230. Telegram From the Embassy in Tanzania to the Department of State1

4533. Department pass Secretary. Subject: Rhodesia and Namibia: President Nyerere’s Reply to Secretary’s Letter of December 6. Ref: State 296389.2

[Page 644]

Following is letter from President Nyerere received 10:00 p.m. local Dec 9:

“Dear Dr. Kissinger,

Thank you for so quickly following up on my discussions with Mr. Reinhardt in your letter of 7th December—and indeed for sending him to Dar es Salaam in the first place.

Until early in September I was urging the British Government ‘to do nothing until there has been time for the pressures of guerrilla warfare and sanctions to deliver Smith to London’. I persistently argued that Smith cannot be begin underline converted, end underline he can only be begin underline forced end underline to accept majority rule. Thus, for example, on 28th August, I had two meetings with your emissaries.3 I called for the second meeting to make quite sure that they understood that I was asking the U.S.A. and the U.K. to ‘do nothing’ about Rhodesia until guerrilla pressures, the sanctions, and now the declared American policy in favour of majority rule, had forced Smith to face reality. On 29th August I argued the same case to the British emissaries.

But the British argued that the situation had changed, because a new factor had emerged. That new factor was American power. They mapped out a scenario which could follow: Smith would fall, a caretaker government would take over, and that caretaker government would announce the acceptance of the Callaghan terms for a Rhodesia settlement.

There was no misunderstanding between us. I received a message from you dated 1st September.4 It included the following: ‘You are aware of the framework I propose for a settlement. It involves (A) the withdrawal of the present government in favour of a black majority government of transition; (B) the drafting of a constitution which includes basic protection for minority rights; (C) full independence under majority rule in 18 months, two years, or earlier.’ Then on 3rd September I received your response5 to my ‘do nothing’ message. It says, inter alia, ‘I have just received the message that you asked be passed to me. I have carefully considered the points you made and appreciate your reasons for saying that you need more time to prepare the ground for a Rhodesian settlement. You have asked that nothing be undertaken with respect to Rhodesia until conditions are right’.

That then, was my position until early in September. I changed. I changed because, and only because, of the British and American insist [Page 645] ence that the American entry on to the Rhodesian scene in support of majority rule provided what was lacking before—i.e. power. For America represents power; I know this as well as Smith does. But even when we met on 15th September6 I was still worried, and again expressed my concern about Smith’s capacity to survive, together with his minority rule. You reassured me with the words ‘yes, but he has never been up against the U.S. before’. And you went on to say in effect (I do not have your actual words) that what you had in mind was to get Vorster to get rid of Smith and then the new man would accept the Callaghan proposals.

You saw Vorster and Smith7 and I became confident that you had ‘pulled it off’. For although you had decided that Smith should himself be forced to say that he accepted majority rule, it was still obvious from his broadcast that he had accepted it only because he had no alternative; he was confronted with American and Western power. So American power was being used in support of majority rule.

With this background you will appreciate why I feel slightly irritated to find now that Smith’s power, together with American, British, and South African combined ‘powerlessness’, is being advanced as the reason why the front-line states must ask the nationalists to abandon their legitimate demands.

For let me repeat: I changed my approach in early September because I had been brought to believe (as I have continued to believe until now) that American power would be brought to bear, and maintained as long as necessary, in support of a transfer of power from the minority in Rhodesia. This support was limited in action to support for a transfer by peaceful means; but it was still without question support for a definite transfer of power to the majority. It has been on that basis that my colleagues and I have been acting from September until now. But after receiving your letter yesterday I am now a little worried that this U.S. commitment is being reconsidered. I hope I am wrong, and that such a worry is without foundation.

When we met on 15th September,8 we were talking in terms of a solution in Rhodesia without Smith. I specifically said that I liked the American suggestions that Smith would be pressured to resign, and that an interim government would be worked out between the nationalists and a caretaker government. I was, however, pessimistic about the chances; and you did mention Vorster’s idea that Smith should be the one to announce acceptance of majority rule. But whoever accepted [Page 646] the Callaghan proposals, I stressed that the rest of us should keep out once the negotiations had started; that we cannot deal with the details—although I did add that the “Council of State” you mentioned would not be acceptable to the nationalists.

