The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1993Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Mr Major’s Joint Press Conference with President de Klerk – 26 September 1993

Below is the text of Mr Major’s joint press conference with President de Klerk, held in London on Sunday 26th September 1993.


We have had a very worthwhile and constructive meeting this afternoon, we have been able to touch on a wide range of bilateral matters and some other matters as well.

I wonder if it would be helpful, before I ask President de Klerk to say a few words, if I could just fill in some of the background of our discussion and the present circumstances.

The South Africa Parliament adopted a few days ago legislation to set up a transitional executive council. I think it would be difficult to over-estimate how important a step that was, it has placed South Africa now very firmly on the road towards full non-racial democracy, it is what many people have sought for a long time and it is now well in hand. And I think the progress that has been made within South Africa has now opened the way for her to take her place in the international community, that is now much more widely recognised and I very much welcome that.

The trade, the economic and the financial sanctions imposed by the European Community have already been lifted. The Commonwealth Secretary General has announced that Commonwealth sanctions are being lifted and South Africa should now have access to the international financial institutions, access to resources from the World Bank, and that is immensely helpful.

We shall support lending both by the World Bank and of course the International Monetary Fund to South Africa, we will support other steps to encourage investment in South Africa, including the conference on South Africa which the CBI is holding on 12th October.

I warmly welcome the lifting of economic sanctions. The South African economy has huge potential, I do not think anybody should have any doubt whatever about that, and outside help to regenerate it and to create more jobs will be absolutely vital to the transitional process and to future prosperity and employment for all South Africans.

One of the questions that will lie there for a future South African government and for the Commonwealth will of course be South Africa’s future relationship with the Commonwealth. I speak personally now, for this will be a matter for a future South African government, but personally I very much look forward to seeing South Africa playing a full part in all international bodies and I hope returning in due course to the Commonwealth.

There is still quite a lot to be done before we reach that goal, of course. The next step will be to reach agreement on an interim constitution governing next year’s elections and I hope that all South Africans, without exception, will support the process of transition and participate fully in the future democratic life of their country. I hope no-one will be encouraged to continue with any form of violence in South Africa.

The opportunities that have been so carefully crafted over the past two years or so are remarkable. I hope that everyone will take the opportunity of taking advantage of the opportunities that now lie immediately ahead.

As for the United Kingdom, we will do whatever we can to support the transitional process, we and our partners in the European Community and in the Commonwealth are ready to offer help in the holding of elections, we will continue to support South Africa with development aid and will continue to keep in close touch with all of South Africa’s leaders.

I am delighted this afternoon to have heard of the changes that have been made at first hand from President de Klerk, if I may say so they owe much to his courageous leadership, often in very difficult circumstances. The Foreign Secretary and I have had meetings this year with Chief Buthelezi and I shall be seeing Mr Mandela again in another fortnight’s time, and I much look forward to that discussion.

We will take all those opportunities to register our commitment to help the transition which is now beginning. It is a remarkable moment in time for South Africa, they are poised after a most difficult period to return fully to the community of nations and I think that is a source of great hope, not just for South Africans but for many people beyond South Africa who wish the country well.


Thank you, Mr Prime Minister. From my side firstly a public thank you for a very warm reception, I valued the opportunity to discuss important matters of bilateral interest with you, to inform you of the dynamic process in South Africa to bring you fully up to date on a first-hand basis, to discuss some of our regional problems in southern Africa with you, and also to share with you a few thoughts with regard to future developments as we see them.

May I say that the historical week which is ending today, the week in which South Africa has really returned to the international fold, can be regarded also as a vindication for the foreign policy which your government has followed over a number of years. When it was not popular to accept that the process was irreversible your government, and you Mr Prime Minister, have accepted our assurances in that regard and took a lead in opening doors for South Africa and in helping the normalisation of our international relations along. And we say thank you to the United Kingdom for this constructive approach which it has constantly followed with regard to South Africa.

We are confident that the process which we have started will be taken through to its logical conclusion, namely the acceptance of a new constitution by Parliament before the end of this year, hopefully during November, a constitution in terms of which the first general election will be held in which all South Africans will vote and which will result in the establishment of a government of national unity which will for a period of five years focus on reconciliation, on ensuring economic development, on ensuring stability in our country. Violence continues to plague us, hopefully the transitional executive council which has as one of its main tasks to create an atmosphere conducive to free and fair elections will, with the multi-party cooperation which will take place within that transitional executive council, also make a valuable contribution towards bringing down the levels of violence.

