204. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Julius Nyerere, President of Tanzania
  • Bernard Muganda, Director, Europe and the Americas Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Joseph W. Butiku, Private Secretary to the President
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff

Kissinger: Just to show you I don’t only have problems in Tanzania. [He shows the President a cable from Pretoria.]

[Page 556]

Nyerere: [Reads:] They are distributing leaflets in South Africa accusing the U.S. Secretary of State of being a Soviet spy. [Laughter]

You must be doing well.

Kissinger: I’m unifying Africans in their common dislike of me!

Nyerere: [Reads:] “. . . quoted South African Minister of Defense Botha as saying Henry Kissinger was a long-time member of organizations with Communist traits . . .”

Kissinger: I should be invited to the next nonaligned conference. [Laughter]

Nyerere: As a fellow traveler, don’t tell Vorster everything. [Laughter]

Kissinger: Let me talk briefly on Namibia. Since you attach great importance to South Africa being at the Conference and South Africa attaches great importance to not being there. So intellectually there are two types of problems. The problems about the internal organization of Namibia—these can be taken care of by a South African statement that they will accept the results of the Conference. There is a second class of problems which involve South Africa—withdrawal of the police, the army. I wonder if it can be satisfied by having a South African representative there who can be the point of contact for the first class of problems and a negotiator for the second type of problems.

Nyerere: It is a matter of the definition of a conference. Say to the South Africans: “President Nyerere said the conference is you, SWAPO, and the United Nations.” If they say no, we rule them out. So what is this conference?SWAPO and the Chiefs. Who would call this a Constitutional Conference? How can I call this a Constitutional Conference? How can I say it to my fellow Presidents?SWAPO is saying “Pull out your troops.” And I say no, this is for negotiation. What else is there to negotiate with the South Africans? They are not serious.

We ask them to be there because although legally they are not there, in fact they are the colonial power. We must talk to the de facto authority. If not, we will have to ask the legal authority to take over, which is the United Nations. Then we have to take SWAPO’s position and ask them to leave.

Kissinger: I am trying to deal with the internal arrangements where the South African acts as an advisory person. With respect to the second class, South Africa has a person there to participate—I’m trying to save face for them. They are locked into this.

Nyerere: I understand. They are saying those are matters for Namibians to discuss and they accept whatever is the outcome. But other matters—Walvis Bay, troops—this I accept.

Kissinger: You accept?

Nyerere: Yes, I accept.

[Page 557]

Kissinger: I’m not certain I can do it but at least to have a defined aim.

Nyerere: The key is whether South Africa is a participant in that conference. They are an essential participant. The specific issues they discuss, and what issues they leave to Namibians . . .

Kissinger: You see, I have the impression it is easier for Vorster to put Namibia aside so he doesn’t have a decision to make every day.

Nyerere: Then isn’t it better to leave it to SWAPO and the United Nations? Wouldn’t SWAPO then insist they pull out before they go? And we turn it over to Geneva.

Kissinger: If we can get the South Africans to designate a point of contact, to maintain a figleaf, is that acceptable?

Nyerere: No. South Africa is the real power. They should go whole hog and leave it to the United Nations and SWAPO. They can’t have it both ways, and be in but not in.

Kissinger: But they haven’t said that yet.

Nyerere: I know.

Kissinger: Based on that misunderstanding, I have been working on getting them to agree to move the Windhoek Conference to Geneva, and invite SWAPO. It was not easy to get done. But it was, with great pressure. And to set a firm date for independence. They have done those three things.

Nyerere: How does SWAPO accept a conference which is not clearly a conference between South Africa and the people of Namibia? I know one can argue about who is in South Africa’s delegation. But South Africa must be there.

Kissinger: Supposing South Africa said ahead of time it will accept whatever is decided by this group?

Nyerere: Then why are they in there?

Kissinger: They can say, presumably, that if the group asks them to withdraw, they will withdraw.

Nyerere: But that is why we are doing this, because South Africa won’t get out.

This is a very difficult matter for us too, because a Constitutional Conference is between the colonial power and the people of Namibia. I assumed the argument would be who are the people of Namibia.

Kissinger: I would assume members of the Windhoek Conference plus SWAPO.

Nyerere: We would say SWAPO plus . . . [Laughter]

Kissinger: Did I understand correctly this morning? You said if South Africa is there, there is no need for the UN to be there?

[Page 558]

Nyerere: I said the UN presence could be symbolic, provided the Secretary-General accepts this and comes. He can say, “I’m glad you’re getting together.” And he can leave. He could leave someone there, for all I care. We could agree beforehand on a neutral chairman.

Kissinger: In Zurich, Vorster would hear nothing of South African participation.

Nyerere: Then he doesn’t want to settle.

Kissinger: In Germany [June 23–24] I had urged him to accept moving the conference to Geneva, so we didn’t put great weight on it.2

Nyerere: He might have said no.

Kissinger: But I added it only when I became aware of the feeling of the black Africans.

Nyerere: A Constitutional Conference must involve the colonial power. If they don’t come, leave it to the United Nations. I think they would like this less than the first. It is we who should be embarrassed by this. If they are embarrassed, we can say “Get out—the UN can take over.”

Kissinger: My understanding is they are not participating in Windhoek right now.

Nyerere: No. It is my misunderstanding too; I thought they were. I discovered later the South Africans say they are not in there. So both of us were misled. I’m sorry.

Kissinger: That’s not the point. In a serious negotiation no one can mislead anybody because it will come out.

Nyerere: We assumed all the time the South Africans were there. It turns out they were not.

Kissinger: All right. I understand the problem. I don’t know what I can achieve. We will have to see when I come back.

Now on Rhodesia, just to clarify my thinking:

It is my understanding, when we talk about these various guarantee schemes, this is not an issue in black Africa.

