393. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • US/UK Talks—Summary Minutes—South Africa


  • United Kingdom
    • Sir Roger Stevens, Deputy Under Secretary, Foreign Office
    • Sir Algernon Rumbold, Deputy Under Secretary, Commonwealth Relations
    • M. K. M. Wilford, Foreign Office
    • J. D. Hennings, Colonial Attache, British Embassy
    • D. A. Greenhill, Counselor, British Embassy
    • J. D. B. Shaw, First Secretary, British Embassy
    • R. W. H. DuBoulay, First Secretary, British Embassy
  • United States
    • G. Mennen Williams, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs
    • J. Wayne Fredericks, Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs
    • Henry J. Tasca, Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs
    • Olcott H. Deming, Director, AFE
    • Martin F. Herz, Special Assistant for Planning, AF
    • Philip R. Cook, AFE

Sir Algernon Rumbold opened the discussion and stated that his remarks would be grouped under three main headings: (1) Speculation about the future of the Republic, (2) Negotiations to bring UK-South African relations up-to-date following the latter’s withdrawal from the Commonwealth and (3) Pressures for sanctions against the Republic.

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Under heading (1) Sir Algernon commented that there would be no change in the South African Government’s policies without a change in the government itself and there was no chance of this taking place. The Afrikaners were tough, stubborn, in-bred people and pressure from outside would simply drive them further into “laager.” Internal pressure was ineffective and if the African people tried to overthrow the government by force they would be massacred. Suggestions about an effective African general strike were pointless since the African people could not afford to keep it up long enough to do any good. The doctrine of “apartheid” was nothing new in South Africa and was deeply ingrained in the backgrounds of all people, black and white, in the Republic. What liberal elements there were came mainly from the English speaking group sprinkled with a few Afrikaner intellectuals.

Sir Algernon continued by stating that the British Government [2 lines of source text not declassified] saw no possibility of multi-racial sharing such as was being tried in the Federation.

The UK’s major concerns in this area were: (1) the dependence of the High Commission Territories on the Republic and the ease with which the Republic could squeeze these territories if it chose to do so, (2) the safety of the sea routes, the Simonstown base, flying rights and other Defense arrangements, (3) the #900 million UK investment in the Republic, (4) the fact that 5% of the UK’s total exports were bought by the Republic and (5) the importance of gold production to the Sterling area.

Turning to current negotiations with the Republic (heading 2), Sir Algernon explained that the UK’s over-all objective was to cease treating the Republic as a member of the Commonwealth but to arrange means to treat it as a friendly country and protect the UK interests just mentioned. He referred to the present “stand fast” law, which will expire on May 31, 1962, and spoke of the complicated new legislation which was required. The UK, he said, hoped to complete its negotiations with the Republic on this matter before Christmas but the South Africans were very slow. Among the problems which had been or were being discussed were: (1) The Nationality Problem—The UK would not apply the Irish formula. South Africans would be aliens but certain South Africans would have the right to register as British up to 1965. Special provisions would be made for the High Commission territories and free movement between them and the Republic would continue. (2) Customs—The UK wanted the customs agreement between the H.C. territories and the Republic to continue. (3) Extradition Problems. (4) Defense—The Simonstown base would continue, there would be provisions for the defense of the sea routes and for flying rights and, the UK would provide certain types of military equipment and military training (but not anti-riot equipment or training). (5) Sterling Area—The Republic would stay in. (6) Commonwealth [Page 615] Preference—It would continue. (7) Sugar Agreement—It had been completed.

Sir Algernon stated that the UK believed sanctions against the South African Republic would be counter-productive. Therefore, he said, the UK would not apply sanctions, would not support a UN move to do so and certainly would not sever diplomatic relations. The African people, Sir Algernon said, would be the first to suffer from sanctions and the people in the High Commission territories would be adversely affected. Imposing sanctions would create an awkward precedent. Who would be next? The UK did not wish to prejudice her interests in the Republic. Furthermore, sanctions would tend to force the present opposition into alignment with the Nationalist Government since no South African could approve a move designed to harm the economy. Finally, Sir Algernon said he doubted whether sanctions would be effective in view of the basic strength of the South African economy.

