235. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • UK:
    • Ivor Richard, UK Permanent Representative to the UN and Chairman of Geneva Conference on Rhodesia
    • Dennis Grennan, Adviser on Rhodesia, FCO
    • William Squire, Counselor, British Embassy
    • Richard J.S. Muir, First Secretary, British Embassy
  • US:
    • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State
    • Charles W. Robinson, Deputy Secretary of State
    • Amb. William E. Schaufele, Jr., Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs
    • Amb. John E. Reinhardt, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs
    • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff


  • Southern Africa

[The Secretary and Mr. Richard exchanged small talk about football—European and American—over cocktails, and moved to luncheon at 1:40. Discussion about football continued.]

Kissinger: How should we conduct this discussion, Ivor?

Richard: I should lead off.

Kissinger: You should?

Richard: You should.

Kissinger: But you’re going on the trip!

I had a paper which showed how you took care of all our points.2

Grennan: Oh, we took enormous care.

Kissinger: We thought it was substantially the same as the earlier paper.

Richard: The voting mechanism now gives them a blocking third.

Schaufele: Unless the Resident Commissioner votes with the others.

Richard: If it’s a special thing, there will then be 31 people entitled to vote, and it will take 21 votes to carry. If he doesn’t vote, it will take 10 votes to block it.

[Page 686]

We’ve also looked at the way the Resident Commissioner will preside and not preside, to make it nearer to the Council of State. Also, the right to call for a special vote.

There is one gap—to deal with economic side, the assurances—to make them the subject of a special vote. So they can have a blocking vote on things like nationalization with compensation, major changes in land tenure.

Reinhardt: Unless the Resident Commissioner votes with the black side.

Kissinger: Or some whites.

Richard: I don’t see how you can have ten members of the Rhodesian Front.

Reinhardt: Can you check them with the Rhodesian Front?

Grennan: We also have to think of an independent Zimbabwe. There are a lot of whites who will want to stay, and non-Front people. We will have to think of some way for them to be represented.

Kissinger: You are assuming no Rhodesian Front people will stay?

Grennan: No, but they [the others]should have some representation.

Kissinger: But the question Jack asked is whether some should be checked with the Rhodesian Front.

Richard: Checked, but no veto.

Grennan: The people from the Rhodesia Party are 18% of the vote.

Kissinger: How would they vote?

Grennan: The Rhodesia Party’s view is the blacks should have the politics and the whites should have the privilege, to put it crudely. So they’d likely vote with the Front.

Kissinger: Let me ask. Full independence will come the 1st of March 1978. You can’t get it set up by the end of February 1977.

Richard: We can’t. We’ll need five or six weeks to get the necessary legislation passed.

Kissinger: I think you’ll take longer in Africa than you think?

Richard: I think so.

Kissinger: So you won’t reassemble until after our inauguration. Assuming everything went splendidly in Africa—which would be an historic first—[laughter] you’re setting up this cumbersome thing. You won’t get it set up until April.

Richard: That’s the date set now. But we may or may not be able to get it into ten or eleven months. They’ll have elections.

Why do you say the machinery will be cumbersome?

Kissinger: You’ll have to replace the Chiefs of Staff . . .

[Page 687]

Richard: That won’t take long. They will be all lined up first. It won’t be so hard to set up the Council of Ministers, the Advisory Council, and National Security Council.

Grennan: I think the 1st of March date is unrealistic. We’re running into lots of problems. There will be a great deal of horse-trading, politics, which will be of critical importance.

Richard: You find the structure unwieldy, unbalanced?

Kissinger: Let me explain what our problems are—which we approach from the point of view of being helpful, as facing a common problem. It may sound strange coming from me, but I feel we have a point of honor here. We’ve had occasions in the past when we made a promise to someone and were not able to carry it out because circumstances prevented it. But I’ve never actually made a promise and never tried to carry it out.

I told them I’d never push them beyond Annex C. Maybe I shouldn’t have, but Annex C seemed so compatible with what the Africans were willing to accept. Even the five points. Nyerere, Kaunda—and even Nkomo. They wanted a little adjustment here, a little adjustment there. Maybe one instead of two ministers.

