Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Interview for Beeld (Afrikaans newspaper)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Willem Wepener, Beeld
Editorial comments:

1700-1750. The interview is preceded by written material (questions and answers prepared in advance), a procedure adopted to make the actual interview somewhat shorter and more general in nature and thus to save Prime Ministerial time.

Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 8481
Themes: Economic policy - theory and process, Trade, Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Foreign policy (Africa), Foreign policy (Asia), Foreign policy (Central & Eastern Europe), Foreign policy (Middle East), Commonwealth (Rhodesia-Zimbabwe), Commonwealth (South Africa), Arts & entertainment, Sport, Defence (general), Terrorism, Northern Ireland, Civil liberties, Law & order, Leadership, Autobiographical comments, British policy towards South Africa
Written interview:


You have been called all kinds of names because of your “defence” of South Africa on matters like sanctions. Why is this stance so important to you that you risk your popularity with so many people (notably the members of your own Commonwealth) because of a country you have visited only once?


Opposition to punitive sanctions against South Africa often is mis-represented as support for apartheid. That is simply nonsense. Apartheid is contrary to my whole philosophy, which is that people should be able to live where they like in their own country, exercise their full democratic rights and advance according to merit, not the colour of their skin. The reasons I oppose further sanctions against South Africa are clear. I cannot think how you can hope to make things better in South Africa by making them worse. General sanctions would put large numbers of black South Africans out of work permanently, would create immense hardship for their dependents and would be likely also to have disastrous effects in the neighbouring states. They would not make the South African Government more responsive to the need for change, and would instead contribute to internal polarisation and violence. I find it very difficult to see how that could help the cause of those struggling for positive change in South Africa.


President Reagan recently told the United States Congress that (I quote) “The 1986 sanctions have increased the appeal to whites of isolationist, ultra-conservative and white supremacist movements”. Do you agree that the world plays into the hands of the extreme right by increasing pressure on the country? And what will Britain's attitude to South Africa be should the far right get into power?


I think that increasing isolation does play into the hands of the extreme right. That is why I oppose it. As to the possibility of the far right getting into power, I prefer to think that white South Africans will have the sense not to permit that to happen. [end p1]


How do you feel about the use of sport boycotts as a political weapon against South Africa? Will you for instance support or object to the planned world rugby tour of South Africa next year to mark the South African Board's centenary? Will you agree to a Lions' tour of South Africa?


We abide by the terms of the Gleneagles Agreement. It is not for me to decide about rugby tours. Decisions of that nature are taken by the rugby boards, who are not under Government control. I do welcome, however, the initiative taken by Dr Craven towards full integration in sport and to help reduce South Africa's isolation.

South African Politics


In a recent speech in Belgium you rejected the idea of a United States of Europe. You said lsquo;Europe will be stronger precisely because it has France as France, Spain as Spain, Britain as Britain, each with its own customs, traditions and identities. It would be folly to try to fit them into some sort of identikit European personality’. In South Africa we have at least ten different population groups which by these criteria may well claim to be called separate nations, each having its own language, customs, culture, traditions, religion, etc. In view of this, do you think that the political philosophy behind South Africa's homelands policy deserves more understanding?


In Europe we are dealing with twelve countries which have existed for centuries as independent nations. We do not recognise the lsquo;independence’ of the homelands. I do think that arrangements will have to be worked out for South Africa which take account of the country's diversity. But it is for South Africans, black and white, not for me, to lay down what those arrangements should be. [end p2]


How do you see the future of South Africa? What do you actually expect to happen? How do you see the future of the white man in South Africa?


I believe that South Africa, like all other countries, has the capacity to change its future. Unless bold initiatives are taken, violence may increase and South Africa could become more isolated. That is not what I want to see happen. I believe that if courageous reform steps are taken, it will be possible to look forward to a very different future in which all South Africans can play their full part and live peacefully together. As for the white community, they have an indispensable part to play, both now and in the future. It is not only the Afrikaners who have deep roots in South Africa and who have helped to develop the agriculture, industry and infrastructure to the state it has reached today. It is essential to preserve and build on what has been achieved and in that regard as in others the white community has a vital role to play.


At the moment one man one vote in a unitary state is an unacceptable idea to the vast majority of white people, inter alia because of the difference between the population groups. May I ask: what is your opinion of this question?


At every stage I have made it clear that future constitutional arrangements for South Africa must be worked out by South Africans. They cannot be laid down by outsiders. I must add that I do not see how, in the modern world, it is possible to achieve political stability except on a basis where all adults have the vote. The issue is to reconcile the exercise of those normal democratic rights, which cannot be denied, with the reasonable protection of minority interests. How that is to be done has to be negotiated between South Africans. [end p3]


Will you agree that South Africa has indeed moved a long way on the road of reform under President P.W. Botha? What other reforms would you most like to see in the near future?


