848A.24/195: Telegram

The Minister in the Union of South Africa (MacVeagh) to the Secretary of State

62. Neither Smuts nor Martin, in talking with me here, has shown any sign of desiring to treat the problems of gold mining separate from the other supply problems of South Africa, or of expecting the proposed council so to treat them. The General in particular has shown a very clear understanding of the purport of the council in this connection. Furthermore, that we make an advance commitment to provide gold mining supplies before there has been a decision concerning the limits to be imposed on gold mining operations does not seem to be precisely what the Prime Minister suggests in his message. There he asks simply for a joint understanding that if and when such limits have been imposed, the supplies allowed thereunder will be made available. His request seems actuated by the fear that after the council has cut orders for gold mining supplies down to the minimum consistent with economic and political stability, other agencies of our Government may restrict actual deliveries and thus bring about a dangerous local situation. Following is the pertinent part of his message:

“He wishes to make it clear to the President that while he is willing to consider how far the gold industry could be reduced and war industries expanded, the essential importance of the gold industry to the Union’s internal economy is such that there are limits to the extent to which the gold industry can be cut down without jeopardizing South Africa’s war effort. Therefore, while he is ready to agree [to] those limits with the United States and the United Kingdom through the medium of the joint body proposed, he feels that there should be a joint understanding in advance that within those limits supplies for South Africa’s needs will be made available.”

It is my impression that though some of his subordinates may be differently inclined, the General himself is not trying to be smart in [Page 186] this matter, and is taking our proposals not only in the spirit in which they are made, but in the belief that they constitute a hopeful and constructive way out of an embarrassing position of long standing both for him and for us.