345. Telegram From the Embassy in South Africa to the Department of State0

91. For the Secretary from Ambassador: Re your G–4 [54].1


I do not believe our relations with the Union are likely to be permanently damaged, but there is no disguising fact government will certainly be extremely cool for long time to come. Our action at this time is bitterly resented by government and by great mass of Afrikaner people, who feel we have sold out Whites in order to curry favor with Blacks.

Union Government has been aware increasing US as well as international disapproval its race policies for long time. Macmillan’s wind of change speech2 brought UK views with which government believes we agree forcibly to its attention. I believe our statement should be seen in perspective of inevitable increase in strain our relations with South African nationalist government intransigence and rising native resistance result in ever more frequent clashes.

Informed non-White circles are delighted our statement and belief spreading that US now supports their course. Rising tension and disturbances have prevented our seeing any natives last few days but above impression confirmed by White sources. Conservative opposition (United Party) while regretting our commenting on internal matters agrees that civilized world horrified at situation, by Nationalist race policies. Liberal opposition (Progressives) have wholeheartedly welcomed statement.

Commissioner of Police told [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] six to eight hours passed before he ordered police to fire in self-defense. Police used tear gas but due to wind and lack of masks this technique failed.

In my opinion police had no choice under circumstances, but South African riot control tactics not similar to ours. US police might have controlled mob without so much loss of life.

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Police Commissioner did not sustain Louw’s statement to me3 that mob fired on police first, but missiles such as stones were thrown and mob was heavily armed with axes, iron bars and other homemade weapons.

Commissioner also made point that in recent Catomanor disturbances at Durban, eight police were brutally stoned and clubbed to death, pictures of which are now en route Washington [less than 1 line of source text not declassified].

In view present tension I am afraid police may not use so much restraint in future.


On basis general attitude of government toward UN on other questions (apartheid and Southwest Africa) I am confident South Africans will feel disturbances and race policies from which they stem are exclusively a South African problem and that UN has no business whatsoever meddling in this matter. Am seeing Permanent Secretary External affairs tomorrow at his request on this subject.

I am concerned over trend of events here. Government plan to ban African National Congress and Pan-Africanists, thus driving them underground, continuing demonstrations by natives seeking turn in passes and be arrested, day of mourning on 28 March, all make for a very tense atmosphere to which I believe our statement [on?] this contributed.

In the future I would appreciate being consulted before such statements are made, particularly where a 24-hour delay is not a factor.

I feel nothing would be gained from replying to Louw at this time.

I made it clear to him at our recent talk that there is no change in US policy toward his country.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 745A.00/3–2560. Confidential; Priority. Repeated to Pretoria.
  2. Telegram 54 to Capetown, March 24, for the Ambassador from the Secretary, requested Crowe’s comments on several points and instructed him to assure the South Africans that there had been no change in basic U.S. policy. (Ibid., 745A.00/3–2460)
  3. Reference is to an address by British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan before the South African Parliament on February 3, 1960; extracts are printed in Documents on International Affairs, 1960, edited by Richard Gott, John Major, and Geoffrey Warner (issued under the auspices of the Royal Institute of International Affairs; London: Oxford University Press, 1964), pp. 344–348.
  4. In a conversation on March 23, Louw had called Crowe in to express concern over the Department’s statement the previous day. Telegram 82 from Capetown, March 23, reported the conversation, and telegram 85 of the same date transmitted the text of a South African aide-mémoire recapitulating the interview and delivered shortly afterward. (Both ibid., 745A.00/3–2360)