Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1989 Oct 2 Mo
Margaret Thatcher

Press Conference for South African journalists in London

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Press Conference
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1555-1700.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 7960
Themes: Commonwealth (Rhodesia-Zimbabwe), Commonwealth (South Africa), Trade, European Union Single Market, Foreign policy (Africa), Foreign policy (development, aid, etc), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Labour Party & socialism, Media, Northern Ireland, Terrorism, Trade unions

Question

Why were we given the honour of an interview with you?

Prime Minister

It is not unusual to me. The number of people who come in here, I am surprised that you find it unusual, I do not find anything unusual about it.

Question

We are delighted because it is quite an historic thing, you might not know that.

Prime Minister

Well, it is not unusual to me at all, the numbers of people who come into see me, the numbers of interviews I give, the numbers we do in this way, because we could not possibly do them all you see unless we did the written answers and then had a short oral meeting, a getting-to-meet-you interview afterwards. It is the normal way I work so it did not occur to me that there was anything strange about it. Was that your first question, why are you here? [end p1]

Question

Yes.

Prime Minister

Because you asked to come and obviously you are all very important and there are things happening in South Africa and it is a critical time and it is the usual way in which I work.

Question

This question that although your government has adhered to the Gleneagles Agreement on sporting contacts with South Africa, but you allow trade freely with South Africa, what do you consider to be the difference between sport and business contacts?

Prime Minister

Yes, trade has gone on, trade goes on between almost all Commonwealth countries and South Africa. We have two things really, we have the United Nations mandatory Security Council Resolution against armaments. Now that is mandatory and that is universal, or should be, absolutely universal. The other agreement we have is the Gleneagles which is a voluntary agreement and not enforceable and the only other one we have are the agreements that we reached at Nassau which are on a certain number of comparatively small things which we say were gesture agreements. [end p2]

Otherwise, yes, we do carry on as normally, otherwise we should be going to what some people want—compulsory sanctions—which I have always recoiled from. I cannot see that South Africa has any future for all of her people if she has a destroyed economy. If you want a better life you have to have a sound economy. So does that answer your question?

Question

Yes, it does.

Prime Minister

Good.

Question

I would like to first say we admire you as the Prime Minister and a woman. For women in South Africa we have got great admiration for you. We also admire the British Government for the role it plays, but as black people we feel terribly let down and we do not understand why you support de Klerk, what is so different about de Klerk that has not been said by other people? I guess I am trying to encapsulate what I have said in my first question, that until such time as we are full citizens of that country we can never rest. So your reply was that that is a process by which we can arrive at and we agree that post-apartheid is not a station which we arrive at overnight, but having said that, the legalisation of trade unions [end p3] is a step in the right direction but at the same time the South African regime gives a little bit and takes much more. So the majority of black people's view is, why do you support a government that is not prepared for the fundamental changes?

Prime Minister

Look, we are all against apartheid, we all want to bring it to an end, the only question is how? Now there have been some movements in the last years, nothing like enough but there have been some movements, and there have been with a number of your fellow citizens, they are getting quite well qualified in education and some of them are doing well economically and a lot of them are not.

But now there are, for example, obviously more black people qualifying with matriculation than there are white. So you are not short of people getting a good education although you want it for everyone.

Now the only question between us is how do you bring apartheid to an end? It seems to me that the new government which has been elected has a much better programme of reform and a much better will to peaceful reform than any other government we have had. That is why and it seems to me that they will, after the Eminent Persons Group, you know that our formula is you have to solve it by negotiation between all of the peoples in South Africa under some kind of convention or negotiating process, in return for a suspension of violence, some people would say halting violence completely. [end p4]

Having had some experience of trying to negotiate from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe, we did it there, the moment we started the negotiation process there was a suspension of violence and we had them all over to Lancaster House and it was there negotiations in return for suspension of violence and then we came right through with the result that you know.

So one has just a little bit of experience of getting negotiations started against a background in which there had been violence, and it worked. So you ask me, do I support the present government? I support a process of getting rid of apartheid. I believe that that process is likely to go much more quickly now than it was previously. I believe that that was clear during the election and I believe that it is clear now.

Question

How do you quantify the will which you think de Klerk has because he is telling us rhetorics that we heard from Vorster? Vorster was asking for six months and he has elongated it to five years and these people, he is acting within the Nationalist Party Government?