I do indeed agree that many reforms have been carried through under President Botha and I have often paid tribute to these - in particular to the legalisation of black trade unions, the scrapping of the pass laws under which hundreds of thousands of people were arrested every year, and the ending of job reservation. As to what further steps might be taken, I have made clear that I would like to see progress towards the abolition of the Group Areas Act. I do not believe that would have the dramatic consequences some people seem to fear: where people live is decided mainly by economic considerations. But, surely, people should have the right so far as possible to live where they wish. There are other steps I would like to see taken. I will come to those later.


How do you assess our state President's recent visits to African countries and his initiatives in the region? What do you think of political developments in Angola and [end p4] Namibia? Do you foresee a lasting peace in that area?


I welcome President Botha's recent visits to other African countries. We attach great importance, and have ourselves worked hard to contribute, to the normalisation of relations between South Africa and Mozambique. We have very strongly and directly supported the negotiating effort to bring peace in Angola, and an internationally recognised settlement for Namibia. Those negotiations are bearing fruit: it seems at last that there is agreement on the total withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola. This achievement will unblock the other problems in the way of Namibian independence. We shall be continuing to do everything in our power to help the talks on the remaining issues succeed. Apart from the benefits that could bring for the people of Angola and [end p5] Namibia, it would also be of great benefit to South Africa in terms of its relations with other states in the region and in the outside world.


In your opinion, should South Africa end the state of emergency immediately, gradually, or keep it up for as long as it is deemed necessary?


I do not think any country should reconcile itself to the prospect of living semi-permanently in a state of emergency. I hope that the state of emergency will be ended soon and that steps will be taken to normalise the situation. That, I believe, can best be done through the concept of negotiations in which all parties can participate, in the context of a suspension of violence on both sides. That concept has not yet been accepted. But I believe that it will be accepted one day and that it offers the best way forward.

Willem Wepener, Beeld0

You have mentioned that you may visit South Africa provided your visit could help to break down apartheid. Exactly what did you mean by that? And what are the chances that we may see you in South Africa soon?


I have no present plans to visit South Africa. But I certainly would visit your country if I believed that, in doing so, I could help to end apartheid and promote positive change. [end p6]


Do you think that releasing Mandela will make all that much difference to the world's opinion (and may I say, prejudice) of South Africa?


I think that releasing Nelson Mandela, provided he is released without being subject to all sorts of restrictions, would make a great difference to the world's opinion of South Africa. If he were to die in prison, I believe that would have disastrous consequences for South Africa. If he were released, that could help to open up the prospects for real negotiation internally and, as you know, I have consistently supported that. I welcome the recent announcement that he will not be returned to prison.


The reasons for your concern about Nelson Mandela are obvious. But recently you have also expressed yourself strongly in favour of clemency for the six people commonly referred to as the Sharpeville Six. Why did you get involved in this case, because the “Six” were after all tried and sentenced by a South African Court of Law, and even our worst enemies admit that South African courts are fair and just, and free from political interference?


There were features of the case of the Sharpeville Six which caused many of us not to question the Court's verdict, but to appeal for clemency. I am glad that clemency was exercised. [end p7]



Do you think there may be enough common ground for you and President Botha to get together and have a fruitful discussion on South African problems and the way in affects world affairs?


President Botha and I had long, very frank and useful talks at Chequers in 1984. I am in regular touch with him. If a further meeting would help to advance matters at some point, that will be a matter to be decided by us at the time.

Terrorism and the ANC


At last year's Commonwealth conference you have described the ANC as a “typical terrorist organisation”. The British Government afterwards described them as a representative black opposition organisation of South Africa and made it clear that it will stay in touch with the ANC. It was also reported that the statement was made with your approval. Does that mean there was a shift in your attitude towards the ANC, if so, why?

In your opinion, what is the difference between the IRA and the ANC?


Our attitude has not changed at all. I consistently have made clear the total opposition and abhorrence of the British Government for terrorist actions, whoever they may be committed by. Indiscriminate acts of terrorism such as letting off bombs in restaurants and in the street are not something I will ever condone. We will go on condemning them and have made that very clear to the ANC. I have made clear also my opposition to violent actions by the security forces.

As a political movement, the ANC undoubtedly is a factor in South African politics. The question is how to get it to give up the politics of violence. The best approach is by offering the possibility of negotiations. I have already made clear my view on that, which is that the way should be opened for a [end p8] negotiation between all the parties, in the context of a suspension of violence on all sides.

