231. Telegram From the Embassy in Zambia to the Department of State 1

3292. Department pass Secretary. Department of State for Schaufele. Subj: Kaunda Reply to Secretary’s Letter.2

Following is text of letter to the Secretary given me Thursday night by Pres Kaunda at end of conversation reported septel.3

Dear Mr Secretary,

I have received your letter of 7th December, 1976. I must say that this was a most surprising letter to say the least. I was greatly disturbed by the inference and insinuations that appeared to cast doubt on our good faith relative to the Anglo-American proposals on the resolution of the conflict in Zimbabwe. Your message was couched in terminology which is manifestly unacceptable.

I want to make it quite clear, Mr. Secretary, that threats from whatever quarter make no impression on us. In a way it was good that this [Page 651] letter came through to us at this time because it has revealed that we have, after all, been working at cross purposes in this exercise.4

You mention that the concept of sharing power on the basis of a two-tier system was never challenged. I wish to state with equal frankness and unequivocally that neither the words two-tier system nor power sharing on this basis were ever mentioned at any one time during our conversations.

Further, your emissaries had assured me and you, yourself, said later that the 5 points which you now refer to were merely talking points. They could never be considered on a take-it or leave it basis; this is the impression we gained. Frankly, this was not our understanding and this could not have been the spirit of your message of 31st August and 26th September, 1976.5 However, I consider that the matters at hand are so grave and the stakes so high that I should set out the basis upon which Zambia got involved in the present exercise.

  • First, I want to say that we have always acted in good faith. We agreed to co-operate in the finding of a peaceful solution even though we were already on the road to armed struggle. I informed you about this during your African tour.6 Indeed, on the 27th of April in Lusaka during a luncheon which I gave in your honour, I embraced you at the end of your speech out of respect for what you had said. My embrace was not a matter of ceremony but a demonstration of the depth of my feelings which grew with every conversation and communication we had on the matters at hand.
  • Second, the conversations which we had with your officials, Under Secretary Rogers and Ambassador Schaufele on the various occasions left us with the clear impression that the Smith government would withdraw in favour of a caretaker government which would in turn announce its acceptance of majority rule and call for discussions on how to implement majority rule with the nationalists. Prior to your departure for Pretoria we warned you that Smith was a very slippery character who had defeated every major effort by successive British governments to find a solution to the problem of Zimbabwe. We cautioned about any meeting that would give respectability to Smith. You assured us that you did not come to fail and that if we heard that you had [Page 652] met Smith it should be considered good news.7 On your return, however, we noticed that you appeared to have given to Smith certain undertakings which it is clear from your letter prompted Smith to accept the Anglo-American proposals.

The third point is that the conversations which we had with your emissaries and the clearly encouraging picture which emerged was further buttressed by your letter of 31st August, 1976,8 in which you clearly stated:

There would be withdrawal of the present government in favour of a black majority transition;
The drafting of a constitution which includes a basic protection for minority rights and;
Full independence under majority rule in 18 months, 2 years or earlier.

This set against the background of the clear picture we had gained with your emissaries earlier about the seriousness of your proposals clearly increased credibility that you had chosen a path that was worth our support.

It was sincerely on this basis and out of faith in your ability to honour your word once you gave it that we agreed to give our co-operation to the Anglo-American proposals.

Our confidence was further increased by the reassuring message which you sent on the 26th of September, 1976, following Smith’s broadcast two days earlier. At this time the presidents of the frontline countries were meeting in Lusaka. Again when we combined your reassuring statement of 26th September9 with the scenerio that had emerged with your emissaries, we were satisfied that there was a clear and irrevocable commitment to the road which we believed we were traversing together. This gave us faith and provided further ground for our maximum co-operation. Indeed, only recently at the opening of the Geneva conference the British Chairman Ivor Richard in his opening remarks said among other things—“we are not concerned with whether there will be majority rule in Rhodesia, we are concerned with when and how. We are not discussing whether power will be transferred to the majority, we are discussing the modality of that transfer.”

