From the Archives (June 24, 1970): U.K. to resume arms sales to S. Africa

Mr. Heath’s new Conservative Government gave itself a bad start to-day [June 23, 1970] with its reported decision to resume arms sales to South Africa at an early date.

The sales though selective and strictly controlled, would still be contrary to the spirit of the 1963 U.N. Council resolution, which the Wilson Government had respected.

The proposed sale is said to cover supply of, and repairs to, armaments from Britain.

It was meant primarily to let Britain use a South African naval base within a general concept of keeping the seaway around the Cape of Good Hope open to free navigation.

Although the Russian naval presence in the Indian Ocean has recently increased, it cannot be seriously contended that shipping around the Cape of Good Hope is threatened. Even NATO sees a Russian naval threat in the Mediterranean and not in the Indian Ocean around South Africa.

The scope of the Simonstown agreement had been interpreted by South Africa to include naval and other arms supplies to that country to strengthen its capacity to safeguard the seaway.

Whether the Tories agree with this interpretation of the agreement is not clear.