HL Deb 22 March 1990 vol 517 cc475-500

8.11 p.m.

Lord St. John of Bletso rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have for assisting in solving the fundamental social and economic problems facing South Africa, particularly in the urban areas.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am delighted to have the opportunity of initiating today's debate. I am grateful to those noble Lords who have put their names down to speak on this issue. It is fitting that this evening we follow the debate on overseas aid, although that report specifically excluded South Africa.

I have recently returned from a three-month visit to South Afica and I was there when the historic statements of intent were made by President de Klerk. I also witnessed the release of Nelson Mandela from the Victor Verster prison and the general euphoria which accompanied that. I consider myself fortunate to have been present during such momentous times.

In the past our discussions on South Africa have tended to be polarised, Before the state president's speech on 2nd February, issues in South Africa tended to be viewed from a rather simplistic viewpoint. They appeared to be either right or wrong. In my opinion, since the speech the doors have been thrown wide open. This is a time of great opportunity in South Africa but equally a time of considerable risk.

In previous speeches I have referred to the spectres of danger and disaster. By freeing the political arena and unbanning the various parties of opposition and the release of several political prisoners disaster has been averted in the short term. However, there is still a delicate, intricate and hard negotiation process to be pursued. As such there remains a considerable degree of risk for all those involved in the negotiations. Therefore, there remains an element of danger.

The negotiations process will highlight the fact that the issues are far from simple or static. In the light of the recent changes, it must be clear that the issues may no longer be discussed in an atmosphere of rhetoric. To that end I have addressed my Question this evening towards the fundamental social and economic problems facing South Africa particularly in the urban areas.

What is the South Africa about which it is hoped that negotiations will commence sooner rather than later? We are all familiar with the character of apartheid and the three legislative pillars which underpin it. They are the 1913 and 1936 Land Acts, the Population Registration Act and the Group Areas Act. However, according to the statements of the South African Government's chief negotiator and Minister of Constitutional Development and Planning, Dr. Gerrit Viljoen, these pillars are bound to collapse. In mid-February he stated that he did not believe that there would be another election from which blacks would be excluded. That is an extremely positive step for South Africa. He stated that the Population Registration Act would lapse with the demise of the tricameral parliamentary system. That system is a total waste of money. The Separate Amenities Act will go before Parliament for repeal in the second half of the current session. Negotiations on the repeal of the Land Act will commence, although it is unlikely to be repealed in the current session. Obviously the Group Areas Act cannot remain on the statute book once the Land Act has been repealed.

At the beginning of this month Mr. Harry Oppenheimer, the ex-chairman of the Anglo-American Corporation, said: Old fears, old prejudices, old customs and old ideologies die hard. The immoral policy of apartheid was born of the fear that whites had that they would be overwhelmed by the black majority. The hard lessons of experience have now been learnt by the great majority of white South Africans. The apartheid system is in a state of terminal disillusion. Remnants still remain but are obviously soon to go".

Nelson Mandela has committed himself to creating harmony in South Africa and to exploiting any opening that offers hope of a non-racial and democratic country. His ultimate aims are political, economic and social equality. Just prior to his release from prison he said: We must work towards a common destiny and that can only be achieved through a non-racial society",

I am totally convinced of the integrity and determination of President de Klerk to reach a negotiated settlement. A first meeting between the South African Government, the African National Congress and the 10 homelands' leaders is scheduled for 11th April in Cape Town. As a precursor to the negotiation process, the meeting will be vitally important for establishing a platform of mutual trust from which the negotiations may proceed. All the commentators have identified the spirit of mutual trust to be the most important single factor and the most visible pre-condition for the successful commencement, conduct and conclusion of negotiations.

The negotiations are not only about universal suffrage and good government but they must address the peculiarities of the demographic and economic environment in South Africa. Its current population is about 38 million. Of that, 60 per cent. are under the age of 20, and 42 per cent. are under the age of 15. Estimates of the population in the year 2000 vary from between 50 million and 55 million. Those figures will be realised if the current 3 per cent. per annum growth rate among the black population is maintained. The moot point is that South Africa will experience increases in the population of more than 1 million people each year.

What does that mean for the fundamental social and economic issues, particularly for the urban areas? In the days when the infamous influx control regulations were in force people nevertheless moved in their droves from the rural areas to the cities because of the envisaged opportunities there. Since the abolition of the pass laws, it has been estimated that more than 1 million people have moved into the towns each year. That rate is expected to continue for the next 20 years. That burgeoning influx is placing an increasing strain on the social and physical infrastructure of the towns and cities. Because of the policies of apartheid in the past those infrastructures are severely underdeveloped and are incapable of satisfying the basic needs of most of those people, let alone those who are moving into the towns. In one residential area just outside Cape Town called Khayalitsha there are currently over 11,000 black people moving in every single month. Other visible evidence can be seen in the Johannesburg area where there are estimated to be 2 million squatters. In the Durban area, there are estimated to be 1.7 million people living in shanty towns in the hills around the city.

It is acknowledged that rural migrants require some time to settle into a new urban way of life before they can contribute fully to the economy. During that time they will require some form of assistance for the satisfaction of their most basic human needs. Recent interviews with shanty town residents near Cape Town have identified three priorities: a decent place to live, a steady job and proper education for their children. In addition, there is the need for proper health care. These are the services which are already under stress.

I should like to expand briefly on those issues. In the sphere of housing, the estimated need is for roughly 250,000 housing units per annum for the next decade in order to remove the existing backlog and to accommodate the expected growth. That obviously requires significant investment. With respect to education, it should be remembered that 60 per cent. of the population are of school-going age. The average pupil to teacher ratio in black schools is 50: 1 and in some areas is even 90: 1. The average in white schools is 16: 1. Black school-leaving pass rates were between 12 per cent. and 42 per cent. in 1989. The figure for white pupils was 97 per cent.

Those figures indicate the grossly disproportionate levels of spending in the past. In fact, there are 18 departments of education in South Africa. As long as there is a non-unitary education policy, those discrepancies cannot in my opinion be adequately addressed. However, it should be noted that recent official recognition of the discrepancies has resulted in a significant increase in the budgetary allocation for education. In the last budget, 19 per cent. of the total allocation was devoted to educational needs. That is most encouraging.

On health care, we find a similar bureaucratic position where there are 14 departments of health. In order adequately to equip the health service there is a need for an additional 3,000 hospital beds, 2,000 doctors and 3,000 nurses annually.

I turn to the subject of employment. During the 1980s the South African labour force increased by approximately 360,000 people per year. Sufficient jobs were created annually in the formal sector for only one-fifth of that number. One result of the shortfall has been a dramatic growth in the informal sector; one example being the formation of the black taxi federation. Some estimates place the value of the informed sector at between 10 per cent. and 15 per cent. of all the economic activity in South Africa.

The South African economy will require to grow by at least 5 per cent. per annum if there is to be any chance of accommodating the additional 400,000 people who will annually be entering the job market. That is not an impossible target under normal social and political conditions and when international credit is available. It is my firm belief that the shortfall in employment has in a small measure contributed to the general unrest and obvious escalation in crime in the urban areas. Investment in the economy is not the full answer to the question of employment creation. It also needs to be tied to adequate secondary and technical training.

