196. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • South Africa:
    • Balthazar Johannes Vorster, Prime Minister
    • Dr. Hilgard Muller, Minister of Foreign Affairs
    • Amb. Bernadus Gerhardus Fourie, Secretary of Department of Foreign Affairs
    • Amb. Roelof Frederik Botha, Ambassador to the U.S. and Permanent Representative to the U.N.
    • Gen. Hendrik Johannes Van Den Bergh, Director, Bureau for State Security and Security Adviser to the Prime Minister
    • Amb. Sole, Ambassador to the FRG
  • U.S.:
    • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State
    • Winston Lord, Director, Policy Planning Staff
    • Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Counselor of the Department
    • William E. Schaufele, Jr. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs
    • Amb. William Bowdler, Ambassador to South Africa
    • Robert L. Funseth, Special Assistant to the Secretary for Press Relations, and Spokesman of the Department
    • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff

[The Secretary and the Prime Minister conferred privately from 9:30 to 11:36 a.m., while the other members of the two delegations held [Page 498] discussions on the subject of guarantees.2 At 11:36 a.m., the principals joined the delegations.]

Kissinger: The Prime Minister and I—if I may sum up our discussion—reviewed the situation with respect to Rhodesia, along the lines of our discussion yesterday and at dinner too.3 That is, whether we can put together a package that reasonable people might consider just and honorable with respect to the economic prospects of the white community in Rhodesia; and if we can do this, the Prime Minister might be prepared to use his influence with the Rhodesian Government to see what can be achieved. We will work with the black African governments. We will also see if we can have an international meeting for considering the question of guarantees, in which the South African Government could participate, at least at the preliminary stage.

This is where the Rhodesia matter stands.

Vorster: That is right.

Kissinger: I assured the Prime Minister that there would be no surprises. We can’t keep secret the fact that we’re putting a guarantee package together,4 but we can keep secret your role in it and what will happen afterwards. We should do it in the next month. Speed is of the essence.

We will be meeting in Puerto Rico next week with the British, French and Germans. The Japanese I don’t know. I suppose we want their money.

Schaufele: We’ll go slow with the Japanese.

Kissinger: We’ll start with a small group. Only Schaufele in the Department.

On South-West Africa, I have suggested to the Prime Minister that the constitutional convention be moved to somewhere else from Windhoek. The participants will be decided later, but the site should be moved. My impression is this was a proposition the Prime Minister did not reject.

Vorster: Yes.

[Page 499]

Kissinger: And we will keep open the possibility of a later meeting this summer. There will have to be concrete results if there is a second meeting.

It will be helpful if we come to some conclusion on South-West Africa before the UN debate. If we can reach some conclusions which are reasonable, we can do our utmost to avoid a condemnatory debate.

Since no one knows we’re doing it, failure won’t be a problem.

Is that a fair statement, Mr. Prime Minister?

Vorster: Yes. The conference has said three years.5 Six months have elapsed, so 1978 is the deadline.

Kissinger: That’s correct.

Vorster: But I said to the Secretary of State that the composition will be determined by the conference itself.

Kissinger: But I said to the Prime Minister that the same intelligence that said he was a slow talker told me he’s not without influence on the conference. [Laughter] I believe the latter more than I believe the former.

Vorster: [To Botha:] If you can tell the Secretary about the historical development, what would happen if it were a unitary state.

Botha: If the UN or anyone tried to enforce a unitary state, it would just be murder. It was always divided.

Kissinger: I couldn’t care less whether it’s unitary or federal. Whatever is internationally accepted, we’ll accept.

Botha: It’s 47 per cent Ovambo.

Kissinger: We have no fixed ideas about how the constitution is drafted, as long as it leads to independence. If you look at the black African states, one comes to a melancholy conclusion about what’s likely to happen. But that’s not our problem.

Muller: The Prime Minister and I and Botha have said all the options are open.

Kissinger: We have three objectives—the place of the conference, the terminal date of the conference, and the composition of the conference. The first two can be done this year. The composition can be left for the conference.

Vorster: We don’t have the means of supporting a conference; nor do the other parties.

Kissinger: What role are you prepared to have the UN play in this?

[Page 500]

Vorster: We made an offer to the Secretary-General to appoint a person. Escher was named, and he was fired by Waldheim.6

Kissinger: Why?

Schaufele: He lost the confidence of the black Africans.

Vorster: We’ll accept a personal representative of Waldheim.

Kissinger: That’s all we need.

Schaufele: If the composition is settled, we can do it.

Vorster: I’ve frankly lost confidence in Waldheim.

Kissinger: Would you like Echeverri?

Vorster: He couldn’t be worse.

Kissinger: Oh yes. We’ve worked well with Waldheim.

Vorster: Our policy is that we are prepared to receive a representative of Waldheim. We are prepared to receive representatives of the Africans to visit on the spot. They haven’t taken us up.

One man I won’t have anything to do with, aside from my friend from SWAPO, is this Irishman—Sean MacBride.7 Incidentally, his father fought on the Boer side against the British in 1899–1902.

Botha: And was shot by the British.

Muller: It came to our notice there has been some talk in the Nine to send a fact-finding mission to South-West Africa and South Africa.

Schaufele: Right.

Muller: When they didn’t have unanimity, they thought of this. We saw this as good. But they’re less interested recently.

Vorster: Any Ambassador is welcome to come and see for himself.

