308. Despatch From the Embassy in South Africa to the Department of State1

No. 104


  • Department’s Circular Telegram 168, September 5, 19562

[Here follows an introduction.]

1. Current Program Review

As indicated, a considerable proportion of the mission’s program activities consists of political and economic reporting, with the related functions of representation and negotiation. These activities were only recently given a thorough examination in conjunction with the visit of Foreign Service Inspectors and were deemed, as a result thereof, to be satisfactory and adequate. Given the complex political and racial problems which this country faces, and its progressive economic development, affording increasing opportunities for American investment and trade, the range and volume of reporting subjects which are of interest to the Department of State and other user-agencies is considerable.

This interest stems from the general requirements of America’s security and of the American economy, as well as from our specific concern in (a) retaining South Africa as an associate of the Western front against Soviet Communism, preferably as a member of the British Commonwealth; (b) contributing to the long-run political and economic stability, as well as progressive development, of the country; (c) discreetly encouraging, where circumstances permit, a wiser and more constructive approach to the country’s difficult racial problems, with an eye on the trend of events throughout Africa and Asia; (d) cooperating in securing the Cape of Good Hope route as an alternative to the Suez Canal; and (e) promoting the development of uranium and other strategic-mineral production, and securing appropriate shares thereof for the United States.

A substantial proportion of the Embassy’s political and economic reporting is concerned, directly or indirectly, with subjects upon which our Government needs to be informed in pursuing such objectives as the above.

[Page 795]

The Agricultural Attaché, and the Commercial Consul in Johannesburg, engage in trade promotion to varying degrees, in addition to performing their routine functions of scheduled reporting, representation, trade services, and exchange of information. As regards agriculture, there are no formal programs, existent or contemplated, in South Africa such as technical assistance or P.L. 480. However, the Attaché is alert to the possibilities of promoting agricultural exports into the Union, especially in order to relieve U.S. crop surpluses, and recently met with success with respect to obtaining duty-free entry of American tobacco. Currently an effort is being made to increase the Union’s imports of American rice.

The USIS staff of two officers operates a combined informational-cultural program which includes the presentation of a balanced picture of the American scene in all its aspects, emphasizing specific phases to obtain appropriate audience-appeal, such as religious and cultural developments, our handling of the racial problem, the practical working of democracy in the United States, and our foreign policies. Other themes stressed include the nature of Soviet Communism and the challenge it presents to the free world, and the use of the atom for peace. The basic purpose is to demonstrate the essential soundness and humanity of United States objectives and policies, and the harmony thereof with the legitimate aspirations of peoples in South Africa and the rest of the world.

A high priority is presently being given the audience targets of the Dutch Reformed Church, universities, agricultural organizations and other groups which exercise considerable influence among the Afrikaner section of the population, and the dominant Nationalist Party which this section largely supports. The Afrikaner element (sixty percent of the Whites) has been cut off from the main currents of European thought for a century or so and is inclined to be nationalistic, narrow and provincial. With memories of the Boer War and long struggles against the English continuing to be systematically nurtured, it is inclined to be anti-British, as well as pro-republican. Most Afrikaners suffer from an inferiority complex and sense of isolation; they are receptive to friendly gestures from Americans and, from evidence already received through the operation of leader-grantee and other programs, some are susceptible to the influence of American ideas and values. It is believed that, through the instrumentality of all mission personnel, but especially through the USIS officers and its programs, some impact can in time be made upon the Afrikaner outlook which would materially serve United States objectives.

A second priority, more difficult to implement, is the non-European four-fifths of the population, to which attention is only newly being given. However backward the great majority may be, [Page 796] and devoid as they presently are of any political or industrial rights, the time will eventually come when the non-Europeans will constitute a significant, if not paramount, factor in the governance of this country. Moreover, what happens to them in the meantime may have repercussions far beyond South Africa. It is believed essential that they should develop a respect for America and American values, and an awareness of the menace of Communism. Through contacts made with some of the better educated leaders in colleges and schools, newspapers, and church missions, the USIS and the Embassy as a whole are beginning to penetrate the non-European community; follow-ups have been made through the medium of lectures, presentation of books to institutions, exhibits, publication of materials in its press, and the distribution of thousands of pamphlets and books (such as “What is Communism?”) to Bantu schools.

