HL Deb 03 April 1996 vol 571 cc391-421

7.31 p.m.

Lord St. John of Bletso rose to call attention to current political and economic developments in Southern Africa; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am delighted to have this opportunity to address a few of the key issues relating to the economic and political development in Southern Africa. I am a little sorry that the debate is taking place at this late hour of the night. I had hoped that several other Members would be present and interested in listening to the debate. I am sad that the noble Lord, Lord Astor, had to scratch his name from the list of speakers. He had intended to contribute, but at this hour he is on a flight southbound to South Africa to take a well-deserved holiday.

I am delighted that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwell is making his maiden speech on this subject. The right reverend Prelate comes to your Lordships' House with an enormous amount of experience and expertise, in particular in developing countries. I am greatly looking forward to his contribution tonight.

I have always focused my debates on South Africa and today it is a little daunting to try to tackle the entire region in the limited time at my disposal.

Southern Africa covers almost 4 million square miles with a population of just over 120 million. During the past decade it has had more than its fair share of political, social and economic upheaval. The two words that are key to the potential success of Southern Africa, both politically and economically, are "reconciliation" and "co-operation". Nelson Mandela has achieved the political miracle in South Africa through his policy of promoting reconciliation. After the decades of civil war in Mozambique and Angola, at long last partial reconciliation was achieved in successful elections in Mozambique in 1994. Following the Lusaka Protocol in November 1994, there appeared at long last, and particularly recently, to be the basis of a lasting compromise between the MPLA and UNITA in Angola.

Southern Africa has undergone a form of metamorphosis during the past 10 years. Countries which in the wake of independence from colonialism has opted for "Marxist/Leninist inspired economic models", referred to by some as "Afro-Marxism", have today turned towards economic liberalism and are implementing structural adjustment programmes.

The milestone of democratisation was undoubtedly the ending of apartheid in South Africa. The so-called political miracle, as I have mentioned, has put an end to many years of destabilisation which was orchestrated to a large degree by the previous government.

The recent political achievements in southern Africa have, to a large degree, been propelled by the fall of communism and the ending of the Cold War and, as I have just mentioned, the end to minority rule in South Africa has removed the final obstacle to the southern African region's desire for closer political and economic integration.

Today southern Africa appears to be more united and resolute than ever in confronting the problems that it must solve in the future. The Southern African Development Community, to which I shall refer as SADC, representing 12 member nations and accounting for 40 per cent. of Africa's total population and 81 per cent. of the continent's GNP, has gathered momentum towards tackling the region's problems through greater co-operation. For example, during 1994, co-operative diplomacy averted the government's crisis in Lesotho, and two months later prevented the otherwise certain collapse of the United Nations supervised elections in Mozambique.

The objectives of SADC are extensive. Among those objectives, it aims to achieve development and economic growth, to alleviate poverty, enhance the standard and quality of life of the peoples of southern Africa and promote and defend peace and security as well as to maximise productive employment and utilisation of the resources of the region. Agreements have been made in relation to sharing water resources and a common grid has been negotiated for electrification. The most ambitious recent call by SADC has been for the creation of a common market and the elimination of trade barriers.

While those objectives are commendable, many would argue that the reality of achieving those goals is another matter, a far-fetched dream. The theme of the recent SADC conference in South Africa in February was the enhancement of trade and investment into southern Africa. That is a much more realistic objective. Without elaborating on the ramifications of the conference, there was a strong call for an institutional framework which would ensure that goods and services produced in the region were competitive on the world market. The conference highlighted the need for the region to invest in the development of human resources so as to provide skills and expertise demanded by industry.

One of the greatest problems, following the years of civil war and unrest in the region as well as the results of the long drought which thankfully has now been broken after the fantastic rains which occurred in southern Africa last year and are still happening this year, has been massive poverty and under-development as well as large numbers of displaced peoples. A recent World Bank survey in southern Africa showed that one of the major priorities for communities was job creation. The story of southern Africa's economic development has been a story of migration of its peoples, migration because of civil war, the drought and insecurity. Cross-border migration has caused problems, particularly for South Africa.

Clearly, peace and stability are essential for social and economic development. The Interstate Defence and Security Committee was established in southern Africa recently and its aims have been to achieve stability and promote socio-economic development in the region with lasting peace the ultimate objective. Plans have been established to endeavour to stem cross-border crime and the illegal flow of arms between the countries in the region.

The economic reality of the past decade has been that many countries and governments in southern Africa have, as a result of the civil war and unrest, increased military spending at the expense of socio-economic sectors. For example, I understand that between 1992 and 1994, the Angolan Government spent almost 80 per cent. of their budget on defence. That has exacerbated another problem which, of course, in Africa is a major problem; that of government debt.

That leads me to make brief mention of the problem of land-mines, particularly in Mozambique and Angola. Angola is sewn with an estimated 15 million land mines, especially in the areas around towns which have seen the fiercest fighting. I was in Luanda a few months ago—in fact, at the same time as the noble Viscount, Lord Torrington—and saw for myself the tragic consequences of the effects of these brutal weapons of war, mostly on children who lost their legs and arms. As we all know, children are especially vulnerable to land-mines and land-mines in southern Africa are certainly a fundamental obstacle to social and economic development, particularly in Mozambique and Angola. With 100 million land-mines already laid around the world, and with another estimated 100 million land-mines stockpiled and, added to this, the huge cost of clearing those mines, do Her Majesty's Government have any plans to ban these weapons of war?

Despite massive economic problems facing Mozambique in the wake of the devastation from the 17-year war, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has succeeded in repatriating almost 2 million refugees back to their country. Unfortunately, the UNHCR is finding it much more difficult to achieve a similar repatriation in Angola, to a large degree because of the massive amount of land-mines there. The civil war in Angola has destroyed much of the infrastructure, including, of course, the Benguela rail link, which desperately needs to be rebuilt and secured if there is to any chance of an economic recovery in that area. In Luanda alone, there are over 3 million displaced people.

I should have liked to have elaborated more on the recent talks and agreements between the MPLA and UNITA and the plans for the new Government of National Unity and Reconciliation in Angola in July, but time restricts me from doing so today. I shall suffice but to mention that there are clearly major logistical problems there. I welcome the 1 billion dollar aid package pledged to Angola from the EU sponsored Brussels conference last year.

Another extremely positive development has been the Maputo Corridor Project between South Africa and Mozambique to be formally launched later this year. That will upgrade road and rail links between the two countries and will certainly improve the economic interaction between South Africa and Mozambique. A major drawback to the successes of achieving democracy in most countries in South Africa has, unfortunately, been the slow process of meeting the expectations of the masses. High hopes were raised in South Africa that the reconstruction and development programme would provide jobs, houses and better education. The reality, sadly, has been that the implementation of the RDP programme has been slow and erratic. I welcome the recent move which will mean that the RDP programme will now fall under the Treasury responsibilities in South Africa.

In Zambia, now three years after the election of President Chiluba, most observers agree that the changes introduced by the new regime have been slow and not particularly effective. The economic and financial situation has barely improved and Zambia has still one of the biggest debts per capita on the African continent. Moreover, its dependence on copper is as great as ever and the population has seen no improvement in living standards. The introduction of international economic systems in southern Africa have, in many countries in the region, not been conducive to building prosperous and secure societies.

It may be contentious, but I believe that the term "democracy" in southern Africa is, in many cases, a myth. The recent election in Zimbabwe, for example, was a classic farce. In South Africa, it is my hope that the ANC will not develop into too strong a party, but that it will have a strong, enduring opposition. I am sure that that would be the wish of President Nelson Mandela. With the rifts between the Inkatha Freedom Party and the ANC, I also hope that the new constitution in South Africa will not be set in stone, but will have a degree of flexibility. The next 18 months in South Africa will be critically important for the country for establishing a sound base for the future. Nelson Mandela's health poses a major problem and also a concern to many, especially if he opts to retire before his term expires in 1999.

Social and economic improvements, particularly for the majority of the black peoples, must be visible. There needs to be constant and sustained GDP growth. Deputy President Thabo Mbeki, in a recent speech aptly summarised the challenges in South Africa in his call for, sustained GDP growth of at least 6 per cent. by the year 2000, the provision of a basic household infrastructure for all by 2005, enhanced investment in the economic infrastructure, education and training, a national crime prevention strategy and a rationalisation of the public service".