It disintegrated for many reasons, including the disunity of the Africans.

This is why it will be hard to go back to the South Africans and claim we tried Annex C.

Richard: Why? We were trying to sell Annex C in all our bilateral conversations.

Kissinger: Well . . . The second problem is what will happen to your plan even if it is accepted. Will it create an Angola-type situation? Will it require such massive pressure that there will be a white exodus? This isn’t a criticism of your plan.

Grennan: It depends, first, on the willingness of the four Presidents, whether they will support it. Second, and perhaps more important, is one’s estimate of ZIPA. I just don’t believe Chona’s analysis that they’ve got 4–5,000 well-trained men and only 1,000 will go back.

Richard: They are school children and will go back to school.

Grennan: They’re not the MPLA, who have been fighting for ten years.

Squire: Are they battle-hardened Marxists really, the negotiators at Geneva?

Richard: I see your Angolan point. But it all depends on the four Presidents. Either you’re saying they will agree to something they won’t enforce . . .

Kissinger: It won’t be the first time.

[Page 688]

Richard: If you don’t get their full backing, nothing will work. If you do get their backing, there will have to be fairly cast-iron guarantees on both sides.

Kissinger: What is your plan of procedure? I see you helpfully wrote our talking points for the South Africans.3

Richard: You asked us to!

Kissinger: But what will you tell the black Presidents?

Richard: I’ll tell them the nationalists need reassurance that the process will be irreversible, that the whites need reassurance that it will be orderly. That we see no way to do this without a British presence, with a Resident Commissioner in charge of drafting of the constitution, etc., that he will hold the balance of power between the two sides. I don’t see how they can object since it is what they’ve been asking us for for years.

Kissinger: [laughs:] On my first trip to Africa, Nyerere said “Just get Smith to declare for majority rule—the Callaghan transition, two years.”

Schaufele: Or more.

Kissinger: Or more! Now they’ve got 500% more.

Richard: But they still think Smith isn’t committed to it. When Smith steps out and says “The only purpose of this Conference is to choose the Council of State.” That’s ridiculous.

Kissinger: We told him not to submit Annex C because it would be rejected.

Richard: Sure. But they genuinely don’t believe he’s committed to it.

Kissinger: Is this true, or a tactic?

Grennan: I think it’s true.

Richard: I think it’s true.

Kissinger: [to Reinhardt:] Is it?

Reinhardt: It’s probably true.

Kissinger: We went through the same on Namibia. We got 1000% of what they asked.

Richard: They told me they want a commitment to majority rule—an irreversible transfer of power—if not one man one vote. We presented this to Smith and Smith said fine. We got our lawyers to draft something like this. We presented this to Smith and Smith rejected it, and said the only purpose of the Conference is to name the Council of State. There was no attempt at all to bridge the gap.

[Page 689]

You feel he’s been misled. I fear that we and you have been misled because he’s not really interested in majority rule within two years. Because he’s done damn all for it.

Grennan: He goes back to Rhodesia and winks at his supporters and says “We’ll try this but in the interim we get sanctions lifted, and arms.”

Kissinger: In Pretoria, I thought he acted for nine hours as a man who knew his days were numbered, and who wanted to get the best transition possible.

Richard: Then why did he act as he did in Geneva?

Kissinger: I can’t say. He felt two years was too short. When the first issue, which was unambiguously stated—the Callaghan plan, two years—slipped off, he probably figured everything he agreed to would slip away.

Grennan: This is the way he always acts. He slips off a hook and you have to get him on another.

Kissinger: Suppose the Africans say they don’t accept this?

Richard: It depends on what grounds.

Kissinger: They don’t want a blocking veto.

Richard: We’ll say a veto for the British Commissioner.

Kissinger: Suppose they say they want majority rule now?

Richard: They can’t have it. We’re not prepared to give majority rule until after elections. We’re prepared to transfer power now away from the Rhodesian Front to a British Commissioner.