Prime Minister

I try every way I can to urge the present government to make some moves because you need them, the world is expecting some moves. Mr de Klerk, President de Klerk said that he regarded the election result as a mandate for reform and it is. [end p5]

So we are not talking about difference in objectives between yourself and myself in any way. We are talking about how to bring about a situation where apartheid ends but at the same time I am trying to say to you: do not in the process destroy the economy.

Question

I was not even looking at the economy, Mrs Thatcher, de Klerk was talking of reforms and the black people's agenda, fundamentals have to be addressed—the vote.

Prime Minister

I agree, I am not arguing with you in that way, of course the fundamentals have to be addressed. I am not arguing with that way at all. Of course they do. [end p6]

Question

Mrs. Thatcher, you say the programme that the present government has is better than the programme that the last government had. Which programme are you talking about?

Prime Minister

First, Mr. de Klerk said that he regarded the election result as a mandate for reform. He is now working out his programme. He knows full well that we expect certain things to happen. We know that we cannot fix either a programme or negotiations for him. He knows that we expect certain things to happen and I believe that he will be working them out, about how to bring them about. But he has a mandate for reform and he accepts that. We cannot do a programme for him.

Question

If I could just remind you, in 1983, November, there was a referendum in South Africa and …   . asked specifically, the private sector, to give him a mandate for reform and they voted for him in that referendum and nothing has changed. In fact, de Klerk is saying the same thing that Botha said in 1983. [end p7]

Prime Minister

With all due respect, I think it has changed and I think from the outside the situation in South Africa has changed a good deal. For example, South Africa has taken part in the negotiations over Namibia, which was quite a step forward. It could not have come about that we would have the present situation in Namibia working up to free elections.

Harry Oppenheimer: I give you one example which I happen to know about. They have in fact given shares, they had a distribution of shares to all of the people in the company. It did not get much publicity but it was in fact quite significant.

Question

That was a controversial issue. Those shares were a controversial issue. The giving out of shares to black workers was a controversial issue.

Prime Minister

Why was it a controversial issue?

Question

Because people did not understand that in 1984 he was coming up with this scheme thereby giving people shares and, you know, people are suspicious of hand-outs. [end p8]

Prime Minister

I think if you are saying that what I regard as a cardinal principle of a property-owning democracy was a matter of suspicion when given similarly to all people who work in his company, I think you will find that obviously I could not agree with you. I thought it was a great move forward.

Question

The suspicion came from the trade union movement.

Prime Minister

The trade union movement here does not believe in property-owning democracy because they—some of them—want people much more under their control. Giving a property-owning democracy gives people much more significance, dignity, etc., each person. Of course, it is no substitute for the vote and no-one is suggesting that. But it does seem to me that all your new housing areas are not segregated. Some of the old ones are, but a lot of the new ones are not. Where the companies are building them, as far as I know, the big companies—Oppenheimer, oil companies—they are not segregated housing.

Question

They are!

Prime Minister

You may know some that are. [end p9]

Question

Mrs. Thatcher, I just wanted to make a follow-up on one question …   .

Prime Minister

… which were built by companies for their employees; they are not segregated areas any more than they are in the Rossing Mine in Namibia. Housing is not segregated.

Question

I can only talk of South Africa. I do not know of any unsegregated area that has come up.

Question

Well, they call them “free settlement areas” , “grey areas” .

Question

Those are not news areas that have been by companies.

Prime Minister

Of course there are some grey areas but there are some new housing schemes going up by companies for their employees which are not segregated in any way. B.P.—I said the oil companies—I wish to goodness I had got all my brochures and things here.

Shall we go back to the beginning now? [end p10]

Question

There has been a lot of talk about your visit to South Africa; I mean it has been written about in newspapers. Is there any possibility of your doing such a visit or is the time right or wrong?

Prime Minister

No, the time is not yet right for very obvious reasons.

I could not come before Mr. Mandela was released and of course, there are the other two, Mr. Sisulu and Mr. Mpetha (phon) and, of course, they would have to be free to speak their mind and give their views. It is no earthly good releasing them unless they are free to say what they wish so I could not possibly come before them.

After that—and that would be quite a major step forward—one could possibly consider it but, of course, that is a step which has to be taken before any other representatives of black South Africans could possibly think of coming into a negotiation. They could not possibly think of it while those people were still imprisoned and so I could not possibly think of coming to South Africa before that. After that, if that happened, then I think that then I could possibly judge the time but at the moment I have no plans to come.

