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Margaret Thatcher's Attitude To South Africa

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jake-the-peg | 09:30 Fri 03rd Jan 2014 | News
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In the furore about the miner's strike papers it's easy to miss the very interesting papers about Margaret Thatcher's dealings with South Africa.

It seems she took up Nelson Mandela's case with Boetha but was rebuffed. There seems to have been a real distaste for the South African regieme:

//Before the visit No 10 was disconcerted to learn the South Africans planned to bring a small present to give the prime minister. "Do we have to reciprocate?" one official wrote. "I am afraid we must," another replied.

They gave him a small Crown Derby bowl valued at £162.50, plus vat.//

Perhaps because of her 'Iron Lady' image people expected the same toughness in dealing with the apartheid regieme in South Africa and not seeing that mistook it for support.

Yes they could have done more - but has she been unfairly tarred with soupporting racist South Africa?

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link
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-25549596

(about 2/3 of the way down)
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. In addition, for many reasons, we never really know why some decisions are made until well after. Maybe papers will be released one day that exonerate Tony Blair for invading Iraq, it wouldn't surprise me, but I doubt I'll be around to hear it.
// "Mr Botha said that he noted the prime minister's remarks but that he was not able to interfere with the South African judicial process."

This was effectively what she had said to him a few minutes earlier when he asked about four South African nationals facing charges in Britain of breaching the arms embargo against South Africa. //

Interesting how that turned out.

// At the end of March 1984, four South Africans were arrested in Coventry, remanded in custody, and charged with contravening the UN arms embargo, which prohibited exports to South Africa of military equipment. Thatcher took a personal interest in the Coventry Four, and 10 Downing Street requested daily summaries of the case from the prosecuting authority, HM Customs and Excise. Within a month, the Coventry Four had been freed from jail and allowed to travel to South Africa, on condition that they return to England for their trial later that year. However in August 1984 South African foreign minister Pik Botha decided not to allow the Coventry Four to return to stand trial, forfeiting £200,000 bail money put up by the South African embassy in London. //
Most people's perception of Mrs T as being soft on South Africa stem from her resistance to sanctions against the aparthied regime. We were isolated in the commonwealth if not the world. But we did have a lot more to lose by not trading with South Africa.
jake the peg

/// Perhaps because of her 'Iron Lady' image people expected the same toughness in dealing with the apartheid regieme in South Africa and not seeing that mistook it for support. ///

/// Yes they could have done more - but has she been unfairly tarred with soupporting racist South Africa? ///

And what do you suggest she should have done, took military action against the regime?

Are you not consistently stating that we should keep out of other country's affairs?
/// However in August 1984 South African foreign minister Pik Botha decided not to allow the Coventry Four to return to stand trial, forfeiting £200,000 bail money put up by the South African embassy in London. ///

At least we made £200,000 out of it, much better than a costly trial, then accommodation in HMP, followed maybe by attempting to send them back to South Africa and their lengthy and costly appeals to stay in the UK, on grounds that they may be at risk if deported back to SA.
// ...followed maybe by attempting to send them back to South Africa and their lengthy and costly appeals to stay in the UK. //

That is a pretty daft suggestion AOG. If they had faced justice and gone to prison, why on earth would they fight to stay?
Gromit

/// Most people's perception of Mrs T as being soft on South Africa stem from her resistance to sanctions against the aparthied regime. ///

It would seem that Wilson was also resistance to sanctions.

*** After the Labour Party sweep to power though, commitment to the anti-apartheid cause dissipated. In short order, Labour Party leader Harold Wilson told the press that his Labour Party was "not in favour of trade sanctions partly because, even if fully effective, they would harm the people we are most concerned about - the Africans and those white South Africans who are having to maintain some standard of decency there." Even so, Lisson writes that the "AAM still hoped that the new Labour Government would be more sensitive to the demands of public opinion than the previous Government." But by the end of 1964, it was clear that the election of the Labour Party had made little difference in the governments overall unwillingness to imposing sanctions. ***
Interesting concept of justice you have AOG.

