233. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • U.K.:
    • C.A.R. Crosland, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
    • Amb. Ivor Richard, Permanent Representative to UN and Chairman of Geneva Conference on Rhodesia
    • Edward Rowlands, Minister of State
    • Sir Michael Palliser, Permanent Under Secretary
    • Sir Antony Duff, Deputy Under Secretary
    • Patrick Laver, Head of Rhodesia Department
    • Ramsey Melhuish, Head of North America Department
    • Dennis Grennan, Special Adviser on Africa
    • David Lipsey, Political Adviser to Mr. Crosland
    • Ewen A.J. Fergusson, Private Secretary to Mr. Crosland
  • U.S.:
    • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State
    • Amb. Anne Armstrong, Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s
    • Amb. John E. Reinhardt, Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs
    • Winston Lord, Director, Policy Planning Staff
    • Frank G. Wisner, Director, Office of Southern African Affairs
    • Raymond Seitz, Political Counselor, American Embassy
    • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff


  • Southern Africa

Crosland: I thank you very much for coming, and if you agree, the first thing is to ask Ivor to explain what has changed at Geneva in the last three weeks.

Kissinger: Good.

Richard: The main thing since the argument on the date, which was a marathon confrontation, is that since then the Africans have conducted themselves in a rational way.

Two things are very clear. One is that Annex C2 as such is not a starter. It is very hard to see how if it was tabled as a conference document, or if Smith tabled it, it could bridge the gap. Basically the nationalists all say there can be no Council of State or anything that smacks of it.

[Page 659]

There have been a number of hints out of Salisbury which seem to indicate that Smith’s objective in this exercise is to buy time for himself and that he’s not serious about the transfer of power.

We have to bridge that gap. One way is if we can get Smith himself to agree to a date for independence and to produce a definition of majority rule. I raised this with him and he agreed to do this, but his proposals were ludicrous. His position now is he’s not prepared to discuss the composition of the Council of State or the definition of it. Before he sits again, he wants me and the African delegates to agree the purpose of the conference is to appoint the Council of State. Second, Smith believes it’s all the Chairman’s fault. He feels I should have made all the delegations start with five points.3 He’s in an angry mood.

On the other hand, there was something very hopeful. He said if the British Government were to call an adjournment and come up with some new proposal, he would consider it and consider it very seriously.

The Africans want an adjournment too. Sithole says the ZIPA leaders are approaching him in Geneva. Mugabe wants it. Joshua Nkomo is quite happy to have an adjournment; he wants to get back to Rhodesia and organize his support. The Bishop (Muzorewa) is already back there.

Kissinger: How long a recess?

Richard: To the end of January.

Kissinger: They don’t speak of the dead. (Laughter)

Armstrong: They’re being very tactful!

Crosland: We frankly thought of January 20.

Kissinger: The only trouble is all the world press on that date would be filled with a picture of me being carried out in my chair. I think you should choose a date either before or after, not January 20.

Richard: But it is clear that Annex C is not a starter. We will need a new package.

Crosland: Ted, give them our ideas on the adjournment.

Rowlands: First, when we announce the adjournment, it should be on a positive note.

Kissinger: I agree.

Rowlands: Seeing it as a hopeful moment in the conference. Ivor and Dennis would put together a new shuttle to work out a new package which would have a broad measure of agreement. We want the agreement of the four Presidents to the definition of the British role. [Page 660] We would hope to get at least the acquiescence of Smith that Annex C isn’t going to work.

Kissinger: My understanding is that Smith was going to put forward Annex C but we urged him not to do it.

Wisner: His staff proposed it to him but he didn’t want to do it.

Crosland: He should because it would be embarrassing if the conference broke up without anyone putting forward Annex C.

Wisner: He is convinced that in the present mood it would be shot down. He was very categorical.

Kissinger: I wonder if Smith should do it and if we should pay the price for it. If he were eager to do it, I’d let him do it.

Rowlands: It’s water under the bridge now.

Richard: (Reads from own notes) “He felt in his view it would only create an explosion.”

Kissinger: Then we’d better leave it as it is, because if we urged it we would be committed to back it.

Richard: He’ll blame me for not putting it forward and would have blamed me for not having the opportunity. He can’t say he had no opportunity, but he will say we didn’t try to sell it.

Crosland: We now seem to have a very detailed Cabinet agreement.

Kissinger: The question is whether it is really Cabinet agreement. (Laughter)

Crosland: Although there is a gap, it seems the gap is no longer unbridgeable between what we can do and what the more reasonable of them are willing to take.

