HL Deb 14 December 1992 vol 541 cc455-88

7.13 p.m.

Lord St. John of Bletso rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what action they are taking in conjunction with their European partners to help secure the long-term political and economic future of Southern Africa.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am delighted to have the opportunity of initiating today's debate focusing on what Her Majesty's Government and her European partners are doing to help secure the long-term economic and political stability of Southern Africa. I preface my remarks today by expressing my sadness at the loss of the late Lord Hatch of Lusby who, as your Lordships know, was an ardent campaigner for greater democracy in South Africa for many years. While our views to the challenges and developments in the region sometimes differed, I shall miss his valuable contributions. Also, I thank those noble Lords who put down their names to speak in the debate today.

The subject of Southern Africa was last debated in your Lordships' House in July of this year, when the noble Lord, Lord Judd, called attention to the impending famine in the region. In the past, debates on South Africa invariably tended to focus on what Her Majesty's Government were doing to encourage more democracy in the country. In the light of the dramatic changes in South and Southern Africa since the end of the Cold War, I feel it is now important to focus on what Her Majesty's Government and her European partners are doing in support of the entire region.

The combined pressures of domestic and foreign political demands as well as rapidly worsening socio-economic situations have focused and forced governments throughout Africa to start introducing radical political and economic reforms. In fact, of the total 47 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, 30 have so far legalised opposition parties since 1990. Of those, 13 had a new multi-party constitution in place by the beginning of this year.

It is against the negative background of the effects of the drought, the violence, the instability in many parts of South and Southern Africa and the resultant economic gloom, that I believe that the current trend to the establishment of multi-party democracies in the region heralds a potentially exciting new era for Southern Africa.

I wish to focus the main thrust of my speech tonight on the current situation in South Africa. Clearly, what happens in South Africa will have a profound influence on all countries in the Southern African region—Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Unlike Eastern Europe, South Africa has a well established infrastructure. However, with nearly 40 per cent. unemployment—excluding the informal sector—nearly 1.3 million families homeless and almost 30 per cent. illiteracy there needs to be a massive investment both now and in the future in the social fabric of the country; that is, the people. The focus of assistance needs to be directed at education and training, housing, health care, electrification, job creation and rural reform, particularly in the agricultural sector. The former years of the apartheid era have obviously left many scars, politically, economically and socially. Certainly a key challenge for the new South Africa has and will be to engender an atmosphere of trust, negotiation and compromise, both within South Africa and in the Southern Africa region.

Despite the dramatic reform programme in February 1990 initiated by President de Klerk, and the high expectations of earlier this year, the second half of 1992 has been a dismal time in South Africa. After the failure of CODESA to deliver an interim settlement, the ANC opted to embark upon a mass action campaign involving protests, demonstrations and general strikes. The violence has continued unabated and more recently has been directed at whites as soft targets. The horrific episodes of the deaths in Boiapatong in June of this year and later in Bisho in September, will always be remembered by both white and black in South Africa. Nevertheless, it is heartening that the ANC and the government in the past month laid the groundwork for restarting the stalled multi-party constitutional talks in February of next year. It is hoped that by then the Inkatha Freedom Party and other major recognised parties will agree to participate because, if there is to be any lasting negotiated settlement, it needs to incorporate all parties in the country. Against that background state President de Klerk announced on 26th November his government's timetable for further constitutional reforms leading to a fully representative government of national unity being in place by early 1994.

President de Klerk and Dr. Mandela agreed in 1990 that unless a compromise was negotiated, South Africa would be torn apart by conflict. Certainly that proposition remains true in 1992, and it seems that the principal players have reminded themselves of it. With the political negotiations now in part back on track, the challenge both for the short, medium and long term is to encourage economic growth and to curb the violence. Certainly in my opinion a lot of the violence has resulted from pure economic frustration. All major political groups in South Africa, even the South African Communist Party, are agreed that long-term stability and prosperity will depend on a mixed and growth-driven economy spearheaded by a vibrant private sector. Nationalisation and coercive redistribution of wealth have ceased to be major issues. But it remains obvious that the emancipated masses have high expectations and the new government will need to satisfy the economic and social needs of the population if they are to retain their political constituency.

South Africa would need in the region of 20 billion rand—that equates to £4 billion—of foreign capital a year to achieve a 4 per cent. economic growth rate necessary to cater for the existing workforce and those new jobseekers coming on to the market. What has become very evident is that there is unlikely to be any meaningful international inward investment unless there is both certainty on economic and political policy as well as a cessation in the violence.

It is noteworthy in that respect that despite the South African Government's past commitment to Article 2 of the United Nations charter which prohibits intervention, in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state",

there has recently been a marked change in attitude to the positive role that the international community can play as observers and advisers in assisting the government and the ANC, not just in monitoring the violence, but also in the provision of police training, accountability and management. The visit in early September this year of the European Community's troika of foreign ministers led by Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd, was a clear example of that. Their objective was to offer practical support and ways in which the European Community could assist in defusing and reducing the violence and mistrust.

In the longer term will the Minister comment on what assistance Her Majesty's Government can give to assist all major recognised political parties in the run-up to the forthcoming elections next year in South Africa?

In the light of the stagnant economy in South Africa, can the Minister comment further on the likelihood of the new South Africa being invited to join the Lomé Convention, giving the country both greater access to foreign trading markets, but also access to direct financial and technical aid? As I understand the status quo, it appears unlikely that the new South Africa will be invited to join Lomé as that could and would threaten European Community agricultural and other trading interests and dilute the benefits currently being given to the ACP countries.

South Africa would also need to be classified as a developing country. In most cases it is currently classified as a developed country. The European Community is clearly anxious to promote regional groupings. To this end, once South Africa and its neighbours can be united in an effectively functioning southern African development community, that community will be in a far stronger position than South Africa is alone to negotiate a substantive treaty with the European Community to promote trade and encourage investment into and from the region.

Before briefly discussing the plight of the other countries in Southern Africa, I feel it noteworthy to stress the important role that the private sector in South Africa will need to play in redressing the past imbalances in South Africa, and more specifically the human resource development; namely, the peoples of South Africa. Despite a lot of scepticism by economists, I support the beneficiation projects currently being developed in South Africa which clearly are steps forward in promoting economic growth, increasing employment opportunities and certainly will result in a valuable source for foreign exchange. Essentially, by adding value to raw materials resulting in the production of stainless steel, aluminium, petrochemicals and other commodities for export and domestic use, that could substantially assist other major mineral producers in the region such as Zambia, Zimbabwe, Angola and Zaire.

Statistics on a recent briefing paper on South African-EC relations by the Brussels-based European research office show that if only 10 per cent. of chromite ore produced in South Africa was beneficiated, about 3.7 billion dollars could be earned. That is equivalent to half of the country's annual gold exports.

Although the recent drought in Southern Africa has had a disastrous effect on the region resulting in the devastation of much of the maize crops and leading to massive starvation, it has also been an important test of regional co-operation. To this end South Africa has played an important role in assisting in the distribution of food aid with its sophisticated infrastructure of ports, roads and rail networks. That contribution has clearly been recognised by the neighbours of South Africa and has assisted in conjuring a more positive attitude towards regional co-operation. Can the Minister comment on the role that Her Majesty's Government have played of late in the drought relief for the region? Thankfully, with the recent heavy rains in South Africa, much of the area has had a major reprieve from the drought.

In consequence of the long and bitter conflicts in Mozambique and Angola and to a large degree as a result of the destabilising tactics of the South African Government in earlier years, the result has been the effective closure of many of the main routes to the ports in the region. One of the major challenges facing the region now that there has been a ceasefire in Mozambique, and Angola is clawing its way back to peace, will be to operate effectively the Benguela line which will be of most benefit to Zambia, and the Beira line, which will be the shortest route for Zimbabwe and Malawi imports and exports to the sea.

It has been estimated that the war-related death toll in Southern Africa, particularly in Angola and Mozambique during the 1980s, could be in excess of 1.5 million and the financial costs to the front-line states excluding Namibia has been in the region of 45 billion dollars which is double their external debt.

A natural consequence of the conflict in the region and the economic devastation it caused, was a huge rise in refugees and migrant labourers. To this end, the international community has a vital role to play in the long-term rehabilitation of the refugees.

As the subject matter of today's Unstarred Question is immense and I do not wish to detain your Lordships for longer than is necessary, I should like to pose a number of questions to the Minister in relation to the Government's role in assisting the region. First, following the peaceful removal of Mr Kaunda from office in Zambia and the restoration of a multi-party democracy, what support are Her Majesty's Government giving to President Chiluba to support his economic reform programme?

Secondly, against the poor record of human rights abuses in Malawi and Her Majesty's Government's decision to withdraw development aid to the country, are Her Majesty's Government providing any relief to the most poor and vulnerable sectors of Malawi society? Furthermore, will observers be sent to Malawi to observe the forthcoming referendum?