Thus far I have attempted to highlight the fundamental issues as I see them. In summary, South Africa exhibits the classic demographic traits of a third world nation; namely, an exponential population growth making demands on the economy which will be required to generate substantial growth to respond to those demands. The positive picture of the situation in South Africa is that the dynamics of the economy are capable of adequate response. That is the background against which negotiations will be taking place. The core issue of those negotiations will of course concern the normalisation of social and economic relationships.

A major element of that will undoubtedly focus on the redistribution of economic wealth. For a climate of normalisation, there will need to be a lifting of the current state of emergency. A major factor in that must be the resolving of the factional fighting especially between the Inkatha Movement and the United Democratic Front which has and is still causing so much bloodshed. It is estimated that more than 3,000 people have died in the past three years from factional fighting particularly in Natal and the Eastern Cape.

Surely a common concern for all those participating in the negotiation process must be the preservation of a strong economy. As I have tried to illustrate this evening, the bottom line is that without a strong, expanding and resilient economy the demands for the future cannot possibly be met. To that end, fears have been expressed following earlier statements from Nelson Mandela relating to the issue of nationalisation of banks and gold mines. I believe that demand to be a purely negotiating ploy. I have no doubt that nationalisation of such important sectors would actively discourage international investment and thereby undermine the ability of the South African economy to sustain growth.

Of course there are other options available for effecting economic redistribution. In my opinion, the debate should surely concentrate on methods and not just ideologies for redressing wealth imbalances. The character which Namibia has chosen to adopt gives good pointers to a rational resolution of those difficult economic issues. In my view, our Prime Minister has taken brave and realistic steps in easing some sanctions in response to the recent reform measures. I believe it to be hypocritical that while most of the black African nations support sanctions in open debate, every state in the continent now trades with South Africa and last year the volume of that trade increased by 40 per cent.

I have addressed my Question to how Her Majesty's Government plans to assist in solving the fundamental social and economic problems facing South Africa, particularly in the urban areas. It has not been my wish to paint a picture of gloom or of desperation. I believe that South Africa has the potential for a dynamic and prosperous future. The South African Government have just announced the allocation of 1 billion rand to start addressing the backlog in education and housing. They have also announced the formation of a 2 billion rand fund to be used for socio-economic development. I am most encouraged by the manner in which Her Majesty's Government are targeting much needed aid into some of the areas which I have discussed this evening. Their recent assistance to the urban foundation— a private sector lobbying and development agency— will help to bring home ownership within the means of 40,000 families.

We know that the process of urbanisation is most stressful for all concerned. I recommend to Her Majesty's Government that their considerations of aid in South Africa be aimed at reducing discrepancies within the sectors which I have discussed, thereby reducing the levels of stress all round. There is an African saying which laments that when two elephants fight it is the grass that gets trampled. In my view the analogy in the case of South Africa is quite obvious. We trust that those around the negotiating table will be mindful of their responsibilities for the ultimate goal of one nation, one constitution, one citizenship, and the preservation of a strong economy for all to share in the future of South Africa.

8.30 p.m.

The Earl of Lindsay and Abingdon

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, for asking this Question. It is very important that the social and economic problems which will face South Africa in the future are resolved to the best benefit of all races.

The noble Lord has a wealth of knowledge of the country to which he referred. However, it must be borne in mind— this is where I differ from the noble Lord— that South Africa is not an impoverished third world country in the true sense of the word. It is rich in natural resources and has an advanced commercial and industrial base. Therefore, while giving the South African Government all encouragement in their endeavours to overcome the social and economic problems that will arise following the ending of apartheid, they are the responsibility of that government. It is not for Her Majesty's Government to become too financially involved. After all, it was past South African governments since 1948 which created these unpleasant and now unacceptable urban areas.

We can best assist by investing in industry and increasing trade with South Africa, which, in the long run, will provide more jobs for the African population and thus benefit all South Africans and not just a small minority. The process of political and social reform has begun. The only thing which could have an adverse effect on this progress would be a Right-wing Afrikaans' backlash, which could well happen if the reforms of President de Klerk were met with calls for more stringent sanctions.

When I visited South Africa last year it was noticeable how full the shops were of goods produced by our main trading competitors. I submit that, however well intentioned, sanctions do not work. That is not intended as an insult to those who do not share this view. Sanctions may hurt, but it is usually the very people that they are supposed to assist who suffer.

In conclusion, I should say that the best way we can help with the social and economic problems facing South Africa is by giving moral support to the reform process which, in the end, will bring majority rule, together with enhanced prosperity for all races in South Africa.

8.33 p.m.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso— who always seems to address himself to me rather than the Government Front Bench— knows that I am very fond of him. He also knows that I like to tease him, but the teasing is quite serious. I begin by picking up some of the points he made. I may also say— I think he will appreciate this— that there used to be another South African noble Lord on the other side of the House, the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, who was well over 90 when I knew him and of whom I was just as fond. He was just as useful to the House as is the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso.

Lord Barnby was brought up to assume that the philosophy of apartheid was the only philosophy of life. It was very useful for him to put that philosophy to the House. It is just as useful now for the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, to put the typical white liberal point of view to this House so that we can hear it and recognise some of the factors which are of paramount importance in South Africa.

The noble Lord talks about everything depending on mutual trust. Nobody disagrees with that statement. But what is mutual trust asking for? It is asking for those who have been repressed for 150 to 200 years to say, "Now we will trust you. We will forget all that you have done to our ancestors; we will forget all that you have done to our children and ourselves and we will trust you". I believe that they will do that.

It is a remarkable fact that almost all African people have a degree of forgiveness which is quite incredible in the world of Europe. When we are debating in our Parliament whether we should be prosecuting Nazi criminals from 50 years ago, the Africans in South Africa— like the Africans in what was Rhodesia, Namibia, Zambia, Mozambique and Angola— show no signs of wanting to take revenge against the massacres that they themselves have endured. I am not saying that one should parallel the genocide of the Nazis, but massacres there have been, as we know, and one needs only to mention Sharpeville.

The noble Lord made a number of selective quotes. I too can quote if he wishes. It was his new-found friend President de Klerk who said, "Do not expect me to negotiate myself out of power". He said that quite simply and quite directly. He has not withdrawn that statement. That is what he believes, and that is what he believes to be the basis of the negotiations in which he intends to take part.

However, there is a more important issue, which I mentioned earlier to the noble Lord. I do not apologise for repeating it, because it is essential to any understanding of what is happening or what is going, to happen in South Africa.

It is almost universal to talk about apartheid. It is not apartheid that the Africans are fighting against. If it was, all that would need to be said is, "Go back to the situation in which you were living in 1948". It was in 1948 that the word "apartheid" was invented. The Africans will not go back to 1948; they will not return to the conditions in which they were living in 1948 1938, 1908 or 1890. The prejudice and the discriminatory life that they and their ancestors have had to lead is what they are determined to change.