Where should we go from here?

Kissinger: You’re recessing when?

Crosland: Next Tuesday.4

Armstrong: May I ask a question about the semantics of recess and adjournment?

Richard: I gather there is a difference in America.

Kissinger: Recess implies a certainty of reconvening; adjournment does not.

Armstrong: Yes.

Crosland: We can use both.

[Page 661]

Kissinger: A purely tactical point: I don’t think I can get my letters to them until Sunday or Monday.5 How do we ensure to have it end on a slightly upbeat note?

Richard: We hoped to do that by announcing at the same time that Dennis Grennan and I would begin the shuttle.

Kissinger: Secondly, if you have a new proposal, you will need us to put it over with the South Africans and Rhodesians. Therefore, the date of reassembly should be before we leave office, otherwise we have no weight at all. So a date like January 16.

Richard: The 17th is a Monday.

Kissinger: Fine. Just so it doesn’t break up before January 20. (Laughter)

Richard: My original instructions were not to break it up before November 2. (Laughter)

Rowlands: We would make clear we were optimistic.

Kissinger: We can brief the press that this is a process that will go on.

Palliser: You will be asked point blank today whether there is an adjournment.

Crosland: I will say Ivor is going back for consultation and I will speak to it on Tuesday.

Kissinger: However we phrase it, and particularly in light of these exchanges, it doesn’t look like it’s breaking up.

Second, on substance, what sort of proposal do you have in mind?

Rowlands: We would substitute for the Council of State a British Resident Commissioner. Below it will be a Council of Ministers chaired by the Resident Commissioner. Each of the five delegations will choose five members and the Resident Commissioner will choose five. So there will be 30 ministers.

Kissinger: Ten will be white?

Rowlands: Ten will be white. The Rhodesians’ five and the five chosen by the Resident Commissioner. The advantage is to avoid having to choose a Prime Minister, because that could be one of the biggest bustups ever. The Council would have legislative and executive authority. The Heads of the delegations would be a Privy Council.

Kissinger: You replace the Council of State with a British Resident Commissioner. The heads of delegations form a privy council around him.

[Page 662]

Rowlands: An advisory privy council around him.

Crosland: Just to clarify something. I’ve approved none of this. I just saw it an hour ago. But it is a promising approach.

Rowlands: Then the portfolios—we’ll have a National Security Commission of the five Privy Council ministers and one Minister chosen by the Resident Commissioner, and the Chiefs of Staff of the police chosen by the Resident Commissioner.

Kissinger: Nyerere says he can live with a white defense minister.

Crosland: That’s external defense. The other is law and order.

Rowlands: The concept of the National Security Commission was mooted when we discussed Annex C.

Crosland: I don’t think it is inconsistent.

Kissinger: (Reads over Nyerere’s letter.)6

Rowlands: Powers will be vested in the Resident Chief Commissioner.

Crosland: We have that agreed.

Rowland: It’s agreed by the Cabinet. A ten-man National Security Commission.

Kissinger: How many will be whites?

Rowland: The Resident Commissioner is white. There are four blacks in the Privy Council and one white. One non-white minister that he has appointed would be on the National Security Commission. And three chiefs of staff.

Kissinger: What would they be?

Rowland: We see them chosen from outside Rhodesia. They could be Commonwealth.

Grennan: For presentational purposes, we might want the Chief of Police white and the Chief of Law and Order black from the Commonwealth.

Crosland: I think the notion of inserting Commonwealth people will be a very important point.

Kissinger: How do you propose proceeding with your shuttle? How will you sell this plan?

Crosland: Ivor will do the shuttling.

Kissinger: Procedurally, how do you plan to do it?

Richard: We would start with the Presidents. We would start with Kaunda because he seems the most reasonable. Then Nyerere. We’ll explore it with the Nationalists simultaneously.

[Page 663]

Kissinger: When would you talk to the Rhodesians?

Richard: After.

Kissinger: Will you say the United States is behind it?

Crosland: We won’t explore it; we’ll sell it. We hope the United States will be for it.

Kissinger: Do you want to sell it to the blacks and then turn it over to us and say it’s our job to sell it to the whites? Or should it be something that has been explored with the whites so it’s not a new idea?

Richard: We wouldn’t object to that.

Crosland: Wait a minute. They’re all suspicious of the United States and Great Britain. They think we’re doing this to avoid majority rule.