Question

So all the stories which have been written about you and speculating are just not true? [end p11]

Prime Minister

Well, obviously I hope that these things will happen soon and if they did, then obviously it would open up a possibility for a visit which does not exist at the moment.

Question

Just one more question. There is lots of stuff about the Labour Party Conference. Do you give them a chance of getting to the next Parliament, to the next Government?

Prime Minister

I am not talking about my home politics!

We have our conference next week, so we leave them to get on with their views and we will get on with ours.

Question

Many people, rightly or wrongly, believe that a Labour Government would possibly be different from the Conservative Party Government—that it would do certain things.

Prime Minister

Would you look back at the Labour Government's views on comprehensive sanctions as expressed in the United Nations. They were absolutely against them. [end p12]

Question

Oh really?

Prime Minister

Oh yes! Ted Rowlands, I think, did the speech there. We can let you have the information. We voted them in the United Nations when we had a Labour Government in power.

Question

As a follow-up to an earlier question before I ask my question, what if Mr. Mandela and Mr. Sisulu and Mr. Mpetha get released but the situation remains the same? I mean they just get released overnight early next year but fundamental issues have not changed in South Africa.

Prime Minister

Obviously, they have to have the freedom to speak and I could not come without them having that freedom to speak.

Question

This is problem something different.

Now that Europe will become a powerful international economy bloc in about 1991 with the removal of trade barriers between member countries of the European Community, would it be advisable for countries in southern Africa, for instance all of them in southern Africa, to form an economic community of southern Africa, especially in respect of the export of raw materials? [end p13]

Prime Minister

That is for the countries of southern Africa. You are very different and your resources are very different. South Africa is the most successful economy. Botswana at the moment, as you know, is a successful economy because it has got a very big deposit of diamonds which it is getting a lot of foreign currency for. It has also got a lot of coal as well as its agriculture. Zimbabwe has a lot of natural resources as well as a very successful agricultural economy. Mozambique, as you know, is a tragedy, a real human tragedy at the moment. I went when I was in Malawi to some of the refugee camps and you get refugees both ways: from Mozambique you get them going into Malawi; you get them coming down into South Africa; Mr. Mbusa (phon) gets quite a lot into his territory and we help financially because he could not possibly cope with them all coming. Mozambique is a tragedy.

Now Namibia should really be quite well off. It is a small population, just under a million. It has that enormously prosperous Rossing uranium mine and the town of Windhoek, as you know, is a very good capital. It has very good transport communications, very good telecommunications.

So it is not for oneself to say. It is whether they wish to get together. Being very very different, it would not be easy, but do not forget the purpose of Europe getting together was not to put on international regulations—it was to get down the barriers to trade within—and we have got down our external barrier quite a lot. [end p14]

Our external barriers, that is our tariff barriers, are comparatively low. We have some on agriculture. It was to get down the constraints to trade, to get freer trade within as an example to the world to get freer trade without and each of us who has protective mechanisms on agriculture—as does the European Community, as does the United States, as does Japan—recognise that we have to get down those barriers within the GATT.

You sound to me as if you were trying together to have your own area as a means, not of freeing-up trade but as a means of putting clamps on trade. That is quite different and it would not pay in the end. You get more trade when you free it up and of course, you want more jobs, you want more trade, so you try to free it up.

The international commodity agreements that we have had, as you know, have not worked very well. Tin was the classic example and collapsed. So you want to free-up trade.

Question

I go back to the de Klerk Government because it is a thorn in our flesh. The black majority tends to look at the ambivalent treatment that we get from the British Government in that your Government will condemn those governments that are involved in terrorist activities, like the Libyan Government, and yet at the same time, we do not hear condemnation or steps taken against the South African Government that has been known to destabilise the Front Line States. [end p15]

Prime Minister

Oh, yes we have! We have condemned destabilising the Front Line States, of course we have. You may not hear about it, but we have done it time and time again.

We have condemned violence from whatever quarter it comes, of course we have, but it seems to me that the best hope now lies in taking measures forward. We were pleased that there were small signs. We were pleased when Archbishop Tutu 's procession went off without police interference and we said so. We were pleased when all people went on the beaches. I entirely agree they should not be segregated—they are not segregated here—and they have done several things even since the election.

They have withheld the death sentence in some cases, as you know, and so did President Botha. There are some others, I know, that are waiting to be heard.