Kissinger: In Pretoria—unless he and his men are the greatest actors—they acted as people whose structure was broken.

Robinson: But we’ve now weakened the interim government to the point where it’s no assurance.

Richard: The British Commissioner is there.

Kissinger: But, to put it crudely, that depends on how they see the British Commissioner. If they see it just as another black vote . . .

Richard: They’ll have to bite that bullet.

Grennan: They have to face the reality.

Squire: It’s a matter of Ivor Richard. If Lord Home were in the Foreign Office, they’d like it better.

Kissinger: True.

Richard: But there is no likelihood that will happen for some time!

Grennan: They are going around telling people: “Don’t worry. It will all come out right. We’ll get the sanctions lifted.” That’s not good faith.

[Page 690]

Kissinger: It is not the first time a political leader sells a program to his people—to keep them calm—with arguments that wouldn’t be too attractive to blacks.

Richard: I understand that. But he accepted majority rule, genuinely or not.

Kissinger: He understands that he accepted it under duress.

Richard: All right. He now would want to create the maximum orderly transition. So, he could respond to one proposal with proposals of his own. The original wasn’t acceptable.

Kissinger: Whether or not it was a Cabinet paper! We’ll give you more support than you gave to your own paper!

If I had stayed there, if I had to do it over again, I would have got the frontline Presidents signed up. Maybe not the nationalists. But they told us this was what they wanted. We’re doing the same on Namibia now.

Richard: If he genuinely wants it, he should come forward with alternative proposals for the same result.

Kissinger: You’ll go to the frontline Presidents first.

Richard: Two of them.

Kissinger: You’re seeing Botha tonight. What will you say?

Richard: That those proposals were drawn up as a substitute for a British presence. You remember how it was drawn up. So it’s clearly a change.

Kissinger: My advice is to show this to the South Africans—not to the Rhodesians. Our intelligence is that they didn’t show the five points to the Rhodesians for some time. If you go around Africa without telling the South Africans what bill they’ll be presented with, you’d face insuperable obstacles.

Richard: We thought you would present it to the South Africans.

Schaufele: [to Richard:] I was at Geneva with you. I saw some pitfalls in your approach. He was prepared for majority rule in two years. Then, the issue that was undisputed was watered down.

Richard: That’s a debating point, but I really don’t think there is any substance in it.

Kissinger: Why not?

Richard: We gave nothing away. The date doesn’t mean anything because it’s agreed that the constitutional processes have to be finished.

Kissinger: What if the blacks kick out the Resident Commissioner?

Richard: We won’t give independence. We don’t have to sanction it.

Kissinger: But the reality is at some point you will sanction it.

[Page 691]

Squire: The risk is there. The blacks can cheat and so can the whites.

Grennan: ZIPA isn’t such a problem.

Kissinger: Then why should Smith negotiate?

Grennan: Because he’ll lose in the long run.

Squire: Like with the Israelis, casualties for them are serious.

Kissinger: But the Israelis don’t think they’ll lose.

Richard: You asked him if his situation would be any better in six months. That’s still true.

Kissinger: The South Africans certainly saw it this way. Their pressure was the decisive factor. But the might decide this is a game they don’t want to play again. We don’t give a damn about Rhodesia. The only reason we got into it is to set a pattern for the rest of Africa.

Richard: You still can do that. There are a lot of moderates sitting around who can take over Rhodesia.

Kissinger: When will you present your plan to the South Africans?

Richard: Not today.

Kissinger: When will it be presented?

Richard: It can be done through David Scott in Pretoria. Shortly after you.

Kissinger: Or shortly before us.

Richard: We’re perfectly prepared to do it before you!

Squire: As long as we get US support.

Kissinger: We’ll give you as much as your High Commissioners gave to us!

Squire: That’s not enough! [Laughter]

Richard: Today with Botha I can lift the veil a bit.

