HL Deb 17 March 1982 vol 428 cc727-45

8.52 p.m.

Lord Hatch of Lusby rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what is the latest situation in the negotiations for the independence of Namibia and what policy they are adopting.

The noble Lord said: I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. The Question is a request to the Government to state their policy towards the situation now existing in Namibia. Namibia is the latest—perhaps the last but one—of the measures which have been taken to dissolve the European empire. The previous occasion on which this was done was the Lancaster House Conference of two and a half years ago, for which both respect and congratulation are due to the present Government, as also to the party of which I am a member, which did a great deal to prepare for the success of that conference.

The previous decision of this nature was that which dissolved the Central African Federation. I should like to pay respect to the memory of Lord Butler. This is not just on my own behalf but on behalf of many millions of people in Central Africa. In the tributes which have been paid to Lord Butler, it appears to have been largely overlooked that he was the last Minister for Central Africa, he was the last Secretary of State for Central Africa, and it was his responsibility to wind up that federation. In doing so, he showed a decisiveness which many critics have alleged he did not possess but which I was privileged to see at first hand, and was further privileged to discuss with him on several occasions, both during the course of his tenure of office and when he moved on to Trinity College, Cambridge. I can assure his widow and family that there are many, many millions of Africans in Central Africa who would like to pay respect to the memory of the work that he did in 1962.

We are discussing a situation of war. Those of us who reside constantly in any part of Central and Southern Africa are living in the middle of a war situation. I have only to refer you to this morning's newspapers where you will see the account of the killing of over 200 Namibians on Angolan soil—at least the claim from the South African Government that this was done last weekend. This is the atmosphere, an atmosphere of death, torture, brutality, insecurity and constant warfare.

We are entitled to ask the Government what position they are taking, what policy they are following, in this situation. I would remind the members of the Government—as I did last July—that this is a situation which was originally the responsibility of the British Crown and British Government. The original mandate over what was then South-West Africa came from the British Crown. So the responsibility lies heavier on the Government and people of this country than on any other. Last July, the noble Lord who replied to my Question assured the House that the present Government were entirely wedded to Resolution 435 of the United Nations.

I should like to ask the Government tonight a number of questions about Resolution 435 because it seems to me from my observations on the spot that that resolution is being progressively diluted. Unfortunately, after the Geneva Conference of just over 12 months ago, the contact group of five, of which our Government is a member, appeared to pass on responsibility almost solely to the United States. The United States talked about strengthening Resolution 435.

That word "strengthening" should be in inverted commas, because what we have seen since the United States took the major responsibility for the aftermath of the Geneva Conference appears to me to weaken Resolution 435, if not in some respects actually to contradict it. Let me go quickly through the events since we last discussed this issue of Namibia last July. It was in October that the contact group visited us in Central Africa. They brought with them a skeleton plan. That plan was so widely distributed that it is betraying no secrets to refer to what was in it.

The first measure that I should like to draw to the Government's attention was that, whereas Resolution 435 at least assumed that there would be an elected assembly which would then create a constitution which would be drawn up by the elected representatives of Namibia, in the contact group's plan of last October the constitutional principles were to be agreed before the elections took place. This is a great practical issue. For example, among the constitutional principles was included the right of compensation for any property taken over by the state. What does that mean? Does it not mean that, if the newly-elected Government of Namibia were, for example, to take over Rio Tinto Zinc or De Beers—two of the major mining companies in Namibia today—there would already have been a forced agreement that compensation should be paid before even the elections took place?

Again, in Resolution 435 it was clearly stated that Namibia should be one political entity; yet in the October plan the assembly was to consist of different political groups. But suppose the Namibian people do not want to elect different political groups: are they to be imposed upon them? According to the plan, this was one of the conditions of agreement. The assembly had to consist of different political groups, which is a very long way from the concept of one political entity. Within that plan also there was at least the suggestion that proportional representation might be used as the method of election. I say "suggestion" because it was not laid down as a specific proposal.

After the contact group had been out to Central Africa the major nationalist organisation, SWAPO, recognised as the representative of the Namibian people by the United Nations and the representatives of the front line states met together; and I was appalled when I came back to this country in December to discover that there was a general assumption right across the political lines that SWAPO and the front line states had agreed to the contact group's plan. That was never the case. SWAPO and the front line states suggested certain amendments. They accepted that the contact group should continue its negotiating work but they never at any time agreed to that plan; and there were certain specific parts of the plan to which they had objections and to which they suggested important amendments.

Then in that same month of December further changes were made to Resolution 435. It was then suggested not only that proportional representation should be introduced as the method of election but that proportioanl representation should be linked to a constituency situation, so that a certain number—nobody knew how many—of voters in Namibia would have two votes.

The obvious objective of this move, which still further weakened Resolution 435, was to assist the South Africans with their control of their clients within Namibia, to stimulate tribalism and to appeal to tribalism above the national appeal which SWAPO had always put forward and, in particular, to assist the Turnhalle Alliance. As a two-thirds majority had to be obtained for any change in the constitution, it was apparent that this new electoral system would encourage smaller parties, particularly tribal parties, and would open the way to the blocking of a SWAPO Government with real power to implement a new constitution.