My time is almost up but in the absence of the noble Lord, Lord Astor, I briefly wish to make a call which he was going to make this evening for Her Majesty's Government to continue their support for a satisfactory South African/European Union free trade agreement to be negotiated as soon as possible. The European Union has been South Africa's prime economic partner in terms of trade investment, transfer of technologies and financing, and has made many valid contributions to the South African economy. However, several members of the European Union have recently proposed protectionist measures by drawing up a list of products, being almost 60 per cent. of South Africa's farm exports, to be excluded from these negotiations. This is a blatant U-turn on earlier commitments by the European Union to offer a generous free trade area to South Africa. I hope that the Minister will give us some assurance this evening of Her Majesty's Government's continuing support to get an expeditious free trade zone agreement with South Africa.

In conclusion, southern Africa has certainly been experiencing upheavals in the past few years but at least the changes have been more positive than negative. The international community has certainly played an important role in influencing many of the political and economic developments in the region. Mozambique and Zambia are to a large degree dependent on western donors. However, the challenge in assisting southern Africa to achieve sustainable growth has in reality only just started. Her Majesty's Government, ably steered by the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, the Minister, has done excellent work in the region, but I look forward to hearing from the Minister who is to reply to the debate tonight what measures Her Majesty's Government and her European partners are planning to assist in matching the political successes, the so-called political miracle, with the essential goal of sustainable social and economic prosperity in the region. I beg to move for Papers.

7.47 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Southwell

My Lords, in addressing your Lordships' House for the first time I feel a bit like St. Paul, who, when he addressed the Corinthians, was in fear and trembling. However, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, for introducing this subject and also for his gracious and kind words.

As he pointed out, I have spent 17 years in South America, and my knowledge and experience of South Africa in the light of the experience of many noble Lords present is superficial, but my concern is deep. It was on a sabbatical of last year that I was able to visit both South America and South Africa. During that visit to South Africa I became aware of, and was forcibly struck by, the continuing unhealed gap that exists as a legacy of apartheid. On the other hand I was also impressed by the long-standing and respected contribution of all the Churches, and not least the Anglican Church under the leadership of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in the campaign for an end to apartheid and for an end to the wars in other countries in the region.

I wish to centre my comments around two concepts: reconciliation, to which the noble Lord has already referred, and redevelopment. We have learnt from our South African colleagues, through their long struggle, that there can be no reconciliation without justice. It is not easy to achieve real justice because it is proving hard to fulfil the high expectations of the black population for jobs, housing and healthcare. If using a gun in war or crime have been the only ways in which people have made a living, the social and personal consequences prove immensely destructive.

We see, too, from the tragic devastation wrought by war in places like Mozambique and Angola that there can be no development without reconciliation. Killing has to stop before the conditions for living can be created. In war situations, long-term development and stability simply cannot be achieved. According to the Catholic Institute for International Relations, when the war in Angola restarted in 1992, the Angolan economy declined by 25 per cent. in the following year. It is a country rich in resources, and yet one-third of the population was dependent on food aid in early 1995. We hope and pray that the mediation efforts have now brought the killing to an end.

Few in South Africa believed that the triumphant overthrow of apartheid and President Mandela's achievement at the ballot box marked the end of the story; and today there are still situations of overt and threatened violence which require the involvement and concern of the international community. This is why, for example, Christian Aid is supporting the initiative of the KwaZulu-Natal Church Leaders' Group, which has requested church people from Britain to monitor the elections scheduled for the end of May. At the request of South Africa's Churches, there was a well regarded and successful international monitoring operation at the time of the South African national elections. Now it is time to repeat this operation in the worst of the local trouble spots in South Africa. I understand that it is not unusual for 20 to 30 people to die each week in political violence in Natal. Much of the carnage is attributed to the confrontation between the African National Congress and the Inkatha Freedom Party of Chief Buthelezi. However, violence in communities, as we know from Northern Ireland, is a very complex issue. Tension is high at the moment because of charges laid against highly placed military leaders of the old apartheid regime and because of charges of collusion by Inkatha in killings and the former repression.

There are also important technical economic issues at stake. These do not always find adequate reflection, I believe, in our media or our public debates. The noble Lord referred to this fact. South Africa needs better access to the markets of the European Union. It is urgent for the region's economic development that the agreement concerning tariffs made in Berlin in 1994 between European and Southern African foreign ministers is implemented. South African products affected include fruit, avocados and wine. Lowering those tariffs would help to create jobs in the rural areas where unemployment is high. Since the produce comes from the southern hemisphere and is therefore subject to different growing seasons, competition with European produce is greatly reduced.

I would like to return to the issue of the destruction in Mozambique and Angola due to the wars there, to which the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, referred. As the noble Lord said, in Angola there are more land-mines than there are people. This presents us with a double responsibility. On the one hand we must seek to ensure that the economy can be rebuilt and the mines cleared. People cannot return and grow food until their land is free of mines. This is painstaking, costly and dangerous work and needs our support. Mine clearance is one aspect of our aid programme which, wherever it occurs in the world, has strong support from the Churches, aid organisations and many other quarters. The allocation of resources to this priority issue by the Overseas Development Administration is much appreciated, but one recognises the constraints under which the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, has to operate. I think it is important that the Minister should know how much her stance and personal commitment on this subject are welcomed.

In this connection the General Synod of the Church of England has recently identified a further responsibility and has asked Her Majesty's Government to support an international ban on the production, transfer and deployment of land-mines so that situations of this type are not repeated elsewhere. I remind the House that the Review Conference of the United Nations Inhumane Weapons Convention, addressing precisely this issue, resumes later this month.

The Southern African experience of recent decades shows that the Church, among many others, has sought to support efforts to bring ethical standards into the tense political climate. Politicians themselves recognise that reconciliation is vital for construction of community. No human society can survive unless fundamental enmity is overcome. That is why it is essential that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, headed by Archbishop Tutu, is a success. It was he who asked the salutary question: How can I embrace my brother, if he is standing on my head? The Truth and Reconciliation Commission exists not to wreak vengeance, nor for the sake of establishing abstract truth, but for the eminently practical and political task of removing the poison of past violence, injustice and lies which continues to circulate within South African society. One recognises that if the commission is successful, it may be a valuable model of good practice which will be desperately needed in other parts of Southern Africa and the whole continent of Africa.

In conclusion, furthering reconciliation and redevelopment are tasks where Churches, politicians and all people of good will can find much in common. Graça Machel, who has overall responsibility for preparing the United Nations report on the impact of war on children, stresses the vital importance of rebuilding churches, schools and other buildings to help restore the sense of community and an ordered structure to society.

In Holy Week, it is appropriate for me to emphasise that the message of our Lord is: "Life in all its fullness". Reconciliation and redevelopment are essential elements if the conditions for a fully human life are to be created for all the people of Southern Africa. We must do all in our power to support and encourage them.

7.57 p.m.

Viscount Torrington

My Lords, it is a particular pleasure and privilege to follow the maiden speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwell and to have the privilege of congratulating him on it. I know that he has considerable expertise in South American and international affairs and that he will bring to the House great wisdom in our debates on those subjects. Those who follow the South American activities of the House look forward to contributions from him in that arena.

I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord St John, for this opportunity to talk about southern Africa tonight. He and I bumped into each other in Luanda, Angola only a few weeks ago so I could hardly avoid his summons to speak tonight. Subsequent to that meeting, I attended the Nestle Lecture in the Banqueting Hall just along the road the other day given by the distinguished Ghanaian economist, Dr. Joseph Abbey. Dr. Abbey's lecture was entitled "Africa in Crisis" and painted a pretty dire picture of the state of the African continent and particularly the countries south of the Sahara. I cannot say that I agreed entirely with his analysis nor all his conclusions, but what was refreshing was to hear an African who did not blame the slave trade of a century ago, did not blame former colonial powers and accepted that much of Africa had only itself to blame for its economic and social predicaments.

I have some sympathy with his conclusion that the Bretton Woods structural adjustment programmes which have had such an impact on many African economies nevertheless offer a harsh medicine rather difficult for some countries to take in the prescribed dose. Such measures as scrapping agricultural produce boards, which were simply taxes on farmers and exports, and the ending of exchange controls, which have got rid of the preferential access of the fat cats or "Wabenzis" to, imported luxuries, have done a lot to help those economies. Sure enough, the outflows that everybody predicted did not happen. Many of the economies have experienced inflows (even if local treasury bill markets have got a little over-heated in the process).

In the few minutes available to me, I do not want to go into a long navel contemplation exercise on African economic theory. Rather I want to set a quick scene in relation to what I believe can be done without vast capital resources to improve the economies of certain African countries.