After you had seen Vorster and Smith you outlined your ideas, and what you thought you had achieved.9 Frankly, I ignored the details; I had always insisted that details must be left to the conference. I certainly did not realise that you were committed to a Council of State which would be supreme, and to white ministers for Defence and Law and Order. I thought these matters would be the subject of negotiation. What I was happy about was your statement that Smith had accepted independence on the basis of majority rule in two years, and a conference to work out the interim government, although you will remember that I doubted the procedures, and said that the nationalists could not meet Smith in Rhodesia. It seemed to me then that Smith had realised that he could not withstand American power on top of the other pressures on his regime.

Smith’s broadcast was a shock to me.10 But I was concerned to save what I regarded as your achievement. This is, his commitment to accepting independence on the basis of majority rule in two years, and to negotiations about an interim government. It was for that reason that my colleagues and I urged the British to take over the arrangements, and to call a conference themselves. We accepted Geneva rather than London as a compromise; we accepted the absence of a British minister in the chair as a second compromise. For our purpose was, and is, to use that conference to get an interim government; that is, one which would, in your own words, provide ‘a transition during which the whites could adjust to the changes taking place and either be assured of their personal safety and well-being or withdraw’.

But, as I thought you had understood very early in our discussions, there could be no question of Smith or the white minority controlling Rhodesia during that interim period. In my letter to you of 5th October11 I explained again that a transfer of power by easy stages is not possible in 1976. The nationalists cannot share power with the Rhodesia Front; many of them have spent ten years in Smith’s jails and their friends and colleagues have been ‘executed’ by his illegal regime. Too many previous attempts to settle this matter peacefully have been manoeuvred by Smith into serving the strengthening of his cause. The nationalists are very suspicious. So am I. I have been working actively [Page 647] for NIBMAR—majority rule before independence—since 1964, and have watched Smith out-manoeuvre the British, the international community, and finally myself and my colleagues, when each of us in turn thought we had got him to agree to a phased transfer of power. I warned that he would use another conference for the same purpose; and there is plenty of evidence that he is doing just that.

The nationalists and the front-line states do accept the principle of an interim government, in which adjustments can be made by individuals affected. That is why, despite our many disagreements with the British Government about Rhodesia in the past, we are demanding that the British Government should participate in the interim government. I do know why Smith and Vorster have always been opposed to British participation—even in a constitutional conference. They believe that Britain is now committed to NIBMAR. But I do not understand your own opposition to British participation.

The first of our two reasons for insisting upon active British involvement is a legal one. During the transition period Rhodesia is not independent. There are certain functions which will belong to Britain as the sovereign state. Those ‘residual powers’ are defence, external affairs, and constitutional affairs. If Britain does not exercise those powers during the interim, who would exercise them on her behalf?

The second reason is political. You had apparently agreed that Defence, and Law and Order, should be under the control of the Smith forces. This is clearly not acceptable to the nationalists—it could not be. But in all these matters one must try to find a compromise. The possible compromise is that Defence (but not Law and Order) could be held by a white minister who is appointed by Britain in consultation with the Prime Minister. This would be done by the British ‘Resident Commissioner’. But if Britain does not agree to accept responsibility for these residual powers, how do you compromise on the demand that Defence be held by a nationalist without leaving it in the hands of the supporters of minority rule?

It is obvious that the person appointed by Britain to be ‘Resident Commissioner’ would have to be someone the nationalists can work with; it would be no use appointing Patrick Wall or Enoch Powell. But I do not understand why you say that the British official representative would be chosen primarily by the nationalists and dismissed at their will. I have never heard that suggested by anyone until now.

To avoid continued misunderstanding let me also make it clear that no one, to my knowledge, has suggested that there should be no whites in the interim government, apart from this British participation of a kind that all ex-British colonies are familiar with in the last stages before independence. As I have said to you before, I expect—and I know the nationalists do—that it will be necessary to be so far racial in [Page 648] the interim government as to ensure that there are some white ministers. But they will be in a minority; and they will have to be people who are committed to Zimbabwe, not to minority rule in that country. I am confident that white Rhodesians do exist to whom these things are acceptable, and who recognise that anything else is impossible after the experience of the past eleven years.

So what is the difference between us? The conference at Geneva is proving even more difficult than I had anticipated. But it could still succeed, provided that full pressure is kept upon Smith and his minority regime. If, however, there is still a reality in the possibility of Smith getting outside support, either from South Africa or from America, then it will fail. Because Smith will make it fail. And then there will be no other recourse except guerrilla war until the end, regardless of the effect on the front-line states. You ask me whether we can control their source of arms. They have no choice. They will continue to get them from the Communists.