So there followed another conference between SWAPO and the frontline states which was held in Lusaka over a weekend, with SWAPO representatives, with frontline states representatives and with representatives from the United Nations. Here let me ask the Government whether they are aware that SWAPO categorically rejected the concept of double voting. They would not consider any form of electoral system which gave any elector two votes. They were supported in that stand by the frontline states.

Then 10 days ago, in Maputo in Mozambique, yet another conference was held—this time, I think, largely because the front-line states and the people of Namibia are getting impatient with the delays which appear to have struck the contact group and the negotiators. At that conference the front-line states for the first time publicly declared their support for military action both by SWAPO and by the African National Congress within South Africa.

I am asking the Government whether they are aware of this sequence of events, because in the meantime, while the negotiators have been going to and fro, while discussions have been held at the United Nations and while the State Department and Dr. Crocker have been inventing their various peculiar forms of electoral systems, Namibia is being raped by the mining companies as well as by the South African forces. Do the Government agree that the removal and sale of uranium from the Rossing mine of RTZ is against international law? Are the Government aware that the diamond mining company of De Beers is pulling out diamonds from the country as fast as it can, and leaving great gaping holes in the landscape?

But beyond this, and perhaps of even greater menace, there has continued the consistent South African foreign policy of procrastination. All the time, the South African Government has been willing to talk and to negotiate until it comes to any point of decision, but as soon as that point is reached the South African Government then backs away. This is not an accident. This is a deliberate policy, because, while the South African Government is following its policy of procrastination, it is at the same time establishing its own system of tribal homelands in Namibia, as it has done within the bounds of the Republic itself, strengthening the political rule of its own clients and increasing its military control and its terrorist tactics against the people of Namibia and its occupation of Southern Angola. In short, it is following a policy, which it has clearly stated to be the building up of a constellation of states around the Republic of South Africa, all of them dependent upon Pretoria.

I am very grateful to the noble Earl who has stepped in to answer this debate, and I should like to conclude by simply asking him certain specific questions of which I have given him notice. First, what evidence do the Government have that the South African Government has changed its policy by one iota since it sabotaged the Geneva Conference at the beginning of 1981, particularly when it is the Prime Minister of South Africa, Mr. Botha himself, who has said that South Africa has no intention of handing Namibia over to SWAPO? How can that be equated with free and fair elections in which the Namibian people choose their own representatives?

Secondly, do the Government consider that the various alternative forms of electoral system, which have been devised by Dr. Crocker and his colleagues and by the contact group, including proportional representation, the constituency system, the double-voting system, the insistence that constitutional principles shall be agreed before the elections and the fact that the assembly shall be composed of different political groups, are consistent with Resolution 435?

Thirdly, are the Government aware that the Front Line States and SWAPO are totally opposed to, and will not countenance in any circumstances, the double-voting system which has been proposed, and other issues that arise from the plan that was put before them last autumn? Fourthly, do the Government agree that it is a breach of international law for the mining companies to continue to export minerals from Namibia against the decision of the United Nations and the International Court of Justice, and do they not deplore the fact that such milling companies have, or have had, on their boards leading public figures from across the political spectrum from this country?

Lastly, will the Government categorically and unreservedly condemn the invasion and occupation of Angola by South African troops, and, if they will do so, what action are the Government taking in a situation of war, of much more open war than is to be found in, for example, eastern Europe today? What action are the Government taking? What policy are they following to bring to an end this aggression and invasion by South African troops of a friendly country, namely Angola?

9.14 p.m.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Hatch of Lusby is very well qualified to speak about Namibia and its problems, and his speech showed how well equipped he is in terms of knowledge and practical experience of Southern Africa. My noble friend has raised a number of important practical points about Resolution 435 and has made a number of serious allegations about departures from the operation of Resolution 435 with which I feel sure the Minister will wish to deal in his reply.

Namibia, this comparatively large country—four times the size of our own with a small population of I million people—poses a problem not only for the African continent but for the whole world. It is in danger of becoming a pawn in a very large game. And in spite of all the United Nations resolutions, the promises, the well-meaning initiatives and the conferences, Namibia still remains under the control of South Africa. The manoeuvrings and manipulations in which South Africa has engaged in order to retain control over Namibia over the last 15 years and more have, I suppose, gained that country some time. But it has not been time well spent, for each month that goes by makes the problem more intractable.

There are some international negotiations where time is available and necessary to achieve the right kind of solution. Namibia is not one of these. Time has run out. I doubt whether an appeal to Pretoria along these lines will have much effect, but I would hope that the United States Government might realise at last that time is of the essence in Namibia. If the United States Administration think that they are justified in playing it long and cool for strategic reasons based on South Africa, they are making a sizeable miscalculation, because increasing bitterness and instability ill Namibia itself, and in neighbouring countries as well, can in fact destroy their strategy as well as the influence of the West in Southern Africa.

