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

117. Department pass to other posts as desired. Although I believe we have kept Department fully informed of developments here, I believe it may be pertinent analyze outlook as we see it today.

Most important element of situation is that natives for first time have demonstrated both to themselves and whites their power in terms of withholding labor and disregarding basic laws such as pass system. The Union Government’s suspension of enforcing the pass system, and currently, the impunity with which non-whites demonstrated in urban areas and caused authorities withdraw from whole native townships, all have greatly encouraged urban natives. They are [Page 748] now more ready to follow leaders calling for direct action than ever before, and leaders no longer are thinking of very gradual revolution some time in the future. This creates a most dangerous and explosive situation.

If, as seems likely, the government does not make a major concession, and relies on further repression, the long-term outlook is for tests of strength by the natives and increasing violence. This in time would turn Union into virtually an armed camp, with the natives partially controlling major locations and parts of reserves, and the country’s economic system declining due to unreliable labor forces, sabotage, decline of investment, and wasteful effort of having large numbers of whites under arms. Any non-white rising would be put down with great loss of life, mostly non-white.

Even if government makes concessions we do not see how, with the natives’ appetite whetted by these concessions, further disturbances can be avoided as campaigns for minimum wage or other goals would then be launched. Most probable is a relaxation onerous aspects apartheid measures combined with increased repression. This combination will not satisfy non-whites.

Further serious disorder is probable next few days. Stay-at-home campaign might then peter out or leaders may call it off and cease direct action for a short time to so prepare for a further test of strength. In neither short nor long run is it likely that unrest will decline to what was normalcy ten days ago.

The strains on the National Party and on Dr. Verwoerd are many, and there is substantial criticism of his leadership within Pariamentary Party and outside in Afrikaner churches, universities, and business. There is remote possibility Dr. Verwoerd might lose control of the caucus, if situation deteriorates markedly, and Party might overnight change its leader and moderate some of its policies. More likely is a palace revolution engineered within the tribes and national parties. In either case such a government would have to adopt policies well to the left of present day United Party platform if it were to have any hope of stabilizing this situation.

Despite all these possibilities, Embassy is not yet prepared to write off Dr. Verwoerd. The fears and prejudices of the Afrikaner rank-and-file, which has been fostered by the National Party for many years, remain strong; and Dr. Verwoerd as the strong man with a clear forceful program may be strengthened within the Party by disorder and world criticism, despite the qualms of many of the intellectual elite. [3 lines of source text not declassified]

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 745A.00/3–3060. Secret. Repeated to Pretoria, London, and Salisbury.