Thirdly, following the recent election in Angola and the more recent acceptance of the result by Mr Savimbi, what assistance are Her Majesty's Government giving to ensure that all parties abide by the Bicess Accord, and to ensure that there is an effective integration of the armed forces? Clearly, with Angola's enormous mineral and oil reserves as well as its diamonds, there is huge economic potential for the country. Do Her Majesty's Government have any programmes to assist the country in the reconstruction process? With the Zimbabwe elections scheduled for 1995, what assistance are Her Majesty's Government giving to the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme?

Finally, a problem that has beset much of Southern Africa of late has been that of arms smuggling. It has been estimated that there are over 2 million AK47 rifles in Mozambique. Many of these arms have crossed into South Africa and have been swapped for food and clothing. This has contributed a lot to the escalation of violence in the townships. Have the Government and their European partners considered a policy of offering 10 dollars for each AK47 rifle handed in? These arms would then be destroyed in front of those giving them up.

In conclusion, the challenges for Southern Africa are clear: the establishment of multi-party democracy coupled with good governance; the promotion of reconciliation and trust and a cessation of violence; the introduction and defence of human rights, and the promotion of economic growth, matched with political stability. 1993 will be a crucial year in the transition to democracy of South Africa, Mozambique, Angola and for much of the region. Her Majesty's Government, and in particular the Minister, have already played a vitally important role in assisting the region to achieve these objectives. I am confident of Her Majesty's Government's continued commitment and look forward to the Minister's closing speech.

7.33 p.m.

Lord Elibank

My Lords, I begin by thanking the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, for introducing this Unstarred Question and for his most interesting speech. Movement in South Africa and Southern Africa is fairly rapid and it is useful for your Lordships from time to time to have the opportunity to review matters as we go along. I associate myself with the courteous and kindly words of the noble Lord, Lord St. John, about the late Lord Hatch of Lusby. He initiated the last debate on South Africa in which I participated. We shall miss his lively and vigorous contributions on this matter, as on others.

This debate is expressly about Southern Africa, but I propose to concentrate on South Africa which is, for all practical purposes, the motor of Southern Africa. If South Africa prospers economically and socially, there is a very good chance that the other states in the region will also prosper. To the extent that South Africa falls into decline, the other states will surely suffer.

There is one aspect of the South African situation on which I should like to concentrate. I refer to the widespread expectation that, if agreement is reached between the African National Congress, other black leaders and parties and the South African Government, it will usher in a period of peace, prosperity and social harmony within the republic. I believe this to be a dangerous illusion in many ways and I propose to say why. Various problems exist today in the republic which will continue virtually unchanged upon the signing of any constitutional agreement.

The first of these—and the most obvious—is the racial mix. South Africa has been ruled for at least 150 years by two races—the Afrikaaners and the British. Those two races have been united only by the desire to rule the territory. They are separated by language and culture. They live together in a somewhat uneasy relationship—and this will not change. The black races, particularly the Zulus and the Nkosas, have been traditional enemies for many years. They are now infiltrated to a greater or lesser degree by the ANC and its philosophies. This will guarantee an uneasy, unstable and possibly warlike relationship between them for some time to come. The other races —the coloureds and the blacks within the semi-independent states —live in a sort of constitutional no-man's land, and it is difficult to see what the future holds for them.

The position looks unhappily very similar to what is unfolding in Yugoslavia today. Yugoslavia was a combination of races held together latterly by a strong tyrant and a tyrannical party, both of which have disappeared. Tito has died and the Communist Party has lost its power. We can see the results in the break-up of Yugoslavia—a depressing sight, which may recur on the South African scene well after an agreement has been reached. In so far as we can, we should prepare for it but, of course, we should try to avoid it.

The other problem that will last well beyond any constitutional agreement is unemployment. I do not think that even the South African Government know the extent of black unemployment. The noble Lord, Lord St. John, mentioned 40 per cent., and I have seen the figure of 7 million bandied about. Whatever the true figure, it is very large. At the moment, the unemployed are kept under control by two measures. The first is that they live within what is effectively a police state. Secondly, they are buoyed up by aspirations of the big changes that will happen when, finally, democracy is achieved—when "one man, one vote" comes in and they are governed by a black government. I am sure that as soon as that happens they will expect a dramatic improvement in their employment situation. However, it seems to me that they are highly unlikely to achieve that. The economic position of South Africa today —again, the noble Lord, Lord St. John, outlined part of it—is not really sound. The hope is that once a black government are in power international investment will follow; and so it may if there is some kind of stability and guarantee attaching to it.

The Question asks what Her Majesty's Government can do. It seems to me that the only positive thing Her Majesty's Government can do, apart from retaining a positive attitude towards South Africa, which they have done all along, is to offer some form of guarantee of investment. When any firm comes to consider investment—not only in South Africa but anywhere else—there are certain investment criteria which make an investment in place A better than in place B. On any normal investment criteria, South Africa, I suspect, is going to be a poor risk under a black government. It is there that Her Majesty's Government, not by pouring money into the country but by discreetly offering guarantees to those willing to invest, could make a substantial contribution to the evolution of the new state.

The only other main point that I would wish to mention about the problems that beset the country and will continue to do so is the problem of AIDS and, associated with it, the scourge of malaria. I believe that Southern Africa is the worst afflicted, by both AIDS and resurgent malaria, of any part of the world. Unless something can be done to ameliorate the situation there the evils of which I have been talking —racial disharmony, unemployment and poor economics—will pale into insignificance besides the decline in the population and the inevitable decline, of course, in the workforce.

I would not wish to conclude on an unhappy note. I contrast what I see of the present situation in South Africa and its likely future with a visit that I paid to Zimbabwe some two years ago. As your Lordships will know, Zimbabwe has spent the past 10 years recovering from a bloody civil war, followed almost immediately by the election of a communist president and what was effectively a one-party state. A less promising beginning it would be hard to imagine. In fact, due to the civil war, it had one good consequence. A large degree of manufacturing and service self-sufficiency was built up during the struggle. That has served the country well in the past 10 years.

Despite this unhappy and unpromising start, as it certainly was, Zimbabwe has over the past 10 years, by African standards at least, prospered considerably. That is due in no small measure to the pragmatic approach of the president himself. While running the country he has contrived to let the whites enjoy a standard of living which I suspect is as good as it has ever been since the second world war; and in return they have made a notable contribution to the economy of the country. The black population, as far as I could tell from a very superficial contact with them, are perfectly happy that black power is with their government and they are content that the white population should prosper, as they seem to do.

I found the Zimbabwean man in the street—the black African—a man of surprising independence; courteous, non-aggressive and without the conventional chip on the shoulder that we would all expect in those circumstances; and certainly I would. It was a very refreshing experience to visit that country. I would say to those in South Africa who look somewhat gloomily on the racial and other problems of their country that, if they wish to see something rather more hopeful and a rather brighter prospect for the future, they should look beyond their northern boundary.

7.44 p.m.

Lord Pitt of Hampstead

My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord St. John, for introducing this debate and congratulate him on his very stimulating speech. I look forward with interest to the Minister's reply. I am also grateful to him for mentioning my noble friend, the late Lord Hatch. Certainly, Lord Hatch would have been very prominent in this debate. He was a strong opponent of apartheid. It was a question of principle with him. Your Lordships may not know that he was banned from South Africa. The banning was only removed after the change in the situation. I know that the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, although he does not know that I know it, played a major part in getting that ban lifted. So what I think I will probably do is to send a copy of today's Hansard to Lady Hatch. I am sure she will be glad to read what has been said about her husband.

I am glad that the noble Lord spoke about Southern Africa but concentrated on South Africa because the truth is that Southern Africa has had a very bad time over the past 25 years. It has been a period of conflict. It started with Rhodesia and we have had the conflicts in Mozambique, Angola and Namibia. The whole area has been involved in conflict. Even what has been going on in Malawi is part of the problem that has confronted the whole area during the past two and a half decades. South Africa has been central to it. South Africa supported the rebellion in Rhodesia. It played a major part in the battle that took place in Mozambique which, as I said on a previous occasion, has put Mozambique flat on its back. It has been prominent in supporting Savimbi and in the Angolan struggle and of course it was defending its position in Namibia. Even what has happened in Malawi started because Banda and his supporters had different views on the attitude that should be adopted to South Africa. South Africa has been central to the problems of the area.

In the past couple of years we have felt that there is a new dispensation. Originally there was great hope and then we went through a period when most people were in despair. The truth of the matter—I am giving the truth as I see it—is that for the past couple of years the National Party and the ANC have been fighting the post-settlement election rather than waiting until they have the settlement. It is the fighting of that election over the past couple of years that has put South Africa in a difficult situation. Recently, there was a commitment from the ANC that the post-settlement government would be a coalition. One hopes that that commitment will make a difference. What is required is cool calm discussion and negotiation to find an agreement under which the various groups in South Africa can live together and the area thrive.

Members of the House will remember that on previous occasions I have always maintained that sanctions should have been used as a carrot as well as a stick. I am sorry that we have not used them as the carrot they could be. There is, however, still the possibility that they can be used in that way, because financial sanctions have not yet been removed, and it is the financial sanctions that South Africa would like removed. We now come to the question of what Her Majesty's Government should do. The international community should be saying to South Africa that when the South African groups—CODESA—ask for sanctions to be removed they will be removed. That would force an agreement because, in effect, all groups want the financial sanctions removed.