As to the difference between the IRA and the ANC, the IRA is a terrorist movement which seeks to impose its views by violent means. Let me remind you that there is universal suffrage in Northern Ireland, as in the rest of the United Kingdom. The vote is denied to no-one. All people in Northern Ireland have the right to express their views in a democratic way. Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA, attracts few votes. That is why the IRA resort to violence.


Recently Britain's SAS unit crossed the border with Spain to Gibraltar and shot and killed three IRA terrorists to prevent them exploding a car bomb. It is not quite the same thing but how do you feel about South Africa's pre-emptive strikes into neighbouring countries used by ANC-terrorists as a springboard for their terrorist attacks in South Africa?

The three IRA terrorists were shot dead in Gibraltar, which is a British Dependent Territory, for the security of which the British Government is responsible. The terrorists were on a mission to plant a huge bomb in Gibraltar and were shot when they failed to respond to challenges from the security forces. At no time did the soldiers cross into Spain. In Northern Ireland, where we are working closely with the Irish Government to improve security in the border area, British security forces scrupulously respect the border. There is no question of their breaching the border in pursuit of terrorists and at all times the security forces operate within the law. [end p9]

World Affairs


Mr. Bush has just been elected the next President of the United States. You met the President-Elect during your visit to Washington a fortnight ago. To what extent do you think you will be able to work together in dealing with the problems of Southern Africa? Do you foresee any drastic changes in the United States' foreign policies under the new administration?


I was very glad to meet George Bushthe President-Elect during my visit to Washington. He is of course an old and greatly valued friend and we have worked very closely together for many years. I do not foresee any major changes in the foreign policy of the United States and I have no doubt that we shall be able to work very closely together in dealing with the problems of Southern Africa.


At the Conservative Party's Annual Conference you warned the West to stay on its guard against Communism. Does that mean that you are sceptical of Mr. Gorbachev's reform plans?


As you know, I have met President Gorbachev several times and am looking forward to seeing him again in London next month. I do not doubt the seriousness of his reform plans. I support what he is trying to do because I believe it will increase the freedom of individual people in the Soviet Union. But the Soviet system is not going to change overnight and we must continue to be on guard against its efforts to spread its influence in the world at our expense. At the same time we should take opportunities to put across the idea that confrontation serves no purpose. [end p10]


Is there any special message you would like me to convey to South Africans?


The message I would most like you to convey to South Africans is that positive change is possible. It is indeed inevitable. It requires a real effort of will and of courage to break away from the past. But unless you are prepared to do it, and to tackle the problems boldly, they will be in danger of overwhelming you. That is the problem we had to face in Britain and that is the way we tried to deal with it. I was very struck by the phrase in a policy document of the Broederbond: lsquo;The greatest risk is not taking any risks’. That is true of my whole philosophy and I believe that it is as relevant to South Africa as it was to Britain.



I think I can safely say that you have captured the imagination of the whole world with what you have achieved in Britain since you became Prime Minister. In a little more than a decade you have transformed it from a struggling country to one of the most prosperous in the western world. lsquo;Thatcherism’ is the term widely used to describe your special style of leadership and government. Will you please define that (lsquo;Thatcherism’) in more detail and also tell us what you regard as the secret of your success? In particular how you succeeded in taming the notoriously militant British trade unions of some decades ago, how you brought down the inflation rate to what it is at the moment, the unemployment figure to its lowest point in many years and turned Britain back from what looked like a road to certain disaster to what it is today? [end p11]


I inherited a situation in which the economy was stagnating: industry was suffering from serious over-manning: Britain was falling behind the other industrialised nations: and there was indeed a feeling that our economic decline was irreversible. I did not accept any of that. I set about trying to change things fundamentally. That can only be done by taking difficult and painful decisions - about public expenditure, the transfer of resources out of the public and into the private sector, deregulation and freeing the economy to operate in a more efficient manner. The results in the past few years have been dramatic. But it was a painful and difficult process and one had to risk a lot of unpopularity to get the right results.


Is there a brand of Thatcherism that might be applied with the same measures of success in a developing country like South Africa, or in the rest of Africa for that matter?


Of course policies of this kind can be applied in South Africa and in other countries. I note that your Government has been stating its commitment to privatisation and deregulation and I welcome that. But deregulation will entail getting rid of a good many regulations which stem directly from the apartheid system. I believe that you must set free your economy if you are to get back to sustained economic growth and that can only be done by moving ahead with political reform.



On a more personal note: would you mind telling us more about your job, what you regard as the most difficult time of your career (and how you dealt with it) and your biggest single achievement? And perhaps most important of all, whether you like what you are doing and for how long you intend going on doing it? No answer given in writing. See lsquo;Beeld’ interview, 29 November 1988. [end p12]

Oral interview begins:

Willem Wepener, Beeld

I do not think anybody in South Africa sees your stance on sanctions as a defence of apartheid as such?