The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, the Foreign Secretary, predicted in sombre words what the consequences of failure to negotiate a settlement in Namibia would be. The noble Lord said at the Commonwealth Summit in Melbourne, and the words are as valid today as when he uttered them: I see nothing but a bloody war, and in the course of that bloody war I think you would see the devastation, or at any rate the crippling of Namibia". All the evidence, as my noble friend has said, points to a worsening situation.

People sometimes draw comparisons between the position in Rhodesia, as it was, and Namibia. They are mistaken to read too much into the comparison. But for the intransigence of Mr. Smith and his party, Zimbabwe would have had its independence many years ago. Britain, the legal sovereign power, desired that Zimbabwe should have independence, and although the South African Government played a peculiar game they would not have stood in the last ditch for Mr. Smith. Nor did they. But South Africa is a powerful occupying State in Namibia, an occupying state which has obdurately refused to yield the mandate given them in 1922. And because of their obduracy they have, and are, endangering the stability of the entire Southern African region.

The effect on neighbouring countries is profound and upon Angola very serious indeed, as again my noble friend has explained. Its economy is being damaged by the conflict and, although it is potentially one of the richest countries in Africa, it has no hope of developing its wealth while the war continues. SWAPO is largely based there and, whatever the Angolans themselves may think by now, the war also appears to "legitimise" the presence of Cuban troops in Angola. When I was in Luanda some three years ago I had the impression that even then they would like to be rid of foreign troops from their country. I believe that that feeling is much stronger today. I also understand that President dos Santos is anxious to negotiate now, and in that I believe he deserves the support of us all. I hope Her Majesty's Government will take the initiative in giving him all assistance.

We hear a great deal of talk about the encroachment of Marxism in African countries, about the dangers of Soviet intervention, and so on. South African propaganda is strong on this line. Of course, the Soviet Union likes to extend its sphere of influence, something which all countries will need to watch. But Presidents like Kaunda, Banda, Nyerere, Mugabe, Arap Moi and others have shown clearly that what they want is stable African States without outside interference.

They are Africans first and Africans second. They are Marxists too if it suits them, or if they are driven to seek out so-called Marxist sources. Against that background, what we would like to know from the noble Lord the Minister is how the current negotiations are proceeding. The so-called contact Group to which my noble friend referred has, I believe, tried hard to find solutions, but I cannot see Independence based on free elections coming as soon as most of us would wish it. A sad weakness of the contact group is that it does not have the legal authority which Britain enjoyed in Zimbabwe, but the new principles advanced by contact have received a widespread welcome here. Maybe I differ here to some degree from my noble friend. I personally consider that we are indebted to Dr. Chester Crocker and his team for the patient way in which they have sought to pursue these negotiations. What I would say to my noble friend is this. This is a great problem and one that is not easy to solve. It requires patient negotiations. Sometimes one gets frustrated and irritated by the lack of progress but, nevertheless, we must be grateful to those who are making an effort.

South Africa has reacted with the usual mixture of Yes and No. I would like the noble Lord the Minister to indicate how the Government see the position. When are free elections likely to take place? Is it still likely that they will take place on 1st March 1983? My noble friend will have noted that while it is necessary to be realistic, especially when one is dealing with South Africa, I am not quite so pessimistic as he is about the contact group. The group has provided a fair basis for negotiation and possible settlement—that was certainly the reaction in Africa. My noble friend indicated certain points of disagreement with the proposals made by the contact group. He referred, quite properly, to the problem of the right to compensation. He dealt with the question of the one political entity as against possible different political groups, with proportional representation, and so on. I regard these as "committee" points and not as great points of principle to he realised and determined now. What is important is that we should make progress towards a settlement, and these are matters which can be discussed at a conference in due course. What I want to see is more realistic practical progress.

The six African front-line states, together with Kenya and Nigeria, did in my view extend a general welcome to the contact group proposals in the first instance. Since then, I agree, they have come forward with reservations—but again, these are matters which can be the basis of discussion. I do not consider them to be an insuperable obstacle to a settlement. Again, I believe that we should be grateful to the contact group for the efforts it is making. The five nations are now renewing their attempt to clarify the first phase of their revised settlement plan and I wish them success.

Can the noble Lord the Minister give us an up to date assessment of prospects? We recognise that there are formidable obstacles to be overcome bat the sooner the process starts—the sooner we get the United Nations Security Council resolution authorising the appointment of the United Nations special representative—then the sooner there will be a ceasefire and the better things will be for all of us. Then we shall start making some progress. I do not believe that we can ask the Government for more than that they should bring all possible pressure to bear upon the parties concerned, and especially upon the United States of America and South Africa, to work towards what one hopes will be a stable settlement.

9.25 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford

My Lords, I wish to express my gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, for putting down this Question and for the impressive expertise he brought to it. I claim no such expertise myself. I have been to southern Africa on two occasions for several months and have many contacts there. But I want to bring this evening some of the views of a delegation of the British Council of Churches which a month or two ago went to Namibia. It was led by the Bishop of Manchester, Stanley Booth-Clibborn. He was accompanied by an ex-Moderator of the United Reformed Church and a Provincial Superior of the Congregation of Notre Dame, who of course is Roman Catholic, and also a Minister of the Church of Scotland, which has such an impressive record in its work in Africa. So I think it is an impressive group.