The National Party wants financial sanctions removed right away. It needs that. The ANC is hesitant about having them removed lest things return to how they were before. It fears that the whites are in a position to have the regime as it was previously. If it knows that, if the parties agree on a method of dealing with the new South Africa, financial sanctions will be removed and they can build the South Africa that they hope to have, that would be a strong incentive to reach an agreement. Although the negotiations are taking place, at the moment the objectives of the two sides are not the same. The objective of the National Party is a coalition. It aims at ensuring that, whatever happens under the new dispensation, it will be able to influence the course of events. It is negotiating with that objective in mind.

The ANC, on the other hand, aims to have a majority government in South Africa. Although it will happily have a coalition, if that is what is necessary, its aim is majority rule and so it objects to any suggestion that the agreement should be one which restricts the attainment of majority rule. It is because both parties are starting from those two different angles, and both are trying to win the election at the same time, that we have the problems that we do at the moment. The use of financial sanctions—the only ones left, because the others have been removed—as a carrot, with a firm indication that if an agreed request is made for their removal the international community will act in that way, would have a strong effect.

I hope that the Minister will tell us that she is prepared to take that point on board, because this country is in a position to make a major contribution in that respect. Britain has always been a friend of South Africa and recognised as such. Britain is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, a member of the EC and of the Commonwealth. Using its position in those organisations, it can get financial sanctions removed if there is an agreement. I hope the Minister will tell us that the Government also take that point on board, even though it will be the sanctions imposed by other countries that will be removed rather than those imposed by Britain.

There are other things that the Government can promise. The Government are doing something about training and education. I should like to hear that that is something which the Government are prepared to expedite, and will try to persuade the Commonwealth, the EC and the United Nations also to do their bit, because a change of government will require a civil service which is equipped to do the job. The civil service must be multi-racial if it is to be accepted generally. Training is therefore important. I hope that the Government will consider playing a major role in that area.

The noble Lord, Lord St. John, mentioned police training. There is also the whole issue of the South African defence force, the new force, and the way in which it will be trained. I believe that Her Majesty's Government can, again, play a major role there. I hope that we shall hear from the Minister that those are contributions which this country is prepared to make.

Finally, it is the South Africans themselves who will make their decisions, but they need to know that the international community wishes them well, wants them to succeed, and will do everything possible to enable them to succeed. I hope that the Minister's reply will be along those lines.

7.59 p.m.

Baroness Wharton

My Lords, I too should like to thank my noble friend Lord St. John of Bletso for initiating the debate. I share a common concern for the future of South Africa. I spent my childhood there during the war, and I did not return here until 1956.

As democracy springs to life, and African leaders start to get to grips with harsh economic reality, Africa is looking to the developed world for aid and financial support on a vast scale. That will put great pressure on the resources of the EC and its member states. One way to reduce that pressure is to help Africa to help itself. That can be done only where there is a core of good government and sound management practice upon which to build. In Southern Africa there is a chance. We have a subcontinent in which democracy and enterprise are trying to take hold as the failed dogmas of autocracy and collectivism fade from the scene. In all the countries of Southern Africa there is now a clear shift towards a greater democracy and more realistic economic policies. The transition will not be easy. It requires unaccustomed discipline and co-operation between hitherto rival groups.

The big question is whether this can be achieved. The levels of growth required to absorb huge and growing numbers of unemployed people into economic activity, the education and training required to help equip them to be effective, and the investment needed to enable all this to happen simply cannot be done without help from the developed world.

In this context the key will be South Africa, which has the infrastructure and expertise. If South Africa fails and slides into chaos and poverty, it will be doubly difficult for her neighbour states, with their fledgling economies and dependence on the republic, to succeed. The cost to us in the developed world would be incalculable.

A successful South Africa would create markets and opportunities in Southern Africa. The potential is there to transform the region into the bread basket of Africa. Like other new world societies, South Africa was colonised early by a great cross-section of people, all with differing skills. The combination of these multiple influences with the discovery of gold, diamonds and other strategic minerals, led to the growth of developed communities.

Despite the emergence of the apartheid regime after the Second World War, South Africa's trading wealth created a base for strong economic growth, which resulted in heavy investment in the infrastructure, linking the key development areas—high quality road, rail and air links, equal to anything in Europe; and sophisticated telecommunication systems.

At the same time South Africa developed her own financial and capital markets facilitated by a modern computer and information industry. The emergence of a strong managerial level in South African corporations resulted in the growth of an efficient corporate sector. This was achieved despite the inequalities imposed by apartheid and the resulting distortions in the economy, which were exacerbated by international sanctions in the 1980s.

The problem in today's terms is that the cost of compensating for the failure, over the years, of the apartheid government to provide political freedoms and to invest in education, housing and job creation, coupled with a dramatic surge in the population, has created spiralling unemployment, with unskilled people living in a climate of violence, frustration and hopelessness.

The consequence is huge, social and political pressure for improved living standards, jobs, education, housing, and so on, with disadvantaged and hitherto disfranchised people looking for compensation from the state through a new government.

However, in the meantime the economy has been in recession and steady decline for nearly a decade. Gold has lost its glitter and the diamond industry is in trouble. Worldwide recession has slashed South Africa's export receipts and her industries are laying people off rather than taking them on.

Relaxation of apartheid controls has loosed a tide of people into the cities, creating huge squatter settlements and still more acute social problems of misery and random violence which brutalise all communities. The situation has deteriorated to the point where the question has now to be asked: if South Africa's economy continues to fail, can democracy there be made to work?

Without economic growth to create jobs, living standards will continue to plunge and the task of delivering successful social reforms will be insurmountable. Any multi-racial, freely elected government will be unable to meet the aspirations of its people, because the costs will simply be too high for South Africa to bear alone. The longer the economy is allowed to remain in decline the more the problem is compounded, because above all it affects morale.

South Africans today are becoming demoralised. People of all groups now fear that the situation is steadily becoming worse. This is resulting in a hardening of attitudes, which will make a negotiated settlement much harder to achieve and could seriously prolong the process, because some feel they have nothing to lose by procrastinating.

What they need is hope. They need to know that the international community genuinely wants them to succeed. Private investors will remain reluctant to put money into South Africa until there is political stability. Therefore, may I hope that the government of this country and the EC will do everything in their power to help create a climate in which such investment could be renewed?

An EC programme of support for social and infrastructural programmes would help to revitalise the economy, thus providing jobs, training and improved living standards. Above all, it would create a sense of hope and ease the tensions surrounding the constitutional talks. It would help the country to focus attention on the positive aspects of the situation. In a mere three years, South Africa has abandoned and abolished apartheid and today stands on the brink of a political solution. Black freedom movements are being channelled into political parties and whites and blacks alike are seeing the importance of sound economic and monetary policies.

The fundamentals are in place. South Africa has the managerial skills, the capital-raising infrastructures, the entrepreneurial flair and creativity and the technological know-how to build a highly successful economy. Despite persistent problems of productivity, labour and management have achieved a great deal in a highly politicised environment.

Major South African groups are poised to expand into Southern Africa by upgrading infrastructures, opening up new markets and thereby improving living standards. Countries bordering on South Africa have transformed their economic inter-relationship from a defensive anti-South African alliance into the beginning of an economic community in which South Africa will in due course be a welcome partner.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) is now actively seeking ways to build regional infrastructures, break down barriers to trade between the countries of the region and find a way to bring South Africa into the fold—one which will not result in their being swamped by their dominant neighbour.

The climate is right, but everything now depends on South Africa's ability to solve her problems quickly and initiate a period of sustained economic growth. I do not think that they can do this without our help.

8.6 p.m.

Lord Balfour of Inchrye

My Lords, I too shall begin by saying how grateful all those who have an interest in Southern Africa will be to my noble friend Lord St. John of Bletso for initiating this debate. At the same time, I join in the expressions of regret at the passing of Lord Hatch of Lusby, who, like my noble friend, was always keenly aware of the importance of the subject we are now discussing. However, I must admit that were the noble Lord here with us this evening, he might not agree with many of the things that I shall say.

The Question specifies the long-term political and economic future of Southern Africa. However, like my noble kinsman on the Government Benches, I shall confine my remarks to South Africa, which, as your Lordships know, raises very different issues from those in other countries situated in the south of the continent. It is a country which has formed the background to a large part of my life and where I have witnessed several momentous events. Furthermore, for more than 40 years I have had the privilege of working for or being connected with one of the country's foremost industrial enterprises.

