236. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Ambassador R.F. Botha, South African Permanent Representative to the United Nations and Ambassador to the United States
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State
  • Amb. William E. Schaufele, Jr., Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs
  • Peter W. Rodman, National Security Council Staff

Kissinger: Where are you going to spend Christmas? Here in town?

Botha: Yes. My mother is here in town.

Kissinger: Really? What does she think of this heathen country?

Botha: She thinks it’s big.

Kissinger: So is South Africa.

Botha: But the dimensions seem greater.

Botha: I spoke to my Prime Minister the day before yesterday. He sends his regards.

Kissinger: Yes.

Botha: And Brand Fourie also.

Kissinger: When you speak to both of them, give them my best wishes for the New Year.

Botha: Thank you.

Kissinger: Did Richard present his ideas?

Botha: Yes. He wants to see my Prime Minister. My Prime Minister will see him on January 3. But he’ll have to go down there.

Kissinger: To the Transkei. [Laughter]

Botha: The way he put it to me, I must say, wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

Kissinger: Let me tell you the history of it. They had something which was as bad as it could be. Then we sent Reinhardt, Wisner and Edmondson there to work on it.

It’s now as far as I think we can push them.

A lot depends on what the British Resident Commissioner will in fact do. Whatever they call it.

[Page 697]

Rodman: Interim Commissioner.

Kissinger: Is that what you understood? If the Resident Commissioner votes with the whites, there is a blocking vote.

Botha: I asked him where the power would be. He said: Although we can’t say it publicly, it’s this guy.

Kissinger: It’s more or less true. First, these Ministers will be a mess. Each delegation picks four. In the plan they gave us, the judiciary and civil service stay in place, and the military, except for some senior officers. It votes by majority, except when someone asks for a special vote. Any of the communities, or the Resident Commissioner, can ask for one.

Botha: Who can call for it?

Kissinger: Any of the communities. When there is a special vote, the council becomes 31. So the Resident Commissioner, by abstaining or voting with the whites, can block it.

Botha: This is far worse.

Kissinger: Than the Council of State, which no longer exists.

Botha: But the Council of Ministers.

Kissinger: That required a two-thirds vote. Theoretically, the whites could block it.

Botha: He didn’t give me these details. [Laughter]

Kissinger: What did he give you? I don’t believe in playing around.

Botha: He said there was a blocking third. He didn’t tell me they have it only when the Commissioner votes with you.

Kissinger: He said theirs could be five members of the Rhodesian Front. Then the Resident Commissioner appoints five more whites. First it was required that they be non-Rhodesian Front. We protested this, and now it’s three Rhodesian Front. So it depends on whether the whites stick together.

Botha: They won’t. If they pick people like Todd, they’ll vote with the blacks, with the powers that will be.

Kissinger: This is how they presented it. On the basis that the non-Rhodesian Front got 20 percent of the vote.

Don’t go back to Richard with these.

Botha: I won’t be seeing him.

Kissinger: Then there is the National Security Council, composed of five ministers who represent the five delegations in Geneva, plus the Resident Commissioner, plus the three Chiefs of Staff. They’ll be British. They would proceed by majority. Here the whites have a blocking majority.

Botha: How?

[Page 698]

Kissinger: There are three Britishers—the Chiefs of Staff—plus the Resident Commissioner, plus the Rhodesian Front man. Five to four.

Botha: Do you count him? Just because his skin is white?

Kissinger: That’s how they present it.

Botha: These Chiefs of Staff . . .

Kissinger: . . . will vote with the Resident Commissioner.

Botha: Sure. Did we define who these chiefs of law and order will be [in the Five Points]?

Kissinger: No, we never did. We just said they had to be European.

This is 300 percent better than what they presented. They wanted the Chiefs of Staff to be from the Commonwealth, with one Indian, one Nigerian, and one Canadian.

Botha: It would have been useless.

Kissinger: Now they can be British.

Botha: This would be the body with the power.

Kissinger: Defense and law and order.

Botha: That’s all?

Kissinger: Yes.

Sanctions would be lifted and the guerrilla war would end. That’s still in the plan. And the Army wouldn’t return to Rhodesia in the interim period.

Schaufele: They would be demobilized and go back to school.

Botha: They can’t return to Rhodesia.