I am convinced that the several activities outlined above, together with the emphasis and priorities which have been established, represent a coordinated program which is serving the interests and objectives of the United States in an economical and effective fashion.

[Here follows discussion of staffing and budgetary matters.]

2. Broad Program Evaluation

It should be evident from the above that the mission is satisfied as to the scope of the Embassy programs, and as to their direct relevance to the pursuance of valid United States objectives. No new program in the Union of South Africa is advocated at the moment. Moreover, it is believed that the present tempo of expansion of the educational exchange program (the only one which is increasing) is about right. It would neither be feasible, nor desirable, to step up such a program other than at a moderate and unostentatious rate. However, this program is so important that it warrants progressive increases annually for the next few years at least.

The Embassy would welcome the guidance which would be afforded by an authoritative statement of United States objectives with respect to South Africa and adjacent areas. Its files do not disclose any Country Paper for the Union. The series of five country objectives offered earlier in this despatch represent a formulation based on older directives from Washington and on my best judgment, which is concurred in generally by members of the staff. Insofar as they involve any deviation from post instructions, they constitute my recommendation as to a revised formulation.

I would, in particular, call attention to the third objective indicated above, viz., to encourage discreetly, “where circumstances permit, a wiser and more constructive approach to the country’s [Page 797] difficult racial problems, with an eye on the trend of events throughout Africa and Asia”. This involves a delicate issue. On the one hand, it is recognized that the United States Government should, in pursuance of its other objectives, seek to develop the friendship and cooperation of the South African Government, which, it seems likely, will remain under Nationalist Party control for some years. On the other hand, it is within the Nationalist hierarchy and ranks that one finds the greatest inflexibility of attitude with respect to keeping non-Europeans completely segregated and subordinated.

Certainly, the Chief of Mission and his senior staff must remain on good terms with the leaders of the party in power. While discreetly planting ideas as often as possible, they cannot afford to risk the employment of overt or obvious pressure in the direction of moderation. Experience has made clear that the Nationalist Government, and indeed some opposition leaders as well, react adversely, if not violently, to outside criticism and pressure with respect to racial problems.

Chiefly through the cultural program, and especially the educational exchange activity, the Embassy is, however, making a quiet but systematic effort to bring Afrikaner intellectual and political leaders into touch with more enlightened western ideas. It is doubted whether the Embassy can do more at this stage, but the problem remains under constant study here, and it is hoped that Washington agencies will give it similar attention. The Embassy has treated this matter more fully towards the close of its secret Despatch No. 38 to the Department.3

Outside of governmental channels, it is suggested that private foundations and agencies in the United States might explore ways and means of utilizing their resources, in greater measure, in attempts to affect the South African attitude of mind towards racial matters. Improved coordination of their present activities, and the establishment of means of keeping the Embassy regularly informed thereof, is also eminently desirable.

It should be emphasized again that the various activities of the Embassy and its affiliated agencies operate harmoniously under the central direction of the Chief of Mission and his Deputy. Appropriate controls are continuously maintained to the end that programs serve valid U.S. objectives, remain in balance with one another, are implemented with efficiency, and meet the over-all demands of economical operation.

William P. Maddox
Chargé d’Affaires ad interim
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 121.45A2/9–2756. Confidential.
  2. Circular telegram 168 contained the President’s instruction to Chiefs of Mission to begin a review of country programs in concert with representatives of other U.S. agencies, with the objective of ensuring that fiscal years 1957 and 1958 programs were administered to serve U.S. aims abroad “adequately, effectively and economically.” (Ibid., 120.201/9–556)
  3. Supra.