Prime Minister

You relieve me a great deal because I have always been a little bit perturbed that sometimes outside South Africa people assume that if you are very much against sanctions, you must be pro-apartheid, and nothing could be further from the truth.

I have always said that there is no way of getting out of apartheid except by having a good strong healthy economy and it is the companies, and the work which they are doing, that are breaking down some of the natural barriers and also getting many many more people accustomed to having a very good standard of living, a [end p13] very very good standard of living in some respects.

You start to take that away and you will have more and more trouble and far less tendency to go towards negotiation which, as you know, is my objective. To go towards negotiation is my objective.

Willem Wepener, Beeld

I am glad you mention economics. I shall start with a statement, that black socio-economic advancement is probably the most effective weapon against apartheid, inter alia because it is the best way to make the ideal of standards, rather than colour, acceptable to South Africans, that is the only way to the final solution, when people forget about colour and talk about standards, you often hear people say: “Will you accept a black President for South Africa?” That is not really what this is all about. The fact is whether it is the President who comes up to the standards of the people who elect him. I have two questions arising out of this statement: do you think there is room for much larger, well-directed investments, promoting black socio-economic advancement on behalf of the UK, Europe and US Governments? [end p14]

Prime Minister

First, I agree with you that people should get their advancement on merit - merit and effort, merit, talent and effort. It is an amalgam of all three. Some people work extremely hard and therefore get more money although they may not necessarily work at a highly skilled job. Others have highly skilled work and get more money because of the nature of the job and I think where industry has done so much for breaking down apartheid in South Africa is that they have had to train able young black South Africans for the managerial jobs and pay them according to the rate for the job.

Industry is getting more and more skilled and they need them. So that is breaking down apartheid.

Also on the new housing estates that are put up, there is no apartheid, you do not have any group areas on the new housing estates so it makes me very very cross when I hear some people saying: “Oh, we will disinvest in South Africa”. I say: “Don't be so absurd. If you want to get the end of apartheid, you want investment in South Africa because it is that which is getting rid of it.”

I do not think there is any possibility of government going to invest in South Africa. I am not really very pro-government investment. I do not think they know what to invest in. But companies that are already there, ploughing back their investments, that is in fact a way to get more people trained, more educated. [end p15]

As far as educating black South Africans, we have a particular programme, again I do sometimes say to my political colleagues: “We do not just sit back and let things happen in South Africa, we do actually have a programme for the education of black South Africans who may not be able to get everything they want there, £20 million, and we do it through the British Council among other things”.

We also help the Front Line States in many ways so we are very constructive in our approach. I then go on to say just exactly what you will say: “But don't you realise the real problem is that when you have got people highly educated, cultured, doing very very well indeed, the resentment that they cannot have any part in government must be enormous because that just comes back to the colour of your skin”.

I agree one is trying to break that down and people here would have asked the question years ago: “Do you think there will ever be a woman Prime Minister?” Well the short answer is you do not think that way, you see people coming up, you look at a personality and you say, “Would that personality make a Prime Minister?”

So I think that we are along the same lines but my whole objective has been to act in such a way that would help to bring about the negotiations between the Government and the many many different groups of black South Africans and of all colours there. [end p16]

It is not for me to say what would come out of that but I do believe you are not going to get anywhere until you get some kind of negotiation going.

As you know, I do not believe that people like Chief Buthelezi or Chief Mabusa (phon) or the people who have rejected violence could possibly enter into a negotiation until Nelson Mandela was released and able to speak freely and then I think that all kinds of possibilities open up.

So I am the first to say that some of the recent decisions have been encouraging because I think when you say gladly that they have been encouraging then you are likely to get more in the same direction, which is exactly what I want. We were very pleased about the decision on the Sharpeville Six and we understand that Mr Mandela will not be sent back to prison. We would like to think that he will be released and able to speak freely on what he thinks because we think that that will lead to negotiations.

When you get negotiations going, as I know having done all the Zimbabwe negotiations, then although it may take a long time, you are on the way to finding a way through.

Willem Wepener, Beeld

Talking about Zimbabwe, do you regard that as, I would not say an ideal, but a good solution for what Rhodesia …? [end p17]

Prime Minister

Our way, as you know, is a way to have different parties. You then have an alternative government if you have different parties and we think a true democracy requires different parties. Other people, maybe because of their history or because of their political problems, take it a different way. But I think you need more than one party.

Willem Wepener, Beeld

On the matter of sanctions …

Prime Minister

There is a very good reason for that you know, electorally it is that if you ever get a real crisis and you have only got one-party government, there is not an alternative. There may be a changing round of personalities, but there is not an alternative and I think it is much better, always, for there to be an alternative government so that if you do get any real problems, you get the means of change through the democratic process.