Their host during their time in Namibia was the Christian Council of Namibia, and they discovered, somewhat to their surprise, that 75 per cent. of Namibians are Christians. I find that impressive, because what it means to an African to be a Christian is a good deal more impressive than what it means to most English people. The Church leaders with whom they shared their experience, by virtue of their representative character and because there were fewer restraints on them than there are on secular speakers there, were in a unique position to speak for the people of their country. Nevertheless, they themselves suffered persecution, and I quote here from a statement which they were allowed to make, being leading Christians of Namibia, before Mr. Botha himself, in which they said that they too have experienced the deportation of leaders and workers: Many were refused visas. Others with permanent resident status had their permits withdrawn. Some were arrested and detained, all without recourse to a court of law, without the Churches to which the individuals belonged being informed". They spoke also of their concern about the killing of innocent people, about the wanton destruction of property, about beatings and about torture, and about the dangers, particularly during the night, which are abroad in that country. The British Council of Churches delegation in fact examined over 20 cases of such abuses and were satisfied as to their truth.

The report which this delegation made was a full one, and I choose four points only from it. The fundamental problem in Namibia is, of course, how to end its occupation, against the will of the majority of people, by a foreign power, by South Africa. Namibians wish South Africa to leave the territory, and believe that, as she refuses to go, she should be removed, by force if necessary. This is one of the factors in the widespread support for SWAPO, which is made up of 75 per cent. of Christians. The activities of SWAPO's military wing are an important factor in the effort to force South Africa to leave Namibia, but of course they are not in themselves sufficient to compel her to do so.

SWAPO are accused of many atrocities, and Church leaders in Namibia have expressed their support mainly for non-violent ways, and they underline the importance of both the education of public opinion and the generation of diplomatic pressure within the international community which, if South Africa is to agree to a cease-fire, it is essential to provide for fair elections and for withdrawal.

We have heard about the United Nations Security Council Resolution 435. This, of course, was welcomed in Namibia. But they are concerned about what seems to them to be the lack of pressure on South Africa by the contact group. They are suspicious. The question is frequently posed—the delegation heard this often—in this way: Is the West's primary concern with the South African Government's interests—and they really believe it is—or are they concerned with war-weary and harassed Namibia? They answer in a way which is to our discredit. Surely justice requires that we in the United Kingdom, along with other members of the United Nations, identify ourselves with the Namibians.

The November 1981 Assembly of the British Council of Churches declared that Her Majesty's Government would be justified in supporting a call in the United Nations for the imposition of mandatory sanctions against South Africa, should she continue to prevent the implementation of the programme of independence. We all hope that the present negotiations will not come to grief due to her intransigence; but should this materialise, then Her Majesty's Government will surely have to devise a policy which regards the feelings of Namibians and the international community as primary, and demands that the interests of Namibia take precedence over those of South Africa.

The second point which they make, which has not been mentioned, concerns Walvis Bay. There is great suspicion in Namibia that South Africa is excessively influencing the negotiating pattern of the contact group, and it is heightened by the fact that the port of Walvis Bay has been incorporated into South Africa, robbing the Namibians, therefore, of the only deep water port in their territory. It is a matter of grave concern that Namibia's problems in attaining economic independence will be substantial enough without the added burden of being dependent upon a South African controlled port for its foreign trade and the other implications of that fact. Failure to resolve the matter of the transfer of Walvis Bay before independence could well create an area of future conflict and should receive urgent attention by the Western contact group.

I come to the third point. At the end of last month the Council of Churches in Namibia expressed concern that the contact group's proposed voting arrangements for independence elections, as detailed in the document, were unnecessarily complex, and the leaders in their statement before Mr. Botha made that point. I think that the matter has been laboured enough already in this debate. One or other system would be preferable for the people although one takes seriously the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, concerning tribalism. Anyway, many people have sufficient trouble with one man one vote, let alone trying to cope with one man two votes.

Fourthly, and finally, the group felt considerable concern because of the tendency revealed not only by South African newspapers and media, but by the media in this country, to analyse and present Namibia from the perspective of South Africa rather than from the perspective of the Namibians themselves, who long to end the war and who long for independence. I give a simple instance of this bias which has, in fact, been mentioned. Although the SWAPO liberation movement is ministered to by the Church and receives support from people who are overwhelmingly Christians, it is, of course, often presented as a terrorist group which is anti-Church and anti-Christian, which is a tool of Moscow; while in fact the military struggle is of a nationalist movement seeking to rid Namibia of an illegal South African presence.

