HC Deb 02 March 1994 vol 238 cc936-7
13. Mr. Bayley

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what action he is taking to monitor whether the election in South Africa in April is free and fair.

Mr. Hurd

Britain is contributing substantially to the observer operations of the United Nations, the European Union and the Commonwealth. The exact number of British observers in the election has yet to be finalised.

Mr. Bayley

Does the Foreign Secretary share my concern about the withdrawal of Inkatha from the elections because people living in Inkatha areas who vote will be deemed to be African National Congress supporters and their lives may be at risk? How many polling stations will there be in the elections and is it the intention of Britain as the former colonial power, together with other countries under United Nations and Commonwealth control, to ensure that there are enough observers to have at least one at every polling station? Finally, does the right hon. Gentleman recall that for the first multiracial election in Zimbabwe Britain sent a large number of police officers, and will he consider doing the same on this occasion?

Mr. Hurd

The United Nations plans to field 1,778 observers in the South African election, the European Union 312 and the Commonwealth 60, so there will be enough observers. The hon. Gentleman will know that we are already giving help to the South African police.

Even more important is the hon. Gentleman's first point: I understand that there was a good meeting yesterday between Mr. Mandela and Chief Buthelezi, and I hope that out of that improved atmosphere may come progress towards a fuller joining of all concerned in the elections on April 27.

Sir Michael Marshall

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the United Nations estimate of some thousands of observers is a critical part of ensuring free and fair elections in South Africa? Does he agree that it would be a great tragedy if British parliamentarians alone were ruled out by the present situation in the House? Will he use his best offices and urge the Opposition to let us participate?

Mr. Hurd

I will certainly follow up that point.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Does the Foreign Secretary agree, as I think he does, that the monitoring of the election in South Africa would be much easier if Chief Buthelezi and Inkatha were to take part? Does he therefore welcome, as I do, the tentative moves made yesterday in that direction? Will he use his best endeavours and take every opportunity to encourage Chief Buthelezi to join the elections in full participation?

Mr. Hurd

I have just said that I think that it is very important. The hon. Gentleman will have noticed what the President of the United States and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister agreed yesterday—that our two countries would work hard to strengthen the tangible, practical steps we can take to promote the process of democratic reform in South Africa.

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