IO Files

Minutes of Fortieth Meeting of the United States Delegation to the General Assembly, Paris, January 5, 1952


[Here follows list of persons (34) present. Mrs. Roosevelt was in the chair. Three prior agenda items were taken up and disposed of.]

4. South West Africa proposal by South Africa

Mr. Taylor noted that South Africa wanted the United States to support a declaration in the plenary that Committee Four’s action in inviting the Herero chieftains to be heard had been illegal. (See Delga 848).1 No instructions had been received from the Department as yet. The Delegation might, he suggested, send some suggestions on the matter to the Department for its consideration.

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Mr. McKay noted that South Africa had moved that the item on South West Africa be moved from last place on Committee Four’s agenda to the second place. After considerable acrimonious debate, the Herero chiefs had been invited to come to Paris to participate. The resolution proposing this had been adopted by a vote of 37–7–7, the United States abstaining. Mr. McKay referred to Delga 848 which listed the arguments the South Africans had made in connection with the International Court’s opinion on South West Africa. He reported that Robinson, a Canadian, had approached him the day before with the confidential information that the South Africans had proposed in a Commonwealth meeting the tabling of this resolution in the plenary which would declare the Committee Four action illegal. At that meeting the United Kingdom and Australian delegates had strongly opposed this move. Mr. Donges, the South African delegate, had been considerably shaken at this lack of support from quarters which usually were amenable to his ideas. Robinson suggested that, were the United States to follow up with another strong expression of opposition to the South Africans’ proposed move, perhaps they could be persuaded to refrain from offering it.

Mr. Allen mentioned a conversation he had had with Ambassador Jooste, of South Africa, in which the various factors compelling the South Africans to make this or some other move had been set forth. Mr. Taylor asked if the Delegation were agreed that as to the merits of this proposed move the South Africans were in the wrong. He took it that we agreed the Fourth Committee had acted legally. He then asked how the United States could assist the South Africans in view of this position on the merits. One suggestion had been to let them put in a new item which would be referred to Committee Six on the legal aspects of their contention. Or conceivably South Africa could put its resolution in the plenary as an additional resolution connection with the South West Africa item. He wondered whether it would be politically desirable for the United States to take this advanced position in assisting South Africa.

Ambassador Jessup took it that the Delegation disagreed on the merits with the South African position, but that it would be undesirable to spell this out too clearly. However, he felt that we ought to tell them that we could not vote for their resolution. If they wanted, nevertheless, to air it in the Assembly we might agree to help them get the necessary ⅓ vote for discussion of the Fourth Committee report so that they could present the constitutional issues, while warning them that it would not be a wise course to follow. We should advise them that they would get a bad beating on this, and that it would be better to raise the matter in some other way. Possibilities in this connection might be submittal of the question to the Sixth Committee or conceivably to the ICJ. Dr. Tobias saw a difference between not trying [Page 718]to gag them and in actively helping them. Senator Cooper thought that South Africa’s position was unsound. Mr. Tate said they had no legal grounds, and seemed, in fact, to recognize this, in that they had based their proposed action on the very broad and loose basis of Article 10 of the Charter. The question in his opinion was only one of policy as to whether we wanted to help them have a hearing, i.e., to “get another black eye”. Senator Cooper said that the basic weakness of South Africa’s position is that it would not agree to put South West Africa under the Trusteeship system. Dr. Tobias saw the United States in the peculiar position of wanting to help South Africa in Committee Four when they had absented themselves from that Committee.

Ambassador Sayre thought that the merits of the case were clear: the United Nations could not compel South Africa to put South West Africa under the Trusteeship system, but if they would not, then the territory remained under the former mandate system, and reports on their administration of it were required. The United States more than any other state had tried to move the situation along to a solution. At our instigation a meeting had been held which had resulted in keeping the resolution on this item down to a relatively moderate tone, compared with the wishes of most of that group. He thought it would be unwise to throw the South African proposal into the Assembly since it would only succeed in getting a “red hot” retaliatory resolution aimed against them. This in turn would add fuel to Malan’s adamant policies.

In regard to the invitation to the Herero chiefs, Ambassador Sayre agreed with the Department that the action was entirely legal. Committee Six would doubtless say that Committee Four had the right to invite indigenous representatives. The result of such a determination however might well be to turn Committee Four into an arena to hear the grievances of non-official indigenous representatives. As to practical courses which could be taken, the only thing Ambassador Sayre could say was that the United States could not support South Africa in its discriminatory practices. He cautioned that even putting our finger in the pot might cause it to be burned.

Mr. Allen had a short suggestion to make. This matter was not a question of whether or not to be nice to South Africa. It was rather a question solely of tactics to be followed within the Assembly vis-à-vis the South Africans and what they might do in Plenary. Since it was generally agreed that it would be undesirable to open up a Pandora’s box in Plenary, we should try to head off the South Africans by having them put in something which would raise the constitutional question for Committee Six or ICJ determination, phrased in general terms rather than the specific one of the invitation to the Hereros.

Ambassador Jessup suggested that it be pointed out to the Department, along the lines indicated by Ambassador Sayre, that the Moroccan [Page 719]issue2 and various others might be opened up if an explicit statement by Committee Six were given that the Committee Four action had been legal and justified. Mrs. Roosevelt noted that Tunisia might be one of these issues, and that the general Arab displeasure with the United States should be borne in mind in addition to Morocco. She said that the Delegation should tell the Department that the Delegation would have to be honest with the South Africans and tell them that we would have to vote against their policies because we could never agree to them. We should emphasize that we would stand for what we believed to be right.

Ambassador Sayre suggested that the Delegation tell the South Africans that if they would come into the Assembly with clean hands everything would be much improved.

Mr. McKay asked about the Canadian suggestion that the United States follow up the strong representations against the South African proposed move made by the United Kingdom and Australia. Mrs. Roosevelt said that the Delegation must report upon this matter to the Department to the effect that it would be necessary to add our pressure to that given already by the United Kingdom and Australia. Mr. Allen’s idea of going to Committee Six or the ICJ for a determination on Committee Four’s action would also be reported together with the arguments for and against it.

Charles D. Cook
  1. Not found in Department of State files.
  2. For documentation regarding the Moroccan question at the Sixth Session of the General Assembly, see pp. 135 ff.