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1991 - Mr Major’s Comments on South Africa

Below is the text of Mr Major’s comments on South Africa, made in an interview held in Harare on Friday 18th October 1991.


QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked about sanctions in South Africa].

PRIME MINISTER:

We have never agreed that the imposition of sanctions and the way they have been used over recent years was the right way to deal with the problem in South Africa and for a very practical reason too. If you look forward at what South Africa most needs now, it is investment into South Africa to increase its growth. They have the horrendous problem of nearly three percent population growth a year and no economic growth at all. What that effectively means is that year after year after year the poorest people in South Africa get relatively poorer.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked why he was giving up pressure on South Africa near the end of the reform process].

PRIME MINISTER:

I am convinced myself that the process of change in South Africa is irreversible. All the main pillars of apartheid have now been legislatively abolished. We are moving towards a constitutional conference at which a new constitution for South Africa can be determined. That is going to happen; whether it is going to happen this year or whether it will be determined next year, I can’t be clear but if investment in South Africa only starts after that, it is going to be the late 1990s before it is effective, before it creates growth, before it creates jobs and there are 7 million people unemployed in South Africa - they need that investment and they need it speedily.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked his reaction to Mr Mandela’s comments to hold on for a while].

PRIME MINISTER:

There are differences in view about how we should approach it. Where there is an agreement of view, is that sanctions must go. The dispute that still exists is the speed at which it should go. I just set out the practical reasons why I think we should move more speedily than the Commonwealth itself wishes but there are many old scars and divisions here and I think that difference of emphasis on speed will remain.