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Communiqué of the Commonwealth Heads of Government review meeting

5 August 1986, London


1. As agreed at Nassau last October, our Meeting was held in the special context of the crisis in Southern Africa. At the outset of our discussions we specifically reaffirmed our commitment to the Commonwealth Accord on Southern Africa which, with our other colleagues, we had concluded at Nassau. We reaffirmed, in particular, the united belief we expressed in the Accord that 'apartheid must be dismantled now if a greater tragedy is to be averted, and that concerted pressure must be brought to bear to achieve that end'.

2. At our request the Co-Chairmen of the Commonwealth Group of Eminent Persons (EPG), General Olusegun Obasanjo and Mr Malcolm Fraser, introduced the report of the EPG and answered the many questions we put to them. Sir Geoffrey Howe, the British Foreign Secretary, who undertook a mission to Southern Africa in his capacity as President of the Council of Ministers of the EEC, also briefed us on the results of his mission.

3. The Report of the EPG Mission to South Africa was the central document at our discussions. That unanimous Report has commanded attention worldwide as pointing the way forward for South Africa and for the world in relation to South Africa. We warmly commend the Group's work which has made a positive and enduring contribution to the efforts to end apartheid and establish a non-racial and representative government in South Africa. We particularly commend the EPG's 'negotiating concept' and deeply regret its rejection by the South African Government.

4. At Nassau, the Commonwealth unanimously adopted a common programme of action which included a number of economic measures against South Africa. It was our collective hope that those measures and the efforts of the EPG to promote a process of dialogue in South Africa would, within six months, bring about concrete progress towards our objectives of seeing apartheid dismantled and the structures of democracy erected in South Africa.

5. As envisaged in the Accord, we have reviewed the situation. We are profoundly disappointed that the authorities in Pretoria have taken none of the five steps which at Nassau we called on them to take 'in a genuine manner and as a matter of urgency'. Nelson Mandela and other political leaders remain in prison. A new and more widely repressive emergency has been imposed and political freedom more rigorously curtailed; the ANC and other political parties are still banned. Beyond these, however, it has been a matter of deep concern to us that the EPG after its most patient efforts has been forced to conclude that 'at present there is no genuine intention on the part of the South African Government to dismantle apartheid' and 'no present prospect of a process of dialogue leading to the establishment of a non-racial and representative government'. We had looked at Nassau for the initiation by Pretoria of a process of dialogue in the context of a suspension of violence on all sides. Instead, as the EPG found, the cycle of violence and counter-violence has spiralled.

6. We receive the Group's findings with disappointment, and deplore the conduct of the South African Government whose actions, including the raids on neighbouring countries at a crucial moment of the EPG's work, terminated its efforts for peaceful change. We continue to believe with the EPG that the cycle of violence in South Africa must end. It is clearly established that the situation in South Africa constitutes a serious threat to regional peace and security.

7. It is thus clear to us that since our meeting in Nassau there has not been the adequate concrete progress that we looked for there. Indeed, the situation has deteriorated.

8. Accordingly, in the light of our review and of our agreement at Nassau, we have considered the adoption of further measures against the background of the EPG's conclusion that the absence of effective economic pressure on South Africa and the belief of the South African authorities that it need not be feared are actually deferring change. We acknowledge that the Commonwealth cannot stand by and allow the cycle of violence to spiral, but we must take effective concerted action.

9. We are agreed that one element of such action must be the adoption of further measures designed to impress on the authorities in Pretoria the compelling urgency of dismantling apartheid and erecting the structures of democracy in South Africa.

10. In doing so, we have looked particularly at the measures listed in para 7 of the Accord which some of us at Nassau had already indicated a willingness to include in any consideration of further measures. But we have looked as well to other measures under consideration elsewhere. In deciding on the adoption of further measures, we recognise that if they are to have maximum effect they should be part of a wider programme of international action.

