205. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • President Kaunda
  • Foreign Minister Mwali
  • Mark Chona, Special Assistant to the President for Foreign Affairs
  • Ambassador Peter Kassanda
  • Secretary Kissinger
  • Under Secretary Rogers
  • Assistant Secretary Schaufele
  • Assistant Secretary Reinhardt
  • Mr. Wisner, Notetaker

Kaunda: Welcome, Mr. Secretary of State, to Zambia. You are on a difficult but important mission.

Kissinger: I want to thank you, Mr. President, for a truly warm welcome and your gracious words. The general atmosphere which you have set is particularly helpful after the events of yesterday in Tanzania. You know that the press has reported President Nyerere is hostile to our undertaking. Press reports of that sort encourage all of the wrong forces in the United States. You will recall after my speech in Lusaka all hell broke loose in the southern states. I really appreciate the friendly reception. Mr. President, this entire initiative started here in Lusaka. It was based, in fact, on your visit to the United States when you brought to our attention the problems of your region.2 You are on the front line and you have made courageous efforts to achieve peace. We are now learning how difficult peace can be. We are beginning to understand the cast of characters with which you are so familiar. Your advice and assistance has been invaluable. Which of the two problems we need to discuss would you like me to address first?

Kaunda: I have brought in several colleagues who can add their comments on the events of recent weeks.

Kissinger: There are really three problems. Namibia, Rhodesia and finally the situation in South Africa. With regard to Zimbabwe, it is my observation that the procedure is quite easy, but substantively the problem is difficult. If the Salisbury authorities accept majority rule, we can organize a conference which will work out the steps leading to in [Page 563] dependence. In Namibia, there are procedural problems, but the substance is rather less difficult.

I have made clear to Vorster that if he wants African nations to accept his country, he must separate himself from Rhodesia. Vorster must show cooperation and make concrete steps which will bring Rhodesia to majority rule. He has not fully committed himself and has only said he wanted to talk to Smith. In general, he has made a commitment to majority rule but has not given us a final word on how that will be accomplished. Vorster knows that if I go to Pretoria, I must have results. He has to choose between taking those steps which will lead to a settlement of the Rhodesian problem or letting the situation deteriorate. If he decides to pursue a positive course, we can move forward. You know Nyerere’s proposal for a constitutional conference.

Kaunda: No, he has not worked that out with us.

Kissinger: Basically, he suggests that Britain call a constitutional conference which would include the black nationalists as well as those members of the Salisbury regime prepared to work out an arrangement.

Kaunda: At which stage would such a conference be called?

Kissinger: Nyerere’s letter on the subject is more eloquent than precise.3 If the constitutional conference should take place before our initiative has produced results, there could be endless delays. When he wrote the British, he suggested that a constitutional conference could be called before or after majority rule is an accepted fact. I believe that the white Rhodesians should accept the principle of majority rule first and then a constitutional conference could be held. Do you agree with this approach?

Kaunda: I did not know about it earlier, but I am not opposed to the idea.

Kissinger: We will not know until next week if it is possible to persuade the white Rhodesians to accept majority rule. Vorster has suggested that I meet Smith. If you hear that I have met Smith, you can be optimistic about the chance of reaching a settlement. I will only meet him if I have assurance that there will be majority rule in two years. Otherwise, there will be no meeting. Perhaps Smith will resign which is another possibility.

Kaunda: Let me warn you to be most careful with Smith. He is slippery and extremely dangerous. If you should meet him and nothing happens, it would be very bad.

Kissinger: If I meet him and nothing happens, we will attack him publicly. I have no intention to meet him for general conversation or a [Page 564] general review of the conditions of a settlement. I have told Vorster that I will only meet Smith on condition that Smith is prepared to make a commitment. Will I be able to reach you here in Lusaka?

Kaunda: No, I will be away at my party meetings, but you can always contact me through my colleagues here.

Kissinger: It’s too bad I can’t be here. You know how much I like to come to your party congresses.

Kaunda: Please be careful with Smith. If you meet him and do not get a commitment, the man will emerge in Rhodesia even stronger politically.

Kissinger: I have no firm plan to meet him now. If Vorster tells me that Smith accepts our program in its entirety and all Smith needs is to tell his own people the Americans—in addition to the South Africans—demand he comply with the program, then I will meet him.

Kaunda: I hope you can rely on Vorster’s assurance. Mark Chona met Smith at South African urging and nothing happened. There must be no question of recognizing him.