Willem Wepener, Beeld

The alternative government can also of course be too ghastly to contemplate, as one of our Prime Ministers said once, I am talking about South Africa now but coming back to sanctions now that President Reagan is retiring, you will in effect become the [end p18] unofficial leader of the Western world. I can imagine that in the future every statement you make, every step you take, particularly where South Africa is concerned, will be scrutinised even more than before. Do you think that might make any difference to your approach to South African problems?

Prime Minister

I think President Bush will be a very effective President. He is of enormous experience, right across the world, and I think that is a tremendous plus for us all and I think that he will start on these tremendous problems, the Middle East, South Africa, Namibia, Angola, the Angolan one is going well and I am greatly encouraged about that.

Of course we have known him for a long time. When we have been across there to see Ronald Reaganthe President we have always seen George Bush and so in a way it is a continuation.

So I think that the dialogue lsquo;twixt he and myself will continue and also in Europe of course Chancellor Kohl and the Anibal Cavaco SilvaPortuguese Prime Minister, we have, the three of us, a particular interest in South Africa because quite a number of our people who were formerly our citizens are there. So we tend to take a similar view.

But you see the interesting thing is that it is our view which really has turned out, if I might say so, to be the right one. [end p19]

It is no good dashing in and trying to make people poverty-stricken and starving and hard up and suffering because you want to hit out at someone. You do not get anywhere in politics if you just want to hit out at someone. You might make headlines but you do not achieve anything. To achieve anything you have got to be patient and constructive and go generally in the right way.

If you hear your words twisted, you have just got to point out that they have been twisted totally wrongly and again point out what you believe and why you believe it and that really, when I started to fight this comprehensive sanction, really I had practically no-one with me. Now I do not have many people against me. Really that is very good.

Willem Wepener, Beeld

Can you foresee a time when things in South Africa could develop in such a way that neither you nor Mr Bush will find it possible to use your veto in the Security Council?

Prime Minister

I cannot foretell what will come up in the Security Council. I can only say that whenever things do come up I think we shall take a view similar to that which we have taken to date. [end p20]

Willem Wepener, Beeld

What I really mean is, can you see things deteriorate so much in South Africa &dubellip;? [end p21]

Prime Minister

I do not think it is helpful to go down that road.

I think the decisions taken recently have been encouraging.

I think - as I indicated in earlier answers - finding a solution to Angola, the withdrawal of the Cuban troops and then coming up to independence in Namibia is a tremendous plus for the whole area. You could not have done it without South Africa; you could not have done it without the United States; you could not have done it without Mr. Gorbachev, nor the people in Angola, but things are on the move in the right direction, so let us just push them always in the right direction. [end p22]

Willem Wepener, Beeld

You did comment on the matter of emergency regulations in South Africa.

Are you aware that most of the emergency regulations are vital for the protection of moderate blacks against black terrorism?

Prime Minister

I know quite a lot of things about terrorism! I know quite a lot about it. We have to have things in Northern Ireland: the army as an aid to the civil power, they would never have in the rest of the United Kingdom, but one is surely working towards the time when you will get negotiations going and working, if I might put it this way, to bring people who have a moderate approach and a positive approach, of whatsoever background, to have the predominant influence so that one goes ahead in a kind of building of the future, and that is our aim.

Yes, you will get intimidation, I am afraid. Under those circumstances you do.

Willem Wepener, Beeld

My question about the Sharpeville Six was a bit dated by the time it reached you. [end p23]

Prime Minister

Can I just say that South Africa and Northern Ireland are not on a par in any way. I must say that. They are not. It is not a question of apartheid.

In Northern Ireland it is people who have the ballot, who will not accept the result of the ballot and turn to terrorism and that is what I say I understand as intimidation, but it is quite a different situation from South Africa, where you have got apartheid and people stopped by the colour of their skin from taking part.

Willem Wepener, Beeld

In this report drawn up by the Conservative Member of Parliament, Mr. Andrew Hunter, he did give the names and addresses of ANC members in London and he referred to them as “Angels of death” and I think he even gave evidence of their part in the planning of terrorism in South Africa.

Even so, the ANC is still allowed to have their biggest field office here in England. Does that make sense to you, shall I say? [end p24]

Prime Minister

I am not going to comment on any correspondence between Andrew Hunter and myself - you would not expect me to - but in this country, many organisations have the right to start up here. We do not start off by saying no-one has any right unless we say you have. Anyone has a right to start up here, provided that they do not go against our laws - they do not infringe our laws. If they do infringe our laws, then we take action against them as we would against any other citizen.

