The Minister in the Union of South Africa (MacVeagh) to the Secretary of State
[Received 10:18 p.m.]
263. The Department’s No. 174 of September 18, 10 p.m. The first meeting of the Supply Council was held yesterday, the 23d, in [Page 207]Pretoria. General Smuts made a brief address. The South African member was then elected Chairman, and questions of procedure discussed and settled. I informed the Council of my intention of bringing up the problem of increased coal production at an early date, and Lord Harlech54 spoke of his Government’s interest in South Africa’s contribution to the world’s food supply. The Chairman mentioned South Africa’s need for phosphate fertilizers. No direct reference was made to gold mining, but the Chairman alluded to the necessity of the Council’s keeping in mind the intimate relationship between South Africa’s potential war production and its economic and political situation, and particularly the existence here of a large public opinion opposed to the war which prevents the Government from doing much that it would otherwise desire. It was agreed that questions to be brought up at the next meeting should be made the subject of preliminary study by the experts available and the meeting called when this should be concluded. I have ascertained from Lord Harlech that he has instructions regarding coal and I have arranged a meeting with him tomorrow to coordinate our ideas. The questions in this connection which I propose to lay before the Council after preliminary studies by our experts are those included in sections 6 and 7 of the Department’s telegram number 175 of September 20, 11 p.m.55
Since General Smuts is leaving presently for London, and perhaps the United States, I informed him of the acceptance of Gage’s proposals in so far as this alters the decision to consider gold mining problems outside the Council, of which I had previously informed him pursuant to paragraph 4 of the Department’s telegrams No. 111–113 of June 3 (see my telegram No. 150 of June 9, noon55). I made no mention of this in the Council, which will consider all questions of supply as they come up.
With special reference to the Department’s No. 175, the instructions in this and the preceding message regarding the conditions to govern my concurrence in gold mining recommendations appear clear to me, but I shall not fail to telegraph immediately any questions or comments which may later appear pertinent or necessary. I fully concur in the desirability of reviewing the gold mining situation periodically, but I would also urge that our success in solving this problem through the medium of the Council will very largely depend on our faithfully accepting its recommendations in principle and consistently basing any refusals to comply, for whatever reason, on critical shortages or other unpredictable war conditions. I feel sure, after consultation with Dr. Van der Bijl, that the South Africans will not object to scrutiny in the Council along the lines the Department has laid down, [Page 208]and that thereafter they will accept any limitations which we may allege to be imposed by our ability to supply, but that their willing cooperation is not likely to survive much further questioning either of their knowledge of their our [own?] economy or their understanding of the importance of the war effort. Bitting57 and Day agree.
Regarding the coal problem, Sweeney58 will answer the cable from OEW referred to in paragraph F of section 7 of the Department’s telegram 175, though this question will also come before the Council. His reply will be the result of conference with the general manager of the railways attended by Sweeney, Day and Bitting, and consultation with Shields of the WSA. In this connection, we are glad to answer all queries as best we can, no matter how they come, but perhaps in view of the complexity of the coal supply problem, involving not only the Railway Administration but many other departments of the Government, the Department might consider canalizing all such queries through the Legation for submission to the central machinery of the Council now established.