574. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • South Africa’s Racial Policies


  • Mr. W. Averell Harriman, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
  • Dr. W.C. Naude, Ambassador of the Republic of South Africa
  • Mr. A. Gardner Dunn, Counselor, South African Embassy
  • Mr. Pierson M. Hall, AFE
  • Mr. Frederic M. Chapin, Special Assistant to Governor Harriman

Ambassador Naude began by saying that this was his first opportunity to call on the Under Secretary and that, at this time, he wished only to pay his respects. Mr. Harriman replied that there are a hundred ambassadors now accredited to Washington and he tried to discourage those who only wanted to pay their respects, but he was always glad to see those who had matters of substance to discuss. Naude said that, while his was a courtesy call, it would be impossible for a South African ambassador to avoid politics for two minutes, even if he should want to do so. Naude pointed out that Secretary Rusk had told him there are only a few differences between the United States and South Africa. He, Naude, went on to say that if the United States welcomes diversity, as it apparently does, it should be easy to find common ground. Naude said he had striven since his arrival to enlarge this common ground and help the two nations find additional areas of agreement. Governor Harriman pointed out that this is an ambassador’s job. They would get along better, the Governor said, if they recognized there is little chance to agree and he added that many Americans haven’t even come to an agreement with some of their southern friends in the United States.

The Governor stated that the United States Government is irrevocably opposed to apartheid and will never compromise in the slightest degree on the issue. Racial discrimination is completely unacceptable to most Americans. Mr. Harriman then said he would like to give the Ambassador some unsolicited advice—he shouldn’t try to get Americans to accept apartheid because they never will. President Kennedy had met [Page 964]the issue of segregation head-on. The opposition of the United States Government to discrimination goes back to Franklin Roosevelt and will certainly continue under President Johnson. The President was, in fact, a disciple of Roosevelt. The Governor continued that, while there are certain areas of agreement between the South African and American governments, there are diversities which can never be accepted just as Hitlerism and Communism could not be. The United States doesn’t go out looking for trouble. We want to leave others alone since we don’t really like sticking our fingers in other people’s pie, but in our position such action is sometime unavoidable. For example, we simply cannot ignore the apartheid issue.

Ambassador Naude said South Africans do not like the word apartheid. One must not equate segregation and apartheid since they are quite different. Apartheid envisages eventual freedom and equality for Negroes. Hence apartheid does not have the same meaning in the United States that it carries in South Africa. Governor Harriman said he was grateful for that. Discrimination has never gone to the extremes in the United States, he said, that it went to in South Africa.

Naude stated that the whole character of his country would be lost, the economy ruined without separate development. Such development is the only answer to South Africa’s problem. His government doesn’t maintain that this is the answer in the United States. South Africa is trying to respect the character of its ethnic groups; it has built-in diversity in its society. Circumstances of the two countries are so different. The American Negro is no longer a Negro and yet he isn’t an American either. He is basically insecure. The South African Bantu hasn’t lost his African character nor his basic security. South Africa is trying to maintain the racial integrity of the Bantu.

The Governor then asked Naude to recommend a balanced book on the subject of apartheid and assured him he would read it. The Ambassador said he would send down something which was not propaganda-inspired. He went on to say that the South African Government is accused of violating basic principles of human rights such as labor standards, the right to work, universal suffrage, freedom of movement, etc. But, the Ambassador added, the Bantu are better off than the inhabitants of most other countries and, while there is an area of discrimination in the Republic, it will disappear in time. A chief problem is that of the franchise but this too will be solved. Few countries have a general per capital income as high as that of South Africa. Governor Harriman asked for figures on such incomes in South Africa and in representative other nations.

The Governor inquired about South West Africa and expressed our concern that South Africa should make some concession in the Territory such as agreeing to a form of UN presence there. Naude replied that his country has had a lot of experience with the UN and that most of it was [Page 965]bad. The South African Government proposed on several occasions that the President of the General Assembly and various UN Commissions visit the Territory but such efforts had not been fruitful. For example, one visit—that of the Carpio Committee—was a fiasco. South Africa accepted the report of the Committee and went to the UN to discuss it. Suddenly, without warning, the document was disavowed by the Committee chairman. This action was very confusing to his government, Ambassador Naude averred. Now nothing further could be done until the report of the Odendaal Commission has been received.

The Governor asked about the contentious case before the International Court of Justice and the Ambassador expressed his hope that the Court would not rule against South Africa; however, he said he would not presume to prejudge the case. Governor Harriman replied that many of South Africa’s friends (Australia, Belgium, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom) feel as the United States does, that some concessions should be made in South West Africa.

Naude acknowledged that this was true. On the other hand, he said, President Wilson and Marshal Smuts were largely responsible for the establishment of the mandate system. The whole idea behind the mandates was that they would eventually be incorporated by the mandatory power. Class C mandates, such as South West Africa, were particularly dependent upon the mandatory and were to be administered as an integral part of that power. South West Africa is as much a part of South Africa as the former territory of Wyoming was of the United States. Just because South Africa forbore to annex this contiguous area it is being asked to hand over the Territory to the UN—scarcely a friendly organization. Governor Harriman said that the case of South West Africa is somewhat different since the South African Government has assumed international obligations for the area.

The Governor concluded by stressing the continuity between the Kennedy and the Johnson administrations. The goal of both was, and is, an Africa wedded to the West not to the East. With the withdrawal of Khrushchev from the African continent and the entry of Chou En-lai new problems are arising. South Africa is deeply involved in these programs, and its government must face up to them. The Governor said he very much appreciated the willingness of Ambassador Naude to discuss in a frank manner the issues affecting his country.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14–1 S AFR. Confidential. Drafted by Hall on January 10, and approved in M on January 20.