The Soviet Union has gone. In its going, the principal sponsor for bad economic behaviour has folded his tent. At the same time, investors have begun to realise that the Soviet Union itself is no economic El Dorado; in spite of the promises, apparent oil reserves and so on, there are few quick fortunes to be made there; and above all there is little political stability. Worst of all, there is virtually no established law or business precedent to protect the foreign investor.

Suddenly Africa, from which Dr. Abbey alleges the West is still withdrawing, does not look such a bad place. The rudiments of commercial law are still in place, as is the odd vestige of impartial justice; language is not a barrier; and on the whole the telephones still work—where they do not, that presents some opportunities! Above all, as Dr. Abbey points out, Africans are realising that such theories as Nyrere's Ujamaa socialism simply do not fill bellies. More importantly, they are realising that the world does not owe Africa a living; and if Africa wants foreign investment, it must offer fully competitive terms and a conducive commercial environment.

The opportunities for economic development are legion. Angola and Mozambique, for example, as we have already touched on in this debate, are two countries both emerging from the ravages of long-running civil wars, both with shattered economies and infrastructures but with the enormous natural resources and endowments needed to climb back out of the pit.

Both have suffered, first from a long association with a rather bureaucratic colonial power and then from a serious flirtation with Marxism. It has left them with governments which, whatever their present good intentions, are still far too centralist and authoritarian to allow entrepreneurial activity to flourish and truly to encourage the creative talents of their people.

The best example of how a simple change of attitude can dramatically improve, and I hope already is improving, the economy of Mozambique is in the tourist industry. Mozambique has the most fantastic coastline in Africa. It is largely unspoilt and unexploited.

I paid my first visit to Mozambique for 12 years some 18 months ago, arriving in a light aircraft. On my arrival I was greeted by sullen and officious immigration officers and even sullener customs officials. I was then made to pay exorbitant fees for landing and customs and immigration. Just as I thought I was through it all, I was asked to pay a further 60 dollars for radio navigation fees, a supreme insult as the control tower was not even working!

The following day I called on the director-general of tourism. I asked him whether, now that South Africa had abandoned apartheid and Mozambique was no longer Marxist, South African tourists who until 1975 more or less kept the Mozambique economy afloat would be allowed back. I was informed that his department viewed the average South African tourist as likely to spend about 5 rand a head, camp on the beach and damage the beach with his four-wheel drive vehicle. This view was apparently based on an analysis of pre-independence trends from 1975, and according to the director-general Mozambique wanted only "big spending" tourists. I tried to explain that, while I was not a big spending tourist, they did tend to arrive in light aircraft, did not like being ripped off and wanted value for money.

More importantly, it is a simple fact that tourism is a pyramid, and few countries can choose just the tip. The best example I can give is that the driver of an expensive car will not venture abroad if he cannot get his vehicle serviced in an emergency; but the service facility needs more volume than just the odd Rolls or Mercedes to survive, and that volume has to be provided by regular trade from less expensive vehicles.

I am glad to say that on my last visit to Mozambique a few weeks ago the officials were vastly more polite and—a real sign that tourism is on the up—I found that car hire companies had returned to Maputo airport offering self-drive cars. So maybe, just maybe, my little homily to the director-general had some effect.

The noble Lord, Lord St John, also touched on the initiative of the Maputo Corridor. That should really open Maputo up as the gateway port for what I am told I now have to call Mpumalanga (I used to know it as the Eastern Transvaal).

By contrast with Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia are privatising everything their governments can think of and inviting foreigners to come back into the agricultural sector. What is not clear, however, is where the skilled manpower to drive a privatised economy will come from. Virtually all these African governments have progressively toughened residence controls and steadily driven out the expatriate middle manager and the smaller white entrepreneur as contributors to their economy. It was particularly depressing to hear President Mugabe only last week talking about redistribution of farmland. The only reason that his country is the success that it is is that it has a background of efficient commercial farmers.

If any African government are looking for just one totally self-financing method of boosting their economy, rather than frightening them out, it would be much better to encourage the small foreign entrepreneurs to return—to return to farming, the service industries and small manufacturing. Far from keeping Africans out of better jobs, these people create jobs, raise standards and ensure that goods and services are there to meet the demand.

There is a huge well of talent to do just that in South Africa. The South African business community was kept out of most of Africa for many years. Now, with the political changes, South Africans are to be seen in almost every capital in Africa—mining men, construction engineers, airline pilots, military advisers and transport contractors—everywhere from Nigeria to Tanzania. I sometimes feel that old Cecil Rhodes in his grave in the Matopos Hills will now have a quiet smile on his face.

There is one major topic on interdependence which is important. The Southern African rail system, on which we have touched slightly, though far from perfect as an interstate network, at least in theory connects most of the countries of Southern Africa. South Africa is connected to Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi, Zaire, Angola and, via the different gauge Tazara system, to East Africa. Sadly, theory is about all it is though, because the Benguela Railway lies in ruins. It is an interesting point that I saw an estimate the other day which said that the cost of repair or replacing the permanent way of the Benguela Railway system would be about the same as the current annual cost of flying supplies up to Kuito and Lueña and the hinterland. Further east in Malawi, there is a major missing link at the moment as a result of the Mozambique war; namely, the section of the CFM system from Beira up to the Zambezi which badly needs replacement. It is those sorts of projects with which the major donors could help. If Mozambique kept that line going it opens up the huge coal reserves potentially of Tete Province.

I could go on all day. Suffice to say that I believe that there are many inexpensive politico-economic solutions to southern Africa's problems which require only changes of attitude rather than vast capital infusions. We in the West should encourage economic decentralisation and economic interdependence between the territories. We—by "we" I mean HMG, the World Bank and international lenders to the third world, and indeed SADAC as an organisation—can help financially by assisting with the rebuilding and upgrading of road and rail links. We should bring pressure on countries like Zaire to put their houses in order. I can only touch on this matter, but Zaire is probably the worst mess in Africa at the moment. We should give every assistance to those countries which have recently emerged from the dark days of civil war to continue the process towards liberated democracy. Post-independence Africa in the latter part of the 20th century has been something of a pig's ear. I hope that it can be a silk purse in the 21st.

8.8 p.m.

Lord Weatherill

My Lords, I have never been to Mozambique. Nor, I must say to the right reverend Prelate, have I ever been to South America. When I was Speaker I paid a visit to Malawi and I was not met with the kind of sullen attitude mentioned by the noble Viscount. Indeed, my recollection on arriving and seeking to telephone the High Commissioner was of a voice which said, "Hold on a minute. I haven't got this thing switched on." I thought that rather charming.

I take a rather more idealistic view of the debate tonight. I was at a school speech day about a month ago and stole what I thought was one of the most positive mottoes I have come across. It was: "Look up and not down; look out and not in; look forward and not back. Lend a hand". I paid my first visit to South Africa in 1995 as a Commonwealth observer in the elections. I was enchanted by the beauty of that country and even more by the commitment of the people to participate in democratic elections. Surely that was an object lesson to those in our own country who claim they cannot be bothered to vote.

Two years on it behoves us all to ensure that the first tender shoots of democracy take firm root. The most pressing need is to ensure the economic success of South Africa and in particular the creation of new businesses and of new jobs. Your Lordships will have heard me refer on previous occasions to the Prince's Trust and in particular to the Prince's Youth Business Trust, of which I am proud to be a trustee. This year the trust celebrates its 10th anniversary and over that period in this country it has helped some 27,000 young unemployed people to become self-employed and has thereby created new businesses and new jobs.

One of the most difficult problems faced by South Africa is the urgent need to create real employment opportunities in deprived areas and in particular in the townships. This is an area in which the expertise and also the track record of the PYBT can be of great help. I am pleased to tell the House that the Prince's Youth Business Trust has been asked to play a part in the establishment of the Nation's Trust which is about to be set up in South Africa under the joint patronage of the President, Mr. Mandela, and of Her Majesty the Queen. This new trust will draw on the experience and the expertise of the Prince's Trust in developing in South Africa a programme to help young people. The Prince's Youth Business Trust will second an experienced manager to establish a scheme designed to encourage and to help young unemployed South Africans to set up in business, thereby giving them self-satisfaction and an income and also, it is to be hoped, creating new jobs for others.

As in the United Kingdom, the South African scheme will focus on people who cannot get help elsewhere and again, as in the United Kingdom, the Nation's Trust will be supported by prominent South African commercial enterprises, a most encouraging example of collaboration between the public, the private and the charitable sectors of the economy.

