199. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Amb. R.F. Botha, Ambassador of South Africa
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State
  • Amb. William E. Schaufele, Jr., Assistant Secretary for African Affairs
  • Frank G. Wisner, Country Director for South Africa
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff

Kissinger: Two things. You expressed some doubts about meeting in Europe.

Botha: That’s correct, sir.

Kissinger: Let me express my view. I agree with you the thing won’t be settled unless I talked to the top people there. But it also won’t get settled if the blacks think they can drive me crazy. If I go to Africa and go to Pretoria first, then they’ve got me, because—if it fails—they’ll have me in the position of having put myself at the mercy of the racist Vorster. That’s what they’ll say. If I meet you elsewhere, and then go to black Africa, and then Pretoria—that way it is in the course of negotiations. And if it’s going to fail, I can send Schaufele. You will have put forward a good proposal.

As for where to meet. Maybe Switzerland, Berne. Geneva. Geneva doesn’t have particularly good meeting places.

Botha: Zurich is very nice.

Kissinger: Some mountains.

Botha: The Matterhorn!

Kissinger: That’s a little high. [Laughter.] Maybe Rio.

I don’t know what the Brazilians would think.

Botha: The climate is always warm there.

Kissinger: This is winter. It would be pleasant. It’s a little frivolous for Afrikaners. [Laughter.]

Botha: Mr. Secretary, I think my Prime Minister was a bit upset. The ball is starting to roll. He is worried about the time. He thought you could go directly to the Africans.

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Kissinger: I don’t exclude it; it depends on whether they are accommodating to Bill. If they say, “For God’s sakes, let’s do it.”

Botha: That’s all the Prime Minister wanted to know.

Kissinger: But it puts you at a disadvantage. If they make demands you can’t meet, you are put in the position of breaking up the negotiations.

Botha: We wonder whether you are putting too much stock in what the black Africans are saying. It’s a lot of bluff with these fellows usually.

Kissinger: Just don’t lose your cool. I can’t understand nervous Afrikaners. The meaner you are, the better.

Botha: Can I show you this? [He shows the Secretary a summary of a Le Monde interview with Machel, Tab A.]2

Kissinger: We got a message too from Machel.3 He too is worried about this Rhodesian raid4 and wants us to get the negotiations mov-ing. Not bad.

Botha: You told us not to convey to the British anything. It’s been done [answer conveyed to the British], but in words that we have to study it first.

Kissinger: Good. Here [Tab B] is the paper we are thinking of. They [the British] have the idea the white minority should have a veto over constitutional changes. We shouldn’t get so precise when we are in exploratory negotiations. We won’t show this to the blacks, because they will start bargaining from it. I can’t exclude that the British won’t. Bill will be instructed to say that if there is a discrepancy between what the British say and what we say, ours is governing.

Botha: It is not good if you and the British are selling different things.

Kissinger: I’m worried about the British.

Botha: You must pardon my emphasizing this, Mr. Secretary, but if the British try to sell the Africans something different, it is bad.

Kissinger: I agree.

Botha: It won’t work, Mr. Secretary.

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Kissinger: This paper will be the same. This is agreed. But the British may tell them more of the details than we do.

Botha: As for the possibility of our exerting pressure on Machel, the answer is yes, we have leverage but it is a two-edged sword. If we use it, we forfeit it. So we shouldn’t use it easily. That is something for you to discuss with my Prime Minister.

Kissinger: Yes, and Bill may see Machel.

Botha: It would be good if you see Kenyatta. Your relations are good.

Kissinger: Excellent. I saw a report he likes me better than any Westerner since Duncan Sandys. [Laughter.] Maybe Bill can see Kenyatta.

Botha: If it prolongs his trip . . .

Kissinger: I want him back.

Wisner [to Schaufele:] You’re going through Nairobi.

Kissinger: But it is senseless to see that half-witted Foreign Minister.

Schaufele: Our Ambassador is seeing Kenyatta.

Kissinger: All right, we’ll send a letter from me.

Botha: If they think Dr. Kissinger is coming, that they like.

Kissinger: For a practitioner of apartheid, you are throwing me in with a lot of blacks. [Laughter.] I’ll have to go to the Ivory Coast, Nigeria.

Botha: Nigeria. In the middle of Angola, the previous head of Nigeria sent a man to us and asked for a document from us. We stuck to our deal, and they didn’t.