While the noble Lord may have learned late of the injustices that he listed— I am glad he did— some of us have been publicising these for the past 50 years. We were told, "You do not understand. You are not South African. You do not live in South Africa", or, "They' are not true". I am glad that the noble Lord has now seen how deeply these social, economic and political injustices go in South Africa.

We cannot entirely confine ourselves to the Question asked by the noble Lord, though I intend to address a few words to it. What happens in the townships; what happens to the social and economic life of the Africans in the future depends on the political issue. That is fundamental. No Africans will accept any kind of social or economic arrangement that is not based on political equality. That is focal to the whole issue. The noble Lord refers to ideology, but equality is ideology. We on these Benches believe in equality. It is part of our ideology and part of the Africans' ideology.

The noble Lord spoke about beginning negotiations. Negotiations are not yet in sight. The first thing in sight at the moment is discussion on what terms negotiations can begin— not the negotiations themselves. We must not delude ourselves or anybody else that negotiations are to start on 11th April. They are not. The discussions on that date are on what conditions the negotiations can be conducted.

What are those conditions? They have been made quite plain. Before Nelson Mandela was released, and since he has been released, they have been made absolutely plain in the Harare Declaration and in the United Nations. First is the release of all political prisoners and detainees. The second is the end of the state of emergency. Here, again I must refer to what the noble Lord said about the state of emergency. Yes, I deplore the bitter factional fighting in the towns. I remember it in 1949 when it was between black and Indian. Eventually the two congresses came together and stopped it. Unfortunately, it is now black and black. However, in quoting the shocking figure of 3,000 deaths in this factional fighting over the past three years, we must not forget that a very large number of black and coloured people have died in the same period not from black action but from police and military action. They are still dying as a result of police and military action.

Therefore, the end of the state of emergency is the second condition and that must be linked with the abolition— not often spoken about— of the Internal Security Act. That is such a wide-ranging Act that it can be used to bring in virtually anybody on any charge.

Thirdly, there must be the repeal of all repressive legislation. Fourthly, all political trials must be halted. Perhaps the noble Lord has received the letter from Geoffrey Bindman today which draws attention to the fact that the courts are continuing to impose the death penalty and that the programme to build extra cells on death row continues. Meanwhile the Upington 14 and the other 49 known political prisoners on death row are in limbo; they are not at immediate risk but still under the shadow of the gallows.

The fifth condition is the removal of troops from the townships. I do not need to say more on that. Everyone knows of the conduct of the troops in the townships, and some of the revelations now brought out by the Marms Commission are giving legitimacy to what some of us have been saying for a long time.

Those conditions would lay down an opportunity for negotiations to start. What will the negotiations be about? First, the noble Lord may be quite convinced that President de Klerk and his friends are going to agree to adult suffrage. I am not. The concept that President de Klerk has put over and the five-year plan of the National Party does not suggest adult suffrage; not in the way that we know it and certainly not adult suffrage in a unitary state. It refers to group rights and group protection, as the noble Lord says.

The Population Registration Act must go. The Group Areas Act must go. There must be redistribution of land. Does the noble Lord seriously think that that will be accomplished, or even agreed to, by the present de Klerk Government without a great deal of pressure being applied— the same kind of pressure as brought them eventually to agree to the independence of Nambia?

There are other Acts. There is the Publication Act which again is so wide that it can bring any kind of publication or statement into censorship and simply ban it.

The noble Lord referred to education. Yes, there may be an increase and one hopes that there will be an increase in black education, but it is not just quantity but quality. There is also the type of education, because the whole purpose of the system under which the apartheid governments have organised African education has been based on the Bantu Education Act. They must be taught in their tribal languages and education must be kept within the culture and the community of their forefathers. They must be kept away from modem life. That, clearly, must go.

Above all, the Africans will settle for nothing less than total adult suffrage. The noble Lord at least hopes and perhaps sincerely believes that that can be negotiated by the present regime. I do not. I hope it can but I do not believe that it can. I believe that there will be a test of strength. I particularly believe that from looking at the history of similar countries; for example, Chile under Allende or republican Spain. They tried to experiment with democratic forms but neither of them had effective command of the military forces. Nor does President de Klerk, as we are seeing continually, particularly in relation to General Malan.

We are now seeing revealed, even in the South African press, the atrocities that have been organised by the South African state; the state terrorism that has been deliberately organised by sections of the military and the police. As the noble Lord knows, a very dear friend of mine, my first hostess in South Africa— Ruth First— was murdered by the security forces of South Africa. She received a letter bomb in Maputo. My own car has been sabotaged twice— according to the AA, not just me. I am not saying that the South Africans did it— I cannot prove that— but I do not know of anybody else.

When one adds that to the strength of the Conservative Party (The Conservative Party had 31 per cent. of the vote at the last election) and the extreme AWB— the Terreblanche people— there remains a strong anti-reform group among the white community. It could be argued that the Africans will demand a Nuremburg-type trial for these atrocities. They will not because the Africans are not like that. It is said that they are unbelievably forgiving people.

My final point is in answer to what the noble Lord said, and was said also by the noble Earl opposite, about the importance of the strength of the economy in order to increase the opportunities for African development. It does not happen that way. When South Africa was most powerful economically and financially, all the pillars of apartheid were sunk. I was there. It was when the economy was booming that apartheid was put into place in legislation. It is not the case that when there is a prosperous South Africa it becomes liberal.

Lord St. John of Bletso

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. I appreciate his criticism of what has happened in South Africa, but does he not agree that there has been a considerable change in attitude in South Africa? Furthermore, does he not also agree that in order for there to be an economic growth rate of 5 per cent. there needs to be an injection of capital into South Africa? So far, the noble Lord has not mentioned any one point in respect of which he has any theory to help alleviate what I was saying about the problem of the future poverty and homelessness in South Africa in the years to come.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, I appreciate that latter point. I say, as the Africans do, that you will not get rid of homelessness, alleviate poverty or re-distribute wealth until there is political power among the Africans. Mention was made of 5 per cent. growth in the economy. We have only 1 per cent. growth in this country for the coming year. When there was strong growth in the South African economy the apartheid regime was imposed. That is the point I am making and I make it in connection with what the noble Lord had to say about sanctions.

As the noble Lord knows, it was the National Party itself which, in its manifesto at the last election, said how sanctions were hurting the economy and that only by becoming acceptable to the international community could the effects of sanctions be removed. That is still the case. The noble Lord has a great deal of effrontery to speak about the trade of black Africa with South Africa. We left black Africa economically dependent on South Africa. Militarily, black Africa was very largely at the mercy of South Africa. We tied up all their transport systems to South Africa. It was we, the British, who did that; black Africa is trading with South Africa now or dying because it has never had any other opportunity.

