HL Deb 04 March 1980 vol 406 cc143-53

2.55 p.m.


My Lords, with your Lordships' permission I shall make a Statement on Rhodesia.

The results of the Common Roll elections held last week were announced this morning. They give Mr. Mugabe's ZANU(PF) party 57 seats, Mr. Nkomo's Patriotic Front party 20 seats, and Bishop Muzorewa's UANC party 3 seats.

In his report to the Governor, the Election Commissioner concluded that, despite some distortion of voting as a result of intimidation in certain areas, the overall result would broadly reflect the wishes of the people.

It has been the virtually unanimous view of the British, Commonwealth and other international observers who witnessed the elections, that they were, in the circumstances, free and fair. The exceptionally high turnout provides an indication of the confidence of the Rhodesian people in the conduct of the elections and the secrecy of the vote.

The Government are grateful for the efforts of all those concerned with the organisation of the elections for their unstinting work.

The need now is for national unity and reconciliation.

The Governor has seen Mr. Mugabe, as leader of the party with an absolute majority of the seats in the House of Assembly, and asked him to set in train the process of forming a Government which can contribute effectively to these goals.

An important step towards reconciliation and the integration of forces has already been taken with the start of joint training between units of Mr. Mugabe's and Mr. Nkomo's forces and of the Rhodesian army, under the supervision of British members of the Monitoring Force.

The growing confidence and contact between the two forces means that the role of the Monitoring Force is increasingly one of liaison and training and there will be a phased reduction in its size. The first members will return to the United Kingdom today.

The Government would wish to record once again their thanks to all members of the force for the admirable way in which they carried out their difficult task, above all in winning the confidence of all sides.

The people of Rhodesia have now made their choice of Government under conditions agreed by all the parties at Lancaster House, who committed themselves to accept the outcome of the election.

It is no less important that the other aspects of the Lancaster House Agreements should he faithfully observed.

The independence constitution which will shortly come into force provides safeguards for the minority community and will ensure that they can continue to play their full part in the life of the country.

Britain's task now is to assist in the orderly transfer of power to a stable Government. The Governor will do all that he can to ease the transition and to help overcome whatever problems may arise in the period until independence.


My Lords, in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, for so promptly coming to the House to make that very important Statement, may I ask whether he is aware that we would all wish to congratulate Mr. Robert Mugabe on his electoral victory and wish him well in the immense tasks that face him and his people in the future—in particular the task of reuniting a country which has only recently emerged from a long period of destruction and bloodshed, and that of building a true democracy, a free society and a prosperous economy? Does the noble Lord further agree that it is the wish of the Government of the United Kingdom, and of all sections of the people of the United Kingdom, to establish from the very start of the emergence of the new State of Zimbabwe, relations of strong friendship and wide-ranging co-operation, as Rhodesia emerges as the sovereign independent State of Zimbabwe and, we hope, a member of the Commonwealth?

Will the noble Lord note that we join in expressing appreciation of the role of the Governor, Lord Soames, and his staff, and of the role of British troops, British police officers and electoral officials, as well as observers drawn from other countries, including the Commonwealth, in ensuring the holding of the freest and fairest possible elections in these very unusual and trying circumstances? Above all, will he note our admiration of the conduct of the mass of the people of Rhodesia, unused to the processes of democracy, who nevertheless showed remarkable patience and responsibility during this very difficult period?

Will he note that we are very pleased indeed at the progress already being made in the integration of the forces in Rhodesia, a key measure to ensure that there is an orderly and peaceful and unfragmented march towards the new independent State? Will the noble Lord tell the House, if he can, whether consideration has been given or is being given to the request, I believe made more than once, by Mr. Robert Mugabe that Lord Soames and his staff might stay on in Salisbury for a further period in order to expedite the process of transition?

I conclude by asking whether Her Majesty's Government, under the noble Lord's Secretaryship, will do everything in their power in the next few crucial weeks to enjoin upon all the neighbours of Zimbabwe, North, East, West and in particular perhaps South, the utmost restraint, and urge upon them a posture from the start of constructive co-operation with the elected Government of the new State?


My Lords, we too on these Benches would like to thank the noble Lord for making this most important Statement. We would also like to express, if we may, our admiration for the incredible success of the policy of the noble Lord in this matter generally. As the Government are I think aware, the Liberal Party has throughout regarded Mr. Mugabe as the most likely choice for leader of the people of Zimbabwe. Now that he has been so nominated, would they not agree that, while he is undoubtedly a socialist, like so many of our friends on my left in the House here, there is no particular reason, more particularly in the light of the public statements he has made during and subsequent to the election, to regard him as, so to speak, a Marxist-Leninist, in other words, a supporter of some kind of totalitarian regime! Is it not more likely that, as a highly intelligent politician, he will assume that politics is the art of the possible and do his best, therefore, to induce the white community to accommodate themselves to the new regime in which, though no doubt deprived, as they may be, of certain privileges, they will still be able to enjoy a good life in the new republic?