Kissinger: What was the agreement?

Botha: If we would consider withdrawing our troops, they would exert a strong influence to get the Cubans out. We were prepared, but they did nothing. They just hammered us publicly.

Kissinger: This document—you should let us know in a day or two whether you think it’s a reasonable basis for proceeding. It won’t be communicated to anyone else.

Then the two Bills will go to Tanzania, Zambia, and maybe Mozambique.

Then I’ll trigger the whole thing. I’ll meet your Prime Minister. If they react favorably to Bill, I may go directly to black Africa.

Botha: Right, sir.

[Secretary Kissinger and Amb. Botha conferred alone from 2:45 to 2:55 p.m.]

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Tab B


  • —The plan which has been developed for Rhodesia spells out a comprehensive strategy to bring an end to the crisis and lead that country to majority rule. It provides political and economic incentives to the European minority sufficiently persuasive to encourage that minority to stay in post-majority rule Rhodesia. The plan aims at establishing under the most propitious conditions a moderate black African government. It sets forth those steps necessary to launch an independent Rhodesia on a course of political stability and economic progress, thereby removing the causes of Soviet intervention.
  • —Although, in the interest of flexibility, some points of detail remain to be worked out, the plan proceeds from the participation of and a commitment to its success by the British government, the strong and determined backing of the United States, most reasonable prospects for generous international support in developed countries and the understanding and likely acceptance of those of black Africa’s leaders most directly involved as well as Rhodesia’s moderate nationalist leadership.
  • —In addition to the promise of independence under majority rule, the plan provides Rhodesia’s black population a real economic stake in the future and spells out mechanisms for bringing development assistance to Rhodesia, which would be directed into ways most likely to rapidly improve black incomes. The plan addresses those conditions which are most likely to encourage Rhodesia’s white minority to stay. In this regard:
    The plan addresses compensation for those who may wish to or be forced to leave as well as economic incentives for those Europeans who choose to remain.
    It calls for the formation of a Rhodesian Parliament in which the European minority would have a sufficiently strong force [voice]5 to make sure unacceptable constitutional changes do not occur.
    It foresees the organization of a moderate black government, preferably with Joshua Nkomo as the Chief Minister, which could hold European support and confidence.
    It predicates an orderly transfer of power so that the discipline of Rhodesia’s security forces and civil service is maintained.
    British political representation in Salisbury is provided for in order to add stability to the process of transition. Britain’s political presence would remain long enough—eighteen months to two years—[Page 517]to give white Rhodesians a chance to make a reasonable estimate of their future and prospects.
    Finally, the plan foresees the lifting of economic sanctions and the active encouragement of private foreign investment.


—The plan for bringing Rhodesia to majority rule spells out those steps which will lead up to independence. In summary, these steps include:

The present regime would accept the principle of majority rule and give way to a caretaker government. The Rhodesian Legislative Assembly would be dissolved.
The caretaker government would begin negotiations with black Rhodesians and the governments of African states would declare their support for the process.
The Parliament of the United Kingdom would pass enabling legislation and appoint representation.
The caretaker government would give way to an interim administration in which Joshua Nkomo would serve as Chief Minister. At this point, economic sanctions would be raised and the insurgency brought to an end.

Political Understandings

Political Assurances. The assurances contained in the plan are general and are designed to provide the basis for further negotiations. Once a caretaker government and Rhodesia’s black nationalists, with British representatives present, sit down at the bargaining table, the details will be negotiated in a manner which meets the realities of the present situation.

  • —Whatever the precise outcome, the political understandings would be based on a constitutional declaration of rights protecting every individual regardless of color, race or tribe.
  • —Loss of property without compensation would be prohibited.
  • —An independent judiciary would be established; its authorities would be protected under the constitution.
  • —An independent electoral commission would draw electoral boundaries but the precise form of the franchise would have to be negotiated.
  • —In organizing the legislature, it is understood that European Rhodesians would have a sufficiently strong voice to make sure that unacceptable constitutional changes do not occur.

Interim Government. The transitional administration would be legalized by Britain and would be formed with British cooperation.

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  • —Britain would appoint a representative in Salisbury and Parliament would pass a new act which would give the British government the powers it needs to carry out its responsibilities.
  • —The act would contain provisions to protect officers of the present government from prosecution or civil suit for acts retrospectively determined illegal.
  • —The precise form of interim government remains to be worked out; to an important degree it will have to be negotiated between the present regime and the African nationalists. However, it is understood that Britain will play a role in the government; the interim regime would include both blacks and Europeans.

