John Howard’s Comments on Nelson Mandela and Sanctions

These comments are extracted from the transcript of a press conference given by Prime Minister John Howard at the Royal Hotel in Durban, South Africa.

Extract of press conference remarks by Prime Minister John Howard.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, in the 1980s you came under some criticism for your views on South Africa….

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, I remember that.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think your views have changed and matured on these sorts of issues over the years or what do you feel looking back on all that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I guess we all change and mature over the years. I have no doubt that what happened here in South Africa in the early 1990s was right and just. I have no doubt that it was made possible by the combined efforts of two men, of Nelson Mandela and FW De Klerk. Mandela, I think I have said before, is one of the most impressive people I have met in life and I think it’s a remarkable tribute to mankind’s capacity to forgive that a person who could have lost 27 years of his life in detention without, in the eyes of some, a proper process and the sort of appalling conditions in which he was imprisoned can complete the transition that he completed is an extraordinary thing. I think it’s also fair to say that De Klerk did make a contribution. To tell your own constituency that they have to surrender privileges that they have had all their life is always a challenge for a political leader and I think it’s a remarkable experiment…not experiment, it is a remarkable investment in human goodwill what’s happened here. So if you are saying, you know, was I right or wrong, look, I can only say what I have just said that I think there has been a…I mean, back in the 1980’s, Michelle, I never said that I supported the regime, I argued for at that time, if I can remember right by a slightly different approach to things like sanctions. And indeed some of the most liberal thinkers of the old South Africa were opposed to economic sanctions if I remember rightly. Alan Paton and Helen Suzman were two people who fell into that category. But I mean, that’s a bit academic isn’t it?

JOURNALIST:

Has your contact with Mr Mandela though changed your attitude to sanctions as a tool in that kind of…

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I mean, I don’t really spend a lot of time, I mean, life moves on and sanctions are…

JOURNALIST:

But do you think they are a valuable tool in circumstances other than the ones…

PRIME MINISTER:

I mean, historically sanctions have been relative failures. I have to say that history demonstrated they probably have some value in relation to South Africa. I think they did. But they didn’t work in Rhodesia, very effectively. Years and years ago they didn’t work in the old Abyssinia, now Ethiopia. But the Americans have maintained them very strenuously in relation to Iraq and many people would argue that they’ve had some impact there. I think the jury has to be out, I think it depends entirely, Karen, on what the particular circumstance is.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email