We are committed to independence on the basis of majority rule. For the sake of a peaceful transfer of power, and an end to the horrors and political dangers of war, the nationalists and the front-line states are prepared to accept an interim arrangement even at this date. But it has to be one which marks a transfer of power from the minority in such a way that they can never recover it.

Believe me, Dr. Kissinger, I do appreciate your desire to see this conference brought to a successful conclusion quickly. I too get impatient at the way it is dragging on. But what matters is not the manoeuvring, but the ultimate success, and I think we must be prepared for day-to-day frustrations and disappointments. If it does finally succeed, the initiative you took will be vindicated. If, unfortunately, it does not succeed, and that failure cannot be attributed to a withdrawal of pressure on Smith, than your initiative will still have been a brave and historic attempt.

Let me now turn briefly to the question of Namibia.

Here it may be that we have got into a communications muddle. In your letter of 4th October,12 when you said that the Windhoek conference would only send a representative delegation to a conference at Geneva, you also said that you would take no further action until you heard from my colleagues and myself. But I was under the impression that we had cleared this matter up through my discussions with Ambassador Spain, and that you were going to ask Dr. Waldheim to call a conference which we would get SWAPO to attend. Now, in your letter of 7th December, you say that this is not good enough because of Sam Nujoma’s [Page 649] pre-conditions. These, as I understand it, are that he should be assured that the people he needs on his delegation will be released from South African controlled prisons, and that he would be negotiating with South Africa as the de facto government of Namibia, and the U.N. as the de jure government. But there is nothing new in this? These are the same conditions we talked about twice in September. So I have to ask what new thing is it that you feel is necessary as a result of the ‘problems we have run into at Geneva’? I cannot consider whether there is anything more we can do to help until I understand the problem myself.

Is the problem still the status of the Windhoek conference people? I thought we had understood each other on that. They are a group of people called together by South Africa, under South African auspices, in a territory under de facto South African control. Even if you do not say—as we do—that they are merely the puppets of South Africa, surely those other points are incontrovertible. I had told you that they could go to Geneva as part of the South African delegation. I thought that is what you meant in your letter of 4th October.

For as I said on 21st September, it is not for SWAPO to select the South African delegation, any more than it is acceptable for South Africa to select SWAPO’s delegation—which is why the question of SWAPO people in prison is also relevant. What is necessary is that the discussion should be between fully authorised delegations from (A) SWAPO, and (B) South Africa, under U.N. auspices. The persons in each delegation are a matter for the respective authorities to decide. I am sorry if I seem dense, but I cannot see what is so difficult about this, and why you do not now feel able to ask the U.N. Secretary-General to convene a constitutional conference.

Dr. Kissinger: Our letters inevitably concentrate on difficulties and disagreements because it is they which require our thought, and perhaps action. But I do want to emphasize my very great appreciation of the efforts you have made this year to get a settlement on the basis of majority rule in Zimbabwe and Namibia. That there has been movement on the non-military front in southern Africa during 1976 is due in very large part to the initiatives you have taken, and these have demanded a great amount of time and travelling and negotiation (perhaps not always easy or pleasant) on your part. We do not yet know whether, when this vortex of negotiation has settled, we shall have reached the objective; we are dealing with questions of long-standing which have become even more difficult as time has passed. But whatever happens I want to stress that I do appreciate your efforts, and I do hope that you will not allow any disappointments (temporary or otherwise) to lead to doubt either about the validity of [Page 650] this attempt, or about the cause of majority rule in southern Africa for which we have been working.

This letter therefore comes to you with my very warm personal good wishes once again. I am sure we shall have further contact in the future—after January as well as possibly again before the change in the American government.

Yours sincerely,

Julius Nyerere

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files. Secret; Niact Immediate; Nodis.
  2. See footnote 1, Document 228.
  3. Reported in telegrams 3136 and 3138 from Dar es Salaam, August 28. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)
  4. Transmitted in telegram 216022 to Dar es Salaam, August 31. (Ibid.)
  5. Telegram 218974 to Dar es Salaam, September 3, transmitted Kissinger’s response. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, P840084–0454)
  6. See Document 204.
  7. See Document 206.
  8. See Document 204 and footnote 1 thereto.
  9. They met on September 21; see footnote 3, Document 207.
  10. See Document 209.
  11. Transmitted in telegram 3718 from Dar es Salaam, October 6. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)
  12. Transmitted in telegram 246530 to Dar es Salaam, October 4. (Ibid.)