HC Deb 30 March 1994 vol 240 cc915-7
6. Mr. Nicholas Winterton

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on what consultations he has had with President F. W. de Klerk about the safeguarding of the interests of all the peoples of South Africa under its new constitution following elections at the end of April.

Mr. Hurd

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister met President de Klerk on 8 December. He made it clear that we strongly support the establishment of a stable, non-racial and democratic South Africa in which the rights of all citizens are equally respected, and we are prepared to help in any useful way.

Mr. Winterton

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his reply. Having had an opportunity to spend some time in South Africa recently—

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

Missing a three-line Whip.

Mr. Winterton

—for which leave of absence was officially granted, and having met representatives from all population groups, may I ask whether my right hon. Friend is aware that there is considerable opposition to the unitary state constitution that could come into effect after the elections at the end of April? Bearing in mind the lack of safeguards for all the peoples of South Africa under the proposed constitution and the vital part that the South African economy plays in the whole of the African continent, not just for the people of South Africa, will my right hon. Friend urge upon F. W. de Klerk and other political representatives the importance of considering a federal structure to safeguard all interests in that important country?

Mr. Hurd

It is for South Africans of all communities to discuss and resolve that point. I understand that a summit meeting is soon to take place between the leaders of the main parties. We call on the leaders of the parties to spare no effort to ensure that the transition to a multi-racial democracy is peaceful. All differences, such as those mentioned by my hon. Friend, have to be resolved by peaceful negotiations. That means speaking out clearly against violence, urging restraint among their followers and promoting reconciliation by pursuing their aims and objectives with flexibility and a view to a compromise.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Does the Foreign Secretary agree that by far the best opportunity for peace and progress in southern Africa after the elections is the absolute need for people to accept the results of the elections as being free and fair? Therefore, will he not listen to the siren voices who advocate federalism and thus give encouragement to Chief Buthelezi and Inkatha, who will not take part in the elections? Will he make it clear even now that if Chief Buthelezi and Inkatha refuse to accept the elections, they will stand condemned and isolated and will have no friends in this country?

Mr. Hurd

I and many others have made it clear over many months that the elections are crucial to the future of South Africa. Therefore, we hope that all concerned will take part in them. The hon. Gentleman mentioned observers. There will be about 40 British observers in the United Nations team, 30 in the European team and five in the Commonwealth team. A group of about 20 parliamentarians is, with agreement, going to take part also. It is crucial that the elections should be free and fair and should be seen to be free and fair.

Mr. Colvin

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the long-term stability of the Republic of South Africa will depend very much on the ability of the Government who are elected on 27 April to meet the economic and social expectations of the people of South Africa? What initiatives are Her Majesty's Government taking with regard to trade and investment in South Africa which would assist economic progress in that country?

Mr. Hurd

Like South African Ministers and the African National Congress, we are certainly encouraging British business men to look with fresh eyes at the new South Africa and to find there the opportunities that undoubtedly exist for trade and investment. The main incentive for trade and investment will be free and fair elections and an end to the violence. An end to the violence is the most crucial incentive.

Dr. Howells

Since this is the last session of Foreign Office questions before the South African elections, will the Government take the opportunity to condemn the terrible slaughter being visited upon that country even this very day by Chief Buthelezi's Inkatha movement and his supporters in the security forces? Will the Government make clear to the people of South Africa and the rest of the world their total and unequivocal support for the free and fair elections that have been organised in that country and for the emergence of the sort of multi-party, non-racial democracy that is so vital for the economic and political well-being of the southern half of the African continent?

Mr. Hurd

I have already met the hon. Gentleman's second point twice in answering the main question. On his first point, it is not sensible for us to start allocating blame for death and terrorism to one particular group after a particular incident. That is not our business, but it is our business, and that of all friends of South Africa, to emphasise the two points that I have tried to emphasise, I hope on behalf of the House as a whole. The elections are crucial to the future of South Africa. They will not be successful if they are marred by the terrible violence of the type that we have seen in recent days.

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