I cannot help casting my mind back to the events of September 1939. I have a vivid recollection of coming out of the cinema in Johannesburg as a young teenager, and hearing cheers ringing in the street. I can still hear them today. What did they signify? They announced the entry of South Africa into the Second World War. I remember reading the speech in Parliament of the then Prime Minister Hertzog, in the course of which he stated: We are concerned here in a war in which the Union has not the slightest interest". He was later followed by the leader of the Nationalist Party, who went even further by voicing his unreserved defence of Hitler. Fortunately, the deputy Prime Minister, General Jan Smuts, won the day by 80 to 67 votes in the South African Parliament, thereby bringing the country on to the side of the Allies. At this stage, I do not consider it necessary to detail the great contribution made to the war effort by South Africans of all races. Less than 10 years later, the picture began to change radically. In 1948, the Nationalists came to power—even Smuts lost his seat in that general election—and they started to put into practice the doctrine of apartheid which they had promulgated for years.

Since this is the first occasion on which I have participated in a debate on South Africa in your Lordships' House, perhaps I may make my views on apartheid perfectly clear. I consider it to be one of the most wicked doctrines ever perpetrated by a civilised society. It was also one of the most stupid because, from an economic point of view, it was doomed to failure from the outset.

For the next few years there were protests from prominent South Africans both in and outside Parliament but it was not until the mid-1950s, when the colonial powers began to withdraw from their colonies, that they gathered force. It was surely natural and hardly surprising that Africans in other parts of the continent, now aware of the plight of their brethren within South Africa, started to agitate on their behalf. The United Nations soon provided a ready and sympathetic forum for their vociferous protests. The rent-a-mobs of the world were given plenty of scope while any puny politician in need of either votes or sympathy could always be guaranteed to obtain one or other if he or she inveighed against South Africa. All in all, worldwide, a most vicious and vitriolic vendetta of vilification and vituperation began to be aimed at South Africa, or rather its entire white population.

There are three points about this campaign which I believe should be noted. First, it took no account of the fact—or more likely deliberately chose to ignore it—that there were indeed many white citizens of the country who had always been bitterly opposed to apartheid and who did not hesitate to vent their opposition to it. That opposition included not just white citizens of British descent but Afrikaners too. I remember the prominent part which that great fighter ace of the Battle of Britain, Group Captain Malan, played in the Torchlight Commandos, one of many organisations that came into being to oppose the government. I have often noted the comments of that wise and distinguished gentleman, Sir Laurens van der Post, on the subject of apartheid, and there have been many others.

Secondly, I have noticed that while many of South Africa's most virulent opponents were prepared to attack the apartheid regime quite correctly, they have often been supporters of other loathsome regimes in various parts of the globe. They have also been most selective in their hatreds, aided and abetted by much of the media. For example the urban townships which are situated on the perimeters of South Africa's largest cities constitute an appalling indictment of the country's system and are quite rightly condemned. But I have read little or no criticism of hideous shanty towns in other parts of the world such as those in the East or in South America. I have seen and most unpleasantly smelt those dreadful blots on humanity but I detect little criticism of their governments in this respect. Once more the media have tended to be selective in their reporting. I have coined a word for this—"hypepocrisy".

My third point, which concerns the campaign waged against the white population of South Africa, may well prove a somewhat uncomfortable one for many but I think it must be stated. It means taking a brief look back at history. In the aftermath of the Boer War the British government of the day were anxious to make amends for what they judged to have been the harsh conduct of the army and they were conscious of the need for Afrikaner support for both the strategy and the financing of the British Empire: hence their abandonment of all principles of liberalism.

It was the British legislature that passed the Act restricting black and coloured voters in the Union elections to the Cape alone and it provided that no black citizen should be permitted to sit in the South African parliament. Then the creation of the Union of South Africa was regarded as a triumph but concern for the rights of the African population was little voiced at the time. Therefore I believe we should not be too hasty in ascribing all of South Africa's ills to its indigenous white population but try to remember the scenario that was foisted upon it by the government of our own country. Now, with the collapse of apartheid, South Africa enters a new phase, one that is beset with many problems and difficulties but one which heralds a new and hopeful dawn—I agree with my noble friend that it is an exciting dawn—for all the country's inhabitants, provided we do not lose sight of certain fundamental facts.

I consider that the past 20 years or so have seen the appearance on the international scene of a triumvirate of remarkable statesmen who, albeit with varying success, have endeavoured to break the political stalemate. They are Anwar Sadat of Egypt, Mikhail Gorbachev of the erstwhile Soviet Union and Willem de Klerk. I have no hesitation in including the South African President because it is he who has primarily been responsible for the death knell of apartheid and it is to him that the credit for its collapse ought to be given. Doubtless there are many who will assert that he has merely bowed to the inevitable and that his hand has been forced by the continued imposition of sanctions. I prefer to be more charitable by saying that he has displayed both courage and foresight in bringing about apartheid's demise. He has especially shown courage because he has gone against the hallowed beliefs of so many of his kinsmen in the National Party.

Only those who have spent time in South Africa will be aware of the deep resentment of many sections of Afrikanerdom towards the English-speaking whites. For many of these people the Boer War occurred only yesterday. I think that the result of the recent referendum which he secured is a testimony to Dr. de Klerk's achievements and I believe he deserved more on his visit to this country a couple of months ago than to be greeted by a posse of pathetic, puerile demonstrators wherever he set foot.

One of Dr. de Klerk's decisions, of course, was to order the release of Nelson Mandela from prison. I gladly pay tribute to this remarkable gentleman, who after 25 years or so of incarceration in prison has emerged with neither rancour nor resentment towards his captors. He has taken his place at the head of his people and acted with great responsibility. Indeed Mr. Mandela will not find his own supporters necessarily easy to handle. I remember reading of how one lady, writing to a newspaper from a black township, asked a few months after his release, "Where is my house"? Furthermore it is obvious that a power struggle is currently being waged within the ranks of the African National Congress. On the one hand there are those who wish to continue to negotiate with Dr. de Klerk and on the other hand there are the so-called "insurrectionists" who call for the overthrow of de Klerk and an intensification of mass action and strikes.

In addition to the ANC, which principally consists of the Xhosa tribe, there are the Zulu-orientated Inkatha Freedom Party led by Chief Buthelezi and the coloured and Indian peoples. But it is Dr. de Klerk, Mr. Mandela and Chief Buthelezi who are the three individuals on the scene who will determine the future course of events in South Africa. I shall choose to ignore the extremists on either side of the political divide.

I should now like to remind your Lordships of three facts which I believe must be taken into account in reaching decisions about the future of the country. The first, and by far the most important, is to recognise the need for power sharing between the major political parties and races in any government of the future. I was heartened to read recently that that has been endorsed by the national executive committee of the ANC and I warmly congratulate it on that. All who are conversant with South Africa will know that the ANC would never yield power to an administration dominated by the Inkatha Freedom Party and its allies, and vice versa. Partnership not power must be the key to the future, otherwise the worst fears harboured by some that one day the country might descend into tribalism would be realised. In that event a conflict between the ANC and the Inkatha movement would be so horrific as to make every previous war within Africa seem like a minor skirmish. I am content to leave it to the legal and constitutional experts to work out a solution. On this vital issue I therefore hope that Her Majesty's Government may have a part to play, if asked, in providing their advice and assistance.

Secondly, I come to the future role of the white South Africans. I believe it is essential to realise that they are an integral part of the country's population. It may be thought simplistic to make this point: nevertheless I do so, partly on account of the ignorance and prejudice shown to them in the past and partly because recent attacks by an extremist organisation are clearly designed to drive them out of the country. The whites are not settlers: they have been resident in South Africa for more than 300 years and they have no other home. If they are viewed merely as settlers, then many citizens of Canada, Australia and the USA ought to be similarly viewed.

Moreover, as a result of the efforts of the white business community, which has so often stepped in where the government should have acted, many black citizens will have experienced a higher standard of living than that of the inhabitants of many other countries in the world. In passing, I add that I have been heartened to read of an increasingly thriving black business community containing a number of millionaires. Why should they not prosper on an equal basis with their white compatriots? Only the second-rate sneer at success.

Finally, once the deliberations concerning the country's political future have been concluded, I look forward to sustained investment in South Africa. Indeed that is absolutely essential. The ravages of apartheid and the effect of sanctions have combined to weaken the economy drastically. With increasing poverty and unemployment the scale of the problem has risen alarmingly within the past four years. Fortunately South Africa is rich in minerals and is already a highly industrialised country providing more than 40 per cent. of the continent's industrial production and generating more than half its electrical power. As so much of the rest of Southern Africa depends upon South Africa I believe that were this beautiful land to descend into chaos and darkness then the lights of many countries south of the Sahara would also go out.

8.18 p.m.

Lord Monson

My Lords, I first join in the general chorus of regret for the passing of the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby. Although we did not agree very often on political matters he always spoke up strongly for the things he believed in and stuck to his guns even in the face of widespread disapproval. Those were characteristics I admired very much.

I, too, am grateful to my noble friend Lord St. John for giving us the chance to debate this important topic. For reasons of time I, too, will confine my remarks to South Africa. My noble friend knows Southern Africa a hundred times better than I by virtue of having spent most of his life there. However, I have been to South Africa, and to a lesser extent Namibia, on several occasions over the past 27½ years, as well as having been to Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland. I have many friends in the region, from very different backgrounds, and have a great affection for the place and care deeply about what happens there.

