334. Memorandum From the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs (Walmsley) to the Under Secretary of State (Herter)0


  • Intelligence Regarding Africans in South Africa

At today’s staff meeting you asked whether I thought it was just a matter of time when violence might start in the Union of South Africa against Europeans. Your question suggested also that you would be interested to know the extent of Communist penetration in the African populations in the Union.

During the 12 days I was in the Transvaal (of which 10 days in Pretoria with a brief visit to Johannesburg, and two days in Kruger Park) I was pretty well circumscribed in my contacts which consisted almost entirely of Union officials and diplomats. I am hardly qualified to write even “Inside the Union of South Africa”. I was, however, [Page 727] taken by officials to visit some slum clearance and resettlement projects for Africans and colored in and around Johannesburg, including the notorious Sofiatown. Curiously, while Foreign Office officials attacked foreign (especially UN) intrusion in the Union’s domestic affairs, they and other officials at the same time took the initiative to help me “understand” the Union’s internal problems and policies better. Thus I was exposed to many long speeches by Union officials on apartheid. My sources are listed on the last page.1

The policies of the Strijdom Government are not only those of eventual total segregation of non-European peoples within the Union, economic, political, cultural and social, but also of total domination of the society of the Union by the Afrikaner element. The English-speaking element has pretty much lost out politically; culturally and linguistically it is in a steep decline; and economically it faces a rough struggle for survival. Members of the Embassy said that quite a few of their English-speaking friends had decided after the latest elections to move to other parts of the Commonwealth; others are thinking of doing so.

The Government applies its immigration laws selectively and restrictively against the English and Europeans who are not Germanic and Calvinist. This is probably unnecessary since the Union’s domestic policies do not attract many settlers. Catholics in one way or another seem to be excluded; and no Catholic priest enters to minister or to engage in educational or social work. The foreign traveler on arriving in the Union is confronted by a form headed in red uppercase letters: WARNING TO ALIENS!

The curfew, which I believe varies somewhat from place to place, against non-Europeans is vigorously enforced. The African may not leave his “location” roughly between the hours of 9 PM and 6 AM. This provides for a European monopoly even of hooliganism, which, for example, is admitted in Johannesburg to be beyond the ability of the police effectively to cope with. The security forces seem to be even less interested in what goes on among Africans within their locations. The authorities couldn’t care less how many fewer Africans there might be the next morning. In Johannesburg visiting women are warned at their hotel not to be on the street unaccompanied after 6 PM; and men are reportedly normally armed when not at home after dark.

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Europeans who have non-European servants living out have to provide “passes” for their servants or themselves drive them home after dark. The pass is by no means a guarantee of safety. Native servants may live in at Pretoria, provided their masters house them outside their own dwelling house, e.g. the garage. There was much talk in Pretoria still about the former private secretary to Strijdom who during the election campaign was brought into court for having an affair with a native girl. He was fined £25; she was given six months of hard labor. While he lost his job as Secretary, I understand he was elected on the Nationalist ticket over his United party opponent to the House.

In view of the official attitudes toward what goes on within the locations it is logical to conclude that the South African security authorities do not get very reliable intelligence with respect to African attitudes and the activities, if any, of subversive agents.

The official attitude toward the United States being rather cool, although correct, the relations between our own intelligence people and those of the Union have gone downhill from the time that Mr. Wailes2 was Ambassador (he has just told me that in his time the relations were reasonably satisfactory). It seems to me unlikely, therefore, that we can get much reliable intelligence through the South Africans.

There are, moreover, great difficulties in the way of direct contacts with non-Europeans. The Union Ministry of External Affairs, for example, has even complained to the Embassy when members of the Staff have had American negroes in their homes. There is great vigilance exercised by the authorities over the movements and conduct of our own officials. I was, myself, quite conscious of this with respect to the Members of the Good Offices Committee, who incidentally were “warned” by the Union High Commissioner in London when we met there that our contacts should be solely with officials of the Government. I do not think you want me to go into the details of the application of apartheid and of the Government’s cultural and linguistic policies but I cannot refrain from mentioning some of the extremes, and some estimate of the eventual results. For example, in Prestoria they do not have Jim Crow buses; they have two bus systems. In most office buildings, there is one elevator reserved for non-Europeans. The school system restricts the choice of schools linguistically so that an Afrikaans-speaking student can only go to an Afrikaans school, taking English as a subject only. The English-speaking officers in the Army and Air Force have now practically all been retired. Any paper going to the Ministerial level must be in Afrikaans. The Cabinet conducts its business in Afrikaans. The menials in government offices are now [Page 729] almost entirely Afrikaners. (Generally, at this point retired railway employees do the custodial services.) The Foreign Office communicates with its missions alternately month by month in English and Afrikaans. Promotion in the Foreign Service is dependent upon a periodic successful examination in Afrikaans.

The estimate of the Embassy and of a couple of the English-speaking Foreign Office officials who had occasion to talk with me privately is that in a few years the Union will be monolingual in Afrikaans. These (but not the Afrikaners) look forward “in a few years” to, at a minimum, a Mau Mau situation. The Afrikaners on the other hand insist that any “mixture” of races or cultures spells the end of “European” culture on the continent; and that their policies are the logical and best ones to preserve the continent (and the world) from barbarism and communism.

Although I can hardly ask you to read them, I shall be glad to forward to you in a couple of days a copy of a more detailed memorandum I am preparing of my conversations.3

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 845A.411/7–958. Secret.
  2. It reads as follows:

    Note: My longest talks were with Louw, the Minister of External Affairs, Jooste, Secretary of that Ministry, and Mills and Oxley of the Foreign Office; Verwoerd, Eiselen and deVilliers, Minister, Secretary and Under Secretary of Native Affairs (deVilliers now I believe is Secretary to the Prime Minister); Van Rhijn, Minister of Economic Affairs and Mines (from South West Africa); Monseigneur Domiano, the Apostolic Delegate (an American); Knobel, Director of National Parks; and of course Byroade and members of his staff.”

  3. Edward T. Wailes, Ambassador to South Africa, 1954–1956.
  4. Not found. Walmsley’s formal report of the Good Offices Committee’s discussions in Pretoria, addressed to the Secretary and dated July 24, is in Department of State, Central Files, 320.5745X/7–2458.