Economic Incentives and Assurances

The economic section of the plan defines the undertakings of the international community as well as those of the future Rhodesian government. The plan, moreover, addresses the country’s future economic development, public and private investment, and the economic security of the European community.

  • —It is understood that no third country contributing resources to the Rhodesian economic program would do so until those resources had been approved under normal constitutional processes.
  • —The system of economic assurances as it relates to the future of European community is designed to maximize incentives for white Rhodesians to stay rather than leave, to improve prospects that the new government will honor its commitments, and to guarantee the security of new investments, both foreign and domestic. The assurances are based on the fundamental principle that the new government will be committed to the respect of private property or fair value compensation, should property be nationalized.
  • —The plan spells out a program of special arrangements for the European community in four important areas:
    Pensions. The existing terms of public service with respect to pensions and severance pay would be maintained for all pensionable officials, police and members of the armed forces.
    Household Property. To maintain the value of household property, stand-by purchase arrangements would be made which would provide 30 percent of the 1975 value of a house if it were sold in the first year of Rhodesian independence and 75 percent if it were sold in the fifth. To guard against inflation, house values would be index-linked. Transactions could be carried out under a special residential property holding corporation.
    Farm Lands. A new agricultural land commission would be established to repurchase agricultural properties being vacated by Euro[Page 519]peans. Compensation would take place along the lines similar to that designed for the repurchase of houses. However, payments would be spread over a longer period of time.
    Transfer of Assets. The new government would permit a reasonable flow of remittances. A European deciding to leave immediately could convert and remit 10 percent of his liquid assets or a lump sum of, for example, RH $5000 in the first year and an additional 10 percent in each year thereafter. Incentives would be designed to encourage Europeans to keep earnings, savings and profits within Rhodesia by providing for larger remittances in future years.
  • —The international community would be organized to underwrite the special assurances of the new government to its European community and a mechanism in the form of an internationally managed trust fund would be set up. While acquisition of lands, homes and pension payments would be financed from internal Rhodesian sources, the trust fund would back up government commitments and provide seed capital. The fund would also provide the Rhodesian government with the foreign exchange necessary to enable it to maintain remittances.
  • —The British Government would assume responsibility for bringing together the international trust fund. The United States Government would assist the British Government in this regard. The size of the fund is yet to be decided.
  • —Special attention is given in the plan to the generation of foreign investment resources for Rhodesia’s development—particularly in the most promising sectors of the nation’s economic activity, national [natural?]6 resources and agriculture. Development could be a cooperative, international, public and private sector undertaking. The IBRD would be asked to sponsor an international consortium of private resources firms which would encourage and guide the flow of investment.
  • —The independent government would be eligible to adhere to the Lome Convention7 and benefit from the European Development Fund.
  • —Finally, the plan addresses the question of foreign economic assistance to improve the situation of Rhodesia’s black majority. International consultative arrangements would be made under World Bank supervision to coordinate government to government aid. In the first instance, aid would be directed on a priority basis to the development of black skills and agriculture.
  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 344, Department of State, Memoranda, Memoranda of Conversations, External, August 1976. Secret; Nodis. Initialed by Rodman. The meeting was held in the Secretary’s office. All brackets, except as noted in the footnotes below, are in the original.
  2. Attached but not printed. Samora Machel told Le Monde: “South Africa needs us as much as we need it—I do not spend sleepless nights over our relations with South Africa.” Machel expressed concern that South Africa might cut its links to Mozambique in retaliation for FRELIMO activities against Rhodesia.
  3. Telegram 917 from Maputo, August 14, transmitted Machel’s comments on the Rhodesian raid. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, P840123–0595)
  4. The New York Times reported that on August 10 Rhodesian troops crossed into Mozambique and killed 300 guerrillas in a camp used to launch attacks against Rhodesia. (“Rhodesia Says It Attacked Rebel Site in Mozambique,” August 11, 1976, p. 1)
  5. Bracketed insertion by the editor.
  6. Bracketed insertion by the editor.
  7. The Lome Convention, signed on February 28, 1975, was an agreement between the African, Caribbean, and Pacific Countries (ACP) group and the European Community that aimed at supporting the ACP states’ development efforts.