Kissinger: Recognizing him? That’s out of the question. The only purpose of my meeting with Smith would be to facilitate a transfer of power. The announcement of that transfer would have to come in a short period—say two weeks. I will not explore possibilities with him or engage in general discussion. Either he agrees to accept majority rule or I won’t meet him.

Smith must accept basic principles—a commitment to majority rule in two years, a provisional government which has a black prime minister and a black-dominated cabinet with only a few white members—then we can talk.

In this regard I can foresee a government structure during the period of transition which would include a Council of State. The Council would serve the same capacity as a governor or a high commissioner would in colonial territories. In Rhodesia the Council would have more whites than blacks. The Council would disappear with full independence.

Kaunda: How long would that take?

Kissinger: From 18 months to 2 years. The United Kingdom, perhaps the United States and maybe the OAU ought to guarantee the execution of the program. Let me reassure you the Council of State would have the same functions as a high commissioner or a governor general. Administrative authority and executive control would be in the hands of a cabinet which will have a black prime minister.

Kaunda: I am concerned by the powers of the Council of State. If the Council of State controls the armed forces, the police and the civil service, it may not be possible for the guaranteeing powers to keep the [Page 565] Council under control. After all, the guaranteeing powers are outsiders and far away. Their very distance could lead to a dangerous situation.

Kissinger: How do you think we should proceed? I have an open mind.

Kaunda: If you have United States, British and OAU guarantees, how could we be sure that these guarantees would be effective?

Kissinger: If the Council of State ever violated its authority, we would demand that South Africa apply total sanctions. South Africa can bring Rhodesia to heel in a matter of weeks.

Chona: What would happen if South Africa refused to cooperate?

Kissinger: We would have to consider sanctions against South Africa. The situation really is quite different from that which existed when you tried to negotiate a settlement for Zimbabwe. You were most courageous and took a chance. We have real leverage and can bring it to bear.

Kaunda: You must understand me, Mr. Secretary of State. I am trying to think of all possibilities. If the conditions were presented the way you described them, we must be sure we have looked for all the flaws. Interfering in another nation’s internal situation is difficult. We would not interfere in your country’s internal affairs. Moreover, what if all of us accepted your scheme and President Ford lost the election?

Kissinger: I wish you could give us technical advice on how to run an election campaign. A few of your party workers would be most effective. I understand you, however.

What I am going to tell you I will not say in the larger meeting. I have been in touch with Governor Carter via Dean Rusk. Carter has let me know that he supports my undertaking on the condition that the African Presidents support it. Of course, he cannot say this publicly.

Mwale: This is tricky.

Kissinger: What would you recommend?

Mwale: Coming back to the President’s point. If Ford is elected, that’s fine. But another President may have his own advisers and his own policies. They may be more radical.

Kaunda: Or the other way around.

Kissinger: I don’t see the practical difference. If white Rhodesians agree to majority rule, what difference would it make who is in office in the United States?

Mwale: Mr. Secretary of State, that depends when majority rule comes.

Kissinger: Let’s say in two years.

Mwale: It really depends on how the liberation movements see it.

[Page 566]

Kissinger: Would they accept a proposal like the one I have described, Mr. President?

Kaunda: Given their past experience, the program you propose would have to be very tight. This is why we must continue to fight and at the same time support the liberation struggle.

Kissinger: We haven’t asked you to stop your support.

Kaunda: What I am trying to say is that the liberation movements must have a very tight offer. Otherwise, if they stop fighting and are betrayed, there will be no end of difficulty. The United States Government is making the third, or is it the fourth, try at securing majority rule in Rhodesia. All previous efforts have failed. Before we try to put pressure on the liberation movements, we must have a solid guarantee of success.

Kissinger: Our idea is quite simple and it springs from the Callaghan plan.4 We foresee a commitment to majority rule, the convening of a constitutional conference, the organization of a provisional government which has a black Prime Minister and a Council of State. We and the British would organize a consortium. That consortium would set out the guarantees which you have criticized. We are simply not prepared to set out such a bold plan if we were ready to see it violated.

Nyerere asked me whether we were ready to support the freedom fighters if the current process of negotiations broke down. In the abstract, we can’t give an answer to that question. If the understanding was violated, our word would be called into question.

You realize that the issue is not a political one at home. I briefed 47 senators—some Republicans and many more Democrats—and I got their full backing. I even obtained the support of Southern Democrats. Look . . . I am prepared to consider other guarantees. Do you have any to suggest?

Kaunda: Not for the moment. But let’s turn to Namibia.

