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1991 - Mr Major’s Joint Doorstep Interview with Nelson Mandela

Below is the text of Mr Major’s joint doorstep interview with Nelson Mandela, held in Harare on Wednesday 16th October 1991.


MR MANDELA:

I just want to make a very brief statement and to say that I used this opportunity to brief the Prime Minister on the latest political developments in our country. I did so because of the involvement of the British government and the British people in the struggle against apartheid. Whatever differences may be there, one thing is clear, that the British government and the British people are the enemies of all forms of racial discrimination and I was therefore happy to be able to brief him on this question.

I also raised the question of sanctions but because this is a matter which is still going to be discussed by the Heads of State it would be improper for me to say anything about it except to say that we discussed the matter. And I sincerely hope that you will not ask me any questions on this matter because I will not be able to be forthcoming.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you very much. We have had a number of discussions over the last year both face to face and a number of telephone conversations in order to keep up-to-date with events in South Africa. And I must say I have found that extremely useful and we have had a very useful and productive discussion again today.

We have covered all the points that Mr Mandela has mentioned. One other point that we have been able to finalise today, Mr Mandela asked some time ago whether we would be prepared to take some ANC supporters and train them for future civil service activities in South Africa in due course. We have said yes and there will be a training programme to that end in the United Kingdom. It is in the pilot stage now but it may well grow and I think it is an indication of the extent to which we wish to cooperate in practical terms in helping prepare for a post-apartheid South Africa.

So it has been a very useful worthwhile discussion and we will remain in close touch. There will be further discussions between the Foreign Secretary and Mr Mbeki over the next few days.

QUESTION:

Without pre-empting your discussions can we ask what is the present British and ANC position on the final removal of stage 3?

PRIME MINISTER:

We are not talking about that at the moment, that has been made quite clear by Mr Mandela. We are talking about that matter privately, it is best done privately.

QUESTION:

Are you both in agreement and are you working together to try to get South Africa into World Cup cricket next February?

MR MANDELA:

That is a question which has already been discussed publicly. We have recommended, as the ANC, that South Africa, as far as cricket is concerned, has complied with all the conditions which have been made by the Cricket Board and for that reason we see no reason why we should not be readmitted.

QUESTION:

There are leaders here which dissent from your view?

MR MANDELA:

You do not expect decisions to be reached easily and overnight. The fact is that we are trying to persuade everybody to agree to take the same position as ourselves.

PRIME MINISTER:

On that last point, decisions were reached a couple of months or so ago at the ICC meeting about the re-admittance of a non-racial South African cricket team into world cricket. The bridge was crossed then, decisions were made then that that was the right thing to do. The only question now is when that actually commences and whether that commences with the World Cup in Australia at the beginning of next year or a little later.

Now that is not a matter for Mr Mandela and I. If you want to know my personal view I think we have crossed the Rubicon, we have made the decision, it is the right decision, you have a non-racial South African cricket team. There is no reason to my mind to bar them from playing international cricket against other teams anywhere in the world. I would be delighted to see them play in the World Cup in Australia and I think if they do they would do very well.

QUESTION:

Mr Mandela, are the recent outbreaks that we are reading about in South Africa an indication that the political change in that country is not coming as quickly as some people believe that it is?

MR MANDELA:

We have never thought that we would be able to reach a [inaudible] overnight. The fact is that we have made progress in this regard, whatever difficulties are emerging they are emerging against some solid progress which has been in the course of the discussions between the ANC and the government and I think that is what we should hold on to.

QUESTION:

You are not concerned that people are saying things are all right in South Africa, you are not cautioning that change is coming but too slowly?

MR MANDELA:

I did not expect it to be faster than it is and I am satisfied with the progress that was made and I am optimistic that this progress is going to be maintained in spite of the [inaudible].

QUESTION:

Will you be in any way linking the violence to the sanctions issue?

MR MANDELA:

That is a question that is difficult to answer. As we exchange opinions on the matter I do not think we should try and pre-judge the issue here.

QUESTION:

When there is a democratic government in South Africa is Britain going to stick to the same middle policies that it has elsewhere and would the ANC and government be prepared to accept that?

MR MANDELA:

We believe in a multiparty system, we have made this clear, and our basic policy which we published as far back as 1955 is most democratic. There is not a single political party in the country which practises democracy as we do. In fact there is not a single political organisation in the country which involves its members in the participation in democratic procedures, we have had seminars on controversial issues and just now [inaudible] the so-called imposition of a levy which is just a succession which emerged in the course of a seminar which was never taken up. But we believe in these democratic decisions, and there is not a democratic organisation in the country which has held seminars involving its members. That is an indication of our commitment to democratic government.

QUESTION:

What about the issue of centralised government and nationalisation?

MR MANDELA:

That is a question which we are discussing. You must remember that at one time the National Party which is today condemning us for advocating some form of state intervention in the economy did also call for the nationalisation of the mines.

QUESTION:

Would you feel it is necessary to talk to other groups besides the ANC, President de Klerk for instance?

PRIME MINISTER:

We do, we do. We have maintained a contact throughout recent years with all shades of opinion in South Africa, it is necessary for us to do so. we want to receive a rounded opinion from Mr Mandela, President de Klerk and others, one cannot get a rounded opinion unless one talks to everyone. So the answer is yes we have, we do and we will.

MR MANDELA:

I would agree with that.

QUESTION:

Would you have any difficulty with President de Klerk or PK Botha coming here?

PRIME MINISTER:

I am not chairman of the conference.

QUESTION:

Mr Mandela would you have any personal difficulty with President de Klerk or Mr Botha coming here to speak to Commonwealth leaders?

MR MANDELA:

That is a matter which would be the subject of discussion between ourselves and with the Heads of State. I do not think we should go into that.

QUESTION:

Do you want to see South Africa back in the Commonwealth?

MR MANDELA:

South Africa really belongs to the Commonwealth and it was kicked out simply because of its racial policies. Once the political situation inside the country is normalised I would strongly support our return to the Commonwealth.