Kissinger: As I said to the Prime Minister, the issue unfortunately isn’t abstract justice. The blacks in Rhodesia almost certainly won’t be as well off under independence as they are now. The issue is international realities which have to be faced. It’s an unwinnable situation: somewhere along the line it will be lost. The question is not to lose it under pressure.

The tribes in one part probably don’t know the tribes in the other part. Whoever heard in history of Sao Tome and Principe, or Cape Verde? If in each of these states someone had taken over—if the Belgians had had more coastline, they would have cut up their territory into six states like the French, instead of having Zaire. It’s a series of historical accidents.

If the Prime Minister and I meet again, we might meet on the Ascension Islands. [Laughter]

[Page 501]

Vorster: It would be within easy reach of South Africa, and we wouldn’t need wobblers [babblers]!

Kissinger: We’ll discuss it. We will keep you informed. We will put this package together next month. To be useful on South-West Africa, we need a formula by the end of August. If we are to avoid a confrontation [in the UN].

Fourie: Should we agree on a press line?

Vorster: Yes, otherwise the press will have their own line.

Kissinger: We can say we had a very detailed review of all aspects of southern Africa, that you are going back to South Africa to think about it and I am going back to report to the President, and we will keep in touch and follow it up.

Fourie: “The Prime Minister and Secretary of State had a detailed review of all aspects of southern Africa.”

Vorster: “A discussion in depth.”

Fourie: “. . . on all aspects of southern Africa.” Then, “the Prime Minister will give these matters further thought, and the Secretary of State will report to the President.”

Kissinger: “We will pursue these matters further through diplomatic channels.”

Botha: These aspects.

Vorster: “Pursue,” or “follow up?”

Kissinger: Which do you prefer?

Vorster: “Follow up.”

Kissinger: Just say, “we will keep in touch about these matters.”

Botha: If I may, I think “follow up” is a better concept.

Kissinger: That’s what it says.

Fourie: “They will follow up on these matters and keep in touch about them.”

Kissinger: I’m giving a press conference in Munich.8 I’ll be asked by the German press whether I raised my views of South Africa. I’ll say what I said to you: I may do it in three different forms, but I won’t go further. I’ll be asked if we discussed Rhodesia; I’ll say yes. I’ll be asked if we discussed South-West Africa and I’ll say yes. I’ll be asked if we discussed South Africa and I’ll say yes.

Vorster: I will too.

[Page 502]

May I say, Mr. Secretary, my colleagues and I are sincerely grateful for these discussions, and we trust that good will come out of it, for southern Africa and for the West.

Kissinger: Mr. Prime Minister, we appreciate the openness of these discussions, and we too hope it will be of benefit to southern Africa and the world.

Vorster: We hope it will not be another thirty years before we meet again.

Kissinger: If we succeed, there will be a need for another meeting.

Vorster: Because at 90 I won’t be able to attend a conference. [Laughter]

Kissinger: But you’ll still be the Prime Minister. [Laughter]

Vorster: God forbid.

Kissinger: We’ll just say it orally, not issue a statement. I’ll just say to the press that I can’t go into detail. I will say I’ll send Schaufele to see Nyerere, Kaunda, and a few of the others. Because I don’t want to do it in cables. Because if we’re going to bring it off we’ll have to do it fast and with discipline. Especially with this OAU meeting.

Vorster: As I’ve said many times, if it is useful for me to meet with the black African leaders, under your auspices or other auspices, I’m perfectly prepared.

Kissinger: It may be useful at some point.

Vorster: And the same applies to Callaghan.

Kissinger: He’s a good man.

Vorster: I had a good talk with him last year.

Kissinger: Once we put the package together, we have to talk to them in great detail. But in the meantime we have to say something to them. The OAU starts when?

Schaufele: Monday.9

Kissinger: We’ll give them the message that I’m sending you and they shouldn’t do anything irrevocable.

[The conversation ended. The Secretary escorted the Prime Minister to his car at the front door of the Hotel.]

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 344, Department of State, Memoranda, Memoranda of Conversations, External, June–July 1976. Secret; Nodis. Initialed by Rodman. The meeting was held at the Hotel Sonnenhof. Brackets are in the original.
  2. The rest of the delegation’s discussions are in a memorandum of conversation, June 24, 9:30–11:36 a.m. (Ibid.)
  3. Kissinger met with Vorster alone from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., and with the entire South African delegation at a dinner meeting from 7:10 to 9:05 p.m. at the Hotel Bodenmais, June 23. (Memoranda of conversation; ibid.)
  4. On March 22, Callaghan publicly proposed three guarantees for Rhodesian whites: a clause in the constitution protecting minority rights; a return of British nationality for those who lost their citizenship because of Smith’s unilateral declaration of independence; and financial guarantees for those who left Rhodesia after majority rule. (Background paper on Rhodesia, June 17; ibid., Box CL 90, Geopolitical File, Africa, Chronological File, June 23–24, 1976)
  5. The Turnhalle Constitutional Conference convened in Windhoek beginning in 1975 to draft a constitution for Namibia.
  6. See Document 73.
  7. Sean MacBride, U.N. Commissioner for Namibia.
  8. Kissinger held a press conference at Furstenfeldbruck airport in Munich on June 24. For the text of his remarks, see Department of State Bulletin, July 19, 1976, pp. 95–97.
  9. June 28.