Kissinger: Good. In June before my first meeting with Vorster in Germany, Nyerere sent me a letter in which he said that the Africans wanted two things. First, a transfer of the Windhoek conference to Lusaka and, second, the inclusion of SWAPO. I put these two points to Vorster. He did not agree. Under additional pressure, he concurred in the conference moving to Geneva. I will have to reconfirm these points when I visit Pretoria.SWAPO is not exactly his favorite institution, but he has now come around to agreeing that SWAPO should participate. Then we obtained a firm date for independence. In addition, based on [Page 567] your last letter,5 we succeeded in convincing the South Africans to take into consideration the problems of their own relationship to the Geneva talks, the political prisoner issue, United Nations responsibilities, military forces, and so forth. These are extra considerations, many of which can be settled in Geneva. There are three basic points and your objectives in each of the three cases have already been realized. First, there is a date; second, a mechanism; and third, SWAPO is participating.

It seems to me that SWAPO is in a good position. It enjoys international recognition. Both the United Nations and the OAU have made that point clear. Since it has international backing, SWAPO’s position at the Constitutional Conference will be strong. There is no other Namibian group which has the support of the African states. Must every condition be met before the Conference begins or can we negotiate the other points?

Kaunda: What is the date for Namibia independence you mentioned?

Kissinger: December 1978.

Chona: Isn’t that the date that SWAPO has rejected?

Kissinger: Even if SWAPO fights, they can’t possibly achieve independence before 1978. They simply do not have the means.

Chona: Is it possible to advance that date?

Kissinger: It is only with the greatest difficulty I obtained a date. Last June I thought I would get nothing. I have succeeded in including SWAPO in the process. We have a date and the Conference may take place in Geneva. How many more conditions must I negotiate before the Conference can begin?

Kaunda: First, a correction on what happened. When William Rogers and William Schaufele came here, I told them that I had reviewed the question with SWAPO and that SWAPO felt there were additional features which they required.

Chona: At the time it was not clear that Geneva was in play.

Kissinger: No, no. I agree you have added no new conditions.

Kaunda: What would be the level of South African participation?

Kissinger: I am glad you raised this because I wanted to discuss it. Frankly, this is a difficult question to answer. I am not sure South Africa is prepared to send a representative.

Kaunda: What you say cuts two ways. Suppose SWAPO joins conference in Geneva. What assurance do we have that South Africa will accept the results of the conference?

[Page 568]

Kissinger: Either South Africa attends the Conference or it agrees in advance that all conclusions of the Conference will be accepted. In my view—I must emphasize not in the South African view—South Africa will have to be present to negotiate or it will have to agree to the decisions of the conference.

Kaunda: This would make the whole process a lot easier. Vorster maintains that Namibia is an internal affair.

Kissinger: Suppose I got Vorster to write me a letter in which he obligates himself to accept the results of the Constitutional Conference?

Kaunda: That’s interesting. I must make clear, though, that the UN has to have authority.

Kissinger: We agree with you. I have said that repeatedly in my speeches. I intend to approach the South Africans saying that the conference should take place in Geneva. If they agree I will offer them two alternatives. On the one hand they can participate directly or the South Africans can agree to accept the results of the conference. It would be one or the other, in my view and I would be prepared to support either outcome.

Kaunda: It would be most unfortunate if the conference met, came to a decision and then the South Africans rejected the decisions and demanded renegotiation.

Kissinger: I agree. We have to take up the three basic conditions of a settlement with Vorster. We will also discuss the political prisoner question. As to the issue of a South African association, I am prepared to recommend one solution or the other but we will not support a constitutional conference if two years later the South Africans refuse to accept the results of the conference. That outcome would not be acceptable from our point of view.

Chona: What about a relationship with the United Nations?

Kissinger: Well . . . you know how the South Africans regard the United Nations. How important would it be to have a UN connection?

Kaunda: It seems to me that the United Nations must be associated. The world community has agreed that Namibia is a United Nations’ responsibility. The UN cannot be left out. You, like we, are members of the United Nations.

Kissinger: If you think it is important, I will try to negotiate it.

Kaunda: Yes, I believe it is important. The United States should also be present at the Geneva conference.

Kissinger: No. No . . . I hear there is a tribe in Namibia called the Bastards. We can supply from the United States several tribes to join them. The United States can give advice and it can even help in the event of a deadlock. But if we attend the Soviet Union would also want to be there.

[Page 569]

Kaunda: I understand. However, there must be some guarantee against breakdown.

Kissinger: Conceivably we could write you a letter spelling out the conditions or we could write a letter to all the front line presidents. Not to Neto, of course, but to the others. In the letter we would state our views of the understanding. Alternatively, Vorster could write us a letter and we could transmit it to you. How do you believe we should proceed?

