South African National Assembly (Cape Town)

1994-09-20 - John Major


Madam Speaker and President of the Senate, President Mandela, Members of Parliament.

It is 34 long years since the last visit to South Africa by a British Prime Minister. Madam Speaker, it is good to be back.

This Parliament has been elected to embrace both the old and the new. To be here four months after South Africa's rebirth is intensely moving, to rise and to speak in this building at this time is to sense the weight of history, I am privileged to be here. They have been long years for South Africa, years of isolation, years of hope deferred, years of potential unfulfilled.

The policy of apartheid isolated South Africa, it isolated it from the West because it affronted democratic values, it isolated it in Africa because of its treatment of Africans and others, it isolated the government from its own people because it would not accept them as equals.

And yet in another sense South Africa was never isolated, you were never forgotten, you were never out of our debates, you were never out of our affections. We knew that change had to come and when it came it came more rapidly, more comprehensively than we had dared to hope.

Now South Africa is taking up her responsibilities, her responsibilities to herself, to her peoples, to the wider world. You have made a new beginning.

Perhaps those of you who sit here in this change do not see perhaps with the perspective of the world the extent to which the world is watching what you have done and applauding the direction in which you are going. You are quite literally a source of hope to a whole continent.

Today, as we approach the 200th anniversary of Britain's old Cape colony, I have come here to re-awaken an old friendship, to hold out my hand to the new South Africa, to make a new beginning and to signal a new friendship between your country and mine.

Mostly this afternoon I wish to look forward, I wish to look forward to see what the United Kingdom and South Africa can do for each other, for the progress we can make together, to our joint role in the Commonwealth of which we are both influential members, and to the contribution we can make both to Africa and to this country and to everywhere in Southern and Central Africa.

But I also want to look back for a few moments. To make a new beginning we must first look the past in the eye. It is there in our hearts, it is there in our joint history, so let us be frank about what has united us and also about what has divided us.

We British were relative late-comers to Africa, but in the 400 years since Sir Francis Drake's epic voyage of 1580 we have been deeply involved with this continent. Trade rather than colonisation was the reason for early British and European contacts with Africa. Benign commerce turned however into the slave trade and at the height of the 18th century into the transportation of over 6 million Africans. The British Parliament outlawed this moral outrage in 1807 and the Dutch followed 7 years later.

As the 19th century progressed philanthropic explorers and Christian missionaries travelled courageously through Africa, but in turn they unwittingly paved the way for the harsh incursions of rival empire builders, and at the century's end right and wrong mingled on each side in the Boer wars and left a bitter legacy.

And yet despite these recent wounds, former adversaries from Britain and South Africa fought side by side in two World wars, in Flanders, in East Africa, in North Africa, in Europe, on the ground and in the air. We in Britain owe those South Africans - from all the country's main communities - a great debt of gratitude. They joined us in a common cause and they were ready to make, and did make, a common sacrifice.

Perhaps then we should have seen hints of the future. For the magnanimous spirit which brought once sworn enemies together showed the remarkable capacity of South Africans to put deep rifts behind them.

Between the World Wars, and afterwards, we divided again. Britain cannot escape her share of responsibility for the tragedy which followed. This notwithstanding the enlightened steps which Britons had already taken in South Africa. The Lovedale Mission in the Eastern Cape, for example, had educated such influential figures as the writer and editor John Tango Jabavu. And from 1916 the University College of Fort Hare provided a platform which was in time to launch President Mandela and many other young people on their long road to leadership.

But on the debit side of the account, the handing over of power from Westminster was tragically followed by a long period in which the majority was disenfranchised and dispossessed. These injustices have taken the best part of a century to rectify. Harold Macmillan's clarion call sounded a clear warning but it could not prevent the isolation which enveloped South Africa for too long.

I have confronted history frankly and with all the easy wisdom of hindsight. Just as the people's of South Africa have had to put a great deal of their own painful history behind them, so too have the British in Africa. Neither of us should forget, we should remember so that we can learn that we should not saddle the next generation with the mistakes and mis-deeds of forebears.

That is what the leaders of the Government of National Unity have achieved, they have triumphed over a divided history. President Mandela was a symbol of hope during the years of apartheid. He, perhaps above all, has built on the non-racial legacy of the ANC's founders. There are many of his colleagues - Albert Luthuli, Oliver Tambo, Robert Sobukwe, and many others - who sadly did not live to see the day of freedom. They would I believe have been proud to be here today and perhaps in the spirit of this Parliament in some fashion perhaps they are here today.

