IO Files

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State for United Nations Affairs (Hickerson)1


Subject: Counter-Proposal of the Ad Hoc Committee re South West Africa

Participants: The South African Ambassador the Honorable G. P. Jooste
Mr. W. Dirkse-van-Schalkwyck, First Secretary
Mr. Hickerson, UNA
Mr. Gerig, UND
Mr. Allen, EUR 2
Mr. Shullaw, BNA

The South African Ambassador, Mr. Jooste, called on me today at my request to discuss the counter-proposal regarding Southwest Africa which the Ad Hoc Committee presented to the South African representatives in New York on July 12. I told the Ambassador that I believed real progress had been made in the negotiations between the [Page 685]Committee and the South African representatives. I said that the counter-proposal made by the Committee included the three basic principles which were generally agreed on by the negotiating groups. These principles were:

That an agreement be negotiated to regulate the future status of Southwest Africa.
That provision might be made for some form of implementation, and
That certain modifications might be made in the terms of the present mandate.

The basic difference between the Ad Hoc Committee and the Union Government is with regard to the mode of implementation. I said that in actual practice, however, this difference would not be great since even in the absence of an agreement the General Assembly would certainly discuss Southwest Africa. Discussions in UN, in our opinion, would be far less hostile if agreement with the UN were achieved on the basis of the counter-proposal of the Committee. This counterproposal affords the Union Government safeguards by establishing a commission of experts which would examine annual reports and which might meet in private. Furthermore the proposed small Political Committee would include South Africa and would act on the basis of unanimity.

I told Mr. Jooste that we believed there was a chance of getting the General Assembly to approve an agreement along the lines of the counter-proposal but that anything less, we were firmly convinced, would not get the necessary two-thirds vote. I said that speaking as a friend of South Africa I most earnestly urged that the South African Government accept the counter-proposal in principle with the details to be worked out with the Committee. I said that I believed such action was in the interests of South Africa since a solution of the problem of Southwest Africa would enable South Africa to play the role in UN to which its importance as a nation entitled it.

In replying to my remarks, Ambassador Jooste said that it was not the details but the principles to which his Government would object. He said that he did not believe his Government would accept any agreement which resulted in reports finding their way directly or indirectly to the General Assembly. He remarked that this was a matter not only of Government policy but also of public opinion. In the past discussion of the administration of Southwest Africa had inevitably led to a discussion of the racial policies of South Africa itself, this notwithstanding Article 2(7) of the Charter. In response to a question, Ambassador Jooste stated it would be clearly impossible and undesirable for South Africa to pursue a different racial policy in Southwest Africa than in the metropole because 1) to do so would admit that the latter policy was wrong; 2) in Southwest Africa segregation is [Page 686]necessary for the protection of the native versus the white man; and 3) geographical contiguity would make it impossible. He remarked that the question of reports had been exaggerated out of all reason and that the amour propre of both the UN and South Africa had become involved. He expressed doubt that the Committee would even accept negotiation of an agreement between the remaining Allied and Associated Powers and South Africa. Mr. Gerig remarked at this point that the Committee had not rejected the idea of the agreement being negotiated with the three remaining Allied and Associated Powers with subsequent General Assembly approval. The United States would be quite prepared to join the United Kingdom and France as the contracting powers provided the latter were willing and the General Assembly did not oppose this procedure.

The Ambassador recalled that in the negotiations he had from the beginning attempted to keep the position fluid. He said that Mr. Steyn, who has now returned to South Africa, will endeavor to persuade the South African Government to delay its reply to the Committee’s counter-proposal for a month or even two months and not to reject it immediately as they would probably be inclined to do.

In the general discussion which followed the Ambassador’s remarks, the point was repeatedly stressed that Southwest Africa would continue to be discussed in UN regardless of whether or not agreement were reached with the negotiating Committee. Acceptance of the counter-proposal would place South Africa in a stronger position and would lessen the acrimonious character of the discussions, since such discussions in the General Assembly would then be within the framework of South Africa’s own report as transmitted by the Committee of which South Africa is a member. Moreover, we felt that with the problem of the agreement removed from the political arena, the other question of the treatment of Indians would assume less importance and arouse much less controversy and interest. Furthermore the safeguards provided in the counter-proposal for South Africa did protect South African interests.

The Ambassador said that while the individual members of the Committee had been friendly and even sympathetic, they had in some instances been the spokesmen for UN blocs and their freedom of action had been inhibited by that fact. He mentioned as an example the position of the Syrian representative on the Committee. He admitted, however, that to date the negotiations had accomplished one thing at least. They have demonstrated to the South African Government that it is possible for South Africa to discuss this problem with a cross section of the UN without coming to blows. The Ambassador expressed his appreciation for the helpful attitude of the United States on the Committee and for the time we had given him and said that he would communicate over [our?] views to his government.

  1. Drafted by J. Harold Shullaw of the Onice of British Commonwealth and Northern European Affairs.
  2. Ward P. Allen, Special Assistant for United Nations Affairs, Bureau of European Affairs.