Kissinger: But if we explore it first with not the Rhodesians but the South Africans . . . It would be helpful if at the time you try to sell it to the black Africans we know the South Africans will be helpful.

Crosland: We can’t do a lot of bargaining with the South Africans on what we will try to sell.

Kissinger: You have to have enough discussions so they feel convinced they want to support it.

Crosland: (Pauses) Let’s pursue this. As Ivor tells it, we want to get into a take-it-or-leave-it situation. Suppose we get something that safeguards white interests? We’ll have to put it on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.

Kissinger: Then you don’t need us.

Crosland: But we would want support.

Kissinger: We won’t oppose it. Frank had an idea.

Wisner: Which is pretty close. It had a second tier but I admit it will be hard. Perhaps there is some hope in running a two-tier system—the top tier you would chair and be the tie-breaker. And a Council of Ministers.

Richard: What powers would it have?

Wisner: The original legislative powers in Annex C. There are a lot of presentational advantages in this structure.

Crosland: Parity can’t be sold anymore.

Richard: That’s dead. But I think we could sell a kind of blocking mechanism.

Kissinger: But that’s a veto.

Crosland: It depends on whether it’s British or Rhodesian.

Wisner: How do you see this Privy Council?

Rowlands: A two-thirds majority wouldn’t work. A balance of the Council of Ministers would mean the Africans have a two-thirds majority.

[Page 664]

We’re substituting for parity a Resident Commissioner. He would have authority for defense and law and order. Power may be vested in him.

Kissinger: My fear that you may be going too fast is two-fold.

I wrote to Nyerere to make clear there was a possibility of a breakup, that there was a limit beyond which things couldn’t be pushed. His reply was conciliatory.7 I don’t take that argument about their suspicion we’re not really for majority rule, all that seriously. That is their specialty—to make us constantly apologize. I think our interest is to keep the limits clear.

Second, we got it to this point by combining our power with South African power. If we don’t bring the South Africans into it, what you work out with the blacks won’t mean anything. I’d hate to see you and blacks agree on something we couldn’t deliver.

This is the first hearing. I’d have to see it on paper. But this is a drastic change and the Rhodesians will possibly see it as total surrender to the blacks. I’m not saying it is.

My instructions to my people were to talk about Annex C, not about getting rid of Smith.

Crosland: We spent a lot of talk about this, Henry. We talked about a transitional government without Smith. After your talks with Vorster, we switched to the idea that Smith would sell it but then disappear. But this hasn’t happened. The five points would have to be modified. It’s been changed because Smith is still there; there will have to be a change on the other side.

Kissinger: The easiest way to get rid of Smith is to set up a transitional government.

Richard: But the Rhodesian delegation at Geneva assumes Smith will still be there.

Kissinger: I would separate the setting up of a transitional government from the membership of Smith. I was afraid the immediate elimination of Smith would create a collapse of the whole structure.

Rowlands: The question now is what assurances do the whites need?

Kissinger: Your proposal can have two purposes. One is to put something forward that you know will be rejected. We’re not there yet. If it isn’t that, then we have to see what the South Africans can go along with. We don’t have to let it be known it’s been discussed with the South Africans. They’ve kept secrets.

[Page 665]

Crosland: We’ve talked with Fourie. We all have the impression what they want above all is a settlement.

Kissinger: But I believe Nyerere will buy a better deal than what you propose, which is what the nationalists want.

Grennan: The whites want a structure that allows them to continue to run the country. But a Resident Commissioner will always be able to block majority will and run security affairs.

Kissinger: We don’t have to settle it now.

Crosland: We’ll refine these ideas further and then put it to you.

Kissinger: I know what you’ll do. If you don’t put it to the Cabinet, it has no standing; if you do put it to the Cabinet, it can’t be changed!

If we do come to agreement on what may be saleable to both sides, then we—you or we, probably we—should go to the South Africans to see what you’re up against when you do sell it to the blacks.

Crosland: The nationalists now at Geneva are a lot less likely to take the fire from the front-line Presidents. A lot has changed in the balance of power since September.

Richard: This was clear in my talks with Nkomo.

Kissinger: But if the conference breaks down, Nkomo is finished, and also Sithole and the Bishop.

Palliser: They might not share your view.

Kissinger: One thing that has impressed us is their highly developed instinct for their survival. There is no chance they’d survive a guerrilla war.

Reinhardt: What is the timing of this?

Richard: We would start out on the 28th.

Reinhardt: For ten days or so.

Richard: No, two weeks. They would have time to form a view.

Kissinger: The best way to find out their view is to ask them.