The picture is often painted of a Marxist movement, controlled from Moscow, seeking to overthrow the legitimate forces of law and order. The suffering of the civilian population is more often attributed to terrorist activity when, in fact, it is inflicted by the arbitary actions of the South African security forces. A Church spokesman declared: We wish to he protected from our protectors". Just as our Government are called upon to understand Namibia's problems through identification with its people, so the media should respond to the need to present Namibia from the perspective of its nationals and their legitimate needs. The public image presented to us now by Mr. Mugabe, when contrasted with that of two years ago, is striking.

It is incumbent upon us to take note of all these horrible facts and the thwarted ambition of the people of Namibia, and to do all in our power that we can to support them in every way, and to support Her Majesty's Government in their efforts in that direction.

9.36 p.m.

The Earl of Bessborough

My Lords, I welcome the Unstarred Question of the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, because last month I visited Namibia for the first time and spent a full week there. I went there at the invitation of the Proswa Namibia Foundation to give their annual foundation address, and during that week's stay I had meetings with the Administrator General, Mr. Danie Hough, and also with Mr. H. J. von Hase, a recent and most distinguished member of the Ministers' Council. I also met representatives of several of the principal political parties in the country, including of course members of the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance, the DTA, which includes, as we know, the 11 ethnic groups. I also saw the President of the South-West African National Union, SWANU, as it is known. I had talks with the Secretary-General of the Namibian Council of Churches as well as with representatives of the Namibia Independence Party and the leader of the SWAPO Democrats.

I had meetings, too, with a number of representatives of finance, commerce, mining and industry in the area, and spent a day at the Rossing uranium mine. At Rossing I found 3,600 miners very happily working and in their new township of Arandis. I also had a meeting with the South-West African Defence Head-quarters and spent the whole morning there, and I visited a military training school where the commandant had recently been commanding a battalion in the north, in what he described at that time as a war of low intensity".

All in all, as your Lordships will appreciate, I was able to sound out a broad spectrum of opinion. I shall not repeat what I said in the debate last July, but I would say that one of the principal impressions that I received was that representatives of the political parties and, indeed, the ethnic groups, seemed rather lost and uncertain about the future. They did not seem to know what was going on as regards the negotiations about which we have heard. I found all this rather sad.

Several of those to whom I spoke regretted the absence of a representative of the five power contact group in the capital, Windhoek, though they recognised that from time to time representatives of the five embassies in Pretoria visit Windhoek and that Dr. Chester Crocker, the United States Assistant Secretary and leader of the five power group, has himself spent some time in the country. In my view, the United States must take the lead in this situation, unlike in Zimbabwe, where it was clearly a British responsibility to take the lead. However, those I met wished that there was someone permanently in Windhoek to whom they could refer in order to keep up to date with the progress of negotiations. They recognised that such representation would have to be on the clear understanding that the appointment of such a representative would not imply official recognition of the present Ministers' Council. I put this point to my noble friend Lord Trefgarne and Foreign and Commonwealth officials on my return quite recently. I would certainly be interested to hear whether my noble friend Lord Avon can say anything on this matter of five power representation there this evening.

In general, I should like to say how interesting I found this visit and how impressed I was by the determination and tenacity of all those working in that vast and arid land—a country which until my wife and I arrived there had had no rain for over three years. It seemed to me a miracle how all those I met, whether working in mining, industry, commerce, agriculture, banking or other activities in Namibia have contrived to create so much out of such an apparently inhospitable environment.

I was impressed too by the fact that, after all, racial discrimination has been abolished by law, and that in my hotel black Africans appeared to come and go as they pleased, in contrast to the situation in South Africa itself. I hope in this way that Namibia is, or will he, setting an example in this respect. I understand, incidentally—I got this report only this morning —that Dr. Ben Africa, a member of the Namibian Ministers' Council, announced only two days ago that the Ministers' Council had decided in principle that local authorities in Namibia should come under the jurisdiction of the central Government from 1st April.

If successful, this move would enable the Ministers' Council to open to all races municipal facilities such as the capital's public library and the city swimming pool which are, I know, currently reserved for whites. These would certainly be moves in the right direction, and there have been others. But I recognise that the decision by the Ministers' Councils would still have to be approved by the South African Administrator General, whose office holds at present the ultimate legislative and executive powers of government.

May I just add this. I hope that when the country achieves its independence it will be in a position to join the British Commonwealth and also the Lomé Convention and the Assembly of the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries—the ACP countries. This would then presumably entitle them to Commonwealth and European Community aid, which I think they would find considerably more useful and rewarding than that offered by the Soviet Union or the East Germans.

I am not saying that Commonwealth and Community aid could altogether replace the massive financial and other assistance which the country at present receives from South Africa. South African assistance would, in my view, have to continue for many reasons. First, because so many firms in the country are subsidiaries of South African concerns, and the whole banking system is at present dependent on South Africa, with whom of course there is monetary union in so far as the rand is the currency throughout the region.

Namibia must, in my view, continue to depend economically, to a very considerable extent, on South Africa. For these reasons, I much look forward to hearing what my noble friend has to say about the progress of current negotiations, and especially whether there has been any progress in deciding on an electoral system for elections which I hope will take place certainly not later than the autumn of next year.

