354. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Visit of the South African Minister of External Affairs


  • Mr. Eric H. Louw, South African Minister of External Affairs
  • Dr. Willem Christiaan Naude, South African Ambassador
  • The Secretary
  • J.C. Satterthwaite, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs
  • James J. Duman, AFE

Mr. Louw, who was on a two-day visit to Washington from New York, where he is attending the Fifteenth UNGA session, called to pay his respects to the Secretary.

In referring to the Soviet Premier’s activities in the UNGA, Mr. Louw stated that since Khrushchev’s departure the Soviet UN delegation has been doing everything it can to create difficulties and to embarrass Secretary General Hammarskjold.

As Mr. Louw must return to South Africa by November on matters relative to the South African budget, he had sought to get the agreement of the Fourth Committee for him to speak on the Southwest Africa item in the near future, leaving the debate on this subject in its present position on the agenda. He had been unsuccessful as a result of Ethiopia’s objection, despite the fact that South African troops had liberated Ethiopia in World War II.

He referred also to South Africa’s difficulties with Ghana, mentioning Nkrumah’s peremptory withdrawal at the Commonwealth Conference of the invitation he had extended Louw to visit Ghana and the restrictive measures Ghana had instituted with respect to flights from South Africa to Ghana.

The Secretary stated that he would like to take this opportunity to express our thanks for the very fine cooperation we had received from the South African Government, and from the Minister personally, in the matter of our outer-space programs in so far as they involve South Africa. Mr. Louw informed the Secretary that he highly appreciated the Secretary’s letter of gratitude for the assistance rendered American evacuees into the Union at the time of the Congo riots.

Mr. Louw remarked that he was glad the Secretary had mentioned the matter of our outer-space programs, since he had received a message in connection with the current discussions concerning our [Page 758] Defense Department project. The message raised three questions, (1) whether the facilities would become South African property after operations are completed, (2) whether the facilities would be operated by South African personnel, and (3) whether South Africans would be trained to operate the facilities. The establishment of facilities for the project in the Union was a cause of concern to the South African Government, since the outbreak of a local war between the United States and the USSR, for example in Formosa, would involve the question of South Africa’s neutrality. This would not arise in the event of a total war. South Africa wished to be assured that it will take over the facilities after completion of the operation, but with rights reserved to the United States in the event of total war. The matter had been referred to South African Government legal advisers for consideration. No decision on our proposal would be taken, however, until after our Presidential elections.

Mr. Louw stated that he must be frank in informing the Secretary that South Africa had been very unhappy at the action we had taken in issuing a statement on the Sharpeville riots. The incident had been distorted and exaggerated by the press. The facts were that a mob of about 18,000 had stormed a small police force. Tear gas could not be used owing to an unfavorable wind and the police had been obliged to fire on the mob.

On matters relating to South Africa in the United Nations, Mr. Louw noted that we had changed our position in the last two years by voting against South Africa on the resolution concerning South Africa’s racial policy. While not suggesting that the United States should support South Africa on the issue, Mr. Louw felt that the changed position of the United States was unfortunate when South Africa was evidencing every desire to be cooperative with the United States.

The Secretary stated that we had always been frank with South Africa and expressed the hope that real progress can be made in ameliorating racial conditions in the Union. While we have always fully appreciated the difficulties of the problem, we cannot support South Africa’s official racial policy. Mr. Louw replied that he does not ask for our support and remarked that South Africa is already making considerable headway. Questioned by the Secretary as to whether he referred to economic advancement, Mr. Louw answered in the negative, and stated that the advancement was being made in the political sphere. Mr. Louw went on to say that the position of the tribal natives was quite different from that of other natives. Two Bantu Territorial Authorities have been established and are functioning very well. The tribal natives are perfectly happy with their organizational set-up and in time will achieve self-governing status. The South African Government, [Page 759] Mr. Louw said, spends five to six times more per capita on development of the African than does any other country on the Continent.

Referring to criticism of the forced carrying of reference books by the Bantus, Mr. Louw stated that all South Africans, whites and non-whites, are required to carry identity cards. For the urban Bantus these serve to protect them in getting work and housing since they are a means of controlling the 750,000 African immigrants from neighboring territories. Raising the question to why South Africa does not grant a qualified vote to the non-whites, Mr. Louw said, in citing Rhodesia and Nyasaland, that experience has shown the qualified vote satisfies nobody. The Blacks, according to Mr. Louw, want everything or nothing. The alternative to a qualified vote was a full vote and the whites of South Africa had no wish for a nation of mixed-blood.

Mr. Louw described the history of the early European settlements in South Africa and compared the position of their present day descendants with those of North and South America. The position of the whites in South Africa was different from that of the whites in other African countries. The South African whites were a permanent part of the population and had no other place to which they could go.

Mr. Louw referred to a statement by Canadian Prime Minister Diefenbaker that there should be no double standard. He could not understand why criticism should be levelled at South Africa and not at other countries when riots occur, mentioning specifically the recent disturbances in Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. He believed that the United States should try to appreciate South Africa’s position and mentioned Ambassador Wailes, who had served in the Union, as one American individual who thoroughly understood the situation in South Africa. He referred to a letter of Mason Sears to the New York Herald Tribune in which Mr. Sears said, “It might prove extremely effective if a U.N. “presence” could be established in the heart of South Africa before racial unrest gets out of hand”. As Mr. Sears had signed himself as “Former U.S. Representative on the U.N. Trusteeship Council”, Mr Louw indicated concern that the views expressed in the letter by Mr. Sears might be interpreted as U.S. Government policy.

South Africa, Mr. Louw stated, was anxious to cooperate with the United States, as Ambassador Crowe and his predecessors, Ambassador Byroade and Ambassador Wailes, could testify. The time may come, Mr. Louw continued, when South Africa could be a worthwhile ally of the United States. South Africa, he pointed out, had never voted to interfere in the domestic affairs of another country and recalled that the President of the United States in a statement on one occasion had made a point against interference in another country’s internal affairs.

[Page 760]

Mr. Louw invited the Secretary to visit South Africa some time and assured him that he would be free to travel wherever he wished and not be subjected to a conducted tour of the country.

  1. Source: Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 64 D 199. Confidential. Drafted by Durnan.