110.15 MC/3–2150

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Chargé in South Africa (Connelly)1

Participants: D. D. Forsyth, Union Secretary for External Affairs;
Honorable George C. McGhee, Assistant Secretary of State for NEA;
Bernard C. Connelly, American Embassy, Cape Town.

Mr. McGhee, after expressing his pleasure at being in Cape Town, explained that the Union was not in his area so far as his work in the Department was concerned, but that he would be very pleased to tell his associates of any comments Mr. Forsyth might wish to make. Mr. Forsyth said that he realized that South Africa did not fall within Mr. McGhee’s jurisdiction but remarked that since Mr. McGhee was so close to the Union they wanted him to visit Cape Town and meet Government officials.

Relations with the US.—Mr. Forsyth stated that South Africa’s relations with the US were “of the very best.” He added, however, that the US and South Africa did not always see eye to eye on certain matters and spoke of what he termed the “jiggling” attitude by the US. (Here he obviously had in mind the cases of South West Africa, Michael Scott2 and the Ex–Im Bank loan application.3) Mr. Forsyth observed that much of the outside world did not have a clear understanding of the various problems besetting the Union. With respect to US trade relations Mr. Forsyth reiterated Mr. Louw’s4 remark that South Africa found that it had not understood the purpose of the EX–IM Bank and could not agree to the conditions attached to the loan. He likewise stated that the Union needed overseas capital for its development and hoped that private American capital would be invested in the Orange Free State gold mines and other projects.

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Mr. Forsyth mentioned in an offhand way that he believed there was some uneasiness throughout the world in regard to US aims, saying that the US was interested in every part of the world and was pouring money in everywhere. He asked “For what purpose is this being done?” Mr. McGhee asked if Mr. Forsyth really felt anyone believed the US had imperialistic ambitions, which our whole history had proved to be the contrary. Mr. Forsyth replied in the negative, but nonetheless still left the impression of possible doubt abroad as to our goal.

United Nations.—South Africa, Mr. Forsyth said, feels very strongly that if UN continues its present course of interfering into the domestic affairs of member nations the UN will fail. Some of its recent actions with respect to the non-self-governing territories have defeated the purpose of Article 73(c) of the United Nations Charter (“Members … accept as a sacred trust… to further international peace and security.”). This purpose cannot be and will not be achieved if the UN continues to meddle in the affairs of these areas. Mr. Forsyth stated he would like to give some background on this particular trusteeship article in the Charter. Prior to going to the San Francisco meeting, which Mr. Forsyth attended, he was present at a conference in London of the delegations of the several Commonwealth nations which was to determine the action they should take in respect to the forthcoming conference. There was no provision in the Dumbarton Oaks draft of the Charter for reports to the United Nations on the administration of non-self-governing territories or any thought of having such reports submitted by the trusteeship nations. Australia, however, proposed that a clause be put in the Charter calling for purely voluntary information being sent to the UN Library for circulation to members for their information in regard to various statistical data concerning the areas they were administering. South Africa and the United Kingdom, Mr. Forsyth continued, took a dim view of this proposal, but it was decided that at San Francisco Australia would raise this subject. It did so, the Article was inserted in the Charter, and the result is apparent.

Recent developments such as UN mixing in South West African affairs and UN investigating bodies going to other non-self-governing areas are actions which were never even thought of by the framers of the Charter at San Francisco. This “interfering” process is the result of action by smaller nations, particularly in Latin America, who are in no way concerned directly in these areas and who are sufficiently numerous to outvote the major UN members who are directly responsible for these areas and who are opposed to such steps. If the numerical majority of minor nations in the UN insist on further [Page 1820] action of this kind against the wishes of the countries directly concerned, the collapse of the UN, Mr. Forsyth believed, will follow. (This statement was presumably based on the possible withdrawal from the UN of South Africa, France, Belgium, the UK, etc.) South Africa considers that the United Nations has no right to interfere in the administration of SWA as it is contrary to the original purposes of the Charter and the terms under which South Africa originally received the Mandate.