The Prince's Youth Business Trust advisory system is one of the main reasons why in our country about two-thirds of the businesses it helps to set up are still trading after three years. We hope that this track record of success will be replicated in South Africa.

We are all delighted that President Mandela is to pay a visit to our country in July. His remarkable leadership—and, it must also be said, the leadership of Mr. de Klerk—achieved what the noble Lord, Lord St.John of Bletso, rightly called the miracle of the creation of a new South Africa. It is a particular pleasure that one of his first actions on becoming President was to seek to rejoin the family of the Commonwealth, now also enlarged by the admission of Mozambique and the Cameroon and, it is to be hoped, shortly by Angola as well.

When I was president of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, I heard a charming story from the Speaker of the Canadian Parliament. He said that when geese fly they do so in formation. If a goose gets out of formation, it is honked back into line. If a goose is wounded or falls to the ground for any reason, two other geese go down to see what they can do to help. Furthermore, the lead goose changes from time to time. The moral of the story is that we are all likely to reach our destination in safety if we keep together than would be the case if we were to seek to go it alone.

It is in that spirit that we should seek to encourage and to help not only South Africa, but also the other countries of the region, to prosperity.

8.15 p.m.

The Earl of Kintore

My Lords, I also thank my noble friend Lord St John of Bletso for allowing us to revisit Southern Africa with this debate. I note that culture, sport and tourism do not figure in the title this year, but I cannot let the moment pass without congratulating South Africa on some remarkable sporting achievements since the last debate in February last year.

I wish to confine my remarks to South Africa and to a single area of the economy which is often overlooked. That is education—an investment for the future. I shall rely heavily for my facts on a recent Financial Times survey on South Africa and 1992 figures from the World Bank. According to the South African Foundation, 2.3 million young people in their teens and 20s, are out of work and of these 1.5 million have never had a job or have been unemployed for over four years. It should be remembered that it is estimated that 50 per cent. of the black population is under 18 years of age. Only seven out of every 100 school leavers seeking work will find employment this year. As we have heard from the noble Lord, for positive employment, an economic growth rate of 6 per cent. is probably required as against the 3.5 per cent. growth rate achieved at present. The unemployment rate in the area is about 32 per cent., which is extremely high and leads to the danger of instability caused by young, bored people and puts strains on racial reconciliation and nation-building.

What can be done to achieve a better educated and more highly skilled work force? According to a World Bank discussion paper of December 1995, The critical first step in improving training is to strengthen primary and secondary schooling—the most equitable and cost-effective investment the state can make in education". But all this costs money, and the 35.4 billion rand—which is about £6 billion in sterling terms—education budget is, for the second successive year, the single largest item of government expenditure. However, according again to the World Bank, it is 4.4 billion rand, or about £750 million sterling, below what is required to make up the national shortage of 65,000 classrooms. Certainly, money can be saved and waste of resources prevented if education provided and skills taught are closely focused to provide school leavers with the exact skills that industry and the jobs market are seeking. I wonder whether, in the short term, and for those who have previously been denied a formal academic education, more emphasis should be put on vocational skills to enhance employment and exports. It should also be recognised that prior learning and workplace skills can he just as valuable as formal academic awards.

However, much still needs to be done. According to the 1992 figures, only 14 per cent. of black children stay in school until matriculation, compared with 88 per cent. of white children, and only one black pupil per 10,000 is eligible to enter university in mathematics or science. It is to be hoped that the reconstruction and development programme fund will shortly come to fruition, thereby unleashing greater educational opportunities for the underprivileged. As President Mandela is as keen as I am on education in South Africa, I am sure that resources will continue to be found for the eager-to-learn young people, and that in the next debate initiated by my noble friend Lord St. John we shall learn that considerable progress has been made.

8.21 p.m.

Baroness Wharton

My Lords, I too would like to thank my noble friend Lord St. John of Bletso for initiating this debate today. I have just returned from a long-overdue visit to South Africa, which was my home for many years, so this debate is extremely timely for me. Like the noble Earl, I shall confine my remarks to South Africa. Much of what I have to say is based entirely on personal observation.

The political miracle brought about by elections in 1994 now needs to be complemented by an economic miracle. Perhaps the majority of South Africans feel that things are improving as many now have access to clean drinking water and almost half a million homes which were previously without electricity now have it. Education is also compulsory, and there is free medical care. However, education, at both school and adult level, with subsequent training, is a long-term investment which will reap dividends in the future.

Right now, there is unemployment of about 45 per cent. in the formal sector and about 35 per cent. in the informal sector among the black population. A large proportion of this group is unskilled. In fact, unemployment is in many ways South Africa's biggest economic challenge.

Unionised workers do earn far more than their non-union counterparts. Wages also tend to be high in relation to productivity by world standards. The labour market needs to function far better at the low-skills end. More low-wage jobs need to be created for this sector because at the moment they have no wage at all. The consequences of this can be devastating, and only encourages the inequalities in society as a whole. Our system of trade unionism, already tried in the past, only discourages job growth as only the skilled benefit. Again, education and training will close the gap, but that takes time. However, in order for the South African manufacturing industry to be more competitive in world markets, the labour market needs to be far more flexible than it is.

President Mandela said in his speech to the third session of parliament on 9th February this year: We can neither heal nor build, if on the one hand the rich in our society see the poor as hordes of irritants, or if on the other hand the poor sit back, expecting charity. All of us must take responsibility for the upliftment of our conditions, prepared to give our best to the benefit of all". So education for both adults and children alike needs to be high on the agenda.

If the majority are also to benefit, South Africa clearly needs a development strategy of rapid growth, perhaps in the region of five to six per cent., to entice new investment and make the country internationally competitive. I certainly got the impression from one businessman I spoke to that the Government were doing all that they could to create a market-friendly environment. At the moment, in spite of economic growth of around 3 per cent., only about 12,000 jobs have been created. It will continue to be a struggle to widen the skills base and absorb more people into the economy. Part of the problem is that investment in plant and machinery is less expensive and more productive.

NEDLAC, meaning National Economic Development Labour Council, has been set up by government, business and labour together in a three-way co-operation process to promote competitiveness, export and job creation. Consensus has already been reached about the required incentives and will come before parliament this session.

As far as concerns exports, we used to give preferential treatment to Commonwealth countries, but no more. Our excise duty is among the highest in Europe, which makes it difficult for countries like South Africa to infiltrate our markets. For example, a duty of £12.64 on a nine-litre case of wine, excluding VAT, customs and all other costs, means that a £1 bottle of wine costs £2.24 before wholesale and retail costs are taken into account.

I understand that most of the costs on education, health, housing and public transport—which for the majority is non-existent—have been provided by the reconstruction and development board. However, government spending is already high and getting higher. In the recent budget almost 70 per cent. of the 16 billion rand increase in spending for next year will be taken up by improved conditions for civil servants and interest on the country's 280 billion rand debt. Taxes are high by world standards. I suspect that there are not enough taxpayers to support anything like the amount needed. There seems to be a thriving cash economy that contributes nothing to the treasury. If one adds to that the culture of non-payment, one begins to appreciate just what the government are up against.

This brings me to the prospect of privatisation. The government have considerable holdings. If they were to sell off their involvement in the private sector they could realise 60 billion rand of much-needed money to fund their programmes. Two weeks ago the Chancellor, the right honourable Kenneth Clarke, received a positive response from the government on this subject when he met the Deputy President, Mr. Thabo Mbeki.

On the political side, I felt that people were more at ease with one another. All those to whom I spoke expressed a real desire to contribute to making their country more secure both economically and politically, though, not surprisingly, few knew exactly how to achieve this. Many young couples worried about the education of their children in the public sector; many homes need two salaries for their upkeep; property is expensive; but food by our standards is very reasonable and plentiful.

Crime is a problem. The government are concerned about it and are trying to introduce measures to prohibit the carrying of dangerous weapons as South Africa has one of the highest murder rates in the world. There is a taxi war going on, with drivers competing not only with one another but also with minibuses, which pack their vehicles to the brim, and it is the poor passenger who gets caught in between. I am not surprised that many people prefer to walk. It is safer. Crime harms the economy both directly and indirectly. Unless it can be checked it will eventually harm tourism, which South Africa needs. She is now on the international stage, whether she likes it or not. For her to harvest all the good will which has come her way from the international community, in return she will have to continue to make reforms sooner rather than later. Like the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, and the right reverend Prelate, I also hope that past assistance from HMG will prove to be the start of a future programme to help South Africa achieve the economic miracle that I mentioned in my introduction.

