15. Intelligence Note From the Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (Hughes) to Secretary of State Rogers1

No. 605


  • South-West Africa: The Issue That Won’t Go Away

The Issue Remains. The UN Security Council’s resolution of August 12, calling for South Africa’s withdrawal from South-West Africa (Namibia) by October 4, 1969,2 further narrows the maneuverability of the US and the UK on the South-West Africa issue. South Africa has no intention of giving up South-West Africa, and the Afro-Asian countries can therefore be expected to begin pressing again for UN enforcement measures sometime after the October deadline has passed. The UK will [Page 26] probably use its veto, if necessary, to defeat mandatory sanctions, but this will not dispose of the issue or ease Afro-Asian pressures on the US.

Afro-Asian Tenacity. In their long-fought battle in the UN against the white minority regimes of southern Africa, the Afro-Asians have had mandatory sanctions against South Africa as their long-term goal. They failed, most recently in June, to get a Rhodesian resolution (that would have extended Rhodesian sanctions to South Africa and Mozambique) through the Security Council. They succeeded the next month in having the SC condemn Portugal over frontier incidents with Zambia. The resolution on South-West Africa of August 12 illustrates how Afro-Asian support in the Security Council on this issue has now broadened to the point where there were no negative votes and the only abstentions were the US, UK, France, and Finland.

What Type of Sanctions? The resolution provides that if Pretoria does not comply with the demand for withdrawal, the “Security Council will meet immediately to determine upon effective measures.” For the Afro-Asians, “effective measures” mean Chapter VII actions, although it is not clear yet whether the Afro-Asians are prepared to scale or slow down their demands in order to obtain US support. But whatever the tactics, the August 12 resolution has brought the Security Council measurably closer to the point where it will have to decide one way or the other on mandatory sanctions.

South Africa Adamant. Entrenched in South-West Africa since World War I, South Africa has hardened its position since the World Court decision of 1966. It has virtually annexed the territory3 and has, contrary to the original mandate, some military units there. Only concerted measures by the major world powers might shake South Africa’s hold over the area, but prospects for such international action seem dimmer than ever.

UK Problems. Among the permanent Security Council members, the UK in particular is strongly opposed to measures against South Africa. The UK and South Africa are important trading partners and, more significantly, British investment (currently exceeding $3 billion) constitutes 60 percent of all foreign investment in South Africa. The UK, therefore, would probably try to dilute any future Security Council resolution on mandatory sanctions and, if it did not succeed, would probably be prepared to use the veto.

Not the End. A British veto might get other members of the Security Council off the hook, but probably only temporarily. The South-West [Page 27] Africa issue will continue to be a source of recurring frictions between African states and the West, and the Afro-Asians are likely to bring new pressures on the US to “do something” about South Africa’s continued presence in the territory.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 19 SW AFR. Confidential; No Foreign Dissem; Controlled Dissem.
  2. Resolution 269 declared South Africa’s continued occupation of Namibia a violation of territorial integrity and an encroachment on the authority of the United Nations. It also requested all states to increase their assistance to the people of Namibia. (Yearbook of the United Nations, 1969, p. 697)
  3. See Intelligence Note 81, “South-West Africa: Shrunken Autonomy,” February 11, 1969. [Footnote is in the original. Printed as Document 1.]