409. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • South Africa and the Security Council Meeting


  • The Secretary
  • W.C. Naude, Ambassador of the Republic of South Africa
  • Mr. Pieter H.J.J. van Vuuren, First Secretary, South African Embassy
  • Mr. Waldemar B. Campbell, AFE

The Secretary began by stating that he was not responding primarily to the letter from Mr. Louw—that would take considerable study—and continued by saying we are greatly concerned about the Security Council meeting, and others have been sounding us out. A rough time was ahead. The basis of our position in the Security Council meeting will be our opposition to apartheid as a political doctrine. We anticipate a very great controversy in the Council. The Soviet Union will make the most of its opportunity to develop divisions within the free world and to be the champion of the colored races—the same old game. Basic to the United States’ policy is the intention to oppose expulsion of South Africa from the United Nations, and mandatory sanctions under Chapter 7. We will be under enormous pressure but do not intend to give in. The Secretary said he did not know what was going to come out of this situation, but he imagined that there might be a resolution which we could support that would oppose apartheid and suggest the appointment by the Secretary General of a high-level special representative to discuss with the South African Government any prospect of a solution more generally acceptable to peoples throughout the world and more in accord with the UN Charter. The Secretary said he was not debating the merits of this proposal, only indicating the possible direction that a high-level rapporteur might take. Also, there might be a recommendation under Chapter 6 against the export of arms to South Africa which could be used to facilitate the enforcement of apartheid.

Our present expectation is that after 1963 we might have to refrain from sending any arms to South Africa. This is not finally decided, nor when we might make this public. It would not be part of the Security Council resolution.

The Secretary went on to say he did not know the end of the trail, where we are heading, and wished that the Ambassador could help him in that respect.

[Page 640]

Ambassador Naude expressed appreciation at this opportunity and said it was ironical that ten years ago we were fighting together on the same side, and now South Africa will not even be supplied with arms to use against a common enemy. He did not know how his people would feel—he was greatly disturbed. The Secretary reminded the Ambassador that more than once he had assured the latter of the American anxiety to cooperate with South Africa as much as possible. But the United States point of view must include its strategic interests and the world situation. He expressed the hope that the Ambassador would pass on to his government that the South African problem was a heavy burden to the United States and was creating problems for its strategic interests around the world with respect to facilities, postures, the cooperation of armed forces. This was the direct cause of a situation that was admittedly ironic and also tragic.

Ambassador Naude then said certainly, South Africa would have to face up to the situation that now the United States’ strategic interests elsewhere were more important than those in South Africa. The Secretary replied that he had hoped we would not come to this situation, but our Joint Chiefs of Staff were concerned about our over-all strategic interests, considering the adverse effect of the South African situation.

Ambassador Naude said that the South Africans in the past had stood with the United States when the chips were down. He expressed a desire to make a few comments about American strategic interests with respect to South Africa. He had heard a military expert describe the importance of Indonesia and Cuba to the Communists because they lie in narrow seas connecting larger bodies of water such as the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. The same was true of South Africa—it was at a point where two great oceans meet. The South African military effort was aimed at bolstering South Africa’s capabilities there. Another important aspect of the strategic situation was the important resources of South Africa. He expressed certainty that the Chiefs of Staff were familiar with South Africa’s many strategic minerals, but he also wanted to call the Secretary’s attention to the importance of South Africa’s gold production, with particular reference to the U.S. Government’s action yesterday raising the bank rate. It was of both strategic and economic importance to the United States and its allies that the gold production of South Africa was in the hands of a friendly country.