South Africa's useful transition owed a huge amount to Nelson Mandela's extraordinary partnership with F W De Klerk. Without the provision and the profound courage of ex-President De Klerk I do not believe that we would have been here together in this Chamber today. He held steadfast to his course even when the odds seemed almost insuperable.

Likewise Dr Buthelezi, now Minister for Home Affairs, has over many years played a very prominent part in South Africa's political life. He wrote some years ago, in 1990: "There is a vastness about black politics in which the major forces of history are at work. A new South Africa will arise as blacks and whites salvage the best and jettison the worst". As he predicted, this has happened, and in bringing the Inkatha Freedom Party into this government he took a crucial step towards that vision of a new South Africa.

Upon the backs of many and the wisdom of a few a new South Africa has been born. Acts of reconciliation and statesmanship have made it possible to look back on apartheid, and how old and out of date it now seems. The time that Harold Macmillan longed for has come.

He said here in Cape Town those many years ago, and again I quote: "I hope, and indeed I am confident, that in another 50 years we shall look back on the differences that exist between us now as matters of historical interest. For as time passes and one generation yields to another, human problems change and fade."

He was right, they have done, and now South Africa can look forward to a brighter future.

Let me turn now to that future. It is founded on two shining assets. First parliamentary democracy and the consent of the people. For all its distinction, its ceremony and its discipline, until this year this parliament failed the ultimate test of legitimacy, the legitimacy that flows from the consent of the governed, the majority of people who fell subject to its laws had no say in choosing the law-makers. It was a parliament in Africa but not a parliament of Africa.

Now at last all that has changed as across the world we watch in wonder at elections as moving as they were tumultuous. People who for much of their lives languished in prison across the bay now sit here in this chamber to build South Africa as duly elected representatives of the people of South Africa. More remarkably still, they have extended the hand of forgiveness and cooperation to their former captors. Here too to play their part in parliament are those who opposed the Round Table talks yet participated in the elections for the sake of a peaceful outcome to those elections, and those too deserve credit as the new age begins.

President Mandela spoke in April of "the dream of building a greater South Africa in which South Africans of all racial groups can work together to promote a spirit of reconciliation and of nation building." Madam Speaker, those who sit in this Parliament, and all those whom they represent, have now joined in that great task of nation building.

The new South Africa's second great asset is to have inherited by far the most modern and effective economy and social infrastructure in all of Africa. We British want to work with you as you develop those efforts. Like you, we want all of South Africa's people to enjoy the fruits of success. And I say this not as a pious sentiment but because we British have a direct interest, a very great stake, in your future. We have a stake because almost a million people of British descent live in South Africa, a huge community. Our peoples are inextricably linked in all manner of public and private relationships, in business, in cultural, sporting, scientific, military, political ties and for a great many people family affections as well. These bonds are a source of pride and confidence and I am confident that they will endure.

And Britain has a very substantial economic interest in South Africa. British investment in South Africa has an estimated market value of between 40 - 50 billion Rand, this is greater than our investment in the whole of the rest of Africa combined, it shows the depth of Britain's national commitment to South Africa.

For Britain, South Africa is already an export market of the same scale as India, close to the markets of Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia and Singapore.

But this is not one-way, but two-way trade. The United Kingdom is South Africa's second larges supplier, we are also your second largest export market.

This is a formidable relationship, but I hope it represents no more than a beginning. The global economy today is marked by the growth and dynamism of its newcomers. South Africa has great human and national resources. The potential is there, the need is there, your people are impatient for results. Yet no government on earth, however benevolent, can develop an economy with strokes of the pen. Prudent management, alertness to the challenges of the market, the acquisition and retention of international business confidence, that global economy offering hope and progress remains one of competition and a drive for success. You have achieved an historic launch towards it and you will need to hold to that momentum over the years ahead.

Sustaining confidence, meeting in time the high expectations of your people, will come, I firmly believe, if you follow the policies of the open society, as you have set yourself to do. Policies which emphasise the individual and private initiative, policies which reward hard work, policies which encourage free choice and discourage bureaucratic meddling. Policies of competitiveness and openness, a free press and an environment for constructive criticism. An approach that will attract hard-headed investors into South Africa to create jobs, to create prosperity, to create growth, to enable those dreams that exist within South Africa to be met within the years that lie ahead.

That is the proven approach, the proven approach which has worked in Britain, worked in the West, increasingly in the dynamic economies of the Far East, once developing and now on their way to giant success, and is being adopted also throughout the former Communist countries of Eastern Europe.

Madam Speaker, Britain will not stand idly by on the sidelines and wait to see how you get on. We want to take part with you in this great and exciting enterprise to the furthest extent that we are able and in all the ways that you think best.