8.30 p.m.

Viscount Waverley

My Lords, the affairs of southern Africa burn bright with my noble friend at the helm. I should like to follow his lead and extol the trend towards regionalism. Since the end of the Cold War, attention has been able to focus on seeking equitable and balanced solutions to many global problems—solutions without purely national interest.

The world is ever-changing. Borders are no longer appropriate divides. All directions are sign-posted "regionalism". Sustainable solutions to the woes of Africa will come with economic development through regionalism. And the most together of these groupings is SADC. It covers a wide area, with members stretching from Tanzania down to South Africa and over to Mauritius. But the process is gradual and being implemented sensibly in a way that prevents, for example, the de-industrialisation of member states.

The SADC is about to implement a trade protocol that will break down barriers. That will be a first step towards the long-term objective of establishing a common market in the region. Two priority objectives of SADC which are fundamental and from which I believe all else flows are, first, to promote self-sustaining development on the basis of collective self-reliance and the interdependence of member states; and, secondly, to promote and maximise productive employment and utilisation of resources of the region. That is achieved through sectoral co-operation. Duplications of functions are minimised. Everything is covered, from A to Z: Angola with responsibility for energy, to Zimbabwe covering food, agriculture and natural resources, and co-ordination is also being developed in political, defence and security areas.

The political arm of SADC has developed a mechanism for dealing with conflict prevention, management and resolution in southern Africa. This is Africa resolving its internal affairs. Africans want to be their own policemen, even to the extent that military intervention could be decided upon. And SADC is more. Currently being discussed is a protocol on free movement of persons. Those are all building blocks beyond just words.

I shall say a word about developmental aid. What can we as donors do to nurture the process? There is a strong case for regional considerations before bilateral ones. Regional infrastructure in transport, shared waterways and electricity is crucial. High unemployment in southern Africa, for example, can be addressed with interconnected power grid-systems taking electricity to peoples' homes. That would give people the opportunity to work, generating small businesses and revitalising the economies through trade and investment.

There are those who express concern that South Africa will receive the lion's share of inward investment. Certain it is that many promises were made to countries such as Namibia that, after apartheid, investment would flow. That has not been forthcoming. South Africa has the strongest economy in the region. It is not, however, in its interest to prosper in isolation. I accept that there is the Lomé model but it is far from effective. The theory is right, but it fails to perform. One of the few immediate benefits is that it exists. It would be more helpful to build upon it rather than to start from scratch. Primary fault can be found in one word: education or lack of it. The benefits need to be explained, not just in Commission and Government circles in Brussels, but in the field, to the peoples of the beneficiary states. Could the United Kingdom, with its understanding of such issues, be a driving force in that regard?

Perhaps I may conclude by re-emphasising that all the states bar Angola are Commonwealth members. The Foreign Affairs Select Committee this morning published its findings on matters in relation to the Commonwealth, with membership criteria considered. Is there a growing case at the appropriate time for Angola to be considered as an associate member?

8.35 p.m.

Lord Sempill

My Lords, I cannot thank my noble friend Lord St. John enough for this opportunity because I am about to give your Lordships my thoughts on South Africa, a subject which is close to my heart. Some 20 years ago I stepped off an aeroplane in Malawi, inhaled my first smell of Africa and fell in love with it. By the time I had finished my year's training in buying tobacco leaf I had visited substantial parts of south and south-eastern Africa and I vowed to return. Subsequently, my family and I moved to South Africa in 1980 and I stayed there for just over 12 years.

I obviously witnessed at first hand the amazing transition from apartheid to democracy. I spent most of my time there working for a brewery, which was one of the biggest in the world. I was directly involved in the marketing of two famous beer brands, both of which are an integral part of South African life—so much so that my colleagues and I regularly visited shebeens, the illegal drinking establishments of the townships. I personally managed a musical road show which visited every township both in the republic and the then homelands, bringing live music to the people. Because of that experience I wish, as have other noble Lords, to address my comments specifically to South Africa and the reality of life for the vast majority of people in that country today.

Thabo Mbeki, vice-president with a major responsibility for the economy, has declared the following objectives: an annual growth of 6 per cent.; annual creation of between 300,000 to 500,000 jobs; and provision of basic housing for all by the year 2005. Those are quite daunting objectives and they will need the full support of the international community.

In reviewing key economic indicators—namely, population growth, education, housing, employment and health—the current picture is not good. Today South Africa has a population estimated at around 43 million and it is growing at just over 2.5 per cent. Various sources agree that the population will continue to grow at that rate, doubling to over 70 million in 30 years' time.

More important though is the mix, a point mentioned earlier. About 38 per cent. of the population are under 15, and in complete contrast to western Europe, only 4.5 per cent. of the population are over 65. Perhaps the biggest change to have occurred recently has been the migration of rural people to the townships and the cities. That migration is simply created by poverty, which currently affects approximately one-third of all South African households. More than 70 per cent. of those households are based in the rural areas.

That statistic is based on a defined poverty line, which is a household of two adults and three children on an income of 840 rand a month; in our currency, about £140. According to a recent study, some 18 million people fall into that category. Those households are a mixture of traditional huts, shacks, hostel rooms or semi-detached houses with fewer than three rooms. Their primary source of energy is a combination of paraffin, wood and coal. And, would your Lordships believe, the most important source of lighting is the candle? When your Lordships then understand that only 60 per cent. of urban dwellers have sufficient water and only 7 per cent. have flush toilets, you will begin to see a very different picture.

As the government begin to tackle those issues the flood of people continues. Informal settlements already account for more than 7 million people, with more than 2 million found living in and around Durban alone. In late 1994 between 5,000 and 10,000 people were moving in to the Cape metropolitan area every month. With internal migration of that magnitude, the last thing the new South Africa needs is the arrival of immigrants from its neighbouring countries whose economies are in an even worse state.

Recent success in the African Cup, the final of which was held in Soweto, came with an amazing price. At least 15,000 spectators from outside South Africa have yet to go home. Imagine our outrage if in the forthcoming European Cup some 15,000 European football fans decided to stay behind.

All that movement has placed a great strain on the government's housing ambitions. Current figures show a backlog of around 1.5 million units, with a need to build approximately 150,000 per year for the next 10 years. We must not forget that they must build an extra 200,000 to cater for the additional growth in the population.

Economic growth therefore becomes paramount in that situation. But there again the situation is not good. As we have heard, approximately 30 per cent. of the economically active are unemployed. That represents about 11.5 million people. That high level of unemployment has been aggravated by a lack of necessary skills brought about by a lack of education. An unskilled labour force is a severe weakness in this highly competitive world of emerging markets, where cheap skilled labour is a major draw card for foreign investment.

The government spent an impressive 22 per cent. of their total budget in 1994–95 on education, but they will need to spend more, specifically when they are committed to giving every child 10 years of free and compulsory education. The current schooling is characterised by a high percentage of over-aged pupils, high pupil/teacher ratios, high pupil/classroom ratios and insufficient equipment, learning materials and facilities. Not surprisingly, just under one-quarter of the current population has not received any formal education whatever.

As we know in this country only too well, education is the key to the future. It helps to stimulate growth in the economy, improve the quality of life and eradicate the worst aspects of poverty and health. Today the South African health indicators are a reflection of the country's general socio-economic development. They reflect severe racial contrasts, with the black and coloured population groups showing high infant and child mortality rates, the lowest life expectancy, the highest rates of TB notification and the highest rates of HIV infection. In essence, that is a typical third world scenario. The indicators for the whites and the Asians compare very favourably with most industrialised countries.

All in all it is not a pretty picture. It is certainly not the picture that we have received here: the new South Africa; the rainbow nation; the world champions in rugby and boxing; quarter finalists in the recent Cricket World Cup. But all that success is marking the failure of the reconstruction and development programme to deliver on its promises.

However praiseworthy and necessary their goals may be, we need to ask whether the government are committing themselves beyond their capabilities. The government, full of good intentions, suffer from paralysis simply because they have taken on too much. For example, only 10,163 houses have been built with state funds in the past 18 months and the RDP stipulated that at least 500,000 should have been built.