Perhaps more relevantly, I have studied the pattern of other countries throughout the world where ethnic, cultural and religious tensions exist. None is precisely comparable with South Africa. Nevertheless, from studying the precedents many predictions can be made with a reasonable chance of being proved right in the long term, although whether one wants to be proved right is another matter.

It is ironic that only five days ago we discussed Hong Kong at length. The consensus seemed to be that for hard-nosed considerations of realpolitik one man one vote democracy is no solution for Hong Kong and indeed is a positively bad idea. Today, paradoxically, we are discussing southern Africa, with particular reference to South Africa, and the general feeling seems to be that one man one vote democracy is a good idea and is the ideal solution. It would be splendid if that were so and established liberal democracy became a reality. However, a number of things can be predicted, sadly if safely.

First, whatever form of government exists in South Africa in 15 or 20 years' time it is most unlikely to be a western-style liberal democracy. The second prediction is that that outcome is unlikely to worry public opinion or the media in the West. They will not object very much to authoritarianism so long as the power is exercised by a different group of authoritarians from those who have now been in power for four decades or longer. Demonstrations outside South Africa House, if that remains its name, will be ill-attended if they take place at all.

The third prediction is that the press, now known to be the freest press in Africa, indeed among the freest in the world, will cease to be so. Certainly, the savage criticism and lampooning of government ministers and others in positions of authority which has been taking place since I first visited South Africa in 1965 will no longer be allowed.

The fourth prediction is that the police, although under the command of a completely new set of officers from those currently in command, will behave no more like Dixon of Dock Green than they do at present.

That sounds rather cynical. Actually, sadness rather than cynicism is the prevailing emotion, but there is no point in being self-deluding and unrealistic. None of the above means that South Africa need end up like Uganda, Algeria, Yugoslavia or the Lebanon, and still less, thank goodness, like Sri Lanka.

What can Britain and her partners do to try to help matters evolve as satisfactorily as possible in these difficult circumstances? First, one should try to evaluate realistically what South Africa has in its favour and what is working against it. In favour are its mineral wealth, including strategic non-ferrous metals other than gold; good soil, on balance; an extremely varied, mainly temperate climate and a varied topography which enables a wide variety of foodstuffs to be grown to the extent that the country can be virtually self sufficient; a good transport infrastructure, especially as regards roads; as my noble friend Lady Wharton mentioned, good telecommunications; and, contrary to popular misconception, a well-educated workforce by African standards with unusually developed entrepreneurial instincts.

Against that there are the following disadvantages: a population explosion; an AIDS epidemic; a chronic drought in much of the west and centre of the country, accompanied by excessive rainfall on the eastern coast causing leaching and soil erosion, the latter accentuated by the over-grazing associated with a traditional pastoral way of life. In addition, at present there is a worldwide surplus of most agricultural products which is causing a decline in prices in real terms. The same applies to wine. That is good news for those of us who enjoy the stuff but not such good news for the producers.

There is excessive optimism about the part which gold can play in the future prosperity of South Africa. A country with Libya's population density can exist on mineral resources; a country with South Africa's population density cannot, particularly when the mineral resources in question are as difficult and costly to extract as are South Africa's. There is fierce competition in manufactured goods from other emerging countries throughout the world, not only those in South-East Asia—the old favourites of South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia, but also Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand—but also the Indian sub-continent, where they are now branching out into more sophisticated products, Latin American—notably Mexico, Brazil and Chile—and, last but by no means least, the emerging democracies in eastern Europe, where wage rates are considerably lower than in South Africa at present. Productivity is also lower at the moment but that will not last forever.

Not only are manufacturers in the countries I have mentioned likely to undercut those of South Africa but investors worldwide may well prefer to direct their new investment to other countries on the grounds that South Africa is too risky when there are so many other opportunities throughout the world. Finally, there is the revolution of rising expectations among young blacks—expectations which cannot possibly be met.

That, in turn, leads one to South Africa's most notable and distinct feature in the eyes of the world, although it is by no means unique to that country—the clash of races, tribes and cultures. I am told that old colonial hands used to say that the whites in Kenya were the officers. With officers there is no problem; there are not many of them and those who stay on can continue to manage hotels, become airline pilots, doctors, white hunters and so on. The role of NCOs in Kenya was fulfilled by the Asians, and, as we know, half of those have had to leave. In Rhodesia the whites were generally thought of as NCOs. Some 65 per cent. of those departed, many of them for South Africa. Finally, in South Africa, one has not only the officers, of whom my noble friend is a magnificent representative, but many NCOs and—this is where South Africa differs from most of the other parts of English-speaking Africa—a considerable number (possibly one million) who could be described as private soldiers.

These private soldiers have actual experience of weapons handling and the handling of explosives. They have little or no chance of promotion, and nowhere else to go. They are also in direct competition with those of other races who are trying to move up the ladder. That is an explosive mixture, particularly as the privates are in alliance with those NCOs who moved south from Rhodesia, Zambia, Angola, and Mozambique and who consider South Africa their last bastion —their Alamo, so to speak.

It is extraordinary how people here who should know better try to pretend that that problem does not exist. They concentrate their scrutiny on the northern suburbs of Johannesburg, where people have large houses and swimming pools, and simply never visit the poor white suburbs. They probably do not know that they exist. Only Hugo Young, writing in the Guardian approximately two-and-a-half months ago, has even touched upon it.

Where does one even begin to find a solution? That is before taking into consideration the tensions between the Zulus, Xhosas, Tswanas and other tribes and the concealed but undoubted latent tensions between Asians and black Africans. The adoption of a federal or cantonal system would almost certainly lessen some of the tensions.

That brings me to Bophuthatswana. There is much I should like to say yet again about that country, or state, for example, about its excellent and humane prison system. There is no slopping out there, but clean flushing lavatories for every small dormitory. It puts much of our own prison system in Britain to shame. Indeed, that was confirmed by an honourable Member in another place who also happened to be a distinguished criminal lawyer with much experience of prisons. I persuaded him to visit prisons in Bophuthatswana on a fact-finding trip to that country.

Were there time, many other achievements could be mentioned. One of the most notable achievements of Bophuthatswana, partly as a result of accident and partly design, is that it has brought together the most unlikely people. In March 1985 when I first visited Sun City—a name which most people laugh at for no logical reason—I was astonished to see some sharply-dressed, exuberant people who had driven up from Soweto in cars and coaches happily rubbing shoulders and mingling with burly, moustachio-ed, blue collar and lower middle-class whites from Johannesburg, Pretoria and industrial and mining towns like Rustenburg and Krugersdorp. Such mingling was almost unheard of anywhere else in South Africa at that particular time: it does not happen very often now. They did not mix socially; that would have been too much to expect. But there was complete mutual tolerance and acceptance. I learnt from the Austrian director of the complex, who had no particular political axe to grind, that there had not been a single racial incident of any magnitude during the entire time that the place had been open. That is more than can be said for Britain, many European countries or the United States.

One can only guess at the reasons for that happy state of affairs. One suspects it is due partly to the fact that when one visits a place like that one is in a holiday mood and out to enjoy oneself, but it is partly due to the fact that no group feels threatened or menaced by any other. Surely, the challenge is how to extend that sense of not feeling threatened right across South Africa as a whole. Once a minority group, be it racial, religious, economic or tribal, feels that its jobs, livelihoods, homes, and possibly the lives and future of its children are all secure, the prime source of fear, tension and conflict will disappear. True, the economic problems will persist but, against that, investment may well start to flow in to a greater extent than might otherwise occur because people will feel that it is once again a safe place in which to invest.

This is a tremendous challenge both for those who are presently running South Africa and for this country, our partners and all those throughout the world who are trying to help. It will necessitate a massive injection of funds. I honestly do not know where those funds will come from in a time of worldwide slump and financial stringency, but it seems to me to be the only hope. Where one has racial, religious or cultural tension of the magnitude seen in South Africa and elsewhere, no durable political solution will be remotely possible without economic prosperity and something approaching full employment.

8.33 p.m.

Lord Bonham-Carter

My Lords, I too should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord St. John, for giving us an opportunity to discuss this very important and difficult subject. I also pay tribute to the late Lord Hatch of Lusby whose presence this evening would certainly have added a certain amount of controversy to the debate and who would have spoken with great knowledge, sincerity and a lifelong conviction about Africa, to which he was wholly devoted.

I have listened with great interest to the speeches made by noble Lords this evening. However, it seems to me that one issue has received too little emphasis; namely, that South africa is facing an immediate short-run crisis. The real problem is whether it will overcome the crisis so that the various plans and prospects as to what could, should and perhaps might be done—which have been quite rightly sketched—will ever have the opportunity of being done.

The issue in the short-run is whether South Africa can survive the crisis epitomised in the negotiations going on between the Government and the ANC, the violence that is racking the country and the economic crisis which reflects the world depression but is worse in South Africa partly for demographic reasons and partly for political reasons. When one combines violence and the economic and political crisis one has a very dangerous and difficult situation. It seems to me that the prospects of that being survived are a priori unlikely. However, having recently been there with other noble Lords, I must admit that several things struck me as surprising. It is not the first time that I have been there. I was amazed by the huge changes that had taken place over the past decade or 12 years and by the complexity of the problems that confronted that society.