Would the noble Lord not further agree. as I think was suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, that in order to arrive at such a solution it would be very advisable, to say the least, for the Governor to stay on in Salisbury for a reasonable period in order to ensure that the new Government, whether composed of supporters of Mr. Mugabe only, which is possible, or preferably representing a coalition with the forces of Mr. Nkomo, are installed and functioning with the support of the vast majority of the new nation?

3.4 p.m.


My Lords, in answer to both the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, I was greatly encouraged by the statement made by Mr. Mugabe's broadcast on the one-o'clock News. It seems to me that if that is the policy which Mr. Mugabe intends to follow, that does lead to the reconciliation which is so very necessary in Rhodesia at the present time, and certainly it will be the object of the Government, as I said in the Statement, to help in the transition period.

I have already sent messages to the neighbours of Rhodesia asking them for constructive help in the problems which face Zimbabwe in the future.

With regard to the position of the Governor, a great deal depends upon the date of independence, in which Mr. Mugabe will obviously have a great deal to say. I myself doubt whether it would be proper for the Governor, who would then have no constitutional responsibility, to stay on after independence.

Lord HOME of the HIRSEL

My Lords, may I echo the admiration expressed by my noble friend and the other two noble Lords for the part played by Lord Soames and all those associated with the exercise? It really has been an exemplary exercise in democratic procedures. May I also send good wishes to the new State of Zimbabwe? My noble friend has noticed, as I noticed this morning, that the word used by Mr. Mugabe in relation to the future was "togetherness". If that is in fact the touchstone which he and his Government are going to apply to their policies, then there is a hope for a multiracial State and a prospering State in the new Zimbabwe;and we must all hope that that will in fact be so.


My Lords, I would like, if I may, to echo what my noble friend has said about the Leader of the House. He was sniped at and criticised from every quarter by almost everybody, including some in your Lordships' House, and I think he has emerged triumphant in having organised and supervised an election which has been seen by everybody to be free and fair.


My Lords, while I have been critical of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and of Lord Soames in certain aspects, I want very sincerely to congratulate Lord Carrington on the very remarkable achievement that has occurred. No one would have believed a year ago that what I think General Walls has described as almost a miracle might have occurred. I welcome the fact that Mr. Mugabe has been returned as Prime Minister and that Joshua Nkomo has obtained such a large vote. I have sent telegrams of congratulation to them today. I do that because I believe it may end the terrible war which has been waged in Zimbabwe for eleven years.

I believe the situation now will largely depend upon General Walls. I pay tribute to him for his broadcast yesterday and for his contribution towards the integration of the Rhodesian and Patriotic Front forces. Can the Minister say whether it is true that Mr. Mugabe has asked General Walls to become the head of the security forces in Zimbabwe? Lastly, may I make this appeal to the whites who are in Rhodesia, who love that country and have been there for generations, that despite the distribution of land which may take place, they will remain in that country to realise the wonderful possibilities of reconciliation which are there?


My Lords, with regard to General Walls, I am afraid I do not know whether Mr. Mugabe has asked him to stay on, but I do know what a very constructive and sensible part General Walls has played in very difficult circumstances during the whole of the Lancaster House Conference and the campaign. With regard to the noble Lord's first question, I think congratulations are due only when we see that the outcome of all this has been a free and fair multiracial society operating in peaceful conditions.

Viscount BOYD of MERTON

My Lords, while I cannot deny that I had hoped that the voting would go another way, I also would like to offer my warm congratulations and good wishes to the new Government of Zimbabwe. I should like to join in the tributes paid to the Governor, to the Secretary of State and to all those from our own country and from the Commonwealth who have done so much to try to ensure a fair election. Following up what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, I, too, should like to express the deeply felt hope that white Rhodesians will be given, by words and actions, the confidence that will enable them to stay in their homeland and play a full part in the future of Zimbabwe.


Yes, my Lords. As I said earlier, I think that what Mr. Mugabe said both during the election campaign and what he said at one o'clock is a good augury for the future.


My Lords, on behalf of the Opposition, I should like to say that all of us are so pleased that the noble Lord has achieved success as I think he has, and I should like to put that on record. I think that he has done so well. There are problems and there will be questions of aid later on, and other matters, but I think that this has been a major achievement.


My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Peart, but as I said earlier I do not think that success will have been achieved until we see what happens in the new Zimbabwe.


My Lords, I should like to agree with that last comment. Would the noble Lord agree that the fate of Bishop Muzorewa was the foreseeable result of his seduction at Lancaster House? Would the noble Lord say whether he agrees with the description of the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, that the substitution of Bishop Muzorewa by a man who, whatever his short-time undertakings may be, is a committed Marxist is an astonishing success for this country?


My Lords, I would not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Paget of Northampton, that what happened at Lancaster House led inevitably to the defeat of Bishop Muzorewa at the election. I do not agree with that. One must remember that all the parties at Lancaster House quite freely entered into that agreement of their own volition. Having said that, I do not think that anything should detract from the part that Bishop Muzorewa has played in these last few months in bringing Rhodesia to majority rule. He played a very considerable part in that. I do not intend to bandy isms with the noble Lord, Lord Paget, or the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn.