In concluding, I must ask whether South Africa will go the way of the rest of Africa. Many influential market-makers believe that that is inevitable. The poverty, the appalling levels of crime and political violence are all realities in the daily lives of the majority of the people. Those are ideal conditions for the collapse of a young and fragile democracy. But I believe, as do many of my South African friends, that they hold the key to the future development of southern Africa. After all, it is in their interests to see a stable and prosperous Africa. Just as they are prepared to undertake a long-term commitment, I ask that Her Majesty's Government should swing their full support both in terms of investment and people behind the South African Government. After all, as a nation we have a strong historic tie and I believe that that merits preferential treatment.

Finally, I can think of no greater inspiration for us and the people of southern Africa than the extraordinary achievement of Nelson Mandela in initiating and uniting what was once a deeply divided society. That achievement will only bear fruit if economic growth can be sustained and poverty eradicated. They deserve our fullest support. To this end I say: N'Knosi sikelel' IAfrika—God bless Africa!

8.47 p.m.

Lord Redesdale

My Lords, it falls to me also to thank the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, for initiating this debate and to congratulate the right reverend Prelate on his magnificent maiden speech. With his knowledge of South America, I am sure that he will add greatly to our debates on an area which is quite often overlooked in this House.

To begin with, I must say that I am rather disappointed that the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, is not present. I say that because I wanted to refer to a previous debate in which she drew my attention to the ODA's Internet site. It is one of the best web sites I have come across. I wanted to mention it particularly because it gives quite a detailed account of where the noble Baroness will be over the next few months. With that information, we shall be forearmed over when to initiate debates in the future.

Tonight's debate is also important due to the fact that, although the noble Lord has initiated debates about Southern Africa before, the subject is one that needs constant attention. The democratisation of Africa really relies on the success of South Africa. The democratisation of other countries such as Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi and, most recently, Tanzania has in every case been a miracle in its own right. Because of the effect in South Africa people tend to overlook the impact of this change on their own population. However, these are fragile flowers and unless debates are initiated on the subject certain areas may be overlooked. The elections in Mozambique took place a mere few months after those in South Africa but they were hardly mentioned.

I should like to concentrate on the election process and the continuing role of democratisation. Most people believe that democratisation ends when an election is finished and the winner takes power, but that is not the case. South Africa is a case in point. At present democracy does not really exist in South Africa. At the moment there is a government of national unity which will rule until multi-party politics take over after the elections in 1999. That will be the real test. The five years before 1999 will be the basis upon which multi-party politics in South Africa can take place and that brings into contention the role of the ANC under President Mandela. There is no doubting the fact that it was due to President Mandela that the miracle took place. However, there is doubt about the future when he is supplanted in his role as leader of the ANC. That is important because the May elections, which will take place quite soon, will be a real crucible.

The area that I should particularly look at is that of Natal KwaZulu. The recent massacre in Donnbrook of men, women and children as part of the continual political violence between Inkatha and the ANC is a terrible reminder of the strife which has taken place on the borders of Natal KwaZula and which still continues. President Mandela's initiative to try to introduce democracy into KwaZulu through the election process is to be lauded. However, one aspect which has been overlooked is the fact that the leader of the Inkatha Party, Chief Buthelezi, who actually took part in the election process, was promised international mediation. Perhaps international mediation could prove a way forward if it were pressed. Maybe the Government could press for that.

The other area I wish to consider is the area where I believe this country can take most direct action, and that is the European Union's trade relations with South Africa. It seems so recently that the European Union was promising everything to South Africa before the elections, but it does not seem to have delivered. The agreement by the European Union foreign ministers in March of a negotiated mandate for a proposed economic co-operation accord with South Africa is long overdue. When in 1994 South Africa made the transition to a non-racial democracy, Europe pledged its support to help to build the new state. So far, substantial help has not been forthcoming.

Under apartheid, black South Africans suffered economic discrimination. The new South Africa promised to change all that. Although there is economic prosperity in South Africa at present, it is still the case that one in three black South Africans is without a job. These people are waiting to see economic improvements to their everyday lives. The noble Lord, Lord Sempill, referred to the slowness of the RDP to take effect. That will constitute one of the big danger areas as regards a reconstructed South Africa. If that programme fails, that will be a dire warning for the future.

Improved trade relations are vital to the future of South Africa, in order to create desperately needed jobs and pay for reconstruction, especially the Government's reconstruction and development programme. The European Union is South Africa's largest trading partner, receiving nearly half of all its exports. However, while other non-Western states were negotiating better trade deals with Europe, South Africa was still under apartheid. Many South African goods still face stiff import tariffs, averaging 18 per cent. last year on non-mineral items. Now is the time for the European Union to negotiate a meaningful deal with South Africa that will help it to prosper as a democratic and stable nation.

The European Union, however, seems reluctant to offer such an agreement. It has taken four months just to agree on a negotiated mandate, and already it has produced a list of products which are to be excluded from the negotiations for fear of their impact on the European Union's agricultural sector. This list accounts for nearly 38 per cent. of South Africa's farm exports; precisely the sector which has the best chance of generating jobs most quickly. It seems that the European Union has little real commitment to South Africa, or for that matter to free trade. The agreement proposes the eventual creation of a free trade area, but the exclusion list could well mean that the deal contravenes the World Trade Organisation guidelines, which require free trade areas to cover substantially all trade between two parties.

I welcome the position Britain has taken in these negotiations: these problems have been caused mainly by other European states. I urge the Government to continue to press for a fairer deal for South Africa. There is the potential for these negotiations to produce an agreement which would significantly benefit both South Africa and the European Union. It would be a shame if such an opportunity were missed.

I wish to end by referring to a point which has been mentioned by many noble Lords, and I am sure will be mentioned in many future debates; namely, the role of land-mines in Southern Africa. The economic well-being of Southern Africa will only really come to fruition if the problem of land-mines can be solved. Recently I discussed the Chemical Weapons Convention in this House. It has been acknowledged by all parties that chemical weapons have no moral justification. The main emphasis of land-mines is the coercion of civilians. Civilians are the major victims of land-mines. That is the issue which cripples many countries.

I have personal experience of this problem. When monitoring the elections in Mozambique, I drove between two polling stations and we counted those people with one limb. We counted 38 people walking on crutches between two polling stations. I felt the fear that land-mines produce after driving 20 kilometres along a mined road. One has the choice of driving back those 20 kilometres one has just driven down, or driving 10 kilometres further down the mined road. That feeling is shared by many African people. They are denied access to many areas, some good farming land.

The Government will say that they have no part in producing such land-mines. However, any land-mines will have a knock-on effect on civilians. Until they are regarded as weapons, they should not be used. Recently the military effectiveness of land-mines has been severely questioned. Until they are banned in their entirety the problem will continue to affect civilians, especially in Africa. Perhaps it is time for the Government to say they are against all land-mines.

8.56 p.m.

Lord Judd

My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale. I find myself in so much agreement with his analysis and concerns, not least his concern about land-mines. I commend to noble Lords a letter in the New York Times today signed by General Schwarzkopf of Gulf War fame and 14 other senior United States officers strongly arguing the need for action on this front.

I am sure we are all deeply grateful to the noble Lord, Lord St. John, for the debate. He brings a great deal of personal conviction and experience to our deliberations on Africa. I always look forward to his stimulating contributions. I am sure too that all of us wish to pay a special tribute to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwell. In a profound way he reached the heart of so many of the issues that concern us. I was very glad to hear his emphasis on forgiveness and reconciliation. When we think of that giant among world leaders today, President Mandela—the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill so properly referred to him—it is his ability to build into his statesmanship, after those terrible years in Robben Island, instinctive and consistent forgiveness and reconciliation that makes him so significant.

My feelings about the president were well encapsulated in a cartoon in the Guardian at the time of the Euro-elections. Standing on the doorstep of his house was an archetypal bloody minded English elector, with an exasperated canvasser standing next to him. The canvasser was saying, "Well, you can't vote for Nelson Mandela, and that's the end of it." I believe that many people throughout the world wish that they shared South African citizenship in that respect and were able to vote for the South African leader.

In reflecting on what the right reverend Prelate said, I am sure he will agree with me that it is not only forgiveness and reconciliation but the importance of conflict resolution and pre-emptive diplomacy in the management of international affairs that is so important. It is a terrible reflection on our age that we still conduct so much of our foreign policy on a reactive responsive basis.

I was privileged to spend some years as director of Oxfam. I can remember standing in the middle of a great refugee reception area in war-torn Mozambique. I was glad to see that supplies were getting through and that I would be able to return and tell the people at home that because of that our efforts had been worthwhile. However, I remember a surge of anger coming over me thinking that the real humanitarian challenge was to ask, "Why is this happening?" How do we prevent a recurrence of tragedy, devastation and suffering on that scale? When we see the consequences of conflict in Angola, Mozambique and the other territories of that part of the world, the challenge is overpowering.