I was also amazed by the optimism with which the politicians confronted those problems. They appeared to assume without much doubt that an agreement would be reached, elections would be held and an interim government would be formed. It must be said that if the surveys of public opinion undertaken by the South African Institute of Foreign Affairs are to be trusted, that optimism was not shared by the white population as a whole. But that was certainly the overwhelming view of those to whom I spoke. They represented a fairly wide cross-section of political opinion from Right to Left. One asked oneself on what it was based. Was it based on the idea that the alternative was too dreadful to be contemplated, or was it based on something more substantial that escaped the eye of the visitor?

Despite the huge changes that have taken place which are obvious, unmistakable and remarkable, the heritage of apartheid is everywhere to be seen. It is one thing to repeal the Group Areas Act, the Land Act and the Population Registration Act, but one cannot repeal their consequences. Those consequences manifest themselves in the yawning gap that separates whites from blacks in economic standing, job opportunities, the amount spent on education, housing, and so on. For example, if one looks at the Durban Functional Region (as it is called), one sees the heritage of apartheid manifested in other ways. It has a population of 3.5 million or slightly more, a very high proportion of whom are under 20. There is 40 per cent. to 50 per cent. unemployment. Eighty per cent. of the jobs are located in Durban or to the south of Durban. There are 500,000 people living in townships to the north of Durban. There is no public transport to get those people from the townships to their jobs. They have to get up at three or four in the morning in order to get to their jobs by seven. There is no public transport. What transport there is is very expensive and costs about one fifth of the monthly wage. That has not happened by chance; it has been planned. It has to be overcome and will require huge sums of money, great determination and a united endeavour. One has a society that is fragmented racially and institutionally—and fragmented deliberately. That is a huge and enormously difficult task to overcome. We are asking that fragmented society to unite and deal with the problem.

The other heritage is violence, in a country which is always violent. In 1990 there were 40 murders per 100,000 which represents 15,000 in a year. In the United Kingdom there are 1.1 murders per 100,000. According to the Institute of Race Relations in South Africa, in 1990 3,700 political deaths were recorded, which is a minimum figure. By the end of July 1992 there were approximately 1,800, and there have been many more since.

I shall not enter into the controversy of who is responsible for that situation, but the impact of the violence on the political negotiations and on the prospect of investment is very serious indeed. Unless that violence can be reduced, the prospects of investment coming into South Africa are very small and that situation mitigates seriously against the prospect of a likely outcome to the political negotiations.

The third legacy is the state of the economy, which is partly a legacy of apartheid and partly a consequence of world conditions and population growth, which means that living standards are dropping steadily year by year. If one combines those factors, one realises that this is not the best moment to introduce a major political revolution and a new government which would have to tackle the social and economic consequences of apartheid as well as the consequences of violence.

The problems facing that government would be huge. If those matters are combined with the expectations of the black population, one has a challenge which would be forbidding to anyone. It is against that background that the negotiations are taking place and it is scarcely surprising that they are difficult. What is surprising is that they have done as well as they have done.

The attitude to the negotiations appears at first sight to be odd, but perhaps it is not so odd. The government would like to delegate as much responsibility as they can to others. On the other hand, the ANC wants as little responsibility as possible and at the same time it wishes to get its hands on the levers of power. The government, looking at their own constituency, are frightened that they will be seen to negotiate capitulation. The ANC, looking at its constituency, is frightened that it may be seen to be negotiating to be co-opted. Therefore, they are both looking at their own circumstances, fearing that agreement may offend their own constituencies.

That process is preventing political development. One may say to either side, "why is this not done?". They will produce some argument about the impact it will have on their negotiating partners. I took part in a conversation when great play was made about the absence of equality and opportunity, and the discrimination on grounds of colour and race. I asked the ANC people why they did not do something about it. I asked why they did not ask the government to introduce legislation to make such a thing unlawful. They said that they could not do that because to do so would be to accept the legitimacy of the government. Therefore, no development or progress could be made while the negotiations were going on. That situation makes it all the more necessary to have elections and an interim government as quickly as possible so that something can be done.

That situation cannot occur until the other question has been solved; therefore it is a catch 22 situation. The need for an interim government is urgent and the need for elections is urgent. However the difficulty of holding elections is huge and does not appear to have been properly addressed. How can there be elections which have any credibility? How can 500,000 people in townships be registered when their ages and names are not known, or whether they are immigrants or nationals? They are almost certainly dominated by warlords and will be intimidated. The elections will not be free and full elections, and when they are over, whoever loses will say that they were illegitimate.

I may be guilty of painting a gloomy picture, but if we are thinking of how we can help South Africa we must face up to the short-term problem of overcoming the current crisis. We can do that only indirectly by supporting the sensible people, by supporting those who are trying to reach agreement, by offering training facilities to potential civil servants, the police and the army, and by providing any kind of backup that we can. However, there will not be investment until the conditions for investment are in place. The only people who can provide the conditions for investment are the South Africans, and that can be achieved only when a political settlement has been reached, which will be a very difficult task.

8.46 p.m.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, it is a long time since I participated from the Front Bench in a foreign affairs debate; indeed I go back to 1981–1983 when I was one of the opposition spokespersons. My remit was South Africa and various other places that my noble friend Lord Healey decided to divide between us.

It is very pleasant for me to face the noble Baroness with whom I had the pleasure of co-operating to a very considerable degree during the period of the last British presidency when she looked after European affairs and did so admirably, if I may say so. It was a pleasure to work with her at that time.

I echo the views expressed by noble Lords, without exception, about the timeliness and importance of the debate. We thank the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, for having initiated it. The debate has been interesting and has ranged very widely. Above all, I appreciated the comments made about my late friend Lord Hatch of Lusby, or John, as we knew him. Back in 1981 to 1983, he was fighting in his indomitable style for human rights. I thank my noble friend, Lord Pitt, for having made the suggestion that the report in Hansard should be sent to John's widow. I think that that would be wholly appropriate.

I shall confine my remarks in the main to South Africa, but this is a debate about Southern Africa. I wish to raise some questions about Angola, Mozambique and Namibia as well as South Africa. Like my noble friend, Lord Pitt, I realise that one has to work towards democracy in Southern Africa. That point was echoed by the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, in a very remarkable analysis of the situation in a short period of time.

My noble friend spoke about the centrality of South Africa in the situation that is affecting Southern Africa. That is something that goes without saying. He spoke of the need for a plan to create a trained multinational civil service. I am sure that he is right. Everything that we can do in that respect is important.

A few words about Angola. The United Nations observers found that the recent elections were free and fair. We welcome that, and we would welcome the formation of a government of national unity and the holding of presidential elections as soon as possible. It is unhappy that the initial reaction of Unita in refusing to recognise the result of the elections could have had the most tragic consequences. One hopes now that that will not be so. But unless it plays by the rules the whole situation could be placed in jeopardy. It is essential that it does play by the rules if reconstruction of the war-torn economy and infrastructure and reconciliation between peoples are to be promoted.

This is no time for further equivocation on the part of Mr. Savimbi. The question arises: how can we help to sustain Angola's fragile democracy and ensure that no further efforts from outside, and in particular from South Africa, to destabilise the lawfully-elected government will take place? May I ask the noble Baroness the attitude of the Government about Unita? Do they contemplate recognising that organisation? What aid programme is currently being undertaken by the European Community and the United Kingdom in relation to Angola?

I turn to Mozambique. A peace accord was signed between the government and Renamo as recently as the 4th October. On 7th December the Secretary General of the United Nations proposed a United Nations peacekeeping force of some 7,000 troops, police, and civilians in order to monitor the agreement. It will again be a huge undertaking to rebuild Mozambique following the debilitating war. There is a massive refugee problem; there is famine; and there is drought. Much of the burden is falling on the shoulders of two of the poorest African countries, Malawi and Zimbabwe. I would ask the noble Baroness: what is the size of the Community's and the United Kingdom's aid programmes to Mozambique? What is the current situation regarding the ceasefire so far as the United Kingdom perceives it? Is the noble Baroness able to provide any report on the peace process missions and the United Kingdom's likely role?

So far as Namibia is concerned, after considerable prevarication and an illegal occupation by South Africa over many years, Namibia achieved independence—and it is remarkable to think in these terms—only on 21st March 1990, when SWAPO won fiercely-contested elections, with the neighbouring government of South Africa doing its utmost to thwart that victory.

In office SWAPO has cast aside quite remarkably its justifiable resentment at its treatment and that of the Namibian people by a hostile South African government and its allies over the years. The SWAPO led government is to be commended for the way in which they have tried to work with the white population in pursuing Namibia's economic and political development, despite the unhappiness of some of its supporters, who feel that compromises have gone too far. Can the Minister tell us the extent of the aid programme from the United Kingdom and from the EC so far as Namibia is concerned?