I would suggest that Frank (Wisner) and Jack (Reinhardt), who know more about what’s happened at Geneva than any two people we have, meet with any people you designate once you have a paper.

It’s an ingenious scheme. The trick is to convince the South Africans it’s not a total sell-out.

Crosland: It has to be saleable to both.

Richard: It’s really going back to a British presence.

Kissinger: My first idea was a British presence.

Richard: That’s right. I’m just saying . . .

Kissinger: Smith once proposed going back to the Constitution of 1961. Would you, under that Constitution, have authority to implement all of this?

[Page 666]

Grennan: No, we wouldn’t.

Rowlands: Parity is dead, so the question is how to give assurances and balances by other means than simply looking at the color of the faces around the table.

Kissinger: What the whites fear most is—they’re not determined to prevent any action—but that the system after it’s set up, will be overthrown, as all other systems in Africa.

Crosland: This is what the blacks fear, too.

One idea is Commonwealth presence. The Chairman of the Commonwealth is keen on this; he’s talked to the Canadians. We are afraid of getting into an Ulster situation when in effect we have only one chap out there. This would be much harder for either side to bust up.

Kissinger: I’d like to see it on paper, with all the suitable disclaimers. (Laughter) Can we see it, with full understanding that it’s a think piece?

Crosland: Yes.

Kissinger: When do you think it’ll be ready?

Crosland: Wednesday.

Kissinger: Then Frank and Jack will come back Wednesday or Thursday.

Crosland: The objective is to have something that can win the acceptance of the South African Government but will be acceptable to the blacks.

Kissinger: The whole point is to liquidate the Rhodesian problem.

Crosland: The blacks are getting stronger and stronger every day. All intelligence reports indicate it.

Kissinger: Yes. The South Africans are looking for an honorable way to get out. Their definition of honorable is something that appears as a logical evolution from the earlier discussions.

Richard: Smith wouldn’t see this as a logical evolution from the previous.

Kissinger: But the South Africans kept their secrecy scrupulously before.

By the end of next week, we will have some kind of agreement. Then we’ll discuss it with Fourie. You’ll have their reaction before you go. I wouldn’t say they have a veto over your trip.

Rowlands: There is a great and growing consensus in favor of a British presence.

Kissinger: It’s a very important step, your willingness to undertake this.

Your statement Tuesday will give some hope?

[Page 667]

Crosland: Oh yes. It will be a hint of a British solution.8

Kissinger: It is interesting that the Nigerian observer spoke of a 60–40 split.

Wisner: Ten bottles!

Kissinger: Ten bottles, of which four could go to the whites. He didn’t say which four.

Crosland: We’re proposing 66/23; and 33/13;.

Wisner: What assurances would you give to the blacks on your shuttle?

Crosland: We would make clear our commitment to the British presence is conditional on a cessation of guerrilla war when the internal government is formed, and the lifting of sanctions. And making it clear we won’t stand for being stuck there in a civil war. There will be the strictest conditions.

Kissinger: You judge what the Nigerian statement is worth. (Reads:) “We shouldn’t take too seriously the rejection of a two-tier structure. We should get away from the term though not the concept of power sharing. The term suggests to them Smith’s idea of parity. Picking up on a metaphor earlier, Anyuoko said if there were ten bottles, four could go to the whites.”

Rowlands: That’s not bad.

Crosland: We want to agree on this fairly quickly because time is of the essence.

Kissinger: We’re not proposing any delay. You’re proposing to leave on the 28th. Our suggestion is that Jack and Frank talk with you next week. Our capacity to develop British constitutional forms is in any case limited.

Crosland: But it’s greater than it was three months ago. (Laughter)

Reinhardt: How do you end the conference on a note of optimism?

Richard: We’ll say that we will develop possible proposals to put forward and we will consult.

Reinhardt: Will that bring Mugabe back? Some observers think Mugabe won’t come back and Nkomo won’t be able to.

Kissinger: That problem exists anyway.

Richard: We’ll have talked to them all, the front line Presidents and the nationalists.

[Page 668]

Crosland: Is there anything else we can try and clarify?

Kissinger: No. Frank?

Wisner: No.

Kissinger: Win?

Lord: No. I’d like to get a better feel for how the numbers work out, in the blocking.

Crosland: It’s not blocking for the Rhodesian Front.

Lord: In this National Security Council.

Kissinger: There is a very real danger that we agree with you and you agree with the blacks and it’s two different things. We’ll be in a never-never land.