Mr. Forsyth explained that he had 14 years service in SWA and felt that he could speak with authority on the area. The European area in SWA has its own administration, officials, House of Assembly and will shortly have representation in the Union Parliament. A white person cannot cross the borders from the European section into the native reserves without a special pass. The blacks in the reserves run their own affairs themselves and in accordance with tribal custom. The SWA Administration has no say in running these tribal areas; the Chiefs can request the Administration’s advice, which is given in an advisory capacity only. Furthermore, the tribes are not homogeneous. There are a number of different tribes with different customs and different organizations.

The only reference Mr. Forsyth made to the Michael Scott case was at the very end of the talk in which he stated that he had convincing evidence, the source of which he was not at liberty as yet to reveal, showing that Scott had become a member of the UK Communist Party in 1934 through the influence of one Emil Barnes and that Scott had come to South Africa in 1945 bearing a letter from the UK CP to the CP of South Africa. Mr. McGhee stated that if Mr. Forsyth wished we would endeavor to check that report, and as Mr. Forsyth had no objection, the Embassy’s cable No. 45 (Cape Town series) of March 8, 1950 was sent to the Department.5

International Court of Justice.—Mr. Forsyth observed that South Africa still believed the SWA case should not have been referred to [Page 1821] the ICJ, but since it has been, South Africa is preparing a brief for presentation. Mr. Forsyth stated that he felt South Africa had a good case, and would obtain a favorable decision if the judgment was made on purely legal grounds and was not influenced by other considerations. No decision as yet had been made as to who would represent South Africa before the Court; possibly the South African Minister at The Hague, or someone else, depending on circumstances at the time. The only doubt in Mr. Forsyth’s mind was that there might be some question of whether SWA was a non-self-governing territory. The European section is self-governing to the extent that it has its own administration, etc. The native reserves are likewise self-governing in accordance with tribal custom. This, however, is entirely a question of legal interpretation.6

India.—Mr. McGhee referred to Mr. Forsyth’s presence at the Colombo Conference7 and asked what he thought of Prime Minister Nehru. Mr. Forsyth replied he could not at first make him out, but had come to the conclusion that Nehru was an extremely able and ambitious man who was above all an opportunist. He felt Nehru wanted to head a group of middle and south Asian states with India as the principal member. Mr. Forsyth added that he felt India was remaining within the Commonwealth because Nehru considered that best suited his purpose at the present time. However, Nehru was not taking any clear stand against the Soviets, and Mr. Forsyth felt that if Nehru could achieve his goal by playing along with the Communists he would certainly do so.

Mr. Forsyth said that he is considerably worried over the possibility of Indian expansionism. South Africa has a very serious problem in the Indians resident in the Union and he gave the impression that this group might serve as an eventual fifth column. Since the annual increase in India’s population of 5,000,000 persons could not possibly be absorbed in manufacturing or other fields in the subcontinent, they would have to go abroad. As Mr. Forsyth put it, one of the Singhalese Ministers at Colombo said to him “We, like you, also have an Indian problem. But you are 3,500 miles away.” Mr. Forsyth referred to the large Indian colonies in East Africa which might serve India as an excuse for seeking that area. From there it is but a step to the Union.8

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Commonwealth Relations.—The Colombo Conference, Mr. Forsyth continued, had been worthwhile. Southeast Asia had to be strengthened against the Communist advance, but the Union had no funds to spare for use there since there was a greater need within the Union for any moneys available. Mr. McGhee said he felt the Commonwealth organization was a powerful force in the struggle for world peace and prosperity and that we hoped South Africa would remain in the Commonwealth. Mr. Forsyth answered that all talk of establishing a South African “republic” was, in his opinion, for local consumption, and that South Africa had no intention of leaving the Commonwealth. He pointed out that the English-speaking nations—the United States and the Commonwealth—were the only safeguards against a Communist-dominated world. We had the same language, the same traditions, the same way of life, and aims, and we had to stick together.