I want to form a fellowship between Britain and South Africa, a fellowship for the future, a fellowship for reconstruction. Through business, through investment, through development assistance we wish to support your reconstruction and development programme. The British Minister of Africa and Head of the Overseas Development Administration, Baroness Chalker, is here with me today. Over the whole of the past decade her team have been developing projects in townships and rural areas throughout South Africa, planning for South Africa's future after apartheid. As your transition came closer they stepped up their work.

But your needs are greater now and in the next 3 years we plan to commit a further 530 million Rand. Lynda Chalker, who I know is well known to many of you here in this Chamber today, will work with your government to channel 350 million Rand into the Reconstruction and Development Programme. The remainder will be contributed through the European Union and the Commonwealth Development Corporation, and I have brought the Chief Executive, Roy Reynolds, with me today so that he can begin to examine how best that can be done as you build the future of the new South Africa.

And I want also to develop a dynamic partnership in trade and in investment. The Chairmen and Chief Executives of some of Britain's largest companies have come with me to South Africa and they will be taking part in a Business Round Table in Johannesburg tomorrow. We are already big investors in each other's country. 68 British companies have made new investments in South Africa over the past four years. The Commonwealth Development Corporation is planning a substantial programme of investment for the future. And to encourage this process, President Mandela and I signed this morning an Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement.

There is enormous potential for direct trade, for even closer links in finance and services and for partnership between our companies in manufacturing and in exporting. Our businessmen have known one another for years and their willingness to invest is a sign of their confidence in your future.

Take, for example, the Columbus Project, which has married British technology, engineering and finance to South African resources and manufacturing capability and will produce stainless steel largely for export. Projects like these will generate thousands of jobs in each of our countries and my ambition is to see far more of them develop in the future.

So do not be surprised to see ever increasing numbers of British businessmen coming to South Africa. They came in July with the President of the Board of Trade, Michael Heseltine, you might just possibly have noticed he was here, people usually do. They have come with me on this occasion, they come in every day of the week under their own steam, with no pressure from governments and no incentives. They come because they wish to and because they believe in your future. They will come next year to the "Opportunity South Africa" Campaign which we are mounting in Cape Town, in Johannesburg and in Durban. And they will come with the backing of 1 billion sterling in official export credit guarantees to smooth the path to trade and increase the relationship between our two countries.

British business is going to grow in South Africa but partnership is a two-way process. Your businessmen are equally welcome in Britain and we provide a point of entry to the huge European market. One-half of all your exports already go to Europe, well over half of them go to companies which keep their European headquarters in Britain.

Madam Speaker, business sometimes carries an image of big business. I am not talking only of big business; I am talking of all sorts of businesses; I am talking of small business as well; I am talking of businesses of all sorts; I am talking of established businesses and the businesses that are yet to come and will be popular and successful in the future. A very important aim of our fellowship is to help to encourage small businesses, black businesses and new entrepreneurs. Tomorrow, I shall announce steps under our Soweto Skills Initiative to provide advice for small and medium-sized businesses here and training for entrepreneurs in Britain. [Applause].

Madam Speaker, let me describe some other areas in which we wish to focus our fellowship; these include products on which President Mandela and I also signed a new Agreement this morning:

First, fellowship in the community. This means healthcare. We shall provide training for primary healthcare managers and we shall continue our support for the healthcare programmes of the Rural Foundation and the Alexandra Health Clinic. [Applause].

It means helping community policing. In the run-up to the elections, British police officers became familiar figures in your townships. If they are needed and if you ask for them, they will be ready to come back to help with training, recruitment and with detective work.

It means education, this fellowship. We can promote English-language skills at university level and the teaching of mathematics, science and English in schools, we can help with basic education for adults and distance education. The British Council is eager to play a larger role in the new South Africa.

I believe, Madam Speaker, that sport has a huge part to play in the life of a healthy community and as an outlet for the energies of young people. South Africa is one of the world's great sporting nations; our sportsmen and sportswomen have had memorable encounters over the years; they have had memorable encounters this year on the cricket and rugby fields and at the Commonwealth Games but your sporting opportunities are not yet evenly distributed yet and we would like to help you spread them to each and every part of your community. [Applause].

I have brought great sporting ambassadors with me. Over the next few days they will be meeting your young people and passing on their skills and most importantly their enthusiasm and I am sure that Sir Colin Cowdrey, Sir Bobby Charlton, Judy Simpson, Rob Andrew and Alec Stewart will inspire your youngsters with their love of sport and with the experiences and the worldwide friendships that it has brought to them. Their coaching sessions are a foretaste of the initiative that we are launching to train 200 sports coaches to work at both community and at national level. We shall take a special interest in the stars of your future even though I may curse the fact that we have done so when they are scoring goals or runs against us in games they play in the future!

