306. Letter From the Acting Director of the Office of Southern Africa Affairs (Hadsel) to the Ambassador in Egypt (Byroade)1

Dear Hank : No one on God’s earth could have possibly foreseen the fact that when we discussed two years ago the desirability of bringing the Union of South Africa into NEA 2 we would thereby find ourselves working on the same problems! Needless to say, I look forward to this collaboration with the greatest of pleasure and pledge you our wholehearted cooperation. Moreover, I can assure [Page 787] you that you will find South Africa an amazing country in many ways, for in climate it is something like out West and the people have a determined individualism which, I am sure, is both interesting and irritating. This situation is the surface on top of the Union’s major problems, particularly those relating to race.

Though not widely known, South Africa has demonstrated a special talent for becoming a party to international harangues, in which we have been trying where possible to exercise mediating, or at least moderating influence. Last year South Africa walked out of the UN because of efforts there to investigate apartheid in the Union, which the Government regards as a purely domestic issue.3 Apartheid was finally dropped from the UN agenda—action which was supported by the United States in a close vote4—and South Africa subsequently indicated it would return its delegation to the UN this fall. But South Africa will still have to answer for its refusal to accept UN trusteeship over the mandated territory of South-West Africa and perhaps its treatment of its Indian minority. Both items, usually introduced by India, have been on the UN agenda since 1946.

The Prime Minister, Mr. Strijdom,5 and his Minister of External Affairs, Mr. Louw 6 returned to the Union a week ago from the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference in London. It was widely repeated in Opposition circles that Mr. Strijdom, as anti-British an Afrikaner as he has long been, would come back a “Queen’s man”, but I doubt that such a sturdy Afrikaner Nationalist could be so quickly and easily converted. It is true, however, that Mr. Strijdom’s Government has become increasingly less isolationist in the last ten months, to a large extent due to its concern over developments in the Near East, which it has come to regard as its defense frontier. It is seeking not only closer ties with Britain and the United States in such significant areas as defense, but has unveiled a new policy of friendly association with all its African neighbors, including such Black states as the Gold Coast. The effect of this new policy upon its restrictive racial program at home will be most interesting. Our policy has consistently been to persuade the Government and the White electorate to moderate its policy of baasskup or White supremacy, subtly because of the extreme hypersensitivity of South Africans to outside influence or “interference”, [Page 788] but there may be a better opportunity now than before because of the Whites’ re-examination of their traditional attitudes—and of their consciences.

From a practical political point of view, our relations with South Africa are very friendly and harmonious. South Africa is strongly anti-Communist and pro-West. It looks increasingly to the United States, instead of Britain as formerly, as its model, its leader, and its source of assistance and capital. There is more American capital invested in South Africa today than in any other African territory—over $300,000,000. 116 American companies are represented there, and there are several thousand Americans resident throughout the Union. South Africans of all races are so friendly and hospitable by nature that Americans find life in the Union usually congenial.

At the moment, the Embassy is working out the final details of a Cultural Agreement with the Government, and no snags are anticipated.7 We are also in the process of working out a Nuclear Reactor Treaty with the Union, which will occupy a few months more at the least.8 After eight years of effort, the Government was finally persuaded last month to agree to the most important provisions of a proposed Consular Convention;9 namely, the duty-free entry of liquor, tobacco, and food for career consular officers! Finally, you will find in the country on your arrival the United States Air Force’s best six-member team on early-warning radar systems, which the South African Defense Department requested to study its scheme for improving its defenses.10

Our program of assistance to South Africa in the extraction of uranium, of which it is nearly the world’s largest producer, is going along very smoothly. It has been necessary, however, for Ambassador Gallman 11 and Ambassador Wailes before you to prod the producers of the strategic minerals of manganese and chrome to live up to their supply contracts.12 I’m afraid this is a problem you will inherit and have to work with for some time. The main difficulty is the lack of railway cars, which the new Minister of Transport is [Page 789] doing his best to alleviate. But repeated pushing from our end still seems to be required.

Many African territories are less and less inclined to admit or tolerate foreign missionaries, and South Africa is in this group. The Embassy has avoided making any official representations in this matter, and we are only hoping that the Union’s restrictions on American missionary activity there do not become any worse.13

About staffing, I believe the complement of your five offices are full, with the single exception of the Consul’s position in Port Elizabeth. This should be filled in the near future. I believe your personal staff at the Embassy is an excellent one. It has certainly been doing an outstanding job.