9.45 p.m.

Lord Brockway

My Lords, my first words must be to thank my noble friend Lord Hatch for initiating this debate and to congratulate him on the masterly, informed speech he delivered. I wish to associate myself with what he said in tribute to the late Lord Butler. Like him, I had some association with Lord Butler on colonial issues. I was deeply impressed by his tolerance, open-mindedness and willingness to hear views which were not his own, and particularly I pay tribute to the great Act which ended the Federation of Central Africa and brought independence to its countries.

It is 16 years since The Hague Court decided that the South African occupation of Namibia was illegal. That such a long period should have passed shows either the weakness or indifference of the world to determining that such a decision should be carried out. Throughout those 16 years the South African Government have delayed any solution of the problem, sometimes coming near to it and then withdrawing and sometimes creating a critical situation at a moment of crisis by their invasion of Angola. I have been glad to hear, during those years remarks made from our Front Bench, particularly by my noble friend Lady Llewelyn-Davies, protesting against the delays which South Africa has imposed upon a solution.

I listened with great interest to the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough. On the whole he gave an optimistic picture of the situation in Namibia, and I assure him that we share his hopes about the future. But, from all the information one receives, I think it doubtful whether we can take that optimistic view. He indicated that action had been taken in Namibia against apartheid and racial discrimination and mentioned particularly the Racial Discrimination Act. I shall return to that shortly, but first I must say that during the period when South Africa has controlled Namibia, its influence has been to establish there the very foundations of the apartheid system; namely, the segregation of people according to their race and ethnic origins and to prevent their unity. That is the very basis of apartheid and it has been the policy which the South African Government have been following. It has established an assembly, based upon ethnic groups, with the party which it has supported, the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance.

This week there has taken place an event that is likely to destroy the whole construction of the ethnic base that the South African Government have established. The President of the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance has resigned. He resigned on the ground that South Africa is producing an apartheid policy in its establishment of these ethnic antagonisms. He is the head of the largest ethnic group, the Ovambo, and that action on his part is likely to destroy his party and destroy the very basis of South African domination within Namibia—

The Earl of Bessborough

My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that the President, Peter Kalangula, has not in fact been followed by many of his colleagues in resigning from the DTA?

Lord Brockway

Yes, my Lords, but he is the leader of the largest ethnic party, and, if that party withdraws, as it has, the whole strength of that movement will disappear.

I want to depart from those preliminary remarks to deal immediately with the argument that the Racial Discrimination Act, and the proclamation of equal pay in the public sector, whatever the race, have been a large contribution towards ending discrimination in Namibia. The Racial Discrimination Act itself contained reservations. It contained the reservation of permits to allow restaurants and hotels to "protect civilised standards". I do not know whether in his visit to Namibia the noble Earl was able to visit the Apollo restaurant and hotel in Windhoek, one of the major restaurants and hotels there. That hotel still prohibits any black person from entering, in accordance with the reservation in the Act which allows for people to be refused entry on the ground that they are repudiating the protection of civilised standards.

So far as equal pay is concerned, it is not being observed in Namibia. I quote from the Windhoek Observer, three years after the Act was introduced. The newspaper stated: Equal pay for equal work, as it stands presently, is a farce…. There are very few instances which have honoured this legislation". When we begin to look at the contrast between the payments made to whites and to blacks in Namibia, we see how that criticism is justified. The United Nations study in 1978 said that the per capita income of whites was 3,000 rupees, whereas the per capita income of blacks was 125 rupees—24 times as much for the whites as the blacks received.

I take a further instance of this, and I take it from the very organisation which invited the noble Earl to go to Namibia. I take it from the director of that organisation. In October 1981 the director of the Private Sector Foundation of Namibia said that the difference between the payment to whites and the payment of blacks in Namibia was still 12 to 1; that it was 12 times larger for the whites than it was for the blacks. That is an indication how far the policy of equal pay has been carried out.

It is not hidden today that the reason why America has urged upon the contact group the electoral system in Namibia of two votes—one proportional representation, one direct—is to keep SWAPO from winning the election. That is recognised. I think that on technical grounds one can suggest that in a country which is fairly new to electoral methods that complicated system will make it very difficult for a true result to be obtained.

What is this fear of SWAPO? The fear of SWAPO is in South Africa, in America and in many capitalist countries of the world, because SWAPO would stand for the ending of economic imperialism in Namibia. It is dismissed as Marxist and communist. There are many elements within it which are neither, and we make a great mistake today when we suggest that every country in Africa which stands against the economic imperialism of the past is necessarily a copy of the Soviet Union or a copy of China. There is Mozambique, with its community democracy, so different from either. There is Angola, and even Ethiopia, in its land reform, though I disagree with its treatment of Eritrea, not copying either the Soviet Union or China.

What we should recognise is that these new countries are applying an African socialism which is very distinct from either the Soviet Union or China. I want to admit that democratic socialists themselves are a little to blame if these are always recognised as communist countries. There are only two or three socialist countries in the whole of Africa which are affiliated to the Socialist Internationale. It is a great mistake to take the view that if SWAPO gained control of Namibia it would necessarily be following either the Soviet Union of the Chinese example.