Second, fellowship in farming: We would like to develop sustainable farming systems for small farmers, to set up links with agricultural bodies in the United Kingdom and to work on land resettlement.

Third, Madam Speaker, we should develop a closer fellowship in science and in technology. There are differing skills in our two scientific communities. The President of the Royal Society, Sir Michael Atiyah, and my own Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Sir William Stewart, are with me on this visit and will be exploring grounds for closer collaboration with the scientists of South Africa. They will pave the way for a mission of British companies with technical excellence in medical research and pharmaceuticals, water treatment and food production that will be led by the British Cabinet Minister responsible for science, David Hunt, and I believe this area of cooperation can be immensely fruitful for both our nations in the years that lie ahead.

Fourth, Madam Speaker, there should be a fellowship in public administration and between our two Parliaments. We have experience to share in the training of senior government officials at the centre and in the provinces and I hope you will agree that the members of our two Parliaments - my Parliament and your Parliament - should develop close links and should meet often to share our experiences and to plan the way ahead [Applause] with that in mind, Madam Speaker, we intend to arrange joint seminars between our Members of Parliament and yours and visits to Britain by Provincial Executive Council members.

Fifth, Madam Speaker, a fellowship is already developing between our defence forces. Your government paid Britain a great compliment in asking us to advise on the integration of the new South African National Defence Force. You have involved us in a task which is vital to future stability and I look forward to visiting the British military assistance team on Wednesday.

Finally, Madam Speaker, I hope that we can develop a fellowship in international affairs and within the Commonwealth. I see very little to divide us and a great deal that we will be able to do together. When your Deputy Foreign Minister visits London in a few weeks' time, I shall propose that his talks should become the first in a regular pattern of exchanges between our two Foreign Ministries. [Applause].

Madam Speaker, our links have deep roots in the past but what I am describing today is not about the past, it is a fellowship for the future, it is already extensive but it, too, is only a beginning. Once launched, I have not a shred of doubt that it will grow and that it will strengthen of its own accord.

Madam Speaker, I would like for a moment to say a few words about the Commonwealth before turning to the Continent of Africa. With so many Commonwealth members in Africa, the two are of course closely linked. Apartheid, even after South Africa's departure, struck at the very roots, the very foundations, of the modern multi-racial Commonwealth. The Commonwealth was unanimously against apartheid but deep divisions opened within it, at times they threatened the very existence of the organisation. The Commonwealth was more strongly committed to ending apartheid and very heavily preoccupied with it than any other body in the world. The emergence, therefore of the new South Africa is a particular cause for rejoicing across the Commonwealth. When Deputy President Mbeki presented your new flag to the Commonwealth Secretary-General in Westminster Abbey in July, the congregation burst into spontaneous applause; South African participation in the Commonwealth Games in Victoria was greeted with equal delight and so it was at Lords cricket ground at that memorable moment when South Africa took the field. South Africa's re-entry to the Commonwealth, her coming home to the Commonwealth where she belongs should do more than just heal a wound, it should provide a stimulus to the Commonwealth family of one-third of the world's nations.

Madam Speaker, I am a dedicated believer in the Commonwealth, its values are our values, its values are your values. I hope that between us we can develop an approach to next year's Conference in Auckland which reinforces the 1991 Declaration of Harare on good government by drawing in particular on your powerful example here in South Africa and by working together, Britain and South Africa can help to bring the very best out of this very precious and wholly unique organisation.

Madam Speaker, let me now look northwards. The past decade has seen dramatic changes for the better in other continents and regions, dynamic economic growth across Asia, the peace process in the Middle East and in Berlin just fourteen days ago I witnessed the final act of the Cold War, the withdrawal from a once besieged city of the Allied forces which had protected it for so long.

The end of the Cold War has given Europe the opportunity of a new age of reason, the end of apartheid has brought South Africa into an age of enlightenment. For all the traumatic conflicts and appalling humanitarian disasters which have beset Africa, I believe this Continent too has the chance of a new beginning. The last years of this century and the early years of the next century can be the prelude to a new age for Africa.

This may strike some, the cynics who are always there, the cynics who said that this day could never have happened and that this parliament could never have met, those cynics are still out there and it may strike those cynics as false optimism to say that there can be a new age for Africa; it may for some when set against the unimaginable horrors of Rwanda or Angola, the conflict in Sudan, the devastation inflicted on millions by the unbridled violence in Somalia and in Ethiopia but think a moment! Consider this region just fifteen years ago: the bitter war in Zimbabwe sucking in the front-line state was unresolved, so was the struggle for Namibia's independence, civil wars scarred Mozambique and Angola and you know the circumstances in your country and now after a relatively short span only Angola remains at war; there too conflict may, I hope, be moving towards an end which would unlock Angola's huge riches.