Kissinger: I don’t care whether you do it through Scott in South Africa or through Botha here. The advantage of doing it here is you can explain it better than Scott can. I thought Scott was excellent; this is no reflection on him. We were worried about how to instruct our Ambassadors following you around. We despaired of explaining to our Ambassadors all the aspects. So we might send Edmondson.

Richard: No problem. There is no room on the plane unfortunately, because it’s a small plane.

Kissinger: A small plane or a large party?

Richard: A small plane!

Kissinger: We won’t tell the Rhodesians what not to accept. You can tell the South Africans we support it. Whether we’d be prepared to impose sanctions is another matter. If there is any trouble with the [Page 692] South Africans, I don’t want it said we didn’t present the plan properly. So I think it should be presented by the authors.

Richard: All right!

Kissinger: I don’t think the South Africans should be asked to press it on the Rhodesians now. The best argument is what Michael Palliser said, that it will certainly be worse without this. The considerations we had in September haven’t really changed.

Schaufele: When will you have your exact itinerary?

Richard: I’ll know when I get back to London next week.

Kissinger: We’ll have to charter a plane for Edmondson.

Schaufele: Not every place.

Kissinger: [to Richard:] We’ll make sure it’s a smaller plane than yours. [Laughter]

Squire: Suppose Ivor were to talk to the South African today on the basis of the talking points you’ve seen. When would you be prepared to follow up?

Kissinger: Friday.4 I’ll be out of town tomorrow. Then you can’t be accused of running off with consulting them.

I predict they’ll neither accept it nor reject it.

Richard: They’ll send it back to Vorster and think about it.

Kissinger: When did you think of getting to South Africa?

Richard: The 9th or 10th. Not with a paper, just ideas.

Reinhardt: At any time will you leave a paper?

Richard: The second time around.

Reinhardt: Will you see the nationalists?

Kissinger: Where will you find them?

Grennan: They have all indicated they want to see him.

Schaufele: I think it’s very important that you not get into the position where you’re talking about the least that the Africans will accept. You have to leave some maneuvering room.

Reinhardt: There is this four Presidents’ meeting next week.

Kissinger: Will you go there before?

Richard: They want me to.

Kissinger: Are you going to?

Richard: No. They’ll just knock it down. I was thinking of going there while the Presidents were meeting.

Kissinger: It’s risky. When is that meeting?

Grennan: Between Christmas and Ivor’s arrival.

[Page 693]

Richard: It would be quite monstrous if in the end the Patriotic Front came out in top when the Bishop has the votes. There is no question the Bishop has the votes.

Grennan: This is how Chona is talking. They’re wrong.

Kissinger: Kaunda wants Nkomo. Why does Nkomo deal with Mugabe then? One thing I’ve learned is they usually know how to take care of their own survival.

Grennan: He hasn’t got any guerrillas of his own. And it’s a misreading of the situation.

Richard: One result of the date row was that Mugabe’s position was weakened. He said he had to go back to Mozambique to get “new instructions.”

Kissinger: Isn’t Nkomo in Saudi Arabia?

Grennan: He’ll be back. We’ll have to go to Mozambique. They will never meet except together.

Kissinger: Kaunda could probably produce him in one of his back rooms.

The problem is how the black leaders will see this. Whether it looks like our final position, or whether it will be another Annex C.

Grennan: They never saw Annex C, did they?

Kissinger: But I thought that on every mission we talked the substance of Annex C.

Grennan: The substance. That’s right.

Richard: Smith told me several times he had never seen the text of Annex C until after he left Pretoria.

Kissinger: That’s technically correct.

We told him the five points were a summary of the paper, and it was a joint paper between you and us that we would stand behind. He went back to Salisbury and left his man there for a day to work on the economic paper. We gave it to him that evening. So Smith got it by Monday morning, before his caucus meeting. He never said “I’ve read Annex C and it’s unacceptable.”

He wanted those two Ministers and the white chairman. After talking to Nyerere, I figured Smith should put it in rather than surface it later when it would look like a secret deal. Nyerere looked at it and said, “It’s a miracle. You’ve done it. It’s over!” [Laughter]

So I cabled Smith that in my opinion he could put it in. I didn’t say we’d back it; I didn’t say Nyerere had accepted it. Kaunda was anguished and had some problems but on things like the ministers. Nothing major.