There are very few proscribed organisations - forbidden organisations - the IRA is one, its associated INLA and the associated ones on the Unionist side. The others, so long as they adhere to our laws, they are free to operate, and that is really what a democracy means.

If they ever were to incite to violence, they would fall foul of our laws.

Willem Wepener, Beeld

Even if it is violence against another country?

Prime Minister

If they incite to violence, I think they will fall foul of our laws - clear evidence of incitement to violence.

We look very carefully! [end p25]

Willem Wepener, Beeld

You see, I take your point about the difference between the IRA and the ANC, but nevertheless, to us they are both terrorist organisations.

Prime Minister

The IRA bomb and maim in this country. We have actual evidence of what they do. The PLO is another organisation I am constantly asked about it in London. If any person infringes our laws, we take action, provided you can get the evidence.

Willem Wepener, Beeld

But seeing things from South Africa's point of view, you say the IRA maim and bomb and that is exactly what the ANC is doing in South Africa.

Prime Minister

We have to have evidence here of what is being done here. We have lost two thousand people as a result of IRA and INLA action.

Willem Wepener, Beeld

You think that South Africa should negotiate with the ANC? [end p26]

Prime Minister

It is not for me to say. I think there should be negotiations going, as I have constantly said, with representatives of the government and representatives of all the different groups in South Africa and I think that that will be quite a number.

When we ourselves have had negotiations going, we have said - and it is the same as I say in connection with the Middle East - that when we have negotiations going, the quid pro quo is that you accept that negotiations are the way forward and you suspend violence.

There are many people who wish to say that you totally and utterly renounce violence. When we were doing the negotiations with Zimbabwe, they did not actually renounce violence during the negotiations. What they did do was accept at the end of the negotiations that it would be the decision of the ballot and not the bullet, so they did renounce it at that stage. Of course, there was a good deal less while the negotiations were going on.

Willem Wepener, Beeld

It was reported that you are in favour of reinstating the death penalty in Britain. Is that so? [end p27]

Prime Minister

It is not a party political matter. I have always, when we have had a debate on the matter, believed that there should be available a death penalty for the most hideous, awful, terrible murders, not as a mandatory sentence, but as one sentence available to a judge for the most terrible murders. I am in a minority.

I do not believe anyone should be able to go out and know that no matter what terrible things he does in taking away other people's lives, that his will never be forfeit, and I believe that there are many people with whom the fact that they might lose their own life as part of a proper sentence after a proper conviction in court on some people that is a deterrent.

Willem Wepener, Beeld

Something completely different, arising out of your remarks about the reform that was effected during President Botha's time. May I ask you - if you do not want to answer this, you need not - how would you describe the present relationship between yourself and President Botha, relaxed or strained?

Prime Minister

I have met President Botha once. When he came to Europe, he came for a day at Chequers. We had a long time discussing matters. I listened extremely carefully to him - he listened extremely carefully to me. [end p28]

We were particularly concerned at that time about enforced removals and he promised to look into them personally and he did and gradually, as you know, the policy of enforced removals went and the particular one - which I think was land ceded by King Edward VII - he looked into personally and I think that that too was sorted out.

From time to time, I obviously have been in touch through the usual diplomatic channels and sometimes through direct correspondence.

Willem Wepener, Beeld

Over to world affairs!

You recently, at your Party Conference, said that President Reagan had rebuilt the confidence and strength of the West and you added: “not without a little help”, which was interpreted as a lighthearted reference to your own contribution.

Prime Minister

I think that was really just about the right way to put it. We have been very active in East-West relations; we have been absolutely staunch in defence of freedom and justice and we do not suddenly dash off with different defence policies because we have greater hopes for the future. Hopes are very nice but they are not enough on which to found a good defence policy and really, we have worked extremely well together and it has been a very very fruitful period. [end p29]

Willem Wepener, Beeld

You did have a very good relationship with President Reagan

I hear you have urged Mr. Bush - you mentioned it just now - to take a more open line towards the PLO. Exactly what did you mean?

Prime Minister

It was not a particularly open line. When I was over there, we had the very extensive communique on the Palestinian National Council, of which there are many interpretations. There are many different parts of the PLO, as there often are of these organisations. It seemed to me that there were signs of movement there; that they were prepared to accept Resolutions 242 and 338.

We have been trying to persuade the PLO to accept that for a long time. Indeed, in 1985, the conditions I laid down for seeing two members of the executive of the PLO in London were they would accept those two Resolutions and also that they would accept Israel's right to exist behind secure borders and that they would renounce violence.

It seemed to me from that particular communique that they were coming along on one very good fundamental thing - 242 and 338. That would implictly recognise Israel's right to exist, although they have not yet got it explicit but again, it is part of my belief [end p30] that when you have been trying to persuade people to do something for a long time and it looks as if they are doing it, you do in fact encourage them to move further in the same direction because that is the way in which you are going to get negotiations going and that was the view which I took in Washington and I think was the right view.