Kaunda: I am not sure. I would like to think about that.

Kissinger: I am not sure who would call the constitutional conference.

Kaunda: You could call it.

Mwali: Namibia is coming up for debate in the Security Council.

Kissinger: It is not certain that the question will be fully settled by then. Maybe you have a point. The Security Council could issue a resolution calling for the conference. It is also possible the United Nations could offer its facilities without actually taking charge of the conference.

Mwali: Yes, but this would be difficult. In the case of Namibia the United Nations has recognized authority. The Council of Namibia . . .

Kissinger: Do you mean Sean MacBride?

Kaunda: No. The Council of Namibia is chaired by Zambia.

Schaufele: How long will it hold the presidency?

Kaunda: We will keep it for another year.

Kissinger: What is the Council of Namibia exactly?

Schaufele: It is the United Nations administrative arm for Namibia but South Africa has not recognized it. As a result, it has not been effective.

Kissinger: How can we get the conference organized?

Schaufele: The United Nations could provide facilities. But the Foreign Minister’s question is of a different nature. The United Nations cannot step in and replace the Namibians who must determine themselves how to organize an independent government.

Kissinger: It is going to be a big step for South Africa to agree to shift the conference from Windhoek to Geneva and include SWAPO. SWAPO plus Geneva plus some sort of UN relationship is a lot to expect. I think it would be desirable to convene the conference quickly. That is the most rapid path to independence.

Kaunda: SWAPO has leaders under sentence of death in South Africa.

Kissinger: They have? Please give me a list of their names. I will ask Vorster that the sentences not be carried out. If you don’t have the [Page 570] names, it is not important. The South Africans probably know them. We have already mentioned the prisoner issue to Vorster but it would be helpful if you could give us a list. There is one the South Africans don’t want to release.

Kaunda: Who is that?

Schaufele: Herman Toyvo Ya Toyvo.

Kaunda: Who is he?

Chona: He is quite important to SWAPO. For that reason he may also be important to the South Africans.

Kaunda: There is another point I would like to make. We have gone along with you and have accepted most of the conditions which will result in the opening of a conference. But if South Africa is not there that will be difficult. Moreover, your approach and that of President Nyerere will run into difficulties if the death sentences are carried out before the conference is convened.

Kissinger: I don’t have the names. You must tell me what you want. If I understand you, we need to get prisoners released and the death sentences lifted. Concerning the conference itself, you also want a UN relationship. You also wish to have South African participation. I am prepared to back either South African participation or an agreement that South Africa will accept the conclusions of the conference.

You also want SWAPO to be included. We agree with you and I have said so publicly. Indeed, I am prepared to meet with SWAPO leaders. Are those the principals involved? Is that a fair summary?

Kaunda: Yes it is. The troop withdrawal issue can be part of the Geneva conference.

Kissinger: I don’t think the United States should take part in the Geneva conference but we could write you our understanding of the conditions. Alternatively, we could ask Vorster to write you.

Kaunda: It would be better if Vorster wrote you and you sent us the letter.

Kissinger: We could give his letter of understanding to you or to Waldheim. I may not be able to achieve everything you ask. Vorster is in a difficult position, but I will raise these subjects with him when we meet in Pretoria. When I return here I hope to have more concrete results. I plan to arrive in Lusaka on Sunday night or Monday morning.6

Chona: We all know Vorster’s dislike of the United Nations. Let’s accept that. There is even an advantage in their position. Why not let the Namibians go to Geneva and whatever happens in Geneva would be the responsibility of the United Nations. In that fashion South Africa [Page 571] would not have to associate itself with the Geneva discussions. UN participation will lend the conclusions respectability.

Kissinger: I have learned since I began dealing with Africa that the most logical approach is not always the most successful. What Mark says is reasonable. Since the South African Government won’t go to Geneva, why not let the United Nations take charge.

Chona: Why was Geneva selected?

Kissinger: I suggested Geneva since there is no other place outside of New York where the United Nations has an equivalent presence.

These are the principal items. How do we go forward? When I return from Pretoria, I will know what is possible in Rhodesia. If nothing is possible, then we have a problem. We should discuss future steps. If, on the other hand, I obtain satisfaction in Pretoria, the United Kingdom could call a constitutional conference.

Kaunda: Yes. I go along with that approach.

Kissinger: What is your view about the Nationalist movements?

Kaunda: Essentially the problem lies in their disunity.

Kissinger: I remember vividly what you told President Ford and me about factionalization. You were talking about Angola. Remember, you referred to Jonas Savimbi.

