581. Telegram From the Embassy in South Africa to the Department of State1

115. Reference: Deptel 73,2 Embtel 107.3 Odendaal Commission Report.

I presented aide-memoire to PriMin Verwoerd this morning as scheduled. ForMin Muller was also present.

I told Dr. Verwoerd I would not read aide-memoire unless he wished me to as he had received from my British colleague yesterday an aide-memoire of substantially same text. PriMin said this was not necessary.

[Page 976]

Referring to previous exchange of aide-memoires I said this one expressed continuing and great concern of my government that his government might take steps to implement those parts of the Odendaal report having to do with the extension of apartheid and basic administrative changes in SWA relevant to issues pending before ICJ. If they did so applicants would in our view be certain to apply for provisional measures under article 41 of the court’s statute. If as we believed probably court granted such measures and his government did not comply with them question would then be brought by applicants before UNSC where we would be compelled to support authority of court.

I then said that I had been requested by my government to emphasize a few points orally which I proceeded to do in accordance with Deptel 65,4 making points in deleted paragraph 4 of Deptel 65 and emphasizing significance to my government of article 19. I read more or less textually final two paragraphs of Deptel 73.

At termination of my presentation PriMin said that since legal issues were involved he would not undertake discuss these with me then and was sure I would agree that it would be better for him to give a written reply clearly setting forth points of view of his government.

PriMin said he was surprised at concern of my government in view of firm belief of his legal advisers that there was no real cause for concern. He pointed out that implementation of Odendaal report would be a very long process, that it involved a first five-year plan followed by another five-year plan; while political aspects of report were fundamental to its implementation he implied that such steps as were taken would not give grounds for action by applicants.

Verwoerd continued that if the report were accepted in principle by his government it seemed unreasonable and beyond bounds of possibility that court would interpret this in way we fear. He said that foundations for report’s implementation had to be laid. He thought however that processes of the court in pending case might well catch up with implementation of Odendaal report before any decisive steps were taken. As case in point he mentioned Ovambaland. The Ovambos he said had always in effect ruled themselves although his government had had a small number of advisers there. SAG had taken and intended take only steps similar to those which British and French governments had taken in areas such as Nigeria in years past.

Verwoerd then discussed briefly complicated questions of financing recommendations of report which would themselves take considerable time to resolve.

I told PriMin we recognized that there were many favorable aspects of Odendaal Commission report, especially willingness of his government [Page 977] to spend considerable sums for economic development. I again expressed our concern and said I hoped his government would not make any miscalculations.

In closing PriMin made interesting remark that his government would of course take very much amiss any representations containing nature of a threat. However he would not at all take amiss representations made by friendly governments simply expressing reasons for their concern, his smile indicating he considered ours to be of latter nature.

Interview lasted fifteen minutes and was friendly in tone throughout.

I saw UK Ambassador Stephenson last night before his departure on official visit to other parts of SA. He was good enough to furnish me copy of his report to his government re his interview, which was also brief and friendly.

Most interesting aspect of Verwoerd’s remarks to him were Verwoerd’s expressed view that if ICJ thought that proposals in Odendaal report prejudiced those issues before the Court he could only conclude that court was biased and wished to appease the Africans. He could not therefore understand why HMG was so perturbed, as it would take many years to put report into effect and its economic provisions would of course be tackled first. Even more significant perhaps were his remarks to Stephenson that SAG was certainly not looking for trouble and that he would therefore study UK memo carefully and let him have considered reply in due course.5

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 19 SW AFR/UN. Confidential; Priority. Repeated to London, USUN, and Pretoria.
  2. See footnote 4, Document 580.
  3. Dated March 17. (Ibid.)
  4. See footnote 4, Document 580.
  5. On April 29, Verwoerd issued a White Paper indicating that he would not implement the broad apartheid proposals of the Odendaal plan in South West Africa before the ICJ judgment expected the following year.