I believe that black Africa will wish to trade with a democratic South Africa. The purpose of sanctions was to force the South African white regime out of Angola, then Namibia and then to force negotiations with the blacks. The noble Lord speaks about Nelson Mandela being anxious to negotiate and to have peace: he always has been. That has always been the policy of the ANC. It was the white state that refused negotiations, constitutional means of reform and representation. For about 50 years the ANC was an entirely non-violent organisation. It simply wanted negotiations. We hope that now the ANC is going into negotiations. It must not go naked into the negotiating chamber.

If sanctions are removed then a great deal of the argument has also been removed that has sustained President de Klerk and his friends as well as Nelson Mandela. It is the opponents of reform who will claim the victory if sanctions are moved. They must be continued until the reform process has become irreversible.

I should like to continue by speaking of the social problems that the noble Lord mentioned. I shall deal with just one. The most important, dangerous and tragic social problem which faces the majority of South Africans today is the militarisation of the youth from the age of nine years onwards. Militarisation has taken place particularly because of the revolt by urban Africans against white domination. That militarisation is a tremendous headache. I know personally from discussions with black parents that that issue is a great problem and a great shadow over the future of black South Africa.

These are the issues that we have to tackle. I hope that the Government will give help towards a tremendous task. I hope they ensure that that help goes to the people who need it and that it does not go, as it does today, to the white regime.

8.55 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Ripon

My Lords, I rise with some reluctance to intervene in consideration of the Question before your Lordships' House this evening. I have no first-hand experience of life in South Africa. However, noble Lords might expect a contribution from the episcopal Bench, not least because of the involvement of the Churches in South Africa in social and economic affairs in the urban areas of that country.

Yesterday your Lordships' House was considering the far-reaching changes in Russia and Eastern Europe. Tonight, in the context of this Question, we are considering events in South Africa which are as astonishing and as surprising. Many of us have been hoping and praying for a change in fundamental attitudes, relationships and expectations, which would bring about real change in the political, economic and social conditions of black and white South Africans. Such a change in attitude is now beginning and for the first time in decades there is a real basis for hope in South Africa.

The reasons for policy changes in South Africa are at least four-fold. They include the indomitable will of the four-fifths disenfranchised black community to create a democratic, non-racial and unitary state. They include also the unsustainable cost of equipping the national security state, the crippling cost of sanctions and the coming to power of a new leadership closer to Afrikaner business interests and open to considerations of enlightened self-interest.

President de Klerk's recent decisions have transformed the situation. The most far-reaching decision has been the release of Nelson Mandela and his resultant emergence as the most remarkable black South African in decades. Upon him and on the relationship that he builds with President de Klerk depends the future of South Africa. In the monumental role that he is called on to play, he and President de Klerk need our prayers as they near the moment of the initiation of negotiations.

The new realism of President de Klerk's administration is also evidenced in the decision to which the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, made reference; namely, to set aside two billion rand in the 1990–91 budget for the creation of a special fund to correct the imbalances created by apartheid. That has been made possible by a cut in real terms of the defence budget. Housing, education, training, literacy and basic health needs have been noted by the South African Finance Minister as needing to be met by this fund. The new fund must be welcomed as the first use of nationalist funds to address social imbalance and to respond to the poverty of the majority in creative ways.

Nevertheless, it remains the case that a major, perhaps the major, factor in the poverty experienced by millions of black South Africans is apartheid. Land dispossession, poor wages, the migrant labour system and the forced removal of surplus labour to the homelands have exacerbated poverty. The removal of apartheid and the emergence of a democratic society is a pre-requisite for a proper attack on poverty.

It is in this context that the issue of sanctions has to be considered. I take issue with the noble Earl, Lord Lindsey and Abingdon, in his remarks about sanctions. I believe that it is almost universally agreed that sanctions have contributed to bringing about the present hopeful situation. Their part in strengthening black resolve, in putting pressure on the white community and in contributing to real change is readily acknowledged by all. This pressure must be maintained— in this respect I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby— until it is clear that leaders in South Africa, black and white, are engaged in an irreversible process of negotiation for a democratic South Africa. The Government should join the European, Commonwealth and international communities in keeping sanctions in place at this moment.

The Southern Africa Coalition in this country, composed of Churches, trade unions, development agencies and anti-apartheid bodies, pleading for a fundamental change in British policy towards South Africa which respects the victims of apartheid, wrote to the Foreign Secretary: While the British Government continues to give support to the South African Government, it is seen to be supporting the continued exploitation of the black majority. Unless Britain is clearly seen to be identifying with and supporting the legitimate demands of the black majority population, its policies towards South Africa will continue to favour the apartheid regime". The Foreign Secretary has announced a £ 10 million increase in British aid to black South Africans. This is to be welcomed. Funds already provided have helped black South Africans enormously. The British ambassador in South Africa and his staff have infinitely better contact with the black community than some of their predecessors. However, two points need to be made. The first is that while apartheid remains in place such aid can at best only ameliorate for a handful of people the appalling living conditions which result directly from apartheid. These were conditions to which the Foreign Secretary referred after his recent visit.

The second point is that, if the British Government are committed to bringing about change, then such aid should be used in consultation with such community and religious bodies as the South Africa Council of Churches, the South Africa Catholic Bishops' Conference and the non-religious Kagiso Trust. This is the practice of our European partners and helps to ensure that funds assist the victims of apartheid and strengthen those movements which are committed to change and democracy.

Finally, I refer to a point already made by the noble Lords, Lord St. John of Bletso and Lord Hatch of Lusby. Surely the most precious commodity in bringing about the change for which we hope is trust. Without trust, negotiations will break down. There is evidence that such trust, astonishingly, is beginning to emerge in a situation which has for decades seemed to breed mistrust, hatred and violence. This growth of trust is the most remarkable of the far-reaching changes of recent. months; it is the foundation for realistic hope for the future.

President de Klerk has demonstrated trust in the release of Nelson Mandela. Mr. Mandela has said that he believes that President de Klerk is to be trusted. Nothing that this Government or any other external body do should jeopardise that trust. If it grows, and leads to the changes which will dismantle apartheid, then South Africa, with international support, will begin to overcome its social and economic problems.

9.3 p.m.

Lord Monson

My Lords, we are all grateful to my noble friend Lord St. John for raising this important Question in a powerful, effective and wide-ranging speech. I cannot hope remotely to match his expertise or his in-depth knowledge, but it so happens that two days ago I returned from a 20-day trip through southern Africa, embracing Namibia, where I spent six days, the Republic of South Africa, Ciskei, Transkei and Bophuthatswana. The trip covered several thousand kilometers, most of it overland. In the course of it I was able to talk to a very wide range of people of all races and to observe the very considerable changes that have occurred even in the three years since I was last there. I refer in particular to the enormous burgeoning in the numbers of comfortably-off black middle class people, particularly in Johannesburg itself.

The noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, also made a wide-ranging speech covering both the history of South Africa, about which he knows a great deal, and also what he imagines to be current affairs and sentiments in South Africa, about which I venture to say he is somewhat less up to date. I would gladly correct him on two or three points if time permitted and if the debate covered South Africa as a whole, but time does not permit and the debate does not, alas, cover South Africa as a whole, and so I think I ought to return to the actual Question asked by my noble friend.