In the midst of that, we have also been considering the issues of democracy, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale. Our experience of the area, fitting in with the principles of forgiveness and reconciliation, is that while elections and universal franchise are crucially important, they are not enough. The commitment to power sharing and the importance of a civil society as a whole are the other vital lessons that we have learnt from the story of southern Africa.

South Africa itself is obviously central to the situation. As the noble Lords, Lord Sempill and Lord St. John, and others, said, it is probably right to spend time looking at the situation in South Africa because it will be central to the future of the region. Under President Mandela, South Africa is becoming a strategic player. That is well illustrated by its role in the South African customs union, the Southern African Development Community and the proposed common market for eastern and southern Africa.

However, within South Africa huge challenges remain. While it is true that the economy is enjoying steady growth and inflation is at its lowest for many years, it is also true that the benefits are shared only by a minority. That inevitably has serious implications for social and political stability. Official unemployment is 33 per cent., but some 50 per cent. of the black population are still without formal jobs. Sixty-seven per cent. of South Africans—overwhelmingly black—still live below the poverty line. The majority have no access to electricity, water or permanent homes, and the housing programme, as we have been reminded, is lagging badly behind schedule.

Sadly, fear of violence which for some years has been endemic in many areas is widespread and violence against women is prevalent. In Kwa-Zulu/Natal, as many as 500,000 people—85 per cent. of whom are women and children—may have been displaced and as many as 13,000 people may have died in conflict over the past decade. According to the World Health Organisation, the health of the population as a whole still compares badly with many developing countries. Literacy rates are estimated to be 99 per cent. for whites; 84 per cent. for Asians; 66 per cent. for Coloureds and still only 54 per cent. for Africans. More than 1.5 million children are thought to be out of school and only half the children on farms are in school at all. In other words, the legacy of apartheid remains immense. It would be the ultimate act of betrayal if, at this point, the strong, principled and determined political leadership of South Africa were to be deserted by the international community. It is now that our commitment to successful change is perhaps more than ever on trial. We should be demonstrably strengthening our solidarity, not only in the interests of South Africa itself, but by helping to build a strong South Africa in the interests of the region as a whole.

The firm resolve and courageous priorities of the South African Government, against all that, are there for all to see. Apart from the modernisation of the economy, which must be heart-warming for the high priests of liberal economics as Telekom and South African Airways are privatised, 100 million rand of reconstruction and development programme funds were allocated in 1994–95 to fund school renovation, promote school governance programmes, improve attendance, and encourage parents, students and the broader school community to contribute to discipline, maintenance and ongoing improvement in schools. A total of 2.7 million more people were connected to the electricity supply and 8.8 million primary school children now receive one free meal, known as the Mandela sandwich, each day.

A reform programme has been put in place covering land restitution for victims of forced removal, land redistribution for landless people and tenure reform. Redistribution and restitution have already benefited several thousand families and government funds have already helped between 2,000 and 3,000 families to gain access to land for resettlement.

A labour relations Act has been put in place; a government commission on gender equality has begun its work; a convention on the elimination of discrimination against women has been signed; and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, set up under the leadership of Archbishop Tutu, is due to report within two years, although it has to be said that there are doubts as to whether the allocated budget is adequate for nation-wide hearings.

Progress is being made on the new constitution with provision for a Bill of Rights recognising economic and social rights as well as political rights for progressive realisation; and the Constitutional Court has been inaugurated, with its impressive first ruling against capital punishment.

At a time of widespread conflict across the world, fed, as it is, by the profiteering arms trade, South Africa has set other arms exporting nations—not least ourselves—a far-reaching example by the appointment of the Cameron Commission, which has recommended a range of important measures to monitor and control South Africa's arms exports and to ensure transparency for South Africa's part in the arms trade.

All this, and more, speaks powerfully for the calibre of government South Africa enjoys. I hope that the noble Lord opposite will be able to reassure us about the British Government's determination to back this impressive endeavour to the hilt.

Meanwhile, where stands the European Union? As the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, argued, the evidence is far from positive. As the noble Lord, Lord St John, indicated, our debate comes just the week after the European Union Council of Ministers finally agreed its negotiating mandate for a proposed economic co-operation agreement with South Africa, at the heart of which lies trade relations. As South Africa's biggest trading partner, the deal will be vital to South Africa's economic prospects and its ability to deliver jobs and lift the black majority out of the poverty and disadvantage bequeathed by apartheid. It is therefore sobering to note that the Financial Times said of the European Union deliberations last week, "Relations between South Africa and the European Union are at a low ebb." That is a bitter reality so soon after all the pledges of support for the new democracy in 1994.

The European Union is the destination for nearly half South Africa's exports. However, fresh and tinned fruits, wine, vegetables, clothes and textiles, in particular, face severe import tariffs. And these are the very sectors that could generate employment most quickly. On melons, for example, South Africa pays an 11 per cent. tariff; Turkey, Venezuela and Costa Rica pay nothing. On fresh flowers, South Africa pays 15 per cent.; Israel pays 2 per cent. and Colombia nothing. On avocados South Africa pays 6 per cent. while Israel, a major competitor, with low transport costs, faces no duty at all. When these other countries were winning better trade terms, apartheid South Africa was out in the cold. South Africa's system of racial discrimination was swept away in 1994, but European governments have still to give the new South Africa equal treatment at their borders.

At the same time, by pressing for a separate deal with South Africa rather than bringing South Africa into the Lome agreement on aid and trade with all the other countries of southern Africa, the European Union could serve to undermine South Africa's progress towards building up the regional trade and economic co-operation—especially through the Southern African Development Community—which, paradoxically, the European Union rightly says it wants to support.

Against this background it is indeed worrying to note that in the proposed European Union mandate for co-operation some 38 per cent. of South Africa's farm exports to the European Union may be excluded—probably fruit juices, lemons, oranges, apples, peas, tinned fruits and the like.

There are also anxieties about the position of products originating in ACP countries but processed in South Africa. Such products are, of course, central to the developing southern Africa regional co-operation positively advocated by the European Union. To prove their commitment to the success of the new democratic South Africa and its place within the region as a whole, the British Government must now redouble their efforts to push for an improved offer by the European Union. It would be very good if today the noble Lord could reassure us on that crucial matter.

This has been a useful and timely debate. We need to seize the opportunity to help build the foundations for southern Africa's potentially exciting future. South Africa will be central to that. When President Mandela eventually hands over, it will be a formidable challenge to his successor even to try to emulate his example. Fortunately, there are strong people coming forward. What will matter greatly is that the people of South Africa—indeed, the people of southern Africa as a whole—can see and tangibly experience the fruits of change, greater social justice, better education, more adequate housing, fuller employment and, generally, prosperity in its fullest sense. Without that, all the positive potential could turn into political disaster.

After the long, dark years of tyranny, for which we must all accept some of the blame, surely we must all now share responsibility for contributing to a fulfilling, viable future for South Africa and its talented people, so that South Africa can play the key part that it should be equipped to play in the region and indeed in Africa as a whole.

9.11 p.m.

Lord Chesham

My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, would like to hear that my noble friend Lady Chalker is very sad not to be able to be here to comment on this debate.

I am pleased that the House has again turned its attention to developments in southern Africa and I thank the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, for having provided us with this opportunity. This is a region where the woes so often associated with Africa—famine, drought, civil war, displaced people—have given way to the challenges of peace. For the first time in more than a quarter of a century, peace holds throughout southern Africa. Apartheid, repression, military and civil dictatorship have virtually gone.

The region is passing through profound political and economic change. The establishment of a non-racial democracy is South Africa was an historic achievement for its people. In 1994, Mozambique held free and fair elections after years of civil war. With international help, the peace process in Angola is moving slowly forward, with the prospect of UNITA joining a government of unity and national reconciliation this summer. In Malawi the country's first multi-party election in 1994 resulted in the peaceful transfer of power. In the same year, in Lesotho the elected government were restored to power. There have since been elections in Botswana and Namibia. Swaziland is currently experiencing internal division and political uncertainty but we are hopeful that it too will soon find a democratic way forward.