I know that the heads of state of many of the moderate Arab states have worked extremely hard to do the good, moderate thing and it does not encourage them to go on unless one recognises the tremendous value of their work.

I have constantly, when I have been over to the United States, said: “Look! At the beginning of a new Presidency, really the Middle Eastern situation is crying out for a real positive move forward now, a real drive to try and get negotiations going and that will not happen without the enormous influence of the United States!” [end p31]

Willem Wepener, Beeld

You, as I think most of them, see Mr Yasser Arafat's intention to recognise the state of Israel as a ploy to make it easier for the Palestinians eventually to destroy the state of Israel by driving them back from certain conquered areas and making it more difficult for them to …

Prime Minister

I am the first person to say Israel must have a continued right to exist behind secure borders and there can be no negotiation about that. That is not negotiable. Israel has a right to exist behind secure borders and 242 is round about the 1967 borders. But it is absolute as far as I am concerned, Israel has the right to exist there behind secure borders. [end p32]

Her integrity as a state, like integrity of all other states in the region, must be honoured. So I have nothing to do with anything that does not accept that at the outset and that is why I said that was one of the conditions for my seeing two members of the PLO, who did not accept those conditions, so we were not able to see them.

We have got so far I think as 242 and 338 now. I think that many many of the Arab world, I would say most of the Arab world, accepts Israel's right to exist by implication. They find it difficult to be as explicit about it as that. But to me it is vital.

Willem Wepener, Beeld

What were the most important impressions you gained from your recent visit to Poland?

Prime Minister

It was a very interesting visit which I will never forget. Poland is different. Its history is different, its country deeply steeped in its Christianity, Catholicism is an enormously important part of life.

You have got quite a considerable part of the population reaching out for greater liberty through the means of Solidarity. Solidarity is not just a trade union movement, it is the only [end p33] way in which people who disagree with communism can express their own policies.

There is quite a lot of expression of opinion there, a great deal of openness of debate. But of course it is turning that into constructive action. It is run very much as a communist state, with permits and controls and everything else.

But Poland obviously we feel very specially about by reason of the occasion on which we went to war. But it was extremely interesting.

They are talking about Round Table talks between Government and Solidarity and various other people. Mr Walesa I thought was a quietly impressive person, very articulate, with a way of encapsulating the feeling of the people around him and a very sensible and moderate person.

Willem Wepener, Beeld

He gives that impression.

Prime Minister

Very sensible and moderate and therefore a good kind of person to negotiate with. General Jaruzelski is also a very considerable personality and we had long talks together. [end p34]

I think the fact is these countries have been running on communism and they know communism cannot deliver the goods. It just does not. But they do not know how to get from where they are now to where they want to be and it is not easy because it means letting go of some of the central planning and control and giving far more independence.

I wish Mr Gorbachev success. With all my heart I think it is a tremendous, bold, brave and courageous step he is taking because he wants a better life for his people and knows that he cannot do it under the present system.

I think that some of the satellite countries are a little bit uncertain as to what it means to them although I see now more of them, you see Czechoslovakia this morning, more of them now having more liberty they feel to go in the same direction. Certainly Hungary went in that direction before.

But it is a very exciting time. You have got these things happening between East and West, Iran and Iraq coming up to some kind of solution, the Middle East we have not got negotiations going yet, Namibia, Angola, they were. So we have got the Middle East and the possibility of negotiations there and the possibility of negotiations for a solution in Southern Africa.

There is much more hope and there is more discussion now about Vietnam and Cambodia because Cambodia has had a terrible, her people have had a terrible time. But there is more hope. [end p35]

You have got to take the moderate, sensible people and their willingness to talk, and move the whole thing in the right direction constantly because I firmly believe, having been in politics now for nearly thirty years as a Member of Parliament, that although there are many very difficult people about who take extreme views, the majority, given a chance, will take a moderate view, if they are able freely to come to a conclusion, will come to a reasonably sensible, moderate, fair view. Because I think that the majority are reasonably fair people and so we are constantly trying to encourage those.

Willem Wepener, Beeld

About Mr Gorbachev, are you sure he can pull it off?

Prime Minister

No-one is sure. There are very few things in this world which are absolutely sure. I am sure that Mikhail Gorbachevhe is determined to do everything possible and I think that the amount which has been achieved, the much greater openness, the much greater freedom of movement, of discussion, of expressing opinions, of debate, of open debate. Already that is a very considerable achievement.