The Ambassador then referred to Mr. Harlan Cleveland’s figure of speech about a light at the end of the tunnel. He said that he felt there was still some degree of misunderstanding in the United States about South Africa’s situation. It was one of survival, not prejudice. Apartheid envisaged the eventual disappearance of racial discrimination. This would not come tomorrow, but this did not mean that it would take 100 years either. Discrimination would come to an end, but right now it was in the [Page 641] interests of both sides. The Secretary asked if that concept of the disappearance of discrimination was in Mr. Louw’s letter, and the Ambassador assured him that it was. The Ambassador said that South Africa only needed some help in holding the line. It needed time. The United States had a tremendous responsibility, as well as influence, in this situation. The Secretary interjected that our influence in other capitals of the world was about the same as in Pretoria. The Ambassador proceeded to develop the point that the United States was to a large degree responsible for releasing revolutionary forces in the world. He expressed the view that the goal of a great power should be to play down tensions and try to get people to talk together, but the United States without even opening its mouth had released dangerous forces in the world. The Secretary wondered if these forces were not deeply rooted in the nature of man. He wondered if this discourse had not been going on for 2,000 years. Did not man, like most animals, not like to be pushed around too much? The Ambassador indicated that the Secretary had used this same point with him before. The Secretary then said that these troubles were popping up all over the world because of a basic tendency in man’s nature. The South African Ambassador still adhered to his argument that the United States had released great forces of a revolutionary nature. He pointed out that Israel was a very basic part of U.S. policy despite its irritation to the Arab world. All South Africa asked, he said, was that it should be treated like Israel; that it was a little nation that needed similar support for survival. The American solution for its own racial problems was not one that could be applied beneficially for South Africa.

The Secretary said that he was not suggesting that a solution practical for the United States should be applied to South Africa. He understood there were about 3-1/2 million whites in South Africa. Did not their survival in a sea of blacks depend on a policy of accommodation with them? The South African Ambassador replied that the accommodation could only be made along the lines of the South African system of apartheid. South Africa was a Western nation which had to be preserved among African nations. South Africa could maintain itself except for the attitude of the outside world. The difficulties had largely come in the last ten years, particularly because of the United Nations. He admitted that the South African Government recently had given itself extreme powers of repression, but he said this was natural considering the extreme threats that were coming from other parts of Africa. The United States should not make these difficulties of South Africa even worse.

The South African Ambassador referred to the new Transkei state as an indication of the aim of South African policy. In the last two or three weeks Prime Minister Verwoerd had stated that the Transkei was just one of several Bantu nations which would emerge, that the Transkei was only the first step. South Africa hoped to make a breakthrough with [Page 642] respect to its relations with other African states by means of this policy of setting up Bantustans, but UN events which the Secretary had foreshadowed would make the implementation of this Bantustan policy even more difficult.

Regarding suggestions that South Africa should make small adjustments of policy, the Ambassador said Foreign Minister Louw maintained that South Africa could not be flexible regarding its basic policy. The Ambassador said that the United States and Russia could not be flexible either about the essentials of their policy. If South Africa made modifications in basic policy, all racial groups would suffer. Flexibility had to be found in other ways such as South Africa’s withdrawal from the Economic Commission for Africa. This was something South Africa could do.

United States spokesmen have suggested that South Africa’s policies were preparing the way for a Communist takeover in Africa. The South African Ambassador said he had just been reading Chernov’s (sp?) book The Soviet View of Africa and found the aims of its policy expressed in this book shocking. Only in the last hour he had found that in South Africa there was an organization financed by the Chinese Communists.

Ambassador Naude said that if a horizontal adjustment of South African society were made (by this he meant the opposite of vertical apartheid, the suppression of racial groups), the whites would be swamped and southern Africa would be in a more chaotic condition than the Congo had been. This would have grave consequences for American strategic interests. The white group in South Africa was only a handful but it was advanced compared with the people around it. It would take a great deal of power to keep the situation under control if horizontal adjustments were made. A South African leading newspaper repeatedly has said recently that 5 million non-Africans in South Africa (whites, Coloureds and Indians) would not accept the rule of a non-Western majority. There would be resistance and bloodshed. It was not pleasant for him, the Ambassador said to point this out, but presumably the United States would have to be the power to enforce order in this chaotic situation.

The Ambassador repeated the intention of ending all discrimination in South Africa. He said that his country realized that in this day and age it was not possible to continue the old practices. He closed with an anecdote about John Adams telling a Livingston that our Puritan forefathers had had to hang their Quakers because they could not afford agitators in their midst while they were threatened by Indians.

The Secretary mentioned that he would have to end the interview because of the President’s press conference, but there had been a new note he had not heard before in the Ambassador’s remarks, and the Secretary [Page 643] expressed a desire to have a two-hour talk with the Ambassador this week—not the following day because of the pressure of other business, but Friday or Saturday morning. He suggested that the two countries need to discuss the possibility of some breathtaking invention which might salvage the interests of both South Africa and the United States. The Ambassador expressed his readiness to carry on a further discussion.1

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 1 S AFR. Confidential. Drafted by Campbell and approved in S on August 6.
  2. See Document 414.