I have a very slight reservation about the framing of the Unstarred Question in that it suggests obliquely that problems are concentrated mainly in urban areas and that more effective urbanisation is the key to the problem. I realise that it is now somewhat unfashionable but I still believe that there is a good deal to be said, in social terms even if not in strict economic terms, for bringing work to people rather than encouraging people to flock hundreds of miles for work, thereby avoiding the creation of massive, unwieldy, polluted, crime-ridden, slum-infested conurbations on the Latin American model. I see no joy in turning Johannesburg into a replica of Mexico City or Lima.

Apart from the merits of the geographical diversification of industry— we call it regional policy in this country— surely there is still a great deal to be said for improving agricultural techniques. After all, there is nothing wrong with the soil of the Transkei that proper terracing and crop rotation would not cure. This would raise the rural standard of living generally as well as the urban standard of living.

It was good incidentally to see the improved quality of rural housing both in the Transkei and in KwaZulu. It was particularly interesting to hear of a new scheme recently devised by the electricity board in Natal to connect dwellings in rural areas to the electricity supply on an ingenious low-cost basis, thereby not only improving the quality of life for the occupants but also raising their standard of living. As I understand it, it costs almost three times as much to cook using paraffin as it does using electricity. Whether British assistance has been concentrated on urban or rural areas or both, it is obvious that calls on the Government's purse, or to be more accurate, the taxpayers' purse, must inevitably be strictly limited.

As the noble Earl, Lord Lindsey, said, there are a great many other parts of the world— that is, not just other parts of Africa, but parts of Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean— where poverty is very much greater than in South Africa. They must therefore have an equal or greater claim on our financial generosity. That is not to say that there should not be as much direct economic assistance as can be afforded, but it should be carefully and precisely targeted. For example, there could be assistance for vocational training, especially in trades connected with housing. I refer to vocational training of bricklayers, plasterers, joiners, electricians, plumbers and so on, in view of the urgent need, as has already been said, for very much more low-cost housing.

A number of middle-classs black parents told me that they are particularly anxious for their sons— and in some instances their daughters— to receive training in business administration. Therefore a few bursaries in this respect might not be totally amiss. It is gratifying to know that it is business administration and technical skills generally to which so many people aspire these days rather than the law.

But the main thrust of British government assistance ought really to come from the removal of artificially created obstacles to growth in the South African economy— by which, of course, I mean sanctions. There is a naive notion— not, I may say, shared by such far-sighted intelligent blacks as the editor of the Soweto newspaper— which is prevalent not only in ANC and PNC circles but also in certain circles overseas that South Africa is a "rich" country and that all one has to do is to dig billions of dollars' worth of gold out of the ground with a spade and then everyone will live in the lap of luxury for evermore. There are thinly populated countries such as Kuwait or Libya which can indeed live fairly well off their mineral wealth, provided that the price of that wealth holds up. In contrast. South Africa has a large and extremely rapidly growing population, to say nothing of such endemic disadvantages as a totally inadequate water supply for the population which is projected for the year 2000 and beyond.

The South African economy may not be completely a tender plant, but it still needs careful nurturing if it is to get anywhere near to performing the miracles which are expected of it in the future for the people of the region. In parenthesis I should say that the notion that South Africa can ever emulate Taiwan or South Korea is a total pipe dream. I contend that for reasons into which I shall not go on this occasion.

There is another hazard which must be mentioned, unpleasant though it is. There are 60,000 black people with AIDS in South Africa at present. A medical conference in Johannesburg at the end of last month forecast that that figure would double every eight-and-a-half months. I wonder whether your Lordships realise the full significance of that fact. It means that 500,000 cases of AIDS are expected by the middle of 1992, a million cases by the spring of 1993 and 2 million by Christmas 1993; that is, if the projections given by the conference prove to be correct. It is a most horrifying thought.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, I trust that the noble Lord will allow me to intervene at this point.

Can he say how many cases of AIDS there are among the white population?

Lord Monson

My Lords, there are a few cases. Without being too flippant, I think I can say that I read somewhere that it is fairly prevalent among the stewards of South African Airways and so on, and among the white homosexual community generally. However, AIDS is not in any way endemic in the heterosexual white population as it is among the black population generally.

To the extent that sanctions work— and I am bound to say that during my entire trip I never heard the word "sanctions" mentioned— they tend to drive many thousands of highly skilled and qualified people with internationally marketable skills to emigrate to Australia, New Zealand, Canada and so on. That has a very adverse effect upon the country and therefore, naturally, upon the well-being of the inhabitants of all races.

Political consequences also flow from that emigration. The people who emigrate tend to be well disposed to the idea of rapid political change, not least because if the gamble fails they at least have skills which they can take elsewhere. In contrast, those who stay behind— that is, those without internationally marketable skills and, in some cases, without even internally marketable skills— tend to be highly resistant to change, as one might expect. In my opinion the real division among South African whites is not between Afrikaner and British; it is between those with higher education who may indeed be mainly of British descent and those without higher education. The differences go very deep. Next, as we know, sanctions cause unemployment among the whites, the coloureds, the Indians and the blacks. However, this occurs mainly among the blacks, with great attendant hardship because unemployment pay is very low.

This may come as a surprise to noble Lords, but it was heartening to observe how little racial hostility or even tension there is in South Africa at the moment. Judging by the press reports of court cases, such unprovoked racial attacks as there are seem predominantly the work of young unemployed people on both sides. Surely we have learnt from 21 years of bloody conflict in Northern Ireland that the more unemployment that exists among working-class Catholics and Protestants, the more likely they are to attack one another. Why should working-class whites and blacks, respectively, in South Africa react any differently? Multicultural, multiracial and multilingual societies are fragile and volatile at the best of times. We need look only at Transylvania, Kosovo, Nagorno Karabakh, the Punjab, the beautiful island of Sri Lanka, the Palestinian West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Cyprus and Northern Ireland, to name but a few.

The only way such societies have a hope of functioning smoothly— Belgium is one example; we must remember how great the tensions were between the Walloons and the Flemings at the end of World War Two— without strife and tension, is in conditions of increasing prosperity for all sections of the community and minimal unemployment. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will do everything they can to help bring about those conditions.

9.15 p.m.

The Viscount of Falkland

My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, for giving us the opportunity to discuss not just the Question on the Order Paper but some of the implications of that Question. He put most eloquently and clearly the situation as he has seen it over the past three months in South Africa. How lucky we are to have someone who was in the country on 2nd February, who heard the speech of President de Klerk and witnessed the release of Mr. Mandela. Many of the figures he gave and much of the picture of South Africa that he painted is helpful and interesting to anyone who takes an interest in developments in South Africa.

I am not sure that I share the optimism of some of the noble Lord's remarks or some of his ideas as to how matters may progress. I share the realism, if I may put it that way, of the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby. I would not call his views pessimistic because I know him well. I know of his long involvement in and knowledge of that country. What appears to be a pessimistic view of the way things will develop is based upon many years of experience. Many of the things he said tonight must be borne well in mind. I wish that the two noble Lords could continue what seemed, at the beginning of the debate, to be a two-horse race on television or the radio; because what they both have to say would be of enormous interest and importance to many people in this country. I hope that that point will be listened to somewhere in the House.

