316. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, May 3, 19571
- Interview of Ambassador of the Union of South Africa with Under Secretary Murphy
- Mr. W. C. du Plessis, Ambassador of the Union of South Africa
- Mr. Robert Murphy—G
- George D. LaMont—AFS
Ambassador Du Plessis brought up the following two subjects during his interview:
First of all he mentioned the report of Senator Theodore F. Green, dated February 21, 1957, entitled “Economic Aid and Technical Assistance in Africa.”2 He had a copy of the report with him and specifically referred to a section on South Africa wherein Senator Green commented adversely on the Union’s racial policy. He also mentioned the final sentence of this section wherein Senator Green stated “Faced with this unhappy dilemma, America in setting the course of its policy toward South Africa must balance, on the one hand, its desire for friendship with the Union Government and its policy of noninterference in the domestic affairs of another nation with, on the other hand, its traditional interest in the preservation of human rights and freedoms everywhere.” He said that before going on his trip, the South African Embassy in Washington had been told that the Senator would be investigating the American aid program in various countries and, as there is no such program in the Union, his visit there would be a side trip. Also the South African Government had been told by our Embassy in Pretoria that in the Union the Senator would only be interested in the operations of the Embassy and Consular Offices. Hence, they were disagreeably surprised at his adverse comments on their domestic policies.
Mr. Murphy suggested to the Ambassador that any comments of Senator Green in his report were his personal opinions and not government policy. The Ambassador agreed but said the report was a government publication. Mr. Murphy pointed out that the report was similar in form to customary reports of Senators and Congressmen on field trips and, being of the Legislative Branch of the Government, we of course had no control over their statements. He [Page 825] also asked the Ambassador whether he had mentioned this complaint to the Senator. The Ambassador replied that he had commented informally to the Senator at the reception of the British Embassy on the occasion of the Independence of Ghana but had not protested. Mr. Murphy said that he would bear this matter in mind and would consider what, if any action, we could take.
Ambassador Du Plessis next brought up the matter of the visit to the Union of South Africa in the next few weeks of Mr. Adlai Stevenson and his party. The Ambassador said that during the last visit of Mr. Stevenson to the Union, he had made certain adverse comments regarding their racial policy which received wide circulation in the press.3 The Union Government fears that when he arrives on this occasion, he will be met at the airport by a large number of reporters and, should he again make adverse comments regarding racial policies there, it will receive widespread publicity in the opposition press causing embarrassment to the Government.
Mr. Murphy pointed out that this was a very delicate matter, that Mr. Stevenson was a prominent leader of the opposition political party and any approach to him by the Government might be counter-productive. It was furthermore pointed out to the Ambassador that there are many opponents in the United States of our policy of friendship to the Union because of its racial policies and, should they happen to learn of any such approach to Mr. Stevenson, we in this Government might receive a storm of protest. Mr. Murphy suggested that the Ambassador himself might very well bring this matter to the attention of Mr. Stevenson. Alternatively, he suggested that the Consul General of the Union in New York or their representative to the United Nations might bring this to the attention of Mr. Stevenson.
Ambassador Du Plessis said he thought the Consul General in New York lacked sufficient rank to act in such a matter and likewise the representative to the United Nations where their representation is at a minimum. He also did not wish to approach Mr. Stevenson personally and suggested that possibly some friend of Mr. Stevenson could be approached who would bring this to his attention.
Mr. Murphy said he would consider the matter.4
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 745A.5–MSP/5–357. Confidential. Drafted by LaMont.↩
- Senator Green, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, visited South Africa in late September 1956. Documentation is Ibid., 033.1100–GR.↩
- Despatch 280 from Pretoria, May 9, reported on Stevenson’s visit to South Africa in May 1955. (Ibid., 032–Stevenson, Adlai/5–955)↩
- Rountree met with Stevenson’s Executive Assistant, William Blair, on May 15. According to a memorandum for the record by Staff Assistant Eric Oulashin, Rountree stressed the importance of good relations with South Africa. Blair replied that Stevenson did not plan to make speeches and probably would minimize press contacts. (Ibid., 611.45A/5–1557) Stevenson arrived in South Africa on June 5. Despatch 56 from Cape Town, June 18, reported that he held several press conferences and that the South African Government was displeased with his public criticism of its policies. (Ibid., 032–Stevenson, Adlai/6–1857)↩