Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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1986 Jun 27 Fr
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for TV-AM (Hague European Council)

Document type: speeches
Document kind: TV Interview
Venue: European Council Press Centre, Ministry of Agriculture, The Hague
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Adam Boulton, TV-AM
Editorial comments: Interviews probably followed the Press Conference which was due to begin at 1620.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1476
Themes: Agriculture, Commonwealth (South Africa), Employment, Energy, Environment, Trade, European Union (general), European Union Single Market, Foreign policy (Africa), Foreign policy (development, aid, etc)

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

Prime Minister, the EEC and the Commonwealth have already had missions to South Africa. Why do we need another mission by Sir Geoffrey Howe? What do you say to those people who merely see it as a delaying tactic?

Prime Minister

Well clearly, the Community thinks there is some point in having another mission and I agree with them. Things are changing. Unfortunately, there is more violence. That is not the change to which I am referring. I think it is that more and more people in South Africa are ready for change and are ready to have negotiations for change. There is a great moderate element in South Africa which wants change by negotiation and is ready to negotiate. We must take that. It is constructive, it is positive. It offers a much better way through than the violence which we are now seeing. [end p311]

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

But what do you say to the many people in Britain who, like you, abhor apartheid and may see the outcome of this meeting as extremely disappointing with really no measures being taken against South Africa?

Prime Minister

There are some people who say nothing has worked yet, therefore sanctions will work. Sanctions have not worked throughout history. They will not work in a country like South Africa, a country of enormous internal resources, with a strong economy, an immense coastline through which goods can get in and out. They would be likely, as many of our South African friends tell us, be damaging not helpful, and they would be likely to get just the wrong reaction from the South African Government to the one which we want. There is no point in going to see a person that you are trying to persuade and saying: “Look! Unless you do this, we shall threaten you with other measures.” That does work with the government of South Africa. There is some point in trying to say: “Look! You know change has to come about. You yourselves have called apartheid outmoded. We say it is more than outmoded; we think it is wrong. So try the path of dialogue. For that, you must release some of the black African leaders who are detained” —some of them are not, they are perfectly free, others are detained— “and enter into negotiations.” It is worth [end p312] trying. No, it does not hit out. There are some people in life who do like to hit out. They are not the people who get best results.

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

But you and the Foreign Secretary haved repeatedly said that the main people in South Africa pressing the government to give way on apartheid are the business community. Surely the way to harden the resolve the business community against apartheid would be to introduce measures which might hit that community?

Prime Minister

Well, hardly. If business had been in the forefront of change and often they have been in the forefront of ending the job reservation of training the black South Africans, if they had been in the forefront of breaking down apartheid and lobbying the government against it, it seems very strange to hit out at the very people who have been trying to bring about the change you wish to see. Far better to ally yourself to the effort they are making and say: “Right! You go on and try and persuade the government to try to negotiate and bring about peaceful change in the direction in which we have been going, only please, we want it faster, and please, we want a major negotiation.” [end p313]

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

That brings us to the positive measures which you are in favour of. We know that Britain is spending some £22 million. That is mostly going to the Front Line States. Will Britain be stepping up its aid and its involvement with anti-apartheid groups in South Africa?

Prime Minister

We shall be stepping up our aid—what we call positive measures—to help black South Africans by a further £15 million to add to the £22 million. I think that sum is over five years.

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

Do you have any idea now of what approach you are going to take to the Commonwealth meeting in August? Will you be trying to offer them something concrete, or will you be asking them to wait for the three-month period?

Prime Minister

I will describe to them obviously what has happened in the Community and point out that we are consulting with other industrialised countries—some of them of course are in the Commonwealth, Australia, Canada, Nigeria is a big industrialised country—and of course we shall be consulting with the United States and Japan and I think some of the [end p314] other countries in the OECD. After all, there would be no point even in considering whether measures were possible if other people were merely going to take up the trade which other countries cast aside and obviously, we have no wish to lose jobs in the United Kingdom only to have others pick them up and actually no benefit at all to South Africa. That would be an absurd policy.

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

Do you believe time is running out for apartheid in South Africa?

Prime Minister

Yes, I do. I do, but I hate violence in all its forms. We have violence there. We want a suspension of violence. The other side of the equation is in return for suspension of violence we want the commencement of negotiations. In a way, that is how we got through on Rhodesia. To say: “Now look! You have just got to give up the bullet in return for negotiations to get through to a constitution which you can agree to!” Not for us to say what results will come out of that negotiations. Those people who take part should say that, but those people who are taking part must properly and truly represent all of the interests in South Africa. [end p315]

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

And you accept now that Nelson Mandela and the ANC are at the centre of the solution and that they are terrorists?

Prime Minister

I believe that releasing Nelson Mandela and unbanning the ANC is a prerequisite to getting negotiations going, because they represent some of the black South Africans—not by any means all of them, there are other very prominent black leaders who do not agree with sanctions, who do not indulge in violence—but they represent some of them and therefore, if you are to negotiate with all of the black people in South Africa, with their chosen representatives, they would have to be released.

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

Finally and more broadly, Britain is coming into the EEC Presidency at a time when it is at the centre of at least behind the stage there is disagreement. What do you think are the prospects? What do you hope to achieve in the six months?

Prime Minister

I am sorry. I am not with you. Britain is at the centre of a behind-the-stage disagreement? [end p316]

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

Well there is at least an unresolved question over action against South Africa.

Prime Minister

Goodness me, there has been an unresolved question over about how to get apartheid to end for some time, but what you have got here is a detailed communique to which twelve countries have put their name, twelve countries represented by twenty-four people, that is positive, constructive and a considerable advance and it offers a hopeful way through, and they have put their confidence in Sir Geoffrey Howe as President of the Community—our Presidency is coming up in a few days—to try to negotiate on their behalf, to try to secure the discussions and dialogue we all wish to see. That is a great plus.

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

And away from South Africa, the general aims for that Presidency?

Prime Minister

Away from South Africa, we had a look at the economy and we wish the Social Fund to be devoted on measures to increase employment, to increase jobs, small businesses, increase training for young people how to start upm, how to set up on their own—everything which helps to reduce unemployment. We [end p317] also wish to have Europe much more the kind of internal market that you get in Japan and the United States, that is, the barriers down. We have got a long way to go to get the barriers down, but we shall try to take that forward.

We also had a look at nuclear power and the Chernobyl incident and we shall work together with the International Atomic Energy Agency to try to get safety standards and to try to ensure that any incident which could have a cross-border effect is reported quickly and other nations knows exactly what will happen.

And we have also had discussions about the problem of agricultural surpluses the world over, because those surpluses are causing enormous difficulties with many many economies. None of us can solve them alone. Again, it is something on which we have to consult.

All of those are things we will have to take forward during our Presidency.