It is much more difficult to turn from a totally centrally-controlled economy to much more signs of a market economy when you have not in fact had a background of a country used to running [end p36] their own businesses, because they were not. The farmers did not have all their own land, they did not have it under the Tsar, let alone Lenin or Stalin and so you have not anything to work on.

So they have to start to get this kind of independent outlook and the kind of management and budgeting for themselves. So it is much more difficult, but they will not give up.

Willem Wepener, Beeld

How seriously do you take the proposed human rights conference to be held in Moscow?

Prime Minister

I think it is too soon to decide whether that conference will take place there. We have to be certain that considerable strides will be made on the way to human rights, very considerable strides, enormous strides, before we should agree to hold one there.

There are also enormous strides made towards human rights that need to be made in South Africa.

Willem Wepener, Beeld

I ask you about Mr Gorbachev because we have a stake in his sincerity. He expressed his eagerness to get the Cubans out of Angola and to help expedite the process towards peace in Namibia. Do you think South Africa should take him on his word? [end p37]

Prime Minister

I think when Mikhail Gorbachevhe has carefully negotiated, and I do not think those negotiations could have got as far as they did without his approval, I think he will keep to agreements that are signed. There are usually arrangements for monitoring them, as you know.

Willem Wepener, Beeld

There is one question you did not answer of course which to South Africans would be very interesting and that is the one on a personal note, asking you about your job and your day-to-day activities.

Prime Minister

It is just very busy.

Willem Wepener, Beeld

How much time do you put into it?

Prime Minister

A lot, a great deal. When I finish tonight I have an Audience at the Palace and then I have to get back to the House of Commons and one or two other things to fit in in between and then we have a big division and we shall not be back from the House until about quarter to eleven tonight. I will have two or three boxes to do then of documents. [end p38]

Tomorrow I have to go to see Mr Mitterrand in France. The next day it is the European Council and so it is quite an overseas week, the European Council of two and a half days.

Then I come back to a load of work to do and on Sunday I will have to, I have started off a speech today for one that has to be given next week and we will have to complete that and again all the papers for the following week.

I am up usually late at night and the boxes, if I do not finish late at night, I finish them in the morning at breakfast so that when I come down here at nine o'clock the boxes are done and we are ready to start the day and the day is seeing people, meetings, going out and doing things, going on tour, chairing Cabinet, chairing committees, seeing many many overseas visitors, seeing industrialists, seeing people represent social services, seeing Members of Parliament, going out to speak to luncheons. I think I have done a lot of speeches recently. Keeping in touch with Chambers of Commerce, the CBI and so on and answering Questions in the House twice a week.

So we just keep going.

Willem Wepener, Beeld

But it is a gruelling programme. [end p39]

Prime Minister

It is a gruelling schedule, it is an absolutely gruelling schedule, but I have got used to it because we work hard at anything we do. It is no good either going to see another Head of Government or Head of State unless you have really worked hard and done the briefing and so we have had several lots of briefing to do this week because we have got the Rhodes Council. [end p40]

Willem Wepener, Beeld

You said at the Party Conference you foresee ten more years of Conservative government. Did you mean by that to include you as Prime Minister?

Prime Minister

I hope that there will be at least ten more years of Conservative government and I hope I shall do quite a bit of it, but it does not wholly depend upon me.

Willem Wepener, Beeld

What do you do when you relax? Do you read? [end p41]

Prime Minister

I do not have much time to relax. We really would like just to have supper with a few people and just talk - mostly politics comes into it, of course it does - and people say you talk shop, but if shop is your life, you know, you do not mind talking about it. I like reading. Now and then, we go to the theatre or now and then we go to opera and we listen to music, but we do not sort of go out for the day that much - at least I do not.

Willem Wepener, Beeld

You have a Master Degree in art? Fine art?

Prime Minister

Yes. It is rather strange. In Oxford, you take a Master of Arts Degree on Natural Science and then the BSc is a research degree. Also, I qualified in law.

I do like the Arts world. I do sometimes go to the art galleries.

Willem Wepener, Beeld

Prime Minister, one very last question. I will not keep you. Thank you very much for seeing me and giving all this time to me.

If I may say so, in South Africa we only see you on TV and you look always calm and confident and attractive, if I may say so.

Is it that you always have all your emotions under control? [end p42]

Prime Minister

I think everyone has emotions but when you are expressing yourself in debates in the House and answering questions you obviously have to keep calm, otherwise your mind cannot work properly. But it is years of training and do not forget years of training in science is years of training in finding the facts and drawing the conclusions - similarly in law. So it is not difficult for me both to set out to find the facts, draw the conclusions and then try to say well if that is not right, we must either change the law or change policy because we are not getting the right answer - but that kind of sequence of the facts, the conclusions and then: this is not giving us the right answer, we have to change things, comes quite naturally to me, otherwise I could not get through.