11. The British Government's position is set out in paragraph 12.. The rest of us have agreed as follows:

(a) The adoption of further substantial economic measures against South Africa is a moral and political imperative to which a positive response can no longer be deferred.

(b) We ourselves will therefore adopt the following measures and commend them to the rest of the Commonwealth and the wider international community for urgent adoption and implementation:

(i) All the measures listed in paragraph 7 of the Nassau Accord, namely:

(a) a ban on air links with South Africa,

(b) a ban on new investment or reinvestment of profits earned in South Africa,

(c) a ban on the import of agricultural products from South Africa,

(d) the termination of double taxation agreements with South Africa,

(e) the termination of all government assistance to investment in, and trade with, South Africa,

(f) a ban on all government procurement in South Africa, .

(g) a ban on government contracts with majority-owned South African, companies, and

(h) a ban on the promotion of tourism to South Africa, and

(ii) the following additional measures:

(i) a ban on all new bank loans to South Africa, whether to the public or private sectors,

(j) a ban on the import of uranium, coal, iron and steel from South Africa, and

(k) the withdrawal of all consular facilities in South Africa except for our own nationals and nationals of third countries to whom we render consular services.

(c) while expressing both concern and regret that the British Government does not join in our agreement, we note its intention to proceed with the measures mentioned in paragraph 12 below.

(d) We feel, however, that we must do more. We look beyond the Commonwealth to the wider international community. We will, therefore, immediately embark on intensive consultations within the international community with a view to securing concerted international action in the coming months, our emphasis being on those countries that presently sustain a significant level of economic relations with South Africa.

12.. The British Government, while taking a different view on the likely impact of economic sanctions, declares that it will:

(i) put a voluntary ban on new investment in South Africa,

(ii) put a voluntary ban on the promotion of tourism to South Africa, and .

(iii) accept and implement any EEC decision to ban the import of coal, iron and steel and of gold coins from South Africa.

13. As a further element of our collective commitment to effective action, we have requested the Secretary-General, with assistance from our Governments, to co-ordinate the implementation of the agreed measures and to identify such adjustment as may be necessary in Commonwealth countries affected by them.

14. We renew the call we made at Nassau on the authorities in Pretoria to initiate, in the context of a suspension of violence on all sides, a process of dialogue across lines of colour, politics and religion with a view to establishing a non-racial and representative government in a united and non-fragmented South Africa. If Pretoria responds positively to this call - and takes the other steps for which we called in paragraph 2. of the Nassau Accord, we stand ready to review the situation and to rescind the measures we have adopted if appropriate; and to contribute, in all ways open to us, to an orderly transition to social, economic and political justice in South Africa and to peace and stability in Southern Africa as a whole.

15. On the other hand, we are equally mindful of our further commitment at Nassau that if in a reasonable time even these further measures have not had the desired effect, still further effective measures will have to be considered. We trust that the authorities in Pretoria will recognise the seriousness of our resolve. Acts of economic or other aggression against neighbouring states by way of retaliation or otherwise will activate that resolve.

16. Regretting the absence of full agreement but recognising that the potential for united Commonwealth action still exists, we agree that the seven Governments will keep the situation under review with the view to advising whether any further collective Commonwealth action, including a full Heads of Government Meeting, is desirable. We are conscious that the situation in South Africa may evolve rapidly and dangerously. We believe the Commonwealth must retain its capacity to help to advance the objectives of the Nassau Accord and be ready to use all the means at its disposal to do so.

17. Meeting in London at a time of heightened strains within our association, we take the opportunity to renew our own firm commitment to the future of the Commonwealth and to the aims and objectives which have guided it over the years. We are fortified - in this renewal by the spirit of frankness in friendship which characterised our discussions and our belief that they have helped to light a common path towards fulfilment of our common purpose, namely, the dismantling of apartheid and the establishment of a non-racial and representative government in South Africa as a matter of compelling urgency.