I sincerely also believe that when we produce final agreements, when the package is on the table and there for everybody to see, the mere fact that we have reached agreement will also have a marked effect on the levels of violence, because some of the violence which we have in the political sphere is aimed at derailing or delaying the constitutional negotiations, when the agreements are finalised I expect that those who are trying in a last gasp effort to interfere with the negotiations will obviously be in a position of having failed to do so.

I have no doubt and I am confident that we will reach agreement and that those agreements will be inclusive also of some of the major role players who are at the moment not directly part of the multi-party negotiations, we are making good headway with bilateral discussions with the Inkatha Freedom Party resulting from an eight and a half hour meeting which I had a little bit more than a week ago with Chief Minister Buthelezi and my latest information is that in the bilaterals which results from our meeting, good progress is being made and constructive discussions are taking place.




Why should Britain invest in a country which many will still say is far less stable, far less peaceful than others markets such as those nearer home?


I think Britain is perfectly prepared to invest and I think the prospects for South Africa over the medium and long term are very good indeed, I think that is well recognised by United Kingdom investors. And I have no doubt once the confidence in the political settlement is clear that there will be a substantial amount of investment from this country and I suspect from many other countries as well.


President de Klerk, what place will there be in the new South Africa and new constitution for those who claim still to want some kind of white homeland?


I do not think there is any place for any form of race discrimination in the new South Africa. I think it is fundamentally necessary in South Africa to accommodate the fears and anxieties of cultural minorities in the cultural sense and therefore already in the draft bill of rights which is taking shape we are reaching consensus on issues such as the protection of the right of cultural groups with regard to culturally based and religiously based education, there must be effective protection of vested language rights and in the constitution provision will be made, it is taking shape at the moment, for the devolution of power to strong regional governments. In that I think also the aspirations of our many cultural groups, the many nations which together compose the South African nation, can to a great extent be fulfilled and most of those aspirations can, within a system of regional government, based on federal principles, be reasonably accommodated. But there is no place for racial discrimination, we dare not ever consider again in South Africa to have first and second class citizens.


[Indistinct] talks between the ANC and the Afrikaaner [indistinct].


We are also having bilaterals with them, I welcome the fact that such talks are taking place. I also welcome the fact the progress is registered if one analyses what Mr Mandela recently said and what General Fulyun [phon] is reported to have said about them. Also in our bilateral discussions with General Fulyun and a team from his organisation we are making some progress, slow progress. I am convinced that we can find a reasonable basis within the framework of the demographic realities of South Africa, the economic realities, as I have just in the previous reply stated, to lay a foundation which can offer a feeling of security to the various cultural groupings in South Africa and which can offer a form of self-determination with regard to that which is dear to the various cultural groups, which should satisfy any reasonable demands in that regard. So I welcome the progress which is being made.

One must remember that until very recently we were called traitors because we were talking to the ANC and I welcome the fact that people who took up the attitude that they would not ever talk to them are now actually negotiating with them, negotiation is the only way to ensure peaceful solutions.


Are we contemplating any concrete help to South Africa in the run-up to the election?


It depends what you mean by concrete help, there has been a certain amount of help and aid in the past and certainly we will continue to look at that. But I think both concrete and I suppose you may say ephemeral help, we are certainly there to help ensure that there is a satisfactory settlement, that has been an objective of British foreign policy for a long time. I am delighted that with the frankly courageous decisions taken both by President de Klerk and by Mr Mandela and others from time to time, we are now reaching the prospect of a genuine settlement and elections for a non-racial government, I welcome that very much. We will help in whatever way we can to help bring that about.


No doubt President de Klerk will have told you that for democracy to work in South Africa there will have to be a lot of aid, new funds, I noticed Mrs Chalker was around, were you able to assure him that you will be able to increase aid to South Africa?


We did not discuss that in particular. What we did discuss of course is something far more important than bilateral aid, however important that may be, and that is of course of availability of resourcing from the international financial institutions, the World Bank and the IMF in particular, I suspect there will be an IMF programme at some stage, very possibly a structural adjustment programme, we will have to wait and see, but that will be of critical importance. But I would strongly suspect that the President will agree with the next point – the point of greatest importance is the fact that South Africa will be open again to investment from the international community and the availability of resourcing from the financial institutions, the impact of that is likely to dwarf any bilateral or multilateral aid, though I would strongly suspect there may well be significant multilateral aid in the years ahead.


Yes, I fully associate with that reply, we really are not asking for handouts from anybody, we just want to qualify for schemes and facilities which are available to all countries throughout the world and we are prepared to meet the conditions which are set before you can qualify for such aid.