It is a little more complicated than buying out the whites. It is a fund to put money into the economy, and also for the whites. I have got confirmation from Britain, Germany, France—and Callaghan is in Canada.

Nyerere: This idea is my child! I told Mr. Wilson they would only be deciding where they go.

Kissinger: It’s easier for us domestically if we say it is to make them stay.

[Page 559]

Nyerere: I understand completely.

Kissinger: It is better if they don’t all go at once. You personally have no problem with it?

Nyerere: No problem whatsoever. No problem.

Kissinger: The third issue is: You said a Chissano Government is all right.

Nyerere: Yes. What I précis as a Chissano Government.

Kissinger: That was a white High Commissioner.

Nyerere: Yes.

Kissinger: This is instead of one white governor; it’s a body that has three whites but some black participation. We can leave it to the British.

Nyerere: I’d go easy on that one. Let’s leave it to the British. What they want is a formula that restores their authority, their presence, before independence.

Kissinger: They could do it with the Governor; it makes no difference.

Nyerere: In Maputo, the High Commissioner had his own staff and Chissano had his own staff.

Kissinger: And it avoids a white panic.

Nyerere: I understand completely. The British can do it how they want.

Kissinger: So there is a misunderstanding.

Nyerere: During the transition.

Kissinger: During the transition we need a white presence that gives confidence to the white community and we don’t have to decide how to do it—one man, or one man with advisers, or a body. The Constitutional Conference can do it.

Nyerere: The British have lots of experience with it.

Kissinger: I understand.

Let me see if I have any other questions. [Looks at folder and checklists.]

Okay, I think that’s all the substantive issues.

Let’s decide what we say to the press. I’ll say we had good talks. I’ll be asked “Was progress made?” I’ll say “This isn’t the place to make progress. I came here to get ideas to take to the other side. But the attitude was constructive and in this sense, the talks were useful.”

I’ll be asked if President Nyerere approves the guarantee plan. Can I say this is between the outside powers and the settlers? Or can I say there is no objection?

Nyerere: I have no objection on my part. You can say that.

[Page 560]

Kissinger: That is the easiest.

What are the procedures?

Nyerere: It depends on whether Rhodesia will accept majority rule.

Kissinger: On Namibia, if we can avoid going into too much detail. I can say I understand what President Nyerere considers the essential requirements, and we have to see what Pretoria considers its essential requirements.

Nyerere: No problem.

Kissinger: I can say the United States believes SWAPO has to be represented.

Nyerere: No one will ask me about the presence of South Africa because the press assumes they will be there. If they ask me, I’ll say so. But I think I’m going to be quite safe.

Kissinger: To follow you is no easy task. You’re a master!

Nyerere: If I have no answer, I just smile. [Laughter]

Muganda: You said you wanted our press to ask a question.

Kissinger: About SWAPO participation. I’ll say our position is it should include all significant groups and SWAPO is one. I can’t say now that SWAPO is the only one. But you can.

Nyerere: I will. But I really won’t. Because I don’t want to prejudice the South Africans’decision.

Muganda: What excuse does Vorster give for not talking with SWAPO?

Kissinger: Because he thinks they are a bunch of gangsters. [Laughter] But he says there was a time when SWAPO didn’t want to talk to him.

Nyerere: But they changed! South Africa will change.

Kissinger: The question is whether we can organize the conference before South Africa changes. Because I think once the conference begins, world public opinion will be on the side of SWAPO. The outcome is inevitable.

Nyerere: I agree.

Kissinger: So I see the convening of the assembly as the decisive step.

Nyerere: I take your point. I agree.

Kissinger: Because South Africa probably won’t agree right away. South Africa will say it is Windhoek plus SWAPO. You will say it is SWAPO plus Windhoek. But reality will take over. Why should Namibia be the only state in Africa organized by tribes and not by national movements? The U.S. has no interest. This, incidentally, is a better as[Page 561]surance than anything I can give. Because a new Secretary of State could change his mind.

In Zurich he said no, he wouldn’t come in any capacity, so it may be theoretical. In Zurich, he said he wouldn’t pay for the conference. That is what he said.

Nyerere: The United Nations can pay for it.

Kissinger: I told him not to worry about it; someone would pay. Maybe Nelson Rockefeller would pay for it.

Nyerere: Or Lonrho. The uranium companies.

Kissinger: Who gets the uranium?

Nyerere: The British and the Germans.

Kissinger: Giscard said: When you ask Schmidt, he will say Provision 114 (b) of the Constitution prohibits it. I asked Schmidt. He said “Provision 114 (b) of our Constitution prohibits it.” I asked him about Namibia, and he said that there it was possible.

I’ll tell Kaunda on the 22nd. He told me he would come back. Can you be there?

Nyerere: I’ll talk to him.

Kissinger: Probably Vorster will agree to all your points—UN participation, SWAPO participation, South African participation.

Nyerere: South Africa is the colonial power. The UN can be symbolic.

Kissinger: I appreciate my talks with you, Mr. President.

Nyerere: I hope you will get these two conferences going.

Kissinger: I received a message from President Asad: He thinks the South Africans must be advising the Lebanese because they are so stubborn. [Laughter]

Nyerere: I wish you luck.

I’ll see the press.

Kissinger: In Rhodesia, there is one issue: Will Smith agree? If he doesn’t, we fail. In Namibia, the issues are more complicated. We will know when I come back.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 345, Department of State, Memoranda, Memoranda of Conversations, External, September 15–17, 1976. Secret; Nodis. Initialed by Rodman. The meeting was held at State House. Brackets are in the original. Kissinger met earlier that day with Nyerere, 10:10 a.m.–12:40 p.m., at State House. Memoranda of conversation are ibid.
  2. See Document 196.