Assistant Secretary Williams responded stating that the U.S. did not have such important interests in South Africa as the British. He noted U.S. investment, the tracking station and the U.S. Navy’s anti-submarine interests but said that the U.S. was unwilling to compromise its principles to maintain those interests. Therefore, the U.S. was relatively free in South Africa as compared, for example, with Angola.

The Assistant Secretary said that U.S. policy towards the Republic was based on three factors:—(1) South Africa’s economy could make great contributions to Africans and to the rest of the African continent. Accordingly, the U.S. hated to see it destroyed. (2) The U.S. and the Republic shared a common western heritage, had been comrades in arms in two world wars and in Korea and were both unquestionably anti-communist. (3) Apartheid, however, was obnoxious. It created a breeding ground for communism and made U.S. relations with the rest of the African continent very difficult. Therefore, U.S. policy was to “rifle in” on the aspects of South Africa we did not like but support those aspects we did like. We had conveyed this policy in an Aide-Memoire to the Republic but it had been viewed as a serious impediment to the maintenance of friendly relations.

Examples of our policy in action were:—(1) The Aircraft Sale—They wanted fighters and transports but we approved only transports. (2) The IMF Loan—We had scrutinized this closely but had approved the first tranche since first tranche approvals were traditionally granted by the Fund. (3) The Tracking Station—We were going ahead with this but we would not sacrifice our policies or our freedom of action to get it.

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Assistant Secretary Williams said the U.S. might1 have to pick and choose sanctions which bilaterally would help the U.S. position with the rest of Africa. He commented that the U.S. had opposed sanctions in the UN and might continue to do so. The U.S. wanted to “zero in” on the real targets but, at the same time, it did not want to force the Republic into “laager.” The U.S. recognized that South Africans were tough and wanted to show them it was just as tough.

During the course of the discussion which followed Mr. Tasca advanced the view that the West African nations would attack the U.S. and the U.K. for an “easy” South African policy and would turn to the Soviet Union. Sir Roger Stevens replied that this was a problem but he believed it could be met. He said that the UK did not believe its South African policy would seriously damage the UK’s relations with other African nations. He felt that the other nations appreciated that the UK was a large trading partner with the Republic and pointed out that India had opposed sanctions in the UN too. Sir Roger warned that the question of how apartheid was attacked was crucial and stated, “you must be careful you don’t do more harm than good.”

Governor Williams reiterated that the U.S. believed it was necessary to do something about apartheid and expressed the belief that the time of the Europeans in South Africa was limited. Sir Roger and Sir Algernon replied that if this were true there were only two possible results. Either a “bloody revolution,” which would be a “terrible mess,” or a gradual “leavening of the lump” on the race question. The UK believed that the latter was the best hope. Sir Roger added that the U.S. would bear a very grave responsibility if it gave any encouragement to Africans to attempt to overthrow the South African Government.

Governor Williams asked whether sabotage of the Republic’s gold mines would not cripple the economy. The British delegation replied that the situation in the mines was quite good and there was no history of disorders in this sector. However, there were undoubted economic weaknesses in apartheid and the Bantustan border development plan was described as “just talk.”

At the close of the meeting Governor Williams stated that the U.S. wanted to be sure that U.S. inter-racial policies were reflected in its operations overseas. Accordingly, Ambassador Satterthwaite had been instructed to hold inter-racial dinners and improve contacts with non-Europeans. Sir Roger commented, “I presume the U.S. does not want to provoke a break in diplomatic relations with South Africa.” Governor Williams replied that the U.S. wanted to maintain diplomatic relations as long as relations were meaningful but it would run the risk of a break if its operations were restricted.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.41/11-2061. Confidential. Drafted by Cook on December 13.
  2. At this point in the source text the word “would” is crossed out and replaced with a handwritten “might.”