So there are small signs. Obviously, we are waiting for the bigger ones because the South African Government knows our view that after the election the world is expecting moves to get rid of apartheid, practical big moves to get rid of apartheid.

Question

And if they do not deliver the goods, what plans do you have to say to them: “You said you would do this and you have not done it!” ? What plans do you have? [end p16]

Prime Minister

Look! We are pressurising them the whole time to say: “Look! You know full well that you have not much time because of world expectations. You have said you have a mandate for reform; you have said you do not persist in white domination. What we are asking is what takes the place of it after that and we believe that the Eminent Persons Group really had the general recipe, but none of us can tell you how the negotiations should be conducted, save that they must be genuine, or what result will come out of them. That is for all of the peoples in South Africa. It is not for us to say!”

We believe, as Mr. de Klerk said, that there is a mandate for reform. We believe that the overwhelming majority of white people in South Africa wish there to be reform. We believe that was the message, if you count up the votes for Mr. de Klerk 's party and Mr. Worrell 's party, and we do not believe in segregating the legislatures, of course we do not.

So we believe that the prospects for reform, the kind of reform we wish to see, the end of apartheid, are better now than they have been. We believe that is so because the majority of white people want it and realise also that it must come about, so it is two things. But we do not believe in destroying an economy. [end p17]

We, as you know, give some help with education and we give some help with housing, both for black people, but you extinguish hopes if you destroy your economy, you really do, and if you get any more financial sanctions, what you will have is the growth rate going right down because you simply cannot take the growth rate with your obligations of repaying debt and you know just exactly that would mean more unemployment.

Right now, you have got coming up the elections in Namibia, that was undreamed of four years ago. That has actually come when South Africa, too, has negotiated freely and I hope that goes well and I hope when they are over that the winning party, whether it gets its two-thirds majority or not, conducts itself very well indeed.

Look at other things as well! When I said that you are getting a property-owning democracy and that there are British companies building houses that are not segregated, you turn round and say they are suspicious. Goodness me! This is what I am trying to do in Britain as far as the property-owning democracy is concerned. I thought it was a very good thing. It got practically no publicity in our papers, so much so that when Harry Oppenheimer came again, I said: “Well, I suppose you did not distribute those shares?” He said: “Oh yes, we did!” and I said: “That seems to me a step in the right direction but it got no publicity.” [end p18]

Question

You seem to use the Namibian question as an example that South Africa …   . but it is a completely different situation because South Africa was faced with a serious military threat by the Cubans and the MPLA and SWAPO and in fact, they were actually losing the war and the Cubans were moving closer and closer to the border. I do not think our situations can be compared.

Prime Minister

With all due respect, it was not that which activated it.

President Reagan was, in my view, absolutely right when he was not going to negotiate unless he was at the same time negotiating the withdrawal of the Cubans from Angola and he stuck on that and stuck on that and the Cubans would not withdraw; and then we got negotiation going and also, of course, things have changed in the Soviet Union so pressure also was brought there to withdraw the Cubans.

But you know, you have had quite a lot of legislative changes even during President Botha 's time within South Africa which, as you have said, have not been enough, but he has brought about quite a number of legislative changes to your advantage; not enough, I entirely agree with you. We are not differing on that.

Question

How long are you giving de Klerk to bring about manifold political changes? [end p19]

Prime Minister

It is not for me to say how long. We are constantly saying to him that now the elections are over people are expecting the process to start and to be steadily continued. It took far longer with us even bringing Rhodesia right up. It took longer than we expected. The kind of negotiations you have to do in South Africa will, I think, take much longer but the important thing is that they start and they will be seen to be going with steady momentum and they cannot start, in my view, until after Mr. Mandela and the other two are released and they are free to put their views.

Question

Talking about the more positive things you could perhaps do, I think one of the Prime Ministers from South Africa who spoke of a kind of Marshall Aid Plan to educate blacks. I am involved and more worried basically about developing black things in my newspaper. [end p20]

Prime Minister

Look, we do give, as you know, £20 million over five years to help black South Africans' education. We have just given £2 million Rand to a housing scheme with the Urban Foundation. We get our money through to them through the British Council and I believe it does get through.

Now it would have been very much easier for us just to sit back and do nothing. We said that because we wished to bring apartheid to an end we must in fact take part actively in it and I think Robin Renwick has put our views very forcibly in South African and very successfully.

