375. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Visit of the South African Ambassador


  • Dr. W. C. Naude, Ambassador of the Union of South Africa
  • Mr. A. G. Dunn, First Secretary, South African Embassy
  • The Secretary
  • J. K. Penfield, Acting Asst. Secretary, AF

The Ambassador said that he had endeavored to get in touch with the Secretary even before he assumed office and wanted, in the course of this conversation, to set forth some basic considerations upon which he felt there should be an early exchange of views between his government and the new Administration. He was afraid, he said, that if this kind of heart-to-heart exchange did not take place, public positions might be taken on each side which would greatly damage the chances of continuing harmonious United States-South African relations. The Ambassador then spoke for approximately twenty-five minutes from notes, a copy of which he left with Mr. Penfield and which is attached hereto.1 Acting on instructions, he also left an Aide-Memoire (copy attached).1 At the end of his presentation he made a fervent plea for American understanding of the South African position and for recognition of the principle that one cannot dogmatize about Africa. In this connection he referred to the President’s statement when commenting on Mr. Williams’s trip in Africa, that “Africa is not simple.” He closed on a personal note of relative optimism by saying that when his friends wrote from South Africa asking what he thought of the chances for a better understanding with the United States, he replied that he was very much impressed with the “intellectual gift” around the President and that he thought this would bring about a fair and reasonable view of South Africa.

In an indirect reference to the problem of the black, colored and Asian urban populations, which the Ambassador had not mentioned in his presentation, the Secretary asked whether the objectives of South African policy could be brought about without the full cooperation of everyone involved. The Ambassador replied evasively by referring to the plans for gradual growth toward a commonwealth of independent countries within the present borders of South Africa and the necessity of [Page 588] white South Africans to preserve their Western identity and, at the same time, do justice to others.

Referring to the Ambassador’s comment on how much the South African Government is doing to educate its colored populations, the Secretary asked whether this was not educating revolutionaries. In reply, the Ambassador said that when he was participating in the conference to organize FAO, an Asian delegate asked him “Why are you doing this; you are preparing to feed us all and we will eventually eat you up.” The Ambassador said that his reply was that this is perhaps true but there are certain imperatives of civilization and ideals which must be followed through regardless of the consequences.

In conclusion the Secretary reassured the Ambassador that the United States underestimates neither South Africa’s contributions to the Western world nor the difficulties of the problems which it faces, and emphasized that our attitude would be based on the most full and careful consideration of all the factors involved.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 745A.00/3-1561. Confidential. Drafted by Penfield on March 16 and approved in S on March 29.
  2. Attached to the source text but not printed.