The Question on the Order Paper is not easy to answer. I look forward to hearing the Minister's reply, to which I shall listen carefully. There is no doubt about the British potential to help economically and socially in South Africa and in many other areas of the world. The question at this stage seems to be whether direct intervention is suitable, necessary or something that we want. I doubt whether there is much that we could do at this stage and whether it would be welcomed.

There is one thing that we must do— I agree here with the right reverend Prelate: we must trust what was said on that momentous day (2nd February) by President de Klerk and accept it with relief We welcome of course the long-awaited release of Mr. Mandela. What president de Klerk suggests is a new South Africa, cleansed of the obscenity of apartheid, creating a new unity among all races with justice, both social and economic, to bind together a new nation where humanity replaces systemised victimisation and persecution and structured racial privilege.

That is what is suggested and is what is required and what we would all want. However, nothing that I have read or heard has mentioned the future. We are talking about the present. President de Klerk has been talking about what will happen now and what steps he intends to take. I have not been able to determine any clear idea of how things will progress, or indeed what system of government President de Klerk has in mind. What kind of government will be adopted and what will be the exact nature of the constitution of a new South Africa? What sequence of events will lead towards universal suffrage? That can be the only answer in South Africa and the only thing that the black population will accept. They will accept nothing less.

Let us be under no illusions as to how it came about that on 2nd February President de Klerk made his historic speech. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, that that speech was made as a result of tremendous pressure from within his country and outside, and as a result of a situation of increasing economic stagnation. I agree that the country has enormous potential and riches, but financially it is not a country that many South Africans would describe as vibrant and productive at this stage.

We have heard the speeches of Mr. Mandela. No one who has heard his speeches or seen him on television can have remained unimpressed by the dignity and restraint of the content of his messages. However, it is clear that, as regards Mr. Mandela and the black people for whom he speaks, it is not enough just to clear away the exterior fabric of the apartheid system. That will not be accepted by the black population of South Africa. The imbalance between the races as regards social and economic affairs is a problem which President de Klerk faces. The resolution of that imbalance must be a formidable task for him. We must believe him to be sincere in his wish to create a new South Africa, because only by creating a new South Africa can that country survive and be in a position to develop its undoubted potential.

But before we or any other country can offer South Africa help of the kind suggested in this Unstarred Question of the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, changes in South Africa must be initiated and be seen to be progressing, and be seen to be taken by South Africans themselves. There will have to be a massive re-education of people of all races in South Africa. That again is a huge problem. That cannot be achieved overnight. It will take many years to change attitudes that have been hardened over many years of structured racism, from whichever quarter they emerge.

How does one carve out of that sad history a common sense of identity? Other noble Lords have referred to that matter. That common sense of identity is, I believe, absolutely essential for the future of South Africa. As regards the economy of that country, how will the Government of South Africa go about controlling and guiding an economy where the vast majority of people perceive themselves to be disadvantaged? That is another enormous problem. It is hard to see how a free market can work initially in South Africa under such conditions. I take issue with the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, but I believe that a degree of nationalisation in South Africa has to be faced. That is in general something that is not particularly attractive to me, and I daresay it is not particularly attractive to the Minister. Nevertheless, I venture to suggest that in the situation in South Africa that I have described state control will be necessary to nurture the development of the economy in order for it to ripen and succeed.

Fears and passions obviously run high in South Africa. Among the blacks we know what resentment has built up and what they now expect. Unless they see the kind of development that has been signalled by President de Klerk, and should the edifice of apartheid remain and all that we have seen and heard be purely cosmetic, I am afraid that there will be enormous violence and mayhem in that country. All reasonable people of all races in South Africa know full well that black domination cannot replace white domination. That would produce catastrophe.

I was heartened to see a television programme on Channel 4— another of that channel's brilliant programmes— on a debate which took place at Stellenbosch University a short time ago. It included a representative number of leading figures in Afrikaner life. Unhappily, representatives of the Conservative Party declined the invitation to attend. It was explained that that was because of the presence of an Afrikaner poet who had been imprisoned for terrorism some years previously.

The commitment that was shown among the members of that group was impressive and fascinating. The difficulties that they faced were not ignored by any of the politicians and intellectuals who were gathered there. They take a particular interest in the future development of the country because the Afrikaner community has an enormous historical and cultural commitment. They are Africans— that is what Afrikaner means.

It was interesting to learn from that programme that it is calculated that between 7 per cent. and 10 per cent. of all Afrikaners are unashamedly zenophobic or racist, and will have nothing whatever to do with anything short of partition in their country. One may think that 7 per cent. to 10 per cent. is a small number. Those views are not held only by Afrikaners; they are also held by many other white South Africans, as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, will confirm. That represents a significant, hard view which has to be taken into account. It is no good writing it off. Those people have to be accommodated, changed, and shown that there is another way.

Many more South Africans are worried and uncertain but know that change has to take place. There is a will in society in South Africa to achieve a new, strong and humane state. However, the problems and the fear of the future will be difficult to overcome. We wish them well in their immense task.

The British have enormous influence in many of the countries to the north of South Africa. I spent some time in those countries during the 1970s. At that time it was impossible for me to go to South Africa even if I had wanted to. Most of those countries became independent in the 1960s. I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, said about their trading with South Africa. Those of us with any knowledge of Africa know that all those countries trade with South Africa, as the noble, Lord St. John, said; but, as the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, said, they have no alternative. They were put in that position by the British Government.

Lord Monson

My Lords, it is not only former British colonies which trade with South Africa. It is also former French colonies for which we cannot be held responsible.

The Viscount of Falkland

My Lords, I fully agree with the noble Lord, Lord Monson, but I did not wish to bring the French into the argument at this stage. That would complicate matters enormously.

In those countries where British influence is still strong., there has been a sad miscalculation of the future of Africa in which those countries would play a part. Their agriculture has become inefficient, their views about industrialisation have not come to fruition and they have become increasingly impoverished, corrupt and inefficient.

Nevertheless, the British still have enormous influence in those countries. It is to be hoped that the new South Africa that we all wish to appear will be of enormous value to those countries because, after all, South Africa— a prosperous South Africa with the identity that I have described— will be a way of bringing black Africa out of the enormous pit of despair, poverty and disease into which it has sunk. When the potential of South Africa has been realised, they can help practically with technology and economic aid.

The changes in Eastern Europe are already felt in Africa where Soviet and Eastern bloc support for some African countries created alarming tension with the West which reacted accordingly. I recently met an Ethiopian businessman who had come from Addis Ababa on a purchasing mission. He said that in that country, where there is a repressive and violent Marxist regime, there have already been signs that changes are taking place there because they fear that the support which they had hitherto has now evaporated.

Africa is therefore in a state of change. South Africa is in a state of change. Surely now is the time for Britain to prepare for a new Africa and to help it as best it can to develop quickly, although such change will not be rapid. We must have faith. The possibility is there. The scenario has been well described by other noble Lords. To reiterate the words of the right reverend Prelate, we must, above all, have trust.