The Urban Foundation have just announced something on housing today.

Question

No, they are going to announce it on Thursday. [end p21]

Prime Minister

They are going to announce it on Thursday.

Question

I am more interested in that kind of thing. I am not here to come and moan about what Britain should or should not be doing, what I think the world should be doing is actively helping us to overcome these problems. I get so angry with the petulance really of most South Africans moaning.

Prime Minister

I think it is much better to help. I think we finance something like a thousand black South Africans in higher education, that is on the higher but I am not quite sure about the technical …

Question

I am not saying we need more but it is still very little and we have a massive problem because we have got a majority of people who have got no education whose structures, families, health, financial structures, have been shattered by apartheid. Now it seems to me that if that problem is not dealt with dramatically we will always have problems even after apartheid has gone?

Prime Minister

I think you and I are saying the same thing. You cannot destroy your economy if you hope to achieve your ambitions because on a numbers basis you have a lot of people who have not yet got [end p22] proper education or proper housing and you are going to go on for quite a time. It does not come about overnight, as you know, because you look at other black African countries as well and they have problems too.

Question

Archbishop Tutu is a friend of mine. I do not agree with him all the time, What do you think of him? Is he sincere, is Christianity going to his head, is he mad?

Prime Minister

No, I would not dream of commenting. Archbishop Desmond TutuHe has been here, I have seen him, of course I have and I was very pleased that his march went along. I think he is not the only Christian Bishop there is he? There are others also who have been here but undoubtedly they are fighting for an end to apartheid and that is right, absolutely right.

Question

I think he is talking about marches, I am very sorry, but this thing of making these marches a big deal. At the last march 134 people were arrested, that is last Saturday when the AWB also had its rally in the centre of Pretoria and nothing was said about that. [end p23]

Prime Minister

Look, even in my country, there were six thousand arrests at football matches last year!

Question

What is your attitude towards black political organisations vis á vis the ANC, PAC?

Prime Minister

I will never talk to anyone who has espoused the cause of violence. I do not believe in using violence as a way of settling problems. But, in return for that, we do try to render as much practical help as we can and this is why we did not do nothing about black South Africans or their housing or their education.

If you totally and utterly eliminate violence as a way of solving problems then you do everything you can to bring about helping change by different means. That is why, when we were given the chance, we took it with Rhodesia to say that you will substitute democratic means, you will substitute the ballot for the bullet and I had those three in this room and in my study next door and when we had finished the negotiations each one of them thought he was going to win by the ballot and I said to them: “Well, you think each of you are going to win but I hope all of you know that whichever one of you wins, or two if it is a coalition, we will see that that victory is implemented, whoever it is” . And it worked that way. [end p24]

But look, I have to fight violence in Britain with the IRA. They all happen to have the vote. All the Irish in Northern Ireland have the vote on the same lines as everyone else, they can vote for their Members at Westminster, they can vote for their local authority members. They do not like the result of the ballot and so therefore they try to bomb people into submission.

So I will have nothing to do with violence, it is different from yours, but I will not talk to people who support violence or have anything to do with violence and this is why I say and why the Eminent Persons Group said that in return for negotiations you get the suspension of violence. I have not said the total renunciation of violence because I know we could not probably get that, but the suspension of violence during negotiations.

I think, correct me if I am wrong, there is a much greater possibility of getting that suspension of violence now than there would have been two years ago. Mr Gorbachev has helped because I understand that he has made it very clear to the ANC that they are to solve, as far as he is concerned, they are to solve their problems by negotiation. Of course he now knows a little bit about what violence is like internally and the Soviet Union has been very good about that, you solve it by negotiation. Just as really he was prepared to negotiate on Angola. Mozambique, as you know I was a great fan of Samora Machel, we did everything we could to help him, we had £50 million into Mozambique, we still have a lot. [end p25]

In Zimbabwe I went up to the Highlands where we are helping to train the Mozambican Army in Zimbabwe in order to fight Renamo. It was just almost unbelievable, there was President Chissano, President Mugabe and myself wanting British Officers training the Zimbabwe Army and the Mozambique Army to fight Renamo in Mozambique. So my record is good.

We were deeply upset when President Machel was killed and I did everything I could, I saw President Chissano very quickly and did everything I could to help him to get a foothold in the United States because some people in the United States thought that Renamo was more grounded in the people than it was and he did have an interview with President Reagan and we did everything we could then to help and we still do.