Very little have we known that there has been a grave misunderstanding about the interpretation of the cooperation which we have given all along in this exercise until my conversation with Ambassador Reinhardt and now your letter of December 7. I must now and equally [Page 653] frankly say that we have ground to believe that we were misled. We were convinced that we were talking the same language when in fact this was not so. We have been talking on two different wavelengths.

It is not my impression that the nationalists in Geneva are being unrealistic. In fact their proposals are very reasonable. They have asked for a unicameral arrangement supported by a British presence which together would give confidence to all the races and build a foundation in the transitional government upon which people of all races in Rhodesia would work together to build peace on the basis of equality. We are now being told that the nationalists’ attitude does not provide guarantees. But there are guaranteed seats for whites in the transitional government. The reality of the Rhodesian situation itself including the judiciary, civil service, economy and other strategic areas in the Zimbabwe society will ensure that the white community will continue to have a meaningful voice and protection not only in the transitional period but in the period afterwards.

We are being told that ZIPA should reconsider its position. Frankly we believe that the proposals being put forward by the nationalists are realistic. What surprises me is that when you do not like anything it is being labelled unrealistic. Anything else that the nationalists offer is unrealistic and ambiguous. When you assert that you want a moderate and responsible government in Zimbabwe and one which would not pose a threat to Zambia, I must say that we do not need any guidance about what our interests are or what is best for us. Who are we to choose a government that will govern Zimbabwe? This is the sacred right of the six million people of that country.

In all frankness, I am not yet convinced that we are now being led to believe that your present attitude is reminiscent of the past posture of successive American administrations on the problems of this area. We had warned about this, a warning which you, yourself acknowledged. But we are now definitely worried that again and in spite of all that has been done already the United States may end up backing the wrong horse.

If the programme that we believe would guarantee peace and security for all is now being labelled unrealistic then we are quite happy to go along the path which we had chosen before and that is the path of armed struggle. We are not unaware of the risks that are involved in the struggle. But we in Zambia have known no peace and our life has been dedicated to serving that which we consider to be right and just.

We operate on principles as you know, Mr. Secretary, but I must tell you that Zambia will go down fighting on the side of right. We would like to die as noble men and women. This is why I said earlier that threats do not impress us. We seek a solution that ends the war not half-measures. The global problems in the context of southern Africa [Page 654] demand that a solution that meets the legitimate interests of the oppressed people be found and found quickly. That is the solution that would end the present conflict. If now the United States Government do not appear to share our conviction in this problem they will end by fighting on the wrong side. This will not be in the interests of the United States and of world peace.

Let us therefore not deal with the past, there is a problem to be resolved at the moment. We need a formula that does not insure the place of the white community in the transitional government but that which provides protection and safety for them for all time in an independent Zimbabwe. The British Government has now indicated their preparedness to establish a presence in the interim government. They will need all the support.

Warm regards,

Yours sincerely,

President of the Republic of Zambia

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files. Secret; Cherokee; Niact Immediate; Nodis.
  2. See Document 228.
  3. Telegram 3293 from Lusaka, December 9, reported on Schaufele’s meeting with Kaunda. The President apologized for betraying a confidence by showing Nkomo the five points. He then expressed frustration with Kissinger’s point that “the US could not ignore foreign intervention,” and said it was not “necessary to make the point to him.” Finally, he said “he would only work to establish the mechanics of a constitutional government and that he felt he had a sacred trust not to influence things in another country by trying to choose its leaders.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)
  4. In telegram Secto 32060 from London to Lusaka, December 11, Kissinger attempted to clear up any misunderstandings with Kaunda. He assured the President that the United States was “committed to the achievement of majority rule.” Kissinger expressed hope for increased British involvement in the process and for continued association and friendship with Kaunda. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 96, Geopolitical File, Africa, Chronological File, December 10–11, 1976)
  5. For the September 26 letter, see Document 211.
  6. See Document 195.
  7. See Document 205.
  8. The letter was transmitted to Lusaka in telegram 216314, September 1. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, P840096–1632)
  9. Document 211.