I want to end by emphasising the very great seriousness of the situation in Namibia for peace in Africa. Unless a settlement can be reached in Namibia, unless South Africa will accept it, unless America and the contact group can accept a solution which is desired by the people of Namibia, the danger of the present civil war spreading is very great indeed.

I urge the Government to have an open mind upon these issues and to put first and foremost their desire for a settlement. The Leader of the Labour Party, Mr. Michael Foot, made an important speech on this subject at the first meeting of the anti-aparthied conference. I am surprised that the media has not reported it. He made a speech first in which he said that a Labour Government will carry out the instructions of the United Nations and the International Court at the Hague and refuse to receive in this country minerals from Namibia, including uranium. He made that statement definitely as Labour Party policy. He said, secondly, what is even more serious: that a Labour Government, unless South Africa will change its attitude on aparthied and towards Namibia, will support economic sanctions against South Africa. Those two statements illustrate the danger of the present situation, and I urge Her Majesty's Government to look at the situation in a new way and to seek a solution which gives promise of a settlement.

10.3 p.m.

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, the Government welcome the oppportunity which the noble Lord's Question has provided to have the problem of Namibia fully aired in this House. His expertise on this subject—noted by all the speakers—amply demonstrated in his contribution to this evening's debate, is extensive and well-known. I, too, should like to join with other noble Lords in their tributes to Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, not so much about Central Africa, where I was not connected with him, but as more of a personal tribute for he was, of course, a family friend for many years.

Britain has a long historical connection with southern Africa. The Government have been closely involved with the Namibia problem since the Western five first put forward their proposals for a solution in 1978, and subsequently pursued their efforts to achieve a peaceful settlement in accordance with Security Council Resolution 435. That remains a central objective of the Government. Peaceful change in the region is both desirable in itself and also for the benefits it would bring to the populations of those troubled countries; a solution to the Namibia question would be a demonstration of the possibility of dealing with international trouble spots through negotiation instead of through the bitterness and suffering of armed struggle. The failure of these negotiations would lead to indefinite delay in the achievement of independence for the Namibian people, and to a protraction of the fighting in Angola and in Namibia itself—fighting to which no definite outcome is in any case likely for either side.

That is why the Governments of the Western five have attached high priority to the resumption of the negotiations; negotiations which were unfortunately interrupted by the failure of the pre-implementation meeting in January last year. The five subsequently agreed on a 3-phase process of negotiation, aimed at beginning implementation of the UN plan during 1982.

In answer to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, as to the South African intentions towards agreeing to a settlement, it is the case that the South African Government have agreed to this 3-phase concept and are fully engaged in negotiations with the five. In the first phase the five are inviting all parties contesting the elections to Namibia's Constituent Assembly to subscribe to certain constitutional principles.

Noble Lords will probably be aware that we now have agreement to most of our proposals, but some points raised by the front line states and SWAPO require further consideration. These relate primarily to the system of election which the five have proposed for the elections to the Constituent Assembly. I do not wish to go into any detail since the negotiations are confidential. We believe that our proposed system would be fair to all parties and groups and is in no way inconsistent with the provisions of the United Nations plan.

The noble Lord, Lord Hatch, asked a number of questions regarding the contents of the constitutional principles, and the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, I think, made some rather sweeping assumptions which I hope to correct. I would assure the House that the five are completely satisfied that these principles are wholly compatible with the Security Council Resolution 435 and do not detract from the right of Namibia's elected representatives to decide on their own constitution and their own future. The five are certain that the proposed electoral arrangements are wholly fair.

All the five have Governments with a solid commitment to the democratic principle, including the principle of equality of voting rights. Any suggestion that they would be parties to arrangements which were undemocratic or which conflicted with those principles is quite unfounded. I would remind the House that the United Nations plan specifies that all electoral arrangements will enter into force only when approved by a special representative of the United Nations Secretary-General. The five are making every effort to surmount the obstacles to the completion of phase 1, and we hope thereby to build confidence and to encourage the flexible attitudes which we shall need in tackling the difficult issues that will arise in the next phase.

When we have reached agreement on the constitutional principles—but not before—we shall move on to phase 2. That phase concerns mainly the im- partiality of the electoral process and the size, role and composition of the United Nations Transition Assistance Group. All concerned need to be convinced that the arrangements for the elections to the Constituent Assembly will be totally fair to all parties participating.

The South Africans have for a long time made clear their concern about the United Nations impartaility. We believe we can find ways to deal with these concerns, with the co-operation of the front line states and other African Governments. For ourselves, we and our partners in the five have the fullest confidence in the United Nations Secretary-General and his staff and in their ability to carry out impartially all the tasks assigned to them under the United Nations plan.