Question

Apartheid is regarded as institutionalised violence, I mean violence that is …

Prime Minister

I know that argument is used. It is not an argument which I accept but nevertheless apartheid was something which came after we British had gone, it was not there during our time, it was not a method of government at all during our time. Indeed after we had gone I think some of the Cape coloureds were deprived of the vote. [end p26]

It is ironic, is it not? The Boer War was 1899–1902, by 1910–11 there was a convention and self-government given to a Federation of South Africa and of course at that time we were not giving the kind of constitution which we have since 1945 which, as you know, has been a much more complete, a different kind of constitution. At that time you know it was typically British, you handed over to the people whom you have in fact beaten in battle, as it were.

But we did and we did not obviously at that time give the right kind of constitution. Whether it would have, because there was the difference between the South African Boer and the South African English, but since 1945 you know the kind of constitution we have given, what a country does with that constitution after she is totally independent, we cannot, nor would we attempt to, dictate. Some countries have gone totally to a one-party state, which is not our idea of democracy but it is not for us to dictate to them. There are some countries, sometimes when I am travelling through Africa I think, well, supposing you want to put up as an Independent, supposing you do not want to be of the governing party, and I am told you cannot do that. It seems very strange to us but they have made their own rules. [end p27]

Question

I am glad you feel so hot about the history because it is that very history that made black people feel so bitter towards the British Government, because when you ceased the colonial powers over South Africa you ignored the majority of the black people so when you turn round and say you do not support violence when even at the time when the Union of South Africa came into being, our forefathers came here and pleaded with the British Government that you could not do this, “What is going to happen to us?” and that government at that stage ignored them totally.

Prime Minister

Look dear, I cannot go back to that in terms of reversing it.

Question

You could be part of the solution, Mrs Thatcher.

Prime Minister

No, my dear, I cannot. Once you have given independence you cannot take it back. The number of times I am asked by minorities in countries—you are a majority, that I accept—to interfere. Once you have given independence you cannot take it back, you can only bring influence to bear as the world is and as we are because we do not, we disapprove most strongly of apartheid, we do not think you should judge people by the colour of their skin. You can judge [end p28] them in many many other ways: if they are able you send them to university; if they have a talent in one direction you try to educate them in that direction.

We for years were judged as to whether we could get on the electoral role by whether we had property of rateable value. But you cannot judge them by the colour of their skin, I agree.

I cannot go back over what was done in the past, I can only say that since 1945 we have given totally different kinds of constitutions. Sometimes countries have actually segregated after we left them. India for example, there were, as you know, the most terrible killings in India after we left. After we have given a constitution it is up to that country.

Now yes, of course we learned a great deal more and I think you are looking at it with hindsight and we are trying to do our level best now through influence to get things moving in the right direction, keeping your South African economy because if you destroy it you have not a hope of getting through to do the ambitious things that you wish to.

And let me also say this to you. I find it utterly repugnant when I get a whole lot of politicians sitting round a table in a four-star hotel talking about action which they know full well would put other people in poverty. It does not seem very realistic in a hotel like that. When you actually see it it does. [end p29]

So yes I do want you to keep your economy. Yes, I think your economy would be even better than it is if you had not had some of the financial sanctions, some of your foreign companies had not pulled out, because the foreign companies are what in fact is breaking down apartheid because they are doing far more training for managerial work and they are having, as I said, far more non-segregated housing.

But I cannot go back on that. Our companies fortunately have stayed. I thought it was very bad when Mobil came out because I thought there goes another company which was in fact being instrumental in breaking down apartheid, that is where the breakdown was coming, not fast enough but was coming.

I cannot go back. I can tell you that things are moving as you know they are moving. You tell me they are not moving fast enough, I agree. What I am saying to you is that since the election I believe there was a mandate for reform and you now have to try to get the reform process going and we do bring all the pressure to bear that we can. But we are not in charge.

The difference with Zimbabwe was that it had not got its legal independence, therefore we could be in charge, therefore we could handle and fashion the negotiations, therefore we could bring them to a successful conclusion, therefore we could implement them and then we pulled out. But that is very different from South Africa, we are not in that position. [end p30]

Question

The ANC has agreed that it is prepared to go to the negotiating table and there was an embarrassment at the recent OAU meeting in Zimbabwe when the PAC said they were not prepared to negotiate, it was a big story in South Africa. What do you say to that?

