House of Commons Speech following visit to South Africa 1990

Whole recording:


Extract 1:

“It is important to understand the complexity of South African society. Few of those who have not visited the country can appreciate it. I had only a slight taste of it in a few weeks, but I know that it is an extremely complex situation.

At the moment, South Africa is very volatile. It is not unlike a boiling pot, because to take off the lid suddenly without turning down the fire would be to risk the escape of a cloud of steam that would scald all those people—of whatever colour—who are gathered around it. The task that faces Mr. Mandela is to turn down that fire so that successful negotiations can ensue. It is precarious and challenging, and such an undertaking needs the full understanding of hon. Members here.

I have no doubt whatsoever that the Mr. Mandela whom I was privileged to meet is equal to that task. He exudes a strength, calmness and authority that is remarkable in a man who has been incarcerated for 27 years. He is astonishingly without bitterness, but remains standing full square behind the principles for which he has sacrificed so much—the principles of a non-racial and democratic South Africa, in which black and white people alike can share equally. It is clear from what he has said since his release that he is a responsible and wise statesperson, who is now ready to play his part in steering South Africa into the future, and who knows full well how perilous and inflammable the scenerio is.”


Extract 2:

“Neither must we rush to destabilise the position, as the Prime Minister has done, by pressing for the removal of sanctions. The demand worldwide is that sanctions should stay until the pillars of apartheid are removed. To remove sanctions now would be the height of irresponsibility. It would strengthen the hand of the South African Government against the mass of the people who have already given so much to reach this position, and who are already at a disadvantage in any future negotiations.

If the British Government really want to find a way forward, they should be helping to ensure parity in the capability of both sides to negotiate. It seems that the Prime Minister wishes to see the mass democratic movement going naked into the negotiating chamber. Mr. Mandela and the mass democratic movement are already at a gross disadvantage. They do not have the backing of a vast army of civil servants or all the paraphernalia of diplomacy that the South African Government clearly have. They have few resources. Their key personnel are scattered throughout the world, subsisting in impoverished exiled communities.

Our Government should therefore compare their attitude to South Africa with their attitude to the restoration of democracy in eastern Europe. There, they have given £25 million to assist the process of democracy. They should therefore come to the House with similar proposals for funding the democratic forces in South Africa.

Britain has done enough damage in South Africa. Let it now be bold and positive. Let us put our money behind all that we have mouthed about supporting the oppressed people in South Africa. The soundest investment that we can make is to ensure that, when there are future negotiations, those people are properly prepared to play their full part.”