Impressions of Union Officials.—Mr. Forsyth asked Mr. McGhee what he thought of the Government officials whom he had met. Mr. McGhee replied that he hardly thought it appropriate for him to comment. Mr. Forsyth said he appreciated Mr. McGhee’s position, was pleased with his answer, but observed that nothing said would go beyond the four walls of the room. Mr. McGhee then observed that he was greatly impressed with the officials whom he had met, particularly with their sincerity in trying their best to work out a solution of their problems. Mr. Forsyth stated he was very pleased to hear this since, while he did not always agree with the Government’s policies and measures, he was convinced the Government officials were absolutely sincere in their desire to solve their problems in the way which seemed to them to be the best solution.

Apartheid.—With respect to the Government’s policy Mr. Forsyth remarked he had once asked Doctor Malan what he conceived as the ultimate goal of apartheid. The Prime Minister’s reply was complete separation of whites and non-whites. The non-whites would be given all encouragement and help in improving their lot, economically and socially, but they would have to live by themselves. For example, in higher education the natives would receive identical instruction to the whites, given by the same teachers, but would be taught in completely separate buildings. Mr. Forsyth also mentioned that some of the extreme enthusiasts of apartheid even had in mind complete native states run exclusively by the natives.

Conclusion.—In saying that he hoped Mr. McGhee had a pleasant and interesting visit, to which Mr. McGhee answered in the affirmative, Mr. Forsyth stated that he was sorry Mr. McGhee’s visit could not have been several days longer, but that he fully understood how impossible this was in view of Mr. McGhee’s tight schedule. He added [Page 1823] that the Union Government would be pleased to see other senior officials of the State Department whenever they had an opportunity of visiting South Africa. Mr. McGhee again expressed his deep appreciation of the kindnesses shown him, and of his pleasure at having been able to talk with the Prime Minister and other Government officials.

  1. The source text was transmitted as enclosure 7 to despatch 54, March 21, from Capetown. Regarding the circumstances of this and related meetings, held by South African officials with Assistant Secretary McGhee, see footnote 1, supra.
  2. Rev. Michael Scott, Anglican clergyman, who appeared before the United Nations Trusteeship Council in 1949 to testify on behalf of native tribes in Southwest Africa and against the South African administration in that territory.
  3. In 1949 South Africa sought unsuccessfully to obtain an Export-Import Bank loan of $100 million. In the loan negotiations, the South African Government objected to the gold deposit requirements for that portion of the loan taken by private banks and appeared to be of the opinion that because South Africa had an excellent credit record the Bank should act favorably on the application without going into the purposes for which the loan was to be used. (Department of State Policy Statement on the Union of South Africa, March 28, 1951: 611.45A/3–2851)
  4. Regarding Economic Affairs Minister Louw’s conversation with McGhee, see footnote 1, supra.
  5. The telegram under reference here, not printed, transmitted to the Department of State the information about Rev. Scott related by External Affairs Minister Forsyth (745A.001/6–550). Airgram A–24, June 5, to Capetown, not printed, informed that an agency of the U.S. Government generally confirmed the information related by Forsyth (745A.001/6–550). Despatch 16, July 17, from Pretoria reported that External Affairs Minister Forsyth expressed appreciation for the confirmation of his report and asked if it could be ascertained if Scott were still a Communist Party member (745A.001/7–1750). Airgram A–52, November 10, to Pretoria, not printed, stated that it had not proved possible to confirm Scott’s association with the British Communist Party (745A.001/7–1750). Despatch 202, October 17, from Pretoria, not printed, reported that the External Affairs Ministry had informed the Embassy that South Africa, at the request of the British Government, had decided not to announce to the United Nations that Rev. Scott was a member of the British Communist Party (745A.001/10–1750).
  6. Regarding the attitude of the United States toward the United Nations decision to request the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to render an advisory opinion on the international status of Southwest Africa, see the aide-mémoire of February 20 from the Department of State to the South African Embassy, p. 1813.
  7. Reference to the meeting of the Commonwealth Foreign Ministers at Colombo, Ceylon, January 9–14, 1950.
  8. For selected documentation on the treatment of people of Indian origin in the Union of South Africa, a topic considered by the United Nations General Assembly in November and December 1950, see vol. ii, pp. 559 ff.