Botha apparently threw Margaret Thatchers words back into her face. He then promised that they would return to face trial and then renaged on the deal. And your response, as a self proclaimed patriot is...

// // At least we made £200,000 out of it, much better than a costly trial //
Yes Wison was against sanctions. We are talking about Margaret Thatcher and whether she was unfairly tarred.
Gromit

/// That is a pretty daft suggestion AOG. If they had faced justice and gone to prison, why on earth would they fight to stay? ///

Ask all those foreign criminals who we now imprison with the order that they will be deported upon their release?

We still accommodate most of those at a huge cost to the taxpayer, but then am I correct in my thinking that our judicial system wasn't ruled by Europe back then?

Gromit

/// Yes Wison was against sanctions. We are talking about Margaret Thatcher and whether she was unfairly tarred.///

Well then the answer must be a very sound 'yes'.

But since you asked the question, perhaps you would now tell us what your answer would be?
Sorry Gromit it was of course JTP who first asked the question, so perhaps he would care to join you also with an answer?
AOG

I did have some sympathy with Thatcher's (and Wilson's) predicament, which is why I wrote...

// We were isolated in the commonwealth if not the world. But we did have a lot more to lose by not trading with South Africa. //

UK sanctions probably wouldn't in themsrlves have seen the apartheid regime off. Most people accept that it was US financial sanctions and restrictions that dealt the deadly blow. Thatcher and Wilson were more concerned with British trade than taking any moral high ground.
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What would I rather she had done?



Lets not forget sanctions had been demanded by the UN

But Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Regan decided to persue 'Constructive Engagement'

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constructive_engagement

Of course the US still had/has it's Cuban embargo - so that makes the 'embargoes don't work' line rather hypocritical!

She took a very soft line with those smuggling weapons against the arms embargo to the South African regieme - which she could have been stronger on and in the end she was bounced into limited sanctions.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Premiership_of_Margaret_Thatcher#Apartheid

Frankly I have difficulty in seeing exactly what her position truely was. Maybe she was unclear herself.

Looks like her instinct was against apartheid but she definately seemed to (uncharacteristically) lack the conviction to act based on that.

I rather suspect she was being influenced here by people like Reagan and Tebbit.

I think it's interesting because I think here we see a much less confident and more uncertain view of Margarret Thatcher than the one we're used to

Didn't Mrs T also intervene when a member of mcmillans government to dissuade the SA regime from applying the death penalty to Mandela?
don't think she was in McMillan's government, was she? Heath's maybe?
Jno
She entered parliament in 10959 when Supermac was on the throne.
I have now checked - in parliament in 1959 but not in government (education secretary) till 1970. But I don't know what stance she took on Mandela as an MP; it may have been as Zeuhl says.
Hi jno

I got it from this recent report

http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-22069896

//ONE OF Nelson Mandela’s closest friends has claimed the late Margaret Thatcher played a role in sparing the life of the man affectionately known by his clan name Madiba.

Ahmed Kathrada, one of the nine other men in the dock with Mandela when on trial between 1963 and 1964 for the charge of attempting to overthrow the apartheid regime, said he was “sure” Britain’s first female prime minister helped South Africa’s first black president.

During his and Mandela’s trial Thatcher had not yet become prime minister; she was a frontbench MP in Harold Macmillan’s government.

“We were well aware that there was all sorts of pressure from South Africa and abroad – pressure from people not necessarily agreeing with the ANC's policies,” Kathrada added.

Prosecutors charging Mandela, Kathrada and the others had originally sought the death penalty, however, the judge eventually decided to impose sentences of life imprisonment.

“I had the opportunity to accompany [Margaret Thatcher] a few years ago,” said the 83-year-old South African, born to Indian immigrant parents.

“She assured me that she had played a positive role during our trial.//

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