Prime Minister

It is really for the government to get the negotiators together. I cannot do it and I have urged them several times to think about, even before the election, how it should be done. I know no black person in my view, you may tell me I am wrong, no black person in my view could go to that negotiating table until Mr Mandela and Mr Sisulu and Mr Mpetha were released and free to speak. Once they are, I think that it opens up other possibilities that people who have not been able, people who may have renounced violence, people who would not be prepared to talk may be prepared to talk.

But I have said several times to them: “Look, you really must be thinking about who should come into a kind of negotiating forum and how you should conduct it” . I see various proposals which are being put forward. It is not for me to say how it should be done. If we were in charge, I knew when we were given a job to do in 1979 at Lusaka I knew how we would tackle it. [end p31]

If we were asked our advice, of course I could put people on to say: “Well, look this is how we did it, would you consider doing it this way?” I cannot say more than that but I know and I have known for a lot of time, there was a lot of thought, constructive thought, maybe consultation, that had to go into it because there will be a whole lot of people in those negotiations who must not be left out. I am not only talking about the Cape coloured people and the Indian minority but there are many many different groups of peoples among your people and the leader of each group will feel that he must be considered in those negotiations and I have urged them to get on and think about it. Now how far they have got, I do not know.

Question

Excuse me, you have urged the South African Government to consider that?

Prime Minister

Yes, before the election.

Question

The UDF delegation that was here told you that the situation has to be conducive for Mandela to be released because he cannot just be released to the state of emergency. [end p32]

Prime Minister

But I have said to you already, Mr Mandela, if he were released he could not stay, but just the release is not enough. He really will have to be free which really means the ANC will have to be unbanned and be able to speak freely. But I would think it would be reasonable if they were unbanned to say: “Now look, please now suspend violence” .

That was the Eminent Persons Group formula. I think it is the best one. When you have got that broad formula, I know as a politician you still have a lot of work and thinking to do as to whom you should consult about negotiations and who will actually have to be taken in on the actual negotiations and how you will do it.

I cannot do it, we are not in charge. We have done a similar thing on a smaller scale because we just really had Mr Robert Mugabe 's people and Mr Nkomo 's people and then there was Bishop Muzorewa 's but as you know there were many many sub-groupings within those, many many sub-groupings within those.

But I do not know what it will be in South Africa and I cannot dictate, nor would I wish to.

Question

But Mr de Klerk has said that he is not prepared to talk to the radicals so who will he be talking to? [end p33]

Prime Minister

You are saying things which I do not know whether F.W. de Klerkhe said or not. What we are saying to him is: “You must get ready for negotiations!” but that has been said before the election, because I knew that there is not a lot of time after the election because the world is expecting things to happen and I think now that Mr. Viljeon (phon) must be starting to consider that now. But please do not talk to me as if I am in charge—I am not! If I were, I would know how we would go about it but we are not.

May I put it to you this way? If you have been an ex-colonial power, you know jolly well you have to keep out and you have to be very careful what you say, but we do not hesitate to say we are totally against apartheid and it must end.

Question

Mrs. Thatcher, I guess what I am trying to say is we bring with us hope from the majority of black people to you, because we can sit here as black journalists and talk to you directly and express our aspirations and fears, but we cannot do that at home. There is no way we can talk to de Klerk the way we are talking to you. [end p34]

Prime Minister

Is Mr. Viljeon not talking to you?

Question

He would speak, you know.

Prime Minister

If you are asked to talk to him, you would not refuse?

Question

No, we would talk. We will talk.

The other day we had a colleague thrown out of a Nationalist Party meeting.

Prime Minister

May I say this to you, as I have said to the other side: if you are invited to talk or you put in a request and you are invited to go, you too would very carefully have your agenda prepared and do it in an orderly fashion, so that everyone wondered why in the world they had never talked to you before. I am sure you would.

You are comparatively calm compared with some people who come to see me! (laughter) …   . respect and admire, because I understand your strong emotional feelings because I would feel the same way. [end p35]

I think the opportunity is coming up and it must not be muffed or missed. It has to be handled very well, which is why when we did Lancaster House we had thought it all out very carefully and which is why I am concerned that once you start on the process of negotiation, which I hope will not be too long, you will be successful, that it looks to go quite well. The important thing is that you get on well in the early stages—when there is hope everyone can see to take it forward.