So how can Africa be reinvigorated? What does it need, what must be done and who can do it, who can play a role to change the life not just of a country but of a whole continent and turn the history of two centuries on its head as we look forward to a better future? What does Africa most need? Africa needs peace and peace needs a combined effort by the United Nations, by external powers with strong African interests, by the Organisation of African Unity. Too often in history, Africa's stronger countries have been so beset by their own problems that they have been unable to give really effective help to others on their same continent. Of course, your first priority must be to achieve success within South Africa. Nevertheless, despite those immense preoccupations that you have, despite the fact that you only now together are beginning to take up that great task, you have already begun to be more active further afield in Africa. South Africa will have a powerful voice in Africa's future councils. The whole Continent, from the furthest north right down to your own country at the south, needs a strong, a vigorous and a benign South Africa and Africa needs development. That does not just mean aid.

Outside aid can do almost nothing without internal self-help and that surely has been one of the lessons we have learned over the last thirty years. The right conclusions are now being drawn, there is now a new mood of economic realism in many parts of Africa, market-place strategies are being adopted, difficult and painful though they may be, the courage is there and governments are beginning to adopt those strategies. No less than 29 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have chosen the hard, the difficult but the necessary and correct course of economic reform.

Outside help can take many forms. There is of course a need and a place for development aid from multi-lateral institutions and bilaterally. My country alone provides aid to Africa worth nearly 800 million pounds each year. Debt relief is a necessity too and many African countries have benefited from the Trinidad Terms initiative which I launched through the Commonwealth Finance Ministers four years ago. But over the long term, development will come above all from trade, from investment and from infrastructure. The benefits which a free and a prosperous South Africa can bring in this way to your fellow members of the SADC are immense and they are already being felt. South Africans are trading, improving roads and air links and developing communications into the heart of Africa and some of our British companies are proud to be partnering you in that remarkable and necessary work but welcome though it is, this is just the beginning. In aid, in trade and in diplomacy, Britain would like to work closely with South Africa to turn the tide at last in this Continent in which my nation has been so deeply involved for so many years.

Let me make to you this one final and important point. For years, more years than any of us would care to remember, our energies have been consumed in trying to limit trouble after it has started but it would be far far better - and indeed far less costly in lives and in other ways - if we were able to pre-empt that trouble before it began.

I believe that an entirely new effort at preventive diplomacy is long overdue. With our friends in Africa and with their agreement and with their participation, Britain wants to develop new mechanisms to head off conflicts before they become unstoppable; before the bloodshed and the misery that we have seen become reality, let us see if we can head them off. We have in mind, for example, setting up regional peacekeeping cells. we need more people trained to mediate, more people trained to act as peace-brokers. We would not need a cumbersome bureaucracy - not now or in any circumstances - but a tight and properly resourced infrastructure that could best be established in Africa itself to deal with the problems that exist in Africa itself.

These are ideas that we are developing and some of them will be put to the United Nations next week by the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, Douglas Hurd.

Madam Speaker, with the right backing in Africa and with the right backing that I hope and believe we will receive from the new South Africa, we believe that imaginative diplomacy of this kind can help the Continent of Africa towards that elusive new age.

Madam Speaker, to the early seafarers from Europe, this was not the Cape of Good Hope - it was the "Cape of Storms", that is how they knew it. In more recent times it has been a Cape of political storms whipped by by the winds of change, storms which have seen many bitter and many painful events in these parliamentary buildings, in this beautiful city, throughout a country that is uniquely blessed by nature.

In South Africa, the storm has gone. Hope, good hope, has come back to reside in your land.

Madam Speaker, South Africa's new beginning is bringing new opportunities, a new fellowship, to our relations and I am delighted that next year, at your invitation, Her Majesty The Queen will pay a State Visit to South Africa just as her father did before her many years ago in 1947. [Applause].

I believe we can truly say now that we are reunited, reunited in the Commonwealth, reunited as true democracies, reunited as trading partners and as sporting rivals, reunited in seeking solutions for all the problems of Africa and united, as we have always been, in the affection and myriad ties between our two peoples.

Madam Speaker, South Africa has come out of the storm and into the calm, out of isolation into fellowship, out of division into unity. Now you can light the way for others. You are forging a single non-racial, democratic nation at peace with itself. That is a formidable challenge for the years ahead. You will not lack willing helpers, you will not lack friends and we in Britain will be privileged to be first among them. I am grateful for your attention. [Applause].