9.33 p m.

Baroness Ewart-Biggs

My Lords, I too am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, for giving us this opportunity because, after all, the subject of South Africa is close to our thoughts and hopes. I found the account of his recent visit that the noble Lord gave of great fascination and very moving.

We began to hope for South Africa when the South African president took the first step towards setting up a new order in his country. Since then, we have allowed our hopes to grow as we marvel at Mr. Mandela's actions and words, his genuine wish for reconciliation and his lack of bitterness or feeling of revenge. Those are a great factor in the future of South Africa.

This evening, the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, asks how Her Majesty's Government can best assist the South African Government in solving their social and economic problems. I shall confine myself to that question. As noble Lords have said, there can be little doubt that the social and economic situation in South Africa is fundamentally affected by the political regime. While apartheid is in place, there can be no instant cure for the economic ills of the country and the deplorable social conditions of the black population.

Her Majesty's Government believe that the best way of giving support to President de Klerk in his attempts to move his country toward a democratic non-racist system and thereby re-establish economic strength, is by the removal of sanctions. The noble Lord, Lord St. John, and the noble Earl who spoke this evening— and indeed the noble Lord, Lord Monson— all agree with him.

Although we on these Benches share the same hope and aim as Her Majesty's Government— we also want a democratic, non-racist South Africa— we see differently the way to achieve it. We believe that we should remain in line with our European partners with regard to sanctions and wait for the political dialogue in South Africa to develop. We believe that the process of dismantling apartheid should at least be put in motion before the outside world gives South Africa the economic support afforded by the lifting of sanctions, and also the accolade that would go with it. To me at any rate it would also seem prudent to allow the anti-apartheid movement to retain in its hands the all-important trump card (if I may call it that) of sanctions, to assist in its long and complex negotiations with the South African Government regarding the future.

The noble Lord, Lord Monson, spoke about the effects of sanctions in South Africa. Nevertheless no doubt he would agree that there is another side to that issue— the withdrawal of American banks and businesses and the, so to speak, unofficial sanctions undoubtedly were highly instrumental in bringing about the present change and improved situation in South Africa.

I should like to say just a few words about South Africa's social problems. I have only a superficial knowledge of those problems through visiting many ODA-assisted projects in townships when I was last in South Africa in 1988. That is rather later than the noble Lords who spoke previously. First, it must be recognised that most of the social problems of black South Africans are a direct result of apartheid. For example, while South Africa is the richest country in sub-Saharan Africa, measured by per capita income, according to data from the World Bank the average life expectancy of birth there is lower than that in the neighbouring country of Zimbabwe. Research shows that 52.2 per cent. of all blacks lived below the minimum living level poverty line in 1985 compared with only 1.6 per cent. of all whites. Unemployment among blacks is immensely high. In fact, as estimated by a Wits University professor in 1986, the figure was between 4. million and 5.5 million. The housing situation, which has been mentioned this evening, is again deplorable. With the acute shortage of land and lack of state provision of low income housing, as many as one in every six South Africans are homeless. While the Group Area Act remains, as has already been said little can be done to remedy the situation.

The fact that the Urban Foundation in conjunction with the private sector has announced a new scheme to provide finance for low-cost housing is not a way of dealing with the problem. Surely it is the responsibility of government to provide housing which is needed on such an enormous scale. From those few figures it is quite clear that black South Africans have very little share in their country's prosperity. It is quite clear that the social problems affecting them can only be satisfactorily solved with the removal of apartheid.

So the question is: what can be done in this transitional period? What can be done to work towards setting up mechanisms to deal with social problems at the same time as negotiations are set in motion to resolve the political future of South Africa? Since 1979 Britain has provided assistance for black South Africans through a bilateral programme providing scholarships, the financing of educational and community development activities and for self-help projects in the very deprived urban and rural areas. Britain has also contributed to the special programme of assistance for black South Africans set up by the European Community.

I have visited many self-help projects in the black townships— Soweto, Crossroads, Alexandria. I have visited such projects in Sudan, Kenya and Northern Ireland. Those are projects of exactly the same kind but with a great difference. Most of the projects that I visited in the black townships were necessary only because of apartheid. I remember visiting a project where bricks were being made. I asked why it was necessary for that project to fabricate bricks. I was told that it was impossible for the blacks in the township to purchase bricks.

We must plan our assistance so that it is channelled in the best possible way to give support to the South African people. One channel for that has now been created by the development of a mass democratic movement and the setting up of the Kagiso Trust. It is by working through the people who have brought about change in South Africa— those who know the needs of the South African people, who are working on the ground— that the social problems can be finally dealt with. Britain must continue to provide assistance. But it must be assistance which is agreed with the ANC rather than solely with the South African Government.

I should like to make one other point, regarding the participation of international organisations in South Africa. At the present time there are no United Nations organisations operating in a country where apartheid is central to the political system. There is therefore no presence in South Africa. But I believe that the time has now come to develop an ongoing dialogue between the relevant UN agencies and bodies and those who will help to lead the post-apartheid South Africa. I am thinking of such bodies as the UN Development Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the World Health Organisation, the International Labour Organisation, UNESCO, UNICEF and the office of the UN High Commission for Refugees. I also believe that the role of the two great financial institutions— the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund— need to be thought through.

Although some of those bodies, such as the UNHCR, already have links outside South Africa with the ANC, I can foresee much possible co-operation in the future— as the development policies of the Government in post-apartheid South Africa are planned and implemented— with whoever forms that post-apartheid government. Such complex issues as land tenure and agricultural development, the provision of help in improving basic health care, educational opportunities, industrial relations, urban and rural housing and the return of refugees in their initial resettlement, will all come within the possible remit of the UN.

Given the costs and complexities of the dismantling of apartheid, the UN will surely have a key role to play, both in planning and in helping to finance and implement major programmes. The UN agencies should at least be considering how to set about this preliminary work for the future, and Her Majesty's Government should be encouraging that process.

Through my involvement with UNICEF with the British committee, I assure your Lordships that the role of UNICEF would be enormous in South Africa. In fact, its absence now is very noticeable. It leaves a great void. Very little is known about children's issues in South Africa— such issues as the level of child mortality rates, the level of immunisation, of malnutrition, and indeed the effect that conflict will have on the emotional development of children. As Nelson Mandela said, when adults suffer they can take it, but the suffering of children has lifelong effects. I agree with my noble friend Lord Hatch in saying that it is a terrible heritage for the future for South Africa to have had a generation of children who have suffered and who have seen such terrible events in their childhood.

For the time being, UNICEF can fill a role only from the sidelines in providing support to South Africa's NGOs, which are concerned with children. It can assist with the work of researching the needs of children in South Africa. It can focus international attention on the needs of those children. It is preparatory for the day when the political situation will make it possible for the agency to operate within the country.