Kaunda: If you are successful in Pretoria that will help us unify the nationalists.

Kissinger: We will accept whatever advice the front line Presidents give us about dealing with the nationalists. We will be influenced by your decision.

Kaunda: I hope you meet with success but really I don’t know.

Kissinger: When I got involved in the dispute between Israel and Syria I said that I would never be so involved again. But look, here I am and we have the same sorts of intractable problems. If you sit in Washington and look at the situation here the basic principles are clear but in their application the process becomes complicated.

Kaunda: I really appreciate your policy. It is an important breakthrough for Africa.

Kissinger: Would you be willing to meet our press? It would be very useful. If you could mention the thought you just had—our undertaking is in Africa’s interest . . .

Kaunda: All right . . . I agree . . . We will do it here at State House. I may also use Vorster’s own words. Do you remember that he said, “The alternative to success is too ghastly to contemplate”?

Kissinger: If there is no settlement, what will happen?

Kaunda: The liberation struggle will go on and we will give it our full support.

[Page 572]

Kissinger: Let me be clear. We are asking for nothing from you until a provisional government is formed. We are not asking you to stop your support.

Kaunda: As I warned you when we met in Washington, we have had to turn to the Soviet Union and China for arms. This was essential. Our boys could not fight without arms. You are kind to remember what I said during my visit to your country.

Kissinger: We have had many visitors visit Washington since you came but I remember your visit particularly. You predicted the future and few are able to do that.

Kaunda: I can’t take much credit for my vision. We live here and must know how to analyze our situation. The evolution has been painful and the future will be worse. Your bombing of Southeast Asia—we criticized you—one doesn’t know if the destruction won’t be worse here.

Kissinger: You don’t mean American bombing here?

Kaunda: No. I mean the general destruction in the area could be worse than what happened in Southeast Asia.

Kissinger: I greatly appreciated your courtesies to my wife. You know I visited Victoria Falls during my last stay but the boat I was on almost went over the Falls. I would have never given my speech. Victoria Falls was one of the most awe-inspiring sights of my life.

(Tea is served.)

Kissinger: If I could make a personal observation. There have been special moments in my life. One was the first time I shook hands with Chou En Lai. Another was when you stood up after my speech in Lusaka. This gesture came so much from the heart. You could not have planned it.

Kaunda: That was indeed a special moment.

Kissinger: Were the same trees in flower when I was here in April?

Kaunda: No. These come out during the dry season.

Kissinger: They are perfectly lovely. If we get the two conferences underway, I will only have to visit you on ceremonial occasions . . . or attend your party congresses. We should have asked your advice before our primaries. Does your party meet every year?

Kaunda: The seminars for top leaders which are presently in progress are the first since independence. These seminars last three to four days and in addition to senior party leaders they include representatives of state and private enterprise.

Kissinger: Do they talk about Zambia?

Kaunda: Yes, primarily about developments since independence. I have had to spend two and a half hours replying to various criticisms which arose in the debates. It is a good struggle.

[Page 573]

Chona: We have too much democracy in a one-party state.

Mwale: The emphasis is on participation.

Kissinger: It is a good opportunity to find out what people have on their minds. I love the sky here. The difference between Lusaka and Dar es Salaam is striking. Here the air is so clear.

Let me ask you a procedural question. If I came here on Monday and then went to Dar—I have to be back in the United States on the 24th. You know we are the “host” country for the United Nations. Foreign Ministers from all over the world visit. If I am not there we will have problems. What is your thought? Will you require consultations with the other Presidents before or after I leave Africa? After I see you on Sunday or Monday I will visit Mobutu. I could come back here on the 22nd. You said you might be in Lusaka if that proved to be necessary. Let me leave it up to you to consult with the other Presidents. If you think you should seek the opinions of the Nationalist leaders, that too would be all right. You could bring them here and I would be happy to meet them separately or together. We will take no initiative but you think about it. I will wait for your signal.

What should I discuss in the larger meeting which you have called? You should take the lead.

Kaunda: All right.

Kissinger: I am a former Harvard professor. Just give me an audience and I will take the floor. How much detail do you want to get into? I prefer to let you take the lead and I will reply.

Chona: The press will be there for the preliminary remarks. Once those are over they will leave.

Kaunda: We will not begin our meeting until the press has left.

  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. The meeting was held at State House.
  2. See Document 103.
  3. See footnote 8, Document 197.
  4. See footnote 4, Document 196, and Tab B to Document 199.
  5. Kaunda’s letter was transmitted in telegram 2277 from Lusaka, September 3. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, P840083–0072)
  6. September 19 or 20.