Much has been achieved but much remains to be done. While good governance and economic reform have been widely embraced, decades of ideological confusion and state ownership have yet to be fully shaken off. There is now no argument in the region on the imperative of economic reform. Government recognise that future prosperity lies in the enterprise and initiative of their peoples. They are allowing markets to work, encouraging the private sector, attracting foreign investment, liberalising trade, cutting down bureaucracies and in several countries cutting military expenditure too. Donor governments have helped with those changes in strengthening democratic and state institutions, drawing attention to corruption and financial irregularity and encouraging programmes of economic reform and structural adjustment. We have used our bilateral assistance and, where necessary, withheld it to help bring about those changes.

But aid cannot by itself achieve the economic transformation which will set southern Africa on the path to prosperity. Only sound economic management, large-scale investment and the development of international and regional trade can do that. That is why we support the efforts of the Southern Africa Development Community to enhance regional economic and political co-operation. From having had a wide experience in emerging as well as developed economies we can commend the virtues of a single market to the member states of SADC. We welcome the new enthusiasm in the region to develop cross-border co-operation of every kind.

It is the transformation in South Africa that has made many of these positive developments possible. Not only has the reconciliation of South Africa's peoples been a shining example, but the Government of National Unity's pursuit of sound economic policies and their evolving support for regional co-operation are having a profound effect on South Africa's neighbours. South Africa has become a regional force for stability. I should add that there is still much to be done in reducing tariffs and working towards open and flexible trade regimes.

But there is one word of warning here. The successes in South Africa must not undermine the economies of her neighbours. Perhaps I may run through a little of the history of SADC and attitudes towards it. SADC's relations with the EU were formalised at the Berlin conference of September 1994. The conference culminated in a declaration in which both sides committed themselves to entering a comprehensive dialogue to further the development of relations between the two regions. Since then, developments have been slow. The next meeting at ministerial level will take place in October in Harare. However, SADC has been successful in mobilising funds from international donors for regional integration projects. More than 3 billion US dollars has been spent on a total of more than 550 projects, programmes and studies. The main project expenditure has been on transport infrastructure, telecommunications, energy transmission and food safety measures. SADC has been less successful in reducing dependence on South Africa and promoting free trade among its members.

The UK has supported SADC projects since the 1980s. The main focus of support is currently the transport sector, worth some £6 million in 1992–93. The northern transport corridor—Dar es Salaam to Malawi—and the Maputo corridor, including projects for both Maputo port and the Limpopo railway, have received capital aid support. More limited support has been given to the Beira corridor, which links Zimbabwe to the sea, and the Nacal line linking Malawi to the sea. In natural resources, our main project is the research programme, carried out jointly with the governments of Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania, on fish stocks in Lake Malawi. In the natural resources sector, SADC offers a potentially useful forum for raising awareness on environmental and conservation issues.

For the future, we are phasing out our support for transport projects in line with the declining aid framework for SADC. We expect to focus on technical co-operation projects; for example, on ways to promote regional integration.

The noble Lord, Lord Judd, and other noble Lords commented on the EU/South Africa trade negotiations. It is well appreciated that throughout negotiations over the EU supplementary mandate for a free trade area with South Africa the British Government have been arguing for the most liberal arrangements possible. We are disappointed that the EU member states did not agree on a better outcome, but there was clearly no point in delaying further the start of substantial negotiations with South Africa. The important thing now is for the Commission and the South African Government to take things forward towards an agreement that will be in all our interests; and we shall be pressing for that.

The mandate that was agreed at the Foreign Affairs Committee on 25th March includes a list of agricultural products, as detailed, which will at the insistence of certain member states be excluded from the negotiations for a free trade area. We had consistently opposed any list excluding products from the scope of negotiations. We believe that the list annexed to the supplementary negotiating directives may well make it impossible to negotiate a satisfactory agreement which is compatible with WTO rules. For that reason we abstained from voting on the mandate. The EU mandate was formally presented to the South African authorities in Brussels on 29th March, and we await the formal reaction of the South African Government.

Our policy of promoting good government is a constant theme in our relations with southern African countries. The Commonwealth, following the admission of South Africa and Mozambique, is a valuable instrument in support of this. Along with sound economic policies, good government is a force for development and progress. A well-governed country is a stable country and is much less likely to threaten its neighbours and the international order.

I shall now make a brief comment on the Reconstruction and Development Programme. The South African Government continue to make sound progress in the process of economic and political reform after the 1994 transition. President Mandela has followed the path of reconciliation. While the programme has not been as successful as hoped, a major effort is under way, through the Government's RDP programme, to redress the inequities created by apartheid. At the same time, South Africa has pursued fiscally prudent policies. That was reaffirmed by the recent budget of 13th March. The local elections of last November bring South Africa another step closer to completing the transition to democracy. We have every confidence in South Africa's ability to find solutions to the immense challenges which it faces.

I shall speak briefly on education, which the noble Earl, Lord Kintore, and others emphasised. Our support to education has always been an important component of our aid programme to South Africa. We are delighted now to be extending that co-operation direct to government. Education reform is one of the major challenges facing the new Government and one of the major building blocks for the creation of a democratic and non-racial society. It is an agreed priority area for our aid programme to South Africa. Our aim is to support the new Government in their task of reconstructing education on a sound, professional, equitable and affordable basis. We work in close consultation with a wide variety of partners in the field of education in South Africa to determine how we can best help. We have agreed that we shall focus on improvements in the content and quality of education at school level, the development and implementation of education policy and basic education.

An example of British assistance is the Soweto Skills Initiative launched in 1994 by the President of the Board of Trade. The scheme brings young entrepreneurs to the UK on attachment to British companies. The ODA administers the programme and finds British companies to sponsor candidates. Fourteen black South Africans have so far benefited from this programme and a further two are currently in the UK.

On KwaZulu Natal, the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, was concerned about the high levels of violence which concern everyone there. However, he seeks international mediation. That question must be for the parties themselves. We cannot impose it from outside. We are very doubtful that President Mandela would accept international mediation in this situation.

The right reverend Prelate and many other noble Lords, including the noble Lords, Lord Judd and Lord Redesdale, mentioned the problem of land-mines. The ODA has provided some £2.8 million in support of de-mining in Angola. That includes the provision of key staff for the United Nations Central Mines Action Office and funding for the humanitarian de-mining programmes of the Halo Trust and the Mines Advisory Group. Further possible future involvement in the de-mining section of Angola is currently under review by the ODA.

As regards the support or non-support of international land-mines, the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, put it correctly. Britain has not produced or exported anti-personnel land-mines for several years. We have a comprehensive ban on the export of non-self-destructing and non-detectable anti-personnel landmines, as well as a total ban on the export of all types of anti-personnel mines to any country which has not accepted the constraints of the United Nations weaponry convention. That is the attitude of this Government. We would obviously support other governments taking the same attitude.

The right reverend Prelate also referred to the UN Weaponry Convention. We are at the forefront of international efforts to strengthen the convention and introduce tight international specifications for self-destructing and detectable anti-personnel mines, as well as other important provisions. We are therefore particularly disappointed that the Vienna review conference in September/October last year was unable to reach agreement on the tighter restrictions for which we were pressing.

There are considerable grounds for hope in the important recent developments in southern Africa. We shall maintain our involvement in the region. It needs our support. In particular, we shall continue to seek ways of helping those countries along the path of democracy and good government and, with the judicious use of our aid programme and with the support of British trade and investment, we shall encourage sustained growth, which can alone lessen inequalities and improve living conditions for all southern African peoples.

Finally, very kind remarks have been expressed this evening about my noble friend Lady Chalker. I shall make absolutely certain that they are brought to her attention.

9.26 p.m.

Lord St. John of Bletso

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this most interesting debate. I also thank the Minister for his comprehensive reply. I congratulate especially the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwell on his outstanding maiden speech. I wholeheartedly support his view that success in southern Africa must be based on a culture of reconciliation. I echo his call for a ban on the use of landmines as weapons of war and his call for continued international support for the southern African region and its stability for the future.

I should have liked to thank each of today's speakers individually. Each has spoken from his or her own experience and expertise, with personal experience of having been in South Africa. I am delighted that almost all of the key issues have been covered, from democratisation of the region to education, political reconciliation, unemployment, regional transport links, security and crime, housing, landmines, the free trade agreement and what Her Majesty's Government and the European Union are doing to assist the region for the future.

I certainly believe that it is the hope and prayer of all noble Lords that southern Africa will be seen in the future as the beacon of success and stability in Africa. I repeat my noble friend's call: N'Knosi sikelel' IAfrika. I take this opportunity, at this late hour, to wish all noble Lords a pleasant and enjoyable Easter Recess, and beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.