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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 August 2006, 05:05 GMT 06:05 UK
Tories 'were wrong over S Africa'
Nelson Mandela and David Cameron
Mr Cameron was very impressed by Nelson Mandela
Conservative leader David Cameron has denounced his party's policy on South Africa during Margaret Thatcher's era, in an article in the Observer.

"The mistakes my party made in the past with respect to relations with the ANC and sanctions... make it all the more important to listen now," he wrote.

Lady Thatcher would not back sanctions in the 1980s, calling Nelson Mandela's African National Congress terrorists.

Mr Cameron met the former South African president in South Africa last week.

He called him "one of the greatest men alive" and said he had learned lessons from him.

He wrote: "The fact that there is so much to celebrate in the new South Africa is not in spite of Mandela and the ANC, it is because of them - and we Conservatives should say so clearly today."

Because of his age, Mr Cameron is looking at these events as part of history
Lord Tebbit

However, former Tory party chairman Lord Tebbit defended Lady Thatcher's policy of "constructive engagement" with South Africa and said it had "been a success".

He told the Observer: "Because of his age, Mr Cameron is looking at these events as part of history. Others of us who lived through them and had input into the discussions at the time see things very differently."

He added: "The result was an overwhelmingly peaceful transition of power in which the final initiative for the handover came not from foreigners but from native South Africans - Afrikaner South Africans, at that."

Mr Cameron said in his newspaper article he had drawn "two big lessons" from his visit to South Africa. The first was the importance of patience when trying to achieve long-term change.

"The second lesson is a related one: the importance of humility," he wrote.


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