I am enclosing a short statement of our general attitude towards the Union, outlined in the form of pros and cons close cooperation. I hope it may prove of some interest.

I know that you will find South Africa an interesting and congenial post, and I greatly look forward to learning of your reactions as time goes by.

Leo Cyr happens to be on leave at the moment. If he were here, I know he would join in best wishes to you and Mrs. Byroade.

Sincerely yours,

Fred L. Hadsel 14



U.S. Policy Toward South Africa

Present U.S. policy is to maintain the friendly relations existing between this Government and the Union Government, notably because of South Africa’s strategic importance and mineral production. At the same time, U.S. policy seeks to avoid giving the appearance, in any way, of endorsing or underwriting apartheid, South Africa’s restrictive racial policy.

Assets of South Africa to the U.S.

South Africa is strongly anti-Communist, pro-West, and pro-American. South Africa is a member of the Commonwealth.
South Africa is astride the Cape sea route, the alternative to the Suez Canal, and has Africa’s best developed ports.
South Africa is now thought to be the West’s biggest supplier of uranium and is an important producer of the strategic minerals of chrome (¼ of world’s supply), manganese, amosite asbestos, and such lesser minerals as titanium, corundum, and so on.
South Africa is the only Westernized and industrialized nation in Africa and as such is the continent’s best arsenal and repair shop in time of war.
Though small, South Africa’s military force is Africa’s most effective.

Liabilities of South Africa to the U.S.

1. South Africa is one of the West’s greatest propaganda liabilities because of its restrictive racial policy directed at all non-whites. Apartheid appears as the most flagrant kind of “colonialism” throughout the non-white world. Apartheid may arouse anti-white sentiment among Africans everywhere.

The voting on South African issues16 before the UN can cause the U.S. to be identified with colonialism and the maintenance of apartheid. Any cooperation with South Africa, in the UN or out, can be interpreted by non-whites as opposition or antipathy toward them.

Persuasion of the South African Government to moderate its racial policies is a good line, but extremely tricky and unlikely of much success. The Government is obdurate and hypersensitive to what it regards as “interference”.

Encouragement of South Africa in participating in pan-African defense schemes and developing closer relations with other African territories in other ways is also a good line, but cannot be pushed too hard or too obviously and has inherent dangers. Though it is barely possible South Africa may accommodate itself somewhat to the development of more enlightened racial experiments elsewhere in Africa, a better understanding of South Africans by Africans to the north may only increase the opposition of those Africans to the Union and its domestic policies. The metropolitan Powers, with their own racial policies subject to increasing challenge by their African citizens, are themselves wary about adopting too cooperative an attitude toward South Africa.

  1. Source: Department of State, AF Files: Lot 58 D 627, Miscellaneous Letters. Confidential. Byroade was appointed Ambassador to South Africa on July 26. He left Egypt on September 10 and presented his credentials at his new post on October 9.
  2. South Africa had previously been under the jurisdiction of the Office of British Commonwealth and Northern European Affairs in the Bureau of European Affairs.
  3. The South African delegation walked out of the U.N. General Assembly on November 9, 1955.
  4. A Costa Rican amendment seeking to have the General Assembly agree to continue to take up the apartheid issue at its Eleventh Session failed to win the necessary two-thirds vote.
  5. Johannes Gerhardus Strijdom.
  6. Eric H. Louw.
  7. Documentation on this subject is in Department of State, Central Files, 511.45A3/3–1956. No such agreement was concluded.
  8. On July 8, U.S. and South African representatives signed an agreement for cooperation concerning civil uses of atomic energy. The agreement became effective August 22. For text, see TIAS 3885; 8 UST (pt. 2) 1367.
  9. This convention was never concluded.
  10. On July 31, the South African Chargé was informed that the Departments of Defense and State approved the sending of a team of air defense experts to South Africa. (Department of State, Central Files, 745A.5/1–1756) The U.S. team was scheduled to leave for South Africa on August 12. Documentation on the team’s recommendations is ibid., 711.5845A.
  11. Waldemar J. Gallman, Ambassador from October 18, 1951 to August 15, 1954.
  12. Documentation on the U.S. effort to speed up the delivery of South African chrome ore is in Department of State, Central File 845A.2547.
  13. Documentation on this subject is ibid., 845A. 181.
  14. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
  15. Confidential. Drafted by William M. Johnson on April 9.
  16. There have been three before the UN since 1946: the question of the international status of the mandate of South-West Africa, the treatment of South Africa’s Indian minority, and the application of apartheid. [Footnote in the source text.]