IO Files

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Director of the Office of Dependent Area Affairs (Gerig)


Subject: Question of South West Africa

Participants: Ambassador Jooste,1 } Embassy of the Union of South Africa
Mr. B. J. Jarvie,2
Assistant Secretary Hickerson3
Mr. Hayden Raynor, BNA 4
Mr. Benjamin Gerig, UND

Ambassador Jooste called today at his request to ascertain the Department’s views on several questions which might arise in the UN’s Committee on South West Africa. (Before taking up these points Mr. Hickerson expressed the Department’s appreciation on the manner in which the Union Government had paid their tribute to the late United States Ambassador Erhardt, in response to which Ambassador Jooste said that the Union Government had felt this loss very keenly because Ambassador Erhardt had so quickly learned to understand some of the special problems with which the Union was faced.)

Ambassador Jooste then asked a series of specific questions as to our probable attitude, in particular as to the questions of (a) competence of the Committee to receive “new information” which might have changed the Court’s opinion, and (b) probable willingness of the Committee to receive suggestions or proposals which might not completely seem to correspond to a literal interpretation of the Court’s opinion. Ambassador Jooste prefaced his points by saying that the Union Government had accepted the principle of international accountability but it was on the details of implementation that the difficulties might arise.

On the question of the Committee’s competence to receive new information, Mr. Hickerson said, and Mr. Raynor and Mr. Gerig agreed, that it was doubtful in our minds whether the Committee was competent to receive and consider “new information” which the Union Government [Page 678]thinks might have changed the Court’s opinion. Mr. Donges, at the Fourth Committee, had referred to this material at some length and therefore the Assembly was apprised of this matter before it adopted its resolution setting up the negotiating committee, with its present terms of reference. He added, however, that such information might very well be brought to the attention of the next Assembly by the Union Delegation and, indeed, the Union Government might find some other way of bringing the matter to the attention of the Court. Ambassador Jooste appeared to accept Mr. Hickerson’s view that the Committee should not be presented with this question.

On the question of the Committee’s competence to receive suggestions which might fall short of a literal reading of the Court’s opinion, Mr. Hickerson gave it as his own opinion that the Committee should and would receive such suggestions. Mr. Gerig and Mr. Raynor both agreed. Mr. Raynor thought that such suggestions could be taken as a basis for negotiations and in the course of the discussions it would be seen how close together the committee and the Union Representative would come.

Ambassador Jooste then said that the Union Government, in accepting the principle of international accountability, had had in mind that an agreement could be entered into with the United Nations which would incorporate certain of the articles of the mandate under which the Union would undertake, inter alia, to promote the material and moral well-being of the inhabitants, prohibit forced labor and the supply of intoxicating beverages, insure freedom of conscience and worship, regulate the arms traffic, etc. Mr. Gerig thought that the Committee would welcome a proposal that an agreement should be negotiated, even though the contents of an agreement might be the subject of some difficult negotiations.

Mr. Hickerson said that it would be a good start to assume that an agreement could be negotiated, and he expressed the hope that the Union Government would not take a rigid position in the nature of “freezing” their position at the outset. Ambassador Jooste agreed and said he hoped the Committee, on its side, would not take a rigid position either but would be willing to consider various ways of expressing the undertakings in such an agreement. For example, he felt that if the Committee would start to say that unless annual reports were submitted there was no use going on, it might be very difficult. He would not say that such reports in some form would not be agreed to by his Government—he didn’t know—but language might be found which would deal with this question under the principle of international accountability which would be satisfactory to all parties concerned.

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Mr. Hickerson said that since the Union Government accepts the principle of international accountability he would hope that the Union would make a statement agreeing in principle to the opinion of the Court which would leave open a wide area for negotiating the details. He thought this was the more possible since the opinion of the Court was really not onerous and asked no more of the Union Government than they were able to accept for twenty years under the Mandates System. Mr. Jooste said he hoped they could consider some such approach.

Mr. Gerig said that the question of open or closed meetings of the Committee would probably arise when the negotiations started. All seemed to agree that although certain meetings should be open for a kind of pro forma discussion, it would be impossible to carry on such delicate negotiations in public. While there would probably be no great public interest in some of the questions, others would be discussed in a manner which would tend to get positions fixed in such a way that agreement would be rendered much more difficult. Mr. Hickerson said that Mr. Gerig, as the United States Representative, would try to get the Committee to conduct its meetings in a manner most conducive to successful negotiations. Mr. Raynor also agreed that the meetings should be closed.

Ambassador Jooste ended the conversation by referring to the reply which the Union Government had made on the Indian question in South Africa.5 He pointed out that the reply, though negative, might have used much more vehement language. It was, however, a restrained reply, and, he thought, indicated that the Union Government was really desirous of getting along with the United Nations so long as its domestic position was not interfered with. Mr. Hickerson said he had noticed this reply and was encouraged to think that the Union was making a real effort to strengthen the United Nations as well as itself. On the big issues, such as Korea, the East–West conflict, etc., we agreed. It was only on certain other minor matters that we had differed and he believed that as soon as these were cleared away the Union Government would be able to play the role in the United Nations for which it was fitted.

  1. G. P. Jooste, Ambassador of the Union of South Africa to the United States.
  2. Counselor of Embassy of the Union of South Africa.
  3. John D. Hickerson, Assistant Secretary of State for United Nations Affairs.
  4. G. Hayden Raynor, Director of the Office of British Commonwealth and Northern European Affairs.
  5. For documentation on this matter, see pp. 842 ff.