Crosland: And you and the South Africans. Two never-never lands.

Rowlands: We tell the blacks: What are you worried about? The blocking mechanism is in law and order. The British Resident Commissioner will handle it. It’s not a matter of numbers.

Kissinger: If we violently disagree, you can do it in your own. We certainly won’t oppose it.

Palliser: The fundamentals haven’t changed since we first met at that Air Force base near the Secretary of State’s (Crosland’s) constituency (in April). The blacks will win. The only question is whether they win soon, by a moderate solution, or slowly by violence. It’s still in our interest to bring it about in the best possible circumstances.

Kissinger: Our predisposition is to support it. This reasoning got us into it in the first place. Our predisposition is to come up with a proposal that you believe is saleable and that we can support.

Crosland: It was just your use of the phrase “blocking mechanism.”

One other point. How do we stand on the fund?

Duff: The proposal is that you and Dr. Kissinger should approach potential donors. That should be as soon as possible because it may be useful to Ivor to throw this card in once in a while, with both sides.

Kissinger: (Looks over his papers on the Rhodesian Fund.)9 I haven’t read the letter. If our officials agree, I’m sure I’ll agree. What is the disagreement?

Duff: It doesn’t give enough information to potential donors about the nature of the scheme it is. There is an annex—which I am glad to say is Annex 2, not Annex B or C—which gives more information about the [Page 669] projects. We would like to see it accompany the letters.10 Your people would like it to be followed up later.

Kissinger: I haven’t studied it. My inclination is to get these out as soon as possible. If there is any objection, I’ll let you know Monday.

Duff: If we type like mad, we can get the signatures of the two important gentlemen tomorrow to send with or without Annex 2.

Rowlands: If it leaks out and it’s a letter and Annex One, it will look like we are reneging on the details of the assurances.

Crosland: Is it proper to have an annex that refers to “blacks?”

Wisner: They call themselves “Africans.”

Crosland: Shall we both look it over? It looks rather detailed to me.

Kissinger: I’ll see Fourie Wednesday.11 I’m sure he’ll be delighted.

What shall we say to the press?

Crosland: That we had a good discussion, that you’re here mainly to see football and go to the theatre. (Laughter)

Fergusson: What about adjournment? You’ll be asked.

Crosland: It’s not a matter for today. I’ll be speaking on Tuesday.

We will say we discussed the whole thing and Ivor Richard is going back Tuesday.

Kissinger: And you and we will be talking tomorrow morning and we can’t have reached a conclusion.

Crosland: I don’t want to talk about this tomorrow morning!

Kissinger: But we don’t have to say that!

Crosland: After seeing the hideous scrum outside last time, I thought we should have a regular press conference here now.

Kissinger: I’m going out with a bang, two press conferences in one day!

Crosland: Well, thank you very much. It’s the last time perhaps we’ll see you here as Secretary of State. In spite of your insistence not to learn our constitutional structure, and your telegrams that you send from the worst places in cannibal-land, you’ve been a great friend of this country.

(“Hear, hear,” from all the British side.)

Kissinger: Thank you.

[Page 670]

(The meeting ended at 5:30 pm and Secretary Kissinger and Foreign Secretary proceeded down the hall to their joint press conference. The text is attached.)12

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 346, Department of State, Memoranda, Memoranda of Conversations, External, November 1976–January 1977. Secret; Nodis. Initialed by Rodman. The meeting took place in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
  2. See Document 219.
  3. See Document 217.
  4. December 14.
  5. The letters to Kaunda and Nyerere were delivered on December 11. The texts were transmitted in Secto 32060 from London to Lusaka and Secto 32061 from London to Dar es Salaam, both December 11. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)
  6. Presumably a reference to the letter transmitted in Document 230.
  7. See footnote 1, Document 228.
  8. In telegram 20257 from London, December 15, the Embassy provided excerpts of Crosland’s December 14 Parliamentary statement on Rhodesia in which he discussed adjournment of the Geneva conference to permit further consultations in southern Africa. He also mentioned a direct British role during the Rhodesian transitional period which “would not include British troops.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)
  9. Not attached and not found.
  10. See Document 234.
  11. Kissinger held a breakfast meeting on December 15 with Fourie in the Monroe-Madison room at the Department of State, 8:10–9:30 a.m. A memorandum of conversation is in the Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 346, Department of State, Memoranda, Memoranda of Conversations, External, November 1976–January 1977.
  12. Attached but not printed. See Department of State Bulletin, January 3, 1977, pp. 6–9.