HL Deb 08 May 1991 vol 528 cc1088-91

2.59 p.m.

Lord Hatch of Lusby asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their present policy towards sanctions against South Africa.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (The Earl of Caithness)

My Lords, our policy has not altered since my noble friend Lord Reay answered the Unstarred Question in the noble Lord's name on this subject on 18th February this year. The arms embargo and associated military sanctions should remain in force until South Africa adopts a democratic and non-racial constitution. All other sanctions should be lifted as soon as possible to encourage further reforms by President de Klerk and to help restore growth to the South African economy.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, is it not the case that the British Government have been urging the governments of the EC to remove the remaining sanctions imposed on South Africa? Is the Minister aware that just this morning I was informed from Cape Town that 260 political prisoners are on hunger strike because the South African Government have failed to carry out their promise in the Pretoria Minute of last year to release all political prisoners by 30th April? In those circumstances do the Government still consider that this is the right time to remove more economic sanctions?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I am delighted that action was taken by the European Community which decided in principle to lift the bans on the import of iron, steel and gold coins on 15th April. Over 900 political prisoners have been released in the past 12 months and more than 1,000 political exiles have returned home. As regards the noble Lord's final point, he is out of touch with everybody. Mr. Mandela said on 31st January that the process of political transformation would not inspire hope in black people unless something was done to improve their quality of life. The removal of sanctions would improve their quality of life.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the escalating violence in South Africa is ominous and depressing because it prejudices the possibility of a settlement which would lead immediately to the lifting of sanctions? In view of the recent visits to this country of Mr. Mandela and Mr. de Klerk when they discussed the position with Ministers, will the noble Earl say what views the Government conveyed to them and what steps the Government believe should be taken in order to bring to an end this unhappy violence, which is causing concern not only in this country but throughout the world?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition refers to the important matter of violence. We deplore violence from whatever source it may come. We understand that over 600 people have died this year in the violence. That represents a tragic and unnecessary loss of human potential. I understand that the number of deaths is about the same as the figure for the same period last year. However, the anxiety associated with the violence is undoubtedly growing among a number of people in South Africa. That is why we continue to encourage negotiation. We were pleased that President de Klerk and Dr. Buthelezi met yesterday. We look forward to hearing the results of the discussions that are to take place this afternoon between President de Klerk and Mr. Mandela. We note that the joint statement drawn up between President de Klerk and Dr. Buthelezi was a constructive one and that Dr. Buthelezi will be attending the conference called by President de Klerk on 24th and 25th May to discuss the violence.

Lord Gisborough

My Lords, in view of the discussions which British officials have had with interested parties in South Africa, will my noble friend say why the British have consistently refused to include in discussions Mr. Mangope of Bophuthatswana, a totally independent, multiracial and democratic state? Three elections took place in that state in 1977. Are the British taking this stance because they recognise that country to be independent?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I do not know the answer to my noble friend's question. It is a little wide of the Question on the Order Paper. Nevertheless, I shall write to my noble friend.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, will the Government acknowledge the start that has been made to dismantling the evil of apartheid by keeping in close touch with Mr. de Klerk and Mr. Mandela and giving both all the encouragement and help they can?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I am happy to respond to the noble Lord with a complete assurance that we are in contact with all the leaders in South Africa and that we are encouraging further discussion to bring this matter to a satisfactory conclusion.

Lord St. John of Bletso

My Lords, is the Minister aware that it is estimated that more than 40 per cent. of the economically active blacks of South Africa are currently unemployed and that over 1,000 job seekers come on to the market every day? Surely economic growth is vital for South Africa today. Is it not the case that on his recent visit President de Klerk agreed that in three years' time there will be a black government in South Africa? Surely Her Majesty's Government should be congratulated on their brave moves in easing sanctions. Can the Minister give any indication of the easing of human sanctions, particularly as regards the Gleneagles Agreement, so enabling sporting relations with other countries to be normalised?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, the noble Lord is absolutely right to stress the necessity for removing economic sanctions: it is only through that means that one will be able to improve the South African economy. That will be to the benefit of everyone in South Africa. As regards sporting sanctions, we welcome the announcement made on 21st April regarding the integration of the cricket bodies in South Africa. We look forward to hearing further announcements regarding the integration of other sporting bodies, and we hope for an announcement that would lead to South Africa's full participation in world sport.

Baroness Ewart-Biggs

My Lords, the Minister mentioned the number of political prisoners who have been released. Can he give the House any idea of the number of political prisoners who are still detained?

The Earl of Caithness

No, my Lords. However, I shall write to the noble Baroness with that information.

Lord Mancroft

My Lords, is there any evidence that the ANC is re-arming?

The Earl of Caithness

No, my Lords. We have no evidence to that effect. If we had such evidence, we would deplore it as it would run counter to the ANC's undertaking as part of the Pretoria Minute of 6th August that it has suspended its armed struggle.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, the noble Earl is being either naive or misleading the House when he talks about the release of political prisoners. Is he not aware that the Pretoria Minute states specifically that all political prisoners will be released by 30th April? That is not the situation, and some of those prisoners are now on hunger strike. Mr. Mandela called specifically for the maintenance of sanctions—he has always done so—until there had been irreversible progress towards achieving a democratic society in South Africa. How can there be irreversible progress towards a democratic South Africa when only the whites have the vote, when the whole executive and parliamentary system is in the hands of the whites and when the land division remains at 87 per cent. for the one-fifth of the population that is composed of white people, while 13 per cent. is allocated for the three-quarters—

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