Richard: One other question that has cropped up. Smith tried to get you to say “responsible” majority rule. He said you agreed.

[Page 694]

Kissinger: That’s not correct. I don’t even think I said it to Smith.

Schaufele: I think you did.

Kissinger: I must have.

Richard: I asked Van der Byl: How many white voters are there? He said 90,000. I said “You can’t enfranchise 100,000 blacks and call it majority rule.” He said “what about 150,000?” This is how he’s thinking.

Kissinger: How many would Annex B enfranchise?5

Richard: Oh, three million.

Kissinger: I may have said it wouldn’t be more than Nkomo’s plan. But no further.

Are you going to Salisbury?

Richard: Yes, before Pretoria.

Kissinger: Before?

Grennan: We wanted the South Africans’ advice on this. At this moment they’ve suggested this. Because of the Christmas holidays.

Kissinger: But I think it’s a lot better to let the South Africans present it to Smith, or prepare Smith.

Richard: Some softening-up process would be good.

Squire: This is where we would want Pik Botha’s views.

Do I understand it: On the first round what you said to Smith was critical, after talking to the South Africans. On this round, should we put it to Smith?

Kissinger: No, we didn’t deal with Smith. I refused to talk to him until the South Africans had prepared him.

Richard: You’ll put this to the South Africans and urge them to support this?

Kissinger: Yes. But I wouldn’t talk to Smith first. Tactically I think you’re better off seeing the South Africans first.

Richard: I’d like to see Smith. I’d also like to see the Bishop in Salisbury.

Squire: [to Richard:] You’ll have a free day before Salisbury to allow a South African input.

Richard: Yes.

Kissinger: Are you going to Gabarone?

Grennan: Yes. Maybe Joshua will come there.

Kissinger: I think Kaunda, if you put it to him, will produce Nkomo.

[Page 695]

Grennan: Yes. But we don’t want early on to give the impression we’re trying to split him from Mugabe.

Richard: I saw Joshua alone, between us, about four times in Geneva. On the whole, you’re a lot better off seeing him alone; he’s reasonable.

Kissinger: The Africans have impressed me with their cold-blooded appreciation of power. I wouldn’t assume he’s made a mistake; I’d ask what it is that makes him think it’s in his interest.

Grennan: He assumes he can control Mugabe. That’s I think his mistake.

Kissinger: That I agree.

You will brief Edmondson?

Richard: Yes, every day. We’ll show him everything.

Kissinger: You’ll see Cy Vance?

Richard: Yes, tomorrow.

Kissinger: He may not want to take a position. We didn’t have these papers when he was in town.

Richard: But he can see them as far as we’re concerned.

I saw Andy Young.

Kissinger: How is he?

Richard: Fine, but he will have problems. As soon as he gets instructions to veto Chapter VII sanctions, as he sure as hell will, it will be a problem.

Kissinger: I wouldn’t say he “sure as hell will.”

Grennan: [laughs] From HMG’s point of view, he’d better.

Richard: I’ll tell him the new element is to inject a British presence.

Squire: Ivor, did you want to ask the Secretary about public guidance?

Richard: I think it should be much the same as you and Crosland said in London.

Kissinger: And you gave me your impressions on your trip.

Squire: And when he sees Cy Vance, would it help to talk about continuity of policy?

Kissinger: You’d have to ask him. I have no objection whatever.

Richard: It would be very helpful.

Squire: It would help allay some suspicions.

Kissinger: I have no problem with that.

[The luncheon broke up. At Amb. Richard’s request the Secretary autographed and inscribed a copy of World Restored.]

  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 luncheon meeting was held in the Monroe-Madison Room at the Department of State. Brackets are in the original.
  2. Not further identified.
  3. Not further identified.
  4. December 24.
  5. Annex B of the British paper given to Kissinger in September concerned proposals for the composition of Parliament and voting qualifications. See Document 202.