123 Erhardt, John G.

Memorandum of Conversation, by the First Secretary of the Embassy in South Africa (Connelly)


Subject: Ambassador’s courtesy calls on Acting Secretary for External Affairs, and on Prime Minister and Minister of External Affairs.

Participants: Ambassador Erhardt,1 Prime Minister Malan, Acting Secretary for External Affairs Donald. Spies,2 and Bernard C. Connelly, American Embassy.

The Ambassador called by appointment on the Acting Secretary for External Affairs. After an exchange of pleasantries the Ambassador said that he hoped he would be able to call on officials of the Department of External Affairs, as occasion arose, in order to exchange views on pertinent matters. Mr. Spies said that he would welcome such visits and External Affairs would do its utmost to co-operate.

Mr. Spies then took the Ambassador and Mr. Connelly into the Prime Minister’s office and after introducing them departed. The Ambassador stated that he had been looking forward to his assignment to the Union, and, in reply to the Prime Minister’s query, said that for the last six years he had been stationed in Vienna. He mentioned that the Russian Commanding General there, when apprised of the Ambassador’s forthcoming assignment, had remarked that in South Africa there were a lot of dissatisfied Natives. To this Dr. Malan [Page 1831] observed that he was aware the Soviet Union felt there was a fertile field for Communist propaganda among the non-Europeans in the Union. In fact, there was a very large Soviet Consulate General not far down the road.

Dr. Malan referred to the Union’s need for foreign capital to develop its mines and industries, and mentioned with pleasure the fact that American capital was taking part in development of the copper industry (at O’Keefe in northwestern Cape Province and Tsumab in South West Africa) and was also participating in the exploitation of the new gold mines in the Orange Free State. He mentioned that some hundreds of millions of pounds would have to be expended in that area before any substantial returns could be realized, but that even now one mine was producing to some extent and that all reports indicated the Orange Free State area was even richer than the Witwatersrand.

Dr. Malan volunteered the statement that among the Union’s mineral wealth was uranium. The Ambassador then asked how the uranium matter was progressing (having in mind the current discussions on this subject between South African and U.S. officials3). Dr. Malan replied that he believed the matter was progressing satisfactorily; he also said the Government realized it could only be delivered to us and not to those who would misuse it.

Dr. Malan spoke of the satisfactory turn of events in Korea and the Ambassador, in agreeing, spoke of the gratification the United States had on learning of the Union’s decision to send a fighter squadron to Korea.4

In conclusion, the Ambassador mentioned his hope that he might be able to see the Prime Minister on suitable occasions on topics of mutual interest, and the Prime Minister said that he would be very glad to have these visits.

  1. Ambassador Erhardt arrived in Capetown, South Africa, on September 19, arrived in Pretoria on September 26, and assumed charge of the Embassy on September 27. Erhardt presented his credentials to the Governor General of South Africa, G. Brand van Zyl, on October 4.
  2. Spies was South African Under Secretary for External Affairs.
  3. Regarding the negotiations with South Africa for the procurement of uranium, see the editorial note, p. 1842.
  4. Joint Weeka No. 32, sent in despatch 75, August 11, from Pretoria, reported as follows upon the South African decision to send military aid to Korea:

    “After a six-hour Cabinet meeting on August 4 the Union Government reversed its previous stand and decided to offer a fighter squadron to the UN forces in Korea. This decision came as a surprise to all political observers in the Union as well as to the general public. Previously the Union Cabinet had indicated that it was both unpracticable and unrealistic for the Union to give any military assistance in Korea, and emphasized that the Far East was out of its sphere of influence. The reasons for the Cabinet’s change of opinion apear to be a combination of: (1) increasing public pressure for South African aid, (2) the belief that aid to Korea would influence the anti-Communist German vote in South West Africa, (3) the necessity for proving beyond any question the Government’s anti-Communism, (4) concern over possible U.S. Government economic reaction toward the Union’s unwillingness to help in Korea, and (5) a determination that under the circumstances the Cabinet should make the least possible acceptable gesture.” (745A.00(W)/8–1150)