13. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Visa Applications of Congressmen Diggs and Reid, Application of Repressive Legislation to South West Africa


  • Ambassador H.L.T. Taswell, Embassy of South Africa
  • Minister Daniel P. Olivier, Embassy of South Africa
  • Acting Secretary of State Elliot L. Richardson
  • Deputy Legal Adviser John B. Rhinelander
  • John D. Stempel, Staff Assistant to the Under Secretary

Ambassador Taswell called at the request of the Acting Secretary, who voiced regret that the purpose of his first meeting with the Ambassador should be to express the grave concern of the US Government to [Page 20] the Government of South Africa. He then gave the Ambassador Aides Mémoire concerning visa applications of Congressmen Charles C. Diggs and Ogden R. Reid and concerning the application of repressive legislation to South West Africa.2

Regarding the visa matter, the Secretary emphasized the importance of the Congressional role in the U.S., mentioned a meeting with Congressman Diggs not long ago regarding U.S. policy towards southern Africa, and observed that determination of our policy toward South Africa is apt to be affected by the fact that the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Africa has been excluded from South Africa. The action of South Africa, Communist China, or other countries in walling off their states, particularly to keep out responsible elected officials, is inevitably regarded with suspicion abroad. The Secretary pointed out that Congressional trips are a necessary part of foreign policy formulation and although some Congressmen have critical views on South Africa, they are not irresponsible, and on balance it is wiser to permit an exchange of ideas, which should contribute to better understanding.

Ambassador Taswell said he had already told Congressman Reid he would be welcome to come and look around in South Africa. But this is not the object of his visit; he wants to speak at universities and participate in agitational student groups. It is hard to think this purpose does not constitute interference in domestic South African affairs. The Congressman is clearly going to stir up trouble and engage in anti-South African activity. Congressman Reid’s press release expressed his objections to apartheid and his support for human rights and the rule of law; his implication was untrue that the South Africans are not interested in human rights and the rule of law.

The Secretary observed there is a wide gulf between Congressman Reid’s intentions and interference in South African affairs. An elected U.S. official should be able to go to talk with people in South Africa.

Ambassador Taswell responded that Congressman Reid is not being excluded because of his views but on the basis that he would be going to make trouble, as can be seen from the attitudes and activities of the student group (NUSAS) that invited him. Reid is an elected official in the U.S. but not in South Africa, and he is not the first elected official to be excluded from a foreign country.

Taswell said Congressman Diggs was also welcome to visit South Africa, but under the restriction that he not engage in activities or make statements that would constitute interference in internal affairs nor address any public meetings. Taswell said these were very reasonable re[Page 21]strictions and asked whether the Secretary would say such visitors should interfere in South Africa’s affairs.

The Secretary said there is no question about the right of a sovereign country to control admission of foreigners, but the present case represents an unhappy state of affairs that could affect our relations. It is one thing to tell a Congressman to leave if he misbehaves, but something else to restrict his coming on the assumption that he intends interference, even though there is no clear indication of what form that might take.

Ambassador Taswell opined it would be worse to expel misbehaving Congressmen than to restrict their admission. He concluded with the observation that South Africa would like more Congressmen to visit, but was not prepared to allow them to interfere in internal matters; the South African members of Parliament who visited the U.S. recently did not meddle in American affairs.

An impasse having been reached, the Secretary then turned the conversation to the application of Clauses 10 and 29 of the 1969 General Law Amendment Act to South West Africa.3 He said the U.S. is especially concerned because of the international status of the Territory. We consider the General Law Amendment Law lacks legal basis, as the U.N. has responsibility for South West Africa. Moreover, Articles 10 and 29 are arbitrary and restrictive, violate the rights of the inhabitants, and are incompatible with the Rule of Law. The U.S. therefore urges the South African Government not to apply the law to South West Africa.

Ambassador Taswell said South Africa disputes the claim of U.N. responsibility for South West Africa. South Africa administers the Territory in the spirit of the Mandate, Article 2 of which states South Africa can apply its laws to South West Africa. There may be things in the General Law Amendment Act the U.S. does not like, but South Africa considers the law necessary because of terrorism and people on its borders stirring up trouble and harboring terrorists. Taswell assured the Secretary the terms of the law would be applied with restraint and would not harm South West Africa. There has been much progress in the Territory, South Africa has done a good job and it plans to continue on these lines.

The Secretary referred to five outstanding unanswered U.S. communications on this general subject and reaffirmed them and our oral representations regarding the South West Africa Affairs Act and the [Page 22] detention and trial of South West Africans under the Terrorism Act.4 The U.S. would welcome the promised reply to these communications as a contribution to a constructive exchange of views.

Taswell said the South Africans would be happy to have a constructive exchange and had long wanted the U.S. Ambassador to go to South West Africa to look around and talk with the people.

The Secretary said the international status of South West Africa could be discussed without going to the Territory.

Taswell agreed but reiterated the desire to have the Ambassador go to South West Africa. He said some people term South West Africa a threat to international peace and security; how about Nigeria, where they say 1.7 million have been killed—three times the population of South West Africa? If South Africa followed the advice to administer South West Africa as a single entity, the small war-like Heroro group would fight the Ovambos, who are 45% of the population, and enslave them. The Ambassador cited the loss of life in the Sudan; there is no concern or complaint in the U.N. about that.

The Secretary repeated it is the international character of South West Africa and specific U.N. responsibility for the Territory that make the situation different there.

Taswell responded that South Africa does not recognize such a U.N. responsibility. He added that with no criticism of the U.S. role in Vietnam, the number of people killed there exceeds the population of South West Africa.

The Secretary said we prefer to avoid such situations. Where we see one on the horizon, we try to prevent trouble, as we have recently in Central America. We are pleased at our contribution in that area and would like to make a contribution in South West Africa.

Ambassador Taswell said again: Send your Ambassador to South West Africa.

Another impasse having been reached, the meeting was ended after 55 minutes.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 17 S AFR–US. Confidential. Drafted by Crosby. The memorandum is attached to an August 6 briefing memorandum from Crosby to Newsom.
  2. See Document 14.
  3. Clause 10 broadly defined a security matter as anything relating to the security of the Republic and imposed stiff penalties for violations. Clause 29 hampered the defense of the accused by preventing evidence that might be “prejudicial to the interest of the public or State security” from being introduced into court. (Keesing’s Contemporary Archives, 1969–1970, p. 23619)
  4. See Document 14 and footnote 4 thereto.