I turn now to South Africa, which has preoccupied most of us in the debate. Although quite remarkable changes have been effected since the release of Nelson Mandela over the last two or so years, there obviously can be no room for complacency. Indeed, I adopt the quite remarkable analysis in so short a time—as I have already described it—of the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter. Clearly, a great deal needs to be accomplished in a situation which remains immensely difficult and fragile.

We have to appreciate the impatience of a people who have for so long been demeaned as a deliberate act of policy by the national government. Suspicions undoubtedly abound, and with reason. The younger supporters of the ANC in particular demand swifter moves to overthrow the remaining traces of apartheid, injustice and discrimination. The role of the ANC is far from easy in its efforts to influence a national peace accord, drawing up a new constitution, setting up an interim parliament and all that these tasks involve. Problems will continue to abound: irresponsible and provocative actions by Inkatha, continuing violence, threats of secession, echoed by the public leaders of Ciskei and Bophuthatswana. One cannot ignore the white extremists' claims with talk of a Boer homeland. This is a terribly difficult situation to overcome.

There is a peace process that has come under enormous pressure too as a result of a murderous cycle of violence, culminating in hundreds, if not thousands, of deaths and injuries; the collusion of the security forces with those responsible for the political violence as the violation of human rights continues; and as the revelation of undercover operations on the part of the security forces increases, including the provocation of violence by black against black. Forty-two people were killed in the Boipatong township, with the fearless Goldstone commission holding the government responsible for their failure to prevent the massacre and indeed other iniquitous behaviour.

Further massacres have occurred in the Ciskei. Dr. Jonathan Gluckman, the leading South African pathologist, at the centre of a furious row over police killings of some 200 detainees this year alone, finds that his offices have been bugged with sophisticated surveillance equipment.

Despite the catalogue of death, cruelty, and disaster, it is utterly surprising that all is not lost. On 4th December, just a few days ago, a joint statement was issued by the government and the ANC underlining, there is a shared responsibility to ensure that a multi-party negotiated transformation from the present situation to a democracy must take place rapidly. A shared responsibility. The statement outlined a series of further steps that both agreed were required to promote that end.

There is to be a further meeting next month designed to facilitate the negotiating process and to relaunch the Convention for a Democratic South Africa. I understand that a plan has been agreed involving a transitional governing council, a power share between black and white politicians, to run the country by May as a precursor to the first ever democratic non-racist elections which are set to be held in November. I am not sure that that timescale can be adhered to. One only hopes that it can. But any attempt by anyone to block or delay will certainly escalate the violence. Inkatha, the military wing of the Pan Africanist Congress, stands condemned by the South African government and the ANC alike for the part it has played in recent outrages in attempts to subvert the powerful moves for change.

Co-operation between the government and the ANC is proceeding apace, although the situation remains unstable. But fundamental questions remain on both sides. Can President de Klerk and the National Party deliver? Are they strong enough to implement an agreement that may be reached, due to the complicity of the government, or at least parts of the administration, in subversion and in political violence in South Africa? Can Nelson Mandela hold back his supporters, who are desperate for urgent change?

As the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, said, difficult though the situation may be, free and fair elections must be held at the earliest reasonable time. Perhaps his pessimism in that regard is not well-founded when one looks at the equally remarkable events that have occurred in Namibia and Angola where similar problems prevail. One can hope only that my limited optimism will turn out to be the case. I wish that I could be wholly optimistic.

Let us remember that in the process leading up to the elections there must be media balance. It must be a prerequisite that the South African Broadcasting Corporation allows political parties equal access. In the run-up to the elections a more positive role must be given to United Nations monitors.

Perhaps I may conclude by asking the Minister the following questions. I shall well understand if she does not have time to reply tonight. Perhaps during the Christmas Recess she will think of nothing other than sending to me replies to my questions. Has Mr. Tom Vraalsen made any preliminary recommendations, his report having been expected on 12th December? What progress has been made by the South African Government in releasing prisoners? How many are still held? Will the Minister comment on allegations of violations of Angolan and Zimbabwean airspace by South Africa? If the Minister confirms that that has happened, will she say what the Government have done about it? What pressure is being placed by the United Kingdom and the European Community on South Africa to negotiate the elections, as promised, as soon as possible?

Once again I thank the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, for having initiated this interesting debate.

9.2 p.m.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey)

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, for introducing this interesting and wide-ranging debate. It has arisen at a most opportune time. Like other noble Lords, I too will miss our friend the late Lord Hatch of Lusby. I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, will be sending a copy of Hansard to Lady Hatch because otherwise I should have done just that. Lord Hatch sharpened our minds. He and I rarely agreed, but we had a great respect for each other. That is how debating in this Chamber should be.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, for his kind remarks about me which related to a time six years ago when we were busily engaged on EC matters. I am still so engaged. When we took over the EC presidency in July I was determined to ensure that the problems and aspirations of Southern Africa should not be forgotten amid the inevitable pre-occupation with events elsewhere. How right was the noble Lord, Lord St. John, in saying that we need a new focus on the whole Southern African issue.

I want to see the Community and its member states provide real support for political and economic reform in the region. I want to see us use our influence and resources to help them to resolve the conflicts left behind by the end of the Cold War and the collapse of apartheid. The noble Lord, Lord Balfour, was right in saying that apartheid was doomed to failure from the outset. The difficulty was making enough people in South Africa see that in addition to those on the outside who could see it so clearly.

The noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, was right in saying that we have yet to overcome the divisive inheritance of apartheid. While it may have disappeared I see as I walk round townships and visit projects in South Africa how long it will take before those devout and committed people will have the chances that we all believe they should have.

It has been an eventful year with some high points and some lows. In South Africa the optimism of the first half of the year gave way to anxiety following the suspension of CODESA in June. But there is now real hope that all-party talks may resume early in the New Year. My discussions with various people in South Africa lead me to believe that that can be so.

We have seen the Rome peace agreement for Mozambique ending 16 years of civil war. But we have also seen the peace agreement in Angola stumble at the final hurdle of the general elections. The principles of good government and economic reform begin to make themselves felt in a number of countries. But we have also seen the worst drought in living memory threatening progress throughout the region and denying some people even a future.

It is easy to dismiss Southern Africa along with the rest of the continent but in my opinion it is wrong to do so. Behind the headlines of conflict, famine, drought and AIDS there lies a new hope for the future; a hope based on reconciliation, on lessons learnt from the past and on what is required for the future. As the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchyre, said it is partnership not power that matters. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Monson, and others that the Government are already playing a major part.

What is the part that we and our EC partners can play to underpin the political and economic future of the region? I visited Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique in September to see for myself how we have been helping to tackle the most immediate problem; the drought. We have already committed more than £60 million bilaterally and through the EC to help the worst drought-affected areas. We are also taking a lead in urging other donors to contribute generously too. We have funded irrigation and research schemes and are also helping to ensure that farmers will be able to take advantage of the rains when they do come. That is the case all over.

As the noble Lord, Lord St. John said, I was again in South Africa in September and I thank him for the kind remarks he made about me. A peaceful transition to democracy in South Africa is central to the future of all in the region and not just South Africans. The visit of the EC troika of Foreign Ministers led by our Foreign Secretary showed our support for the reform process and resulted in some tangible steps to combat violence, which I shall describe in a moment. We are contributing to both EC and Commonwealth observer teams and to task forces attached to Judge Goldstone's commission of inquiry. I believe that those teams are already helping to defuse the tensions on the ground. We are ready also to offer police training when all the parties in South Africa agree that the time is right for it.

The noble Lord, Lord Pitt, asked about military training in the area. We shall have to consider it at the time if all parties request it but I cannot make any promises because it is right to move slowly in that area but to move more quickly on the issues where we are already receiving many requests for help.

I should like to consider the political outlook. I am indeed heartened by the progress made at the meeting between the government and the ANC 10 days ago. The noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, referred to the efforts made by President de Klerk and Nelson Mandela. I echo that. In his last private visit here the president told me of how determined he was to achieve progress for the sake of all the people of South Africa.

I felt that the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, was rather depressing in his analysis although I agree with much of what he said. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, said, there is a shared responsibility in South Africa to get matters right. The priority now is to involve all parties, including the Inkatha Freedom Party, in multilateral constitutional talks. I plead with all those in South Africa to involve themselves in such talks for the sake of their own people.

When I was in Zululand, in Kuazulu, in September, I found then a wish among ordinary simple people without great education that their leaders should agree to talks because only through talking can the problems be resolved which those people face.

Of course, all that is against a background of continuing violence which deeply concerns us all. The escalation of tension in Natal and the recent incidents in the eastern Cape were quite dreadful. The primary responsibility for the maintenance of law and order rests with the government; but we have said to all political leaders that everything possible should be done to support the national peace accord. That is why we were to the fore in making sure that we contributed towards the EC and Commonwealth observer teams. I believe that that is the right way to proceed.

I echo what the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, said about the recent terrible APLA threats to target particular communities in South Africa. Such actions do nothing to hasten the day of democratic government in South Africa and do nothing to help the people there.