My Lords, while warmly endorsing the tributes that have been paid to the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary and the Governor, Lord Soames, may I respectfully agree with the noble Lord that we cannot claim to have achieved ultimate success until a stable Government are in power in Zimbabwe? Would not one method of helping to ensure the success of the Government which will take office under Mr. Mugabe, be to renew the offers of aid which have been made previously by Her Majesty's Government, and in particular to make an exception of the policies of reducing the number of overseas students that we shall have at our universities, by promising Mr. Mugabe that we shall continue to take increasing numbers of Zimbabweans at our universities, whose skills will be so desperately needed, especially if some of the whites leave, as they are bound to do?


My Lords, aid and future policy towards Zimbabwe must, of course, wait for future discussion with Mr. Mugabe. However, there are certain matters to which we are committed—for example, land resettlement. However, we must think of all these matters in the context of our own position here at home. I shall certainly look at what the noble Lord has said.


My Lords, as one who recommended the independence of Zambia and Malawi some 17 years ago, I should like to congratulate my noble friend on his brilliant achievement leading towards the independence of this new country.

Viscount St. DAVIDS

My Lords, may I, as one from the Cross-Benches who in some way or another managed never to make a speech on Rhodesia, congratulate the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary? While realising that there is still some way of go along this road, I think that the whole House should congratulate him on having got matters so far along this road with the present level of success.


My Lords, as one who has not been a 100 per cent. admirer of the Government's policy, I should like to express without qualification my congratulations to the Foreign Secretary, to Lord Soames and to all associated with what resulted yesterday in elections which were free and fair. Let me not make any secret about it: the result, so far as I am concerned, is wholly satisfactory. However, I fully understand why the noble Lord wants to wait to see how things turn out before making too much of the congratulations, but there are two matters which to me are of transcendent importance and in this respect my congratulations are reinforced because they are nearer my heart. He has secured the unity of the Commonwealth, and I hope very much that Mr. Mugabe will, in fact, join with other Commonwealth countries and demonstrate once again that this country has a position as a world power, not through the exercise of power as it is commonly understood, but through the exercise of influence. I offer my congratulations and thanks to the Foreign Secretary because that is what I wholeheartedly believe, and he has a right to take every credit for bringing that to fruition.


My Lords, the noble Lord is particularly generous because not only do I think that he does not much admire Her Majesty's Government, but I do not think that he much admires me either. So, I am particularly grateful to him for his generous words.


My Lords, with the indulgence of the House, may I intervene very briefly to make two points? I would very much like to add to what I said earlier in my personal appreciation of the role played by the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary. It is so obvious that perhaps I missed him in the list of people I mentioned as deserving our appreciation. I join with him, of course, in the view that the time for congratulation is at the outcome of these events. If congratulation is for the future, surely appreciation may be tolerated for the interim. As I have said previously in the House, he has shown a capacity for bringing people and interests together, not least in Rhodesia: and one looks further East, to the Near East and as far as Afghanistan, hopefully to see the same genius for constructive conciliation between uncompromising elements brought into play.

Secondly, one does not want to press the economic and aid points too strongly this afternoon, but I believe that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has for some time been working in a tentative way on something like a scheme of assistance from the paramount power, as it still is—the United Kingdom—to Rhodesia. I should like to ask the Foreign Secretary whether he would encourage the promotion of such thinking. It is per-Imps early to think of schemes and plans which need to be discussed, of course, with the sovereign power in Rhodesia, but the thinking and the planning for such an eventuality would in due course rebound to the advantage not only of Zimbabwe but also of this country.


My Lords, as regards the noble Lord's first question, I think that the result of the election does reflect very fairly, or as fairly as it can in a situation like this, what the people of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe want. It is now up to those who have the power to use it justly in the interests of everyone. I shall, if I may, look into the last question.


My Lords, while joining in the congratulations to the Foreign Secretary, may I ask him whether it is not a bit too early, despite optimistic expectations which one can understand, to throw our hats in the air? Is it not on record that Mr. Mugabe has declared himself as a Marxist, whatever that may mean? I know that there are various definitions. Is it not also on the record that the Patriotic Front obtained a vast amount of war material from the Soviet Union? Therefore, I should like to ask the noble Lord this question. Would it not be appropriate to ask the Soviet Union to withdraw from Afghanistan—now that they have obtained indirect access to Africa? Is it not fairly certain that the Soviet Union, with their advisers —and there are many of them—will do everything possible to orient the policy of Mr. Mugabe and his friends in their direction and not ours? Therefore, would it not be wise to exercise some caution? Yes, we hope for the best, but let us he very careful that we do not get the worst.


My Lords, I thought that I had made it fairly plain in the answers I had given that so far the election had been free and fair and that it would be successful only if the new Government uses the powers that it has for the benefit of all the people of the country, and justly and wisely in a multiracial society. I have made that clear. I entirely agree with what the noble Lord says. As a matter of fact, I think that the noble Lord is wrong about Mr. Mugabe's Russian connections. In point of fact, it was very largely from the Chinese that Mr. Mugabe derived his weapons, and it was Mr. Nkomo who got them from the Russians