I am sure that we all fervently hope that the intolerable system of apartheid will be lifted, and that the people of South Africa will be brought back into the international family. At that point the people in the rest of the world will go the same way as have black South Africans; they will try to forgive and forget and give their support to the rebuilding of that country.

9.46 p.m.

Lord Reay

My Lords, I am sure we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, for giving us the opportunity to debate the subject of South Africa this evening. It is a country in which there have recently been political developments of great importance. He introduced the debate with a humane and realistic speech. His knowledge about the matters of which he speaks is second to none in your Lordships' House, and we must all listen with respect to what he says. I have also listened with interest to the contributions of other noble Lords who have spoken. I welcome this opportunity to set out in your Lordships' House the Government's approach and record on this matter.

My noble friend Lord Lindsey is right in saying that South Africa is potentially a very wealthy country. It is rich in mineral resources and agriculturally productive land. It has the most developed industrial base and sophisticated infastructure in Africa. It is all the more tragic therefore that many South Africans suffer extreme social and economic deprivation. A recent study estimates that some 15 million South Africans (out of a total population of more than 30 million) live in conditions of absolute poverty. For many South Africans housing conditions in the towns and in the countryside are primitive, and schooling, where it exists at all, is rudimentary. Unemployment is high; even conservative estimates put this at 11 per cent. South Africa's population is increasing at the rate of 2 per cent. The noble Lord, Lord St. John, gave even more statistics to illustrate the burden that that poses on the economy.

These problems are not unique to South Africa. Similar conditions exist across Africa, Asia and Latin America. The difference is that South Africa has the resources to improve them. But real progress cannot be made while apartheid still exists and I agree with the right reverend Prelate and the noble Baroness. The injustice and disproportionate distribution of wealth inherent in apartheid has ensured that, for example, average white per capita income is four times higher than it is for blacks. The South African Government spend approximately six times as much educating a white pupil as a black pupil. Last year only 9 per cent. of the 196,000 black students who sat the South African matriculation exam passed well enough to be eligible to go to university (the corresponding figure for whites was 42 per cent.). Moreover, apartheid has bred an inflated bureaucracy and a multiplicity and racially inspired regulations. These are a heavy additional burden on the South African economy and prevent the growth that is essential if South Africa is to cater adequately for its growing population.

We have made no secret of our detestation of apartheid and our belief that it must be abolished. We condemn it utterly. The prime responsibility for addressing South African social and economic problems lies with the South Africans themselves. But we believe that governments with influence in South Africa, such as ourselves, have a role to play in encouraging change. We should like to see the transition to a democratic non-racial South Africa managed peacefully through negotiation, in ways which do not damage the country's economy or the basis for its future welfare. Our policy is designed to maximise the ways in which we can contribute to this objective. It is a policy of contact, not of isolation. It is a policy of applying pressure on the South African Government to take concrete steps to end apartheid and encouragement when the South African Government react in a way we have urged them to do.

In the six months since he became President, Mr. de Klerk has transformed the political climate in South Africa. He has made quite clear his commitment to ending apartheid through negotiations and has taken many of the steps for which the international community has long been calling to open the way to dialogue. In doing so he has taken great risks and for him there is no going back. That is why we believe it is so important for the international community to acknowledge the steps President de Klerk has taken and to encourage him to go further. As he takes the further steps necessary to open negotiations and dismantle apartheid we shall continue to respond in a measured way with concrete gestures. We hope that the opposition groups too will respond constructively by seizing the unique opportunity President de Klerk has created to negotiate in conditions of peace a non-racial, democratic future for South Africa.

The talks due to take place on 11th April between the ANC and President de Klerk to discuss how the remaining obstacles to negotiations can be removed are welcome evidence of their readiness to do so. President de Klerk has said that he is prepared to discuss all issues with them on an open agenda including those to which the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, referred. It is only through those important contacts that negotiations proper for a new constitution for South Africa can begin. President de Klerk has said that he does not wish to prescribe the outcome of those negotiations and that it is for the representatives of the South African people to decide the form of constitution best suited to their own circumstances. We welcome those words.

We also welcome the moves the South African Government have now taken to address the country's pressing socio-economic needs. Indeed, it is their responsibility to do so, as the noble Baroness said. In the budget introduced by the Minister of Finance on 14th March he announced the setting up of a new 2 billion rand (£ 500 million) fund, specifically to help those most disadvantaged in housing, education and training, literacy and basic health care. On 16th March, President de Klerk announced an additional 1 billion rand for this fund to be raised from the proceeds of future privatisations. This is a small step in relation to the problem. But it is a signifcant one.

We believe there is also a role for outside governments. In our case, an active and carefully targeted aid programme is making a significant impact. Including our share of European community aid we shall be spending over £ 40 million in the period 1987–92. Only this week in South Africa the Foreign Secretary announced that our programme would be increased by a further £ 10 million, concentrated on education and training. We provide scholarships for undergraduate study at South African universities and for post-graduate courses and specialist training in Britain. In 1990 we will be supporting about 1,000 black South Africans in higher education both here and in South Africa. In this way we are helping to prepare for the day when South Africa's black citizens will be playing a major role in government and in economic development.

All our aid is planned and implemented directly with community groups, with NGOs and some universities. Indeed, some is channelled through the very organisations mentioned by the right reverend Prelate. It is directed explicitly for the benefit of black South Africans, contrary to what the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, was alleging in his closing words; and the South African Government are not involved in the programmes.

Others too are helping. The European Community's positive measures programme, which is likely to focus increasingly on education, housing, and other humanitarian support, will total around £ 15 million this year. Our contribution will be around £ 3 million. The United Nations and the Commonwealth secetariat both run scholarship schemes for black South Africans to each of which we are contributing £ 75,000 this year. Other bilateral donors with substantial aid programmes for black South Africans include the United States, West Germany and Canada.

We are also contributing to a major initiative to help ease the tremendous housing problems caused by a combination of population growth and rapid urbanisation in the 1980s. We are contributing ourselves, and successfully encouraged others to contribute, to a scheme set up by the Urban Foundation aimed at generating new low-cost owner-occupied homes for a quarter of a million black South Africans over the next five years using private sector finance. We have also helped finance schemes to help shack-dwellers rebuild their homes after flood damage and to protect their homes more effectively from wind and rain. We would like to do more to help those who cannot afford formal housing and are looking at ways of expanding our assistance to the squatter settlements.

We are providing support to over 250 community projects throughout the country both in urban and rural areas. These include community centres, self-help manufacturing projects, support for community-based health clinics, old peoples homes, covered markets and support for schools.

Our aid programme is therefore focused on just those areas identified by the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso; education, housing, employment creation and health. It also reaches many of the rural areas which receive no other outside support. That was a point the noble Lord, Lord Monson, brought to our attention.

Together our political and aid programmes are an effective and practical demonstration of our determination to contribute to the ending of apartheid in South Africa. Our approach is two-fold: pressure on all parties in South Africa to bring about the conditions in which negotiations to end apartheid can take place, and practical help to alleviate the social and economic problems its victims face. In this way we can play a role in ensuring a brighter political, social and economic future for all the people of South Africa.