In our efforts to help through the 50 UN observers in South Africa and through the two 15-strong EC and Commonwealth observer teams, we are also seeking to give ideas as to how the people of South Africa should resolve their own disputes. People on the ground must be involved in local dispute resolution committees set up by the national peace accord. I am pleased to see that a little progress is gradually being made there. Britain supplied one of the six EC experts to help Judge Goldstone in his investigations and we give his commission of inquiry every support, as the noble Lord, Lord St. John, knows. However, I believe that making sure that all parties within South Africa lend their full support to the peace process is the key to achieving greater peace and more progress.

The noble Baroness, Lady Wharton, referred to the importance of moving towards democracy and the importance of the economy, as did a number of noble Lords. Attention is rightly focusing on future trade relations between the new South Africa and the European Community. Although thinking is still at an early stage, our aim is to build a relationship which by stimulating trade flows in both directions will bring increased wealth to both sides and to the region.

The noble Lords, Lord St. John and Lord Bonham-Carter, the noble Baroness, Lady Wharton, and my noble friend Lord Elibank all referred to the very important financial situation in South Africa. Investment is needed in South Africa above all else because without that vitally important private investment, South Africa will not have the opportunity to deploy its mineral wealth and all its other benefits. That is why I welcome the preparatory work already being carried out and we shall support early access for South Africa to the international financial institutions' lending. Ultimately, it must be for the South Africans to create the right conditions to attract investment both from those at home who currently invest abroad and from those abroad who can see a real future—as I am sure your Lordships' House does—in South Africa. We want and need South Africa to succeed for the region. As my noble friend Lord Elibank said, it is the motor of Southern Africa and it could be an even greater motor for people in the region.

We must continue to find practical ways to help black South Africans prepare for their rightful role in the political and economic life of their country. Our bilateral aid programme for black South Africans will exceed £10 million this year. We are already contributing a similar amount to the EC positive measures programme in South Africa. That is now the Community's largest single aid programme. As our own aid programme grows, responding to the new opportunities as they emerge, the assistance is being concentrated in rural development, small business development and primary health care. I can reassure the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, that we are retaining education as the main focus of our aid. We are currently putting 1,100 black South Africans through tertiary education both here and in South Africa.

To respond to shorter term needs we provided £500,000 last year to bring the political exiles home through the UNHCR programme. We are also supporting several projects to help reintegrate them into South African society. We have 19 black students at the new School of Public Administration in Wits University and this year the United Kingdom has run for the first time specially-designed public administration courses in the UK for future black public servants. It has been a real joy to me to see the quality of those coming on those courses and to hear from Mr. Mandela, as I did on the telephone on Sunday, how much it had meant to some of the people who had been on a recent course. This is one of the ways in which we shall continue to contribute. We are also planning to give further help before the elections and of that there will be more detail in time to come.

I was asked by the noble Lord, Lord St. John, about the possibility of South Africa's joining the Lomé Convention. That will take some time and require the agreement of 69 other countries. What is much more likely is that South Africa will quite quickly join the new Southern African Development Community, which was established by the Windhoek Treaty last August. That was a bold and far-sighted step to bring the countries of Southern Africa together. I know that there is a great deal of interest in when the time will be right for South Africa to join.

So many interesting questions and comments have been made in the debate that I fear that, in answering in regard to the kind of aid that we are giving, the political help and encouragement and the political reality on the ground, I shall omit much. However, we should note the amount of help which South Africa has given her neighbours during the period of drought. It is something for which the South African Government and the South African Railways have not been well thanked, yet they made all the difference in transporting food to the famine-struck countries of Southern Africa. Indeed, I believe it helped to bring about a much greater exchange of views between ministers in some of the Southern African countries and in South Africa. In that sense South Africa has been healing wounds as well as performing a life-saving task for people in Mozambique and other countries around.

I was asked a number of questions in regard to neighbouring countries. The signature of the Mozambique peace agreement in October was a significant event. We welcomed it with our EC partners. We have been encouraged by the progress made in its implementation. The humanitarian aid is now reaching previously inaccessible regions and Britain has played her full part in the recent report to the United Nations Secretary General on the United Nations' role in the peace process. We shall be represented at this week's donor-pledging conference in Rome and will be giving additional resources to Mozambique. Your Lordships may care to know that we have disbursed this financial year bilateral aid worth over £30 million, including £15 million in emergency and drought aid to Mozambique.

I was asked also about Angola. It is important that we have a clear view of what is happening there. We learned some hard lessons from Angola which we are determined to put to good use in Mozambique. Perhaps I may add to my earlier comment on Mozambique that we have offered to train instructors for the new joint army in Mozambique with the Zimbabweans at Nyanga in Zimbabwe. We hope very much that we shall get a positive response from both the Mozambique government and from Renamo. We have certainly given a great deal of assistance in recent years but we are fully prepared to go on assisting Mozambique through its transition to elections and beyond. It is a very poor country, but with very deserving people. I hope that we shall be able to play our full part.

The reason why I referred back to Mozambique before going on to Angola is that we can see how important it is to put in the help now to Mozambique before we reach the elections. We hope, from our previous experience, to do more and better there so that in the event of an election result in Mozambique which is not expected by one of the parties, we will not have the same very tragic situation which we have faced in recent weeks in Angola.

We have been very active in supporting the United Nations in Angola. The special representative of the United Nations Secretary General, Margaret Anstee, has been quite outstanding in helping to put the peace process back on track. Throughout we have made it clear to both sides in Angola that the violence must be renounced; that the cease-fire brokered by the UN Secretary General must be respected; and that the Bicesse Peace Agreements must be implemented, particularly regarding demobilisation and the integration of the armed forces. We shall continue to use our influence to encourage a resumption of the peace process.

The resolution of such conflicts is vitally important because one of the most encouraging features of the past year has been the willingness to move through the process of democratisation, as so many of your Lordships have mentioned, and on to economic reform. In that respect the countries of Southern Africa are very worthy of help and particularly perhaps from our own Westminster Foundation for Democracy, which may be able to help to take forward the whole process in Angola and other Southern African countries.

Your Lordships asked a number of questions about other countries in the region. Zambia has been courageous in tackling the legacy of years of economic mismanagement. It has now ended subsidies; it is reforming the public sector and re-establishing an IMF/World Bank-backed structural adjustment programme. Throughout the region, economic reform needed to underpin democratic government was menaced by the terrible drought. That is why we gave significant extra balance of payments support to Zambia as well as to Zimbabwe to help to ensure that as well as feeding their people the economic reform programmes would stay on track.

Your Lordships asked a number of questions about Malawi during the debate. In spending nearly a quarter of our total bilateral aid on Southern Africa, our support is not indiscriminate. We have always made sure that it was carefully targeted. We and our EC partners have pressed the Malawian Government to improve their human rights record. We sent a clear indication of our concern last May by suspending the balance of payments support. Since then the Malawian Government have announced some welcome steps. They have allowed ICRC access to Malawian prisoners and we hope that that will continue. Many detainees have been released. I cannot give the numbers but I shall let your Lordships know.

The Government have also announced a referendum, under UN auspices, on the multi-party system. Much more remains to be done in Malawi, but at least we are beginning to see progress. I hope that the conduct of the referendum, which will be particularly a test of the government's commitment to fundamental change, will be able to be observed internationally and will be seen to be free and fair because that will set another country in Southern Africa on the path to democracy. The UN will be supervising that referendum, and I can tell your Lordships that we are perfectly prepared to send observers if asked to do so.

There are hopeful signs elsewhere in Southern Africa. In Swaziland, King Mswati, in a major departure with the past, has introduced promising democratic reforms to bring the government in closer touch with the people. Elections will be held next year. In Lesotho, the first democratic elections for nearly 30 years are now only weeks away. We are following progress there closely and have funded the services of the election commissioner provided by the Commonwealth Secretariat.

In Namibia we have probably seen the greatest success, with a country emerging from a desperate situation into one which is now firmly democratic in both regional and local elections. Namibia is trying extremely hard to do all the things that are being asked of it and that is why it is right that our programme, which is set to rise to over £3 million this year, should be helping that country in the crucial education sector, and especially with teacher training. We are helping also with police training, public sector reform, natural resource development and with the Ministry of Health. We are responding to Namibia's intention to get on with the job itself. I believe that is the best possible way of assisting a country.

I need hardly add that Botswana's democratic traditions and record of sound economic management are widely admired. We hope that Botswana will continue to go from strength to strength.

Finally, none of us underestimates the difficulties which the Southern African region still faces. I have real hopes that 1993 will be a turning point for South Africa and for all of its neighbours. If this can be so for South Africa, it will be a catalyst for that regional co-operation and progress that is so badly needed. The people of Southern Africa have shown in their embrace of democracy and economic reform a faith in themselves and in their shared future. I believe that if we can continue to give them the support and the friendship that they deserve, their faith will be well justified. This has been a useful debate. I shall write individually to your Lordships on any questions that I have been unable to answer tonight.

House adjourned at twenty-eight minutes past nine o'clock.