Believe you me, when I came to Lusaka for the Commonwealth Conference in 1979, I had a very difficult time because they had a preconceived notion of me which was not at all right and everything was just fixed. I went straight into a big press conference which I had not been prepared for, but within a week they knew that the person they thought I was was not so and they had in fact given us the task of bringing Zimbabwe to independence and I must tell you that we had thought about it, but all throughout we kept our Commonwealth partners—Kenneth Kaunda was in charge of that meeting—at every stage in touch with developments. If things were not going well, I would get them to say: “Look! Will you talk to some of the people who are here negotiating because we have got stuck on this?” So we talked to Kenneth Kaunda, we talked to President Moi, we talked to Julius Nyerere, it was President Machel … Mr. Mugabe 's people were in Mozambique at that time … we talked to him and we all the time sent messages each day as to how negotiations were going and we involved them if we were getting stuck because they were as [end p36] anxious as we were that the whole thing came to a just and right conclusion. We also, I might tell you, involved South Africa because we could not have done it without their help actually or without their acquiescence because of the supply routes—I do not need to tell you this. We had to get their agreement.

That is how we did it and even then we despaired sometimes. So what I say to you is when you come to a time and you get those negotiations going, there will be times when you will almost despair. Now that was the real luck of my being in Namibia the day that peace process started because I had seen it. Charles had been involved in Zimbabwe, I had, Robin … had, so we knew that the first day there would be trouble. Some of your SWAPO in negotiation in Namibia's case, some of Mr. Mugabe 's people and some of the … people who come in … they caused trouble in the early days …   . we knew that would happen so we did not flap. We said: “Now look! Come on, we have got to deal with this!” But you do not overturn the agreement; you deal with the difficulties that arise. We were there that day. Thank goodness we were! We managed to sort it out because we had seen it.

So then you get into negotiations—and you will—there will be some very rough days. There will be days when you will be really down in the dumps. You never lose your objective. You have got this time to bring apartheid to an end and come to a reasonable [end p37] constitutional agreement and you never lose sight of it because that prize is worth an awful lot of trouble along the way. You never let the negotiations break down. The number of times I have said this to people around the world!

So it will come.

Question

And you will be there?

Prime Minister

I cannot be there. I am not involved except as one of … who will be …

If you want any help we will give it, but you know, I think that what I would say would be: “Please keep us in touch in case we can help!” or “If you want” as I have said to other people, as I said to Fiji after the last Commonwealth Conference, “If you want help in drawing up a constitution, we probably are more skilled in it than almost anyone else now!” but I cannot do it. I am an outsider, but we can, like others, bring as much pressure to bear as we can by influence, which we have, and we can and will do as much as we can to keep the economy going so that when you have got your new constitution then you have got the best economy in South Africa. [end p38]

Question

Mrs. Thatcher, you have optimistic views on the Nationalist Government, you have hope that now they are going to deliver the goods. What do we say to the people back home, the majority of the people who know that we have met with you? What is a positive message?

Prime Minister

I think the only thing that I can say is that the world does expect things to happen. The expectations are high.

I know that the actual negotiations will take a time because different people will have different ideas.

The very important thing, I think, is that the first stage, as I indicated, is the release of the three people and freedom to speak and then proposals to get the negotiations going.

I think it must come about. I am not as pessimistic as you because the world is expecting it and I think the Government knows that the world is expecting it and that the world is giving a little time to get their proposals in place.

Question

So Mrs. Thatcher, yours is just hope. There is nothing tangible.

Prime Minister

No, I think it is more than that. [end p39]

Question

There is nothing tangible that de Klerk has actually done.

Prime Minister

No, but I think you would agree, if you go through the things which President Botha did, he did change the law quite a bit; not enough, and we were hoping even while he was President, for example, the next thing for us was the group areas should go, but it did not. But he had done quite enough.

And now the little things that I spoke to you about are just straws in the wind I agree, but they are better than if that had not happened. But I believe it will come about.

Question

It seems to me there is a difference between reform and change. As far as I concerned, there is a difference between the two: reforming the system and changing the system.

Prime Minister

We are talking about the end of apartheid. Apartheid is wrong. I would feel as Archbishop Tutu who has sat here and said to me: “How do you feel when I have not even a passport?” Words to that effect. I said: “I would feel exactly the same way as you do!”

Honestly, with all the best will in the world, I do not think we can get any further today and I do have one or two other people to see!