The problems due for discussion in phase 2 will be highly contentious. To resolve them will require a positive and less suspicious approach from all the parties concerned. We hope that the front line states and SWAPO will understand that the need of the five to take account of reasonable South African concerns does not mean that we are in any way taking sides or ignoring matters of interest to themselves. Similarly, we hope that South Africa will continue to accept the need for an internationally acceptable framework for a settlement.

It is one of the hard realities of the negotiations that there will be no agreement, no ceasefire, no elections and no independence for Namibia unless we take account of the essential interests of all the parties concerned, even though this may sometimes lay us open to the suspicion of favouring one side or the other. We hope that the five's approach will be recognised as offering the only real hope of securing an end to the South African unlawful occupation of Namibia, and so of achieving a settlement in the interests of the people of Namibia and of the peace and security of the region as a whole.

The last of our three phases will comprise agreement on a date for implementation and the implementation process itself. The United Nations plan allows for at least seven months between the ceasefire and the constituent assembly elections, which implies independence for Namibia sometime in 1983, if all goes well.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford mentioned the problem of Walvis Bay. We believe that the current negotiations have enough complexities and we should not wish to prejudice them by introducing an additional element. The five have made clear their view that resolution of the question of Walvis Bay should be left between the South African Government and an elected Government of Namibia. We hope that, in the event, a satisfactory compromise will be found.

We have repeatedly condemned South African incursions into Southern Angola and called for immediate withdrawal of South African troops. We wholly deplore the latest South African action which is reported in the press today and was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch. These incursions serve only to emphasise the urgent need to reach a Namibian settlement. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, that time is of the essence, while patience is also necessary.

The Government are aware of the contents of the report published by a delegation from the British Council of Churches after their recent visit to Namibia to which the right reverend Prelate referred. My honourable friend the Minister of State saw the delegation and discussed these matters with them. The Government abhor the use of violence, particularly against innocent civilians, from whatever source. The continuation of incidents such as those reported to the Churches' delegation adds yet further emphasis to the need to bring about a settlement in Namibia and thus to remove one major source of violence and suffering in the region. Sanctions would not have the effect claimed, but would, we believe, delay Namibian independence by ruining the chance of a negotiated solution to the Namibia problem.

In answer to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, about the front line states and SWAPO's proposals last October: yes indeed, they did put forward some proposals. These were considered and taken into account in the revised version produced by the five in December. The noble Lord also asked whether it was the case that SWAPO rejected the double election plan proposed at the end of 1981. It is true that SWAPO and the front line states have difficulty in accepting the mixed electoral system which the five have proposed for the Namibian constituency assembly to which I have already referred.

The noble Lord, Lord Hatch, asked about the importation of uranium from Namibia to the United Kingdom. The Government do not accept as valid the United Nations Council for Namibia Decree No. 1, which purports to prevent the exportation of natural resources in Namibia, since the United Nations General Assembly acted beyond its powers in setting up the council. The Government therefore have no grounds for interfering with this or any other trade between Namibia and the United Kingdom which does not conflict with any of our international obligations. We consider that the activities of British multinationals provide a much-needed stimulus to the deprived economy of the country and benefit their predominantly black workforce and, indirectly, the Namibian people as a whole. A settlement under the United Nations would be as much in the interest of companies operating in Namibia as in those of the Namibian people.

The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, touched on the defections from the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance, and I must say that I think it remains to be seen whether Mr. Kalangula's defection will affect the negotiations. The five's main interlocutors remain the South African Government, but we aim to take account of the legitimate interests of all Governments and parties concerned. It is too soon at the moment to assess what effect, if any, this will have.

My noble friend Lord Bessborough asked why the five are not permanently represented in Windhoek, and I think all noble Lords will have listened with interest to his report of his recent journey. None of the five accepts as legitimate the "Council of Ministers" or the "National Assembly", both of which were created as a result of the elections in December 1978, which were conducted without international supervision. But our representatives in South Africa maintain regular contact with the leaders of the internal parties in Windhoek. We consider these arrangements appropriate and satisfactory. However, we shall, of course, carefully study my noble friend's remarks this evening.

To sum up, the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, will I hope be reassured by the awareness of the Government and by their close interest. The five are persevering with their efforts to reach a peaceful solution through negotiation. We remain convinced that this course offers the best chance of reaching a settlement and of ending the violence. The only alternative is the escalation of bitter fighting in Namibia and Angola, with no certainty of how things would turn out in the end. This alternative is not acceptable to us, nor I think to any sensible person. Quite apart from the suffering of those directly involved, these consequences of a failure of the negotiations carry obvious risks for western interests. The five can only achieve their objective with the help and understanding of all the parties directly involved. The prize of an equitable and lasting settlement is there. Let us hope that the parties to the dispute will seize it.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, may I first thank him for his reply and secondly ask him whether he could address himself to a particular question which I asked: while welcoming the condemnation of the South African invasion of Angola, have the British Government any plans, particularly in view of their attitude towards events in eastern Europe, as to action which they can take to stop further invasions and to use their influence on the South African Government to withdraw from Southern Angola?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, I do not think I can add anything to what I said about that, which was a straightforward reply to the noble Lord's question regarding the present Government's actions.