make both sides of the equation balance? How far can one transfer power to the black majority of the population and make it acceptable to the whites, and how far can one leave the whites sufficient privileges so that the majority of the black population will accept the situation? How do we reach a position of equality? It is extremely difficult to do.
The irony is that many of us in this House who argue in support of the Patriotic Front being regarded as legitimate, and who argue for a real transfer of power, are the people who are now being told that we are the merchants of violence. My hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) argued in this House long before I was here the need for a proper transfer of power in Zimbabwe. If her views—and the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) and myself—had been listened to even 10 years ago—about the need for the British Government to do something urgently to get the situation changed—there would have been no violence. Our whole reason for wanting a transfer of power was to prevent violence, because it was perfectly obvious that in a modern world one could not have a situation where a minority population could for ever dominate the majority.
There has to be this change. The sad thing is that what we have now is too little and too late for the situation to carry. We must take into account the climate of opinion which, fortunately or unfortunately—depending on how one looks at it—is not static in this kind of situation. It seems to me that people are looking at these so-called internal settlement proposals as though they had been put forward 10 years ago before the guerrilla struggle started and before it had gained momentum. When people 1108 are in a war situation they are not willing to give up without very substantial concessions indeed. Who can blame them? After generations of trying to get one's political rights by peaceful means and seeing every attempt frustrated, it is much more difficult for one to accept that there should be concessions. In these circumstances I at least agree with the right hon. Member for Knutsford that one has to use words carefully.
The right hon. Gentleman and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary should both be very careful. We have heard today about the common ground to grant universal adult suffrage. That is true. But there is more to it than that. The proposals for the new Legislative Assembly state that 72 seats of that Assembly will be reserved for blacks who will be elected by voters who are enrolled in the common roll. I understand that to mean both black and white voters.
Then it states that 28 seats will be reserved for whites.Twenty will be elected on a preferential voting system by white voters who are enrolled in the common roll.So that the whites will vote for the 72 members in the common roll and then have a special little election of their own for the extra 20. Then there are another eight to be elected by voters on the common roll. The whites will vote for those as well. They will be elected from 16 candidates who will be nominated in the first Parliament by an electoral college composed of white Members and the existing members of the Assembly.
Accepting that 28 seats were to be specially reserved for whites, with all the blocking mechanisms that would involve and that 20 of them are to be exclusively elected by the whites, of the eight who are elected on the common roll, the blacks would have no chance of nominating which whites they could vote for. The choice of the special eight is reserved for a caucus, apparently, because we are not told what an electoral college is. We are simply told that it will be an electoral college composed of white members. I do not know whether that means all or some of them. So the existing white Members will put forward 16 names and the college will decide which will be nominated.
That is not even universal adult suffrage or having reserved seats. It is not even 28 seats in the Assembly being elec- 1109 ted by 3 per cent. of the electorate. If constituencies are to be based on geographical boundaries, what kind of black Members will be elected to the Assembly for the white suburbs of Salisbury and Bulawayo where the whites will exercise a powerful influence? There is an awful lot wrong with this.
I accept that it is necessary to try to get all the different groupings to come together to find the peaceful settlement that we all want. But the next time my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary sees Bishop Muzorewa or Mr. Sithole he might tell them that they are doing certainly themselves, if not my right hon. Friend, immense damage by going back to Salisbury and saying that they believe that my right hon. Friend is desperately looking for an excuse to put his imprimatur on these proposals. I understand that in the world of diplomacy my right hon. Friend cannot make comments as strongly as can Back Benchers, but perhaps he should speak out more strongly against the proposals. I do not believe that they will permit the proper facilities to work.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, as have others, that the proof of this settlement will be in the eating of it, and whether or not we can digest it. But the hangings still go on. The interesting thing is that Mr. Smith is not even prepared to show his good faith to the three people who have signed this internal settlement by making any concession whatever as to how the country is run and in what has been happening during the negotiating period.
I do not have before me the letter I wrote to my right hon. Friend about the Africans who were to be hanged. I do not know whether they have been hanged, because information does not come out of Rhodesia. The two Africans in question were members of ZAPU or the Patriotic Front—as it is now called. However, they have never been involved in terrorism or violence. They never were guerrilla fighters. They were, however, found guilty of assisting people to leave the country. Some people might say that that was a qualitative difference. Bishop Muzorewa was one of those who appealed to Mr. Smith for clemency—and he appealed on behalf of people who were not members of his organisation. As far as I can find out, certainly from the replies which I have seen from that country, the 1110 pleas for clemency were rejected out of hand. That is why I very much doubt whether there is a sufficient climate of opinion to bring both sides together. There is a long way to go—
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.