Kissinger: No, not in the interim period. That’s the whole point of the scheme.

Botha: Formerly, the Council of State had the power.

Kissinger: Now it’s the Council of Ministers. There are reserved powers—law and order, defense and foreign affairs, and the constitution.

Botha: How is the constitution drafted?

Schaufele: A Constitutional Committee will be named by the Resident Commissioner after consultation with the parties.

Botha: And a referendum.

Kissinger: The British insist on this. Given the African propensity for free elections . . . [Laughter]

Botha: The smaller factions know they can’t win. They’ll fight any concept based on one man one vote.

Kissinger: The Rhodesians too.

Botha: Not if they’re sincere in accepting majority rule, if they know the man they want, Muzorewa, will win. They’ll side with Muzorewa.

[Page 699]

Kissinger: We won’t quarrel with that.

Botha: The question is if it busts half way.

Kissinger: That’s right. I told Richard—contrary to the public mythology, I believe in telling everyone the same thing—that I was concerned about two things. One, we had given our word on Annex C, and in eight years in public office I’d never broken my word. Second, we were afraid if it broke down, it would be an Angola-type situation.

He said he had tried Annex C in bilateral talks and failed. And he’s of the view it couldn’t be resurrected. This is the view of Frank Wisner also. Wisner believes if the British had gone immediately to the heart of the problem and avoided the date issue, Annex C could have been accepted. But he believes that it now can’t be accepted.

As for an Angola situation, Richard believes it could break down. He says, with respect to the former, he’s done all he can. With respect to the latter, he says he’ll get ironclad assurance from the Presidents that there will be no factional strife.2

Schaufele: And that is pretty deeply imbedded in the British attitude.

Botha: Mr. Secretary, we have one major problem as I see it. I have not given this to my Prime Minister. I was afraid he would refuse to see him. I couldn’t tell him telephonically. I told him “just listen to it.”

Kissinger: That’s the best thing.

Botha: The problem is: Smith was on the point of accepting Annex C at Geneva.

Kissinger: Look, Geneva was massively mismanaged. I don’t know why they picked the one issue that was never ambiguous and never challenged.

Botha: He said to me—Richard—the blacks are suspicious of Smith, because he always says things that alarm them.

Kissinger: It’s probably true.

Botha: And that he doesn’t really intend to do it.

Kissinger: They got hold of a document that has him saying to his caucus: Just go through this for two years, then we’ll have a new UDI. If he said that, he’s a fool.

Botha: We were prepared to act not as witness but as . . .

Kissinger: . . . guarantor. I don’t believe Vorster would go as far as he did and not hold him to it.

Botha: We would have made him go through with it.

[Page 700]

But we’ve now been robbed; he can now tell us this was the agreement.

Kissinger: You have to make your decision on the basis that this is the best that can be achieved. And that is the basis of what Smith should decide. This isn’t a debating course in high school.

Botha: What do you see as the basis?

Kissinger: I told Richard we would give support, but no pressure, for this plan.

The basis is: The whites plus the Resident Commissioner have a blocking vote. And a majority on the National Security Council. Law and order can also be taken care of by splitting the ministries between them.

As late as early November, the blacks in my view would have settled for a British chairman of the Council of State and splitting the ministries. With some consultative mechanism.

Schaufele: Yes.

Kissinger: But then the British weren’t ready for a role, and they raised the issue of the date.

Botha: So the basis is there is no better alternative.

Kissinger: Right.

Botha: But he can say this isn’t what was agreed.

Kissinger: But what are Smith’s alternatives?

Botha: Mr. Secretary, they don’t believe us.

Kissinger: They believe they can win.

Botha: They believe they can withstand any black onslaught. They have 20,000 men in reserve, which they haven’t touched yet. They think they can do it unless there is massive Soviet-Cuban intervention. Which they think is unlikely, or that you would intervene.

Kissinger: If I were here, yes, but I wouldn’t count on it with my successors.

I sent scorching letters to Kaunda and Nyerere.3 Which probably I shouldn’t have—because it made me the villain.

They now don’t want to convene while I am in office.

But it had some good. Kaunda sent Chona to me, with some weepy ideas.4

Botha: Like what?

Kissinger: That’s when they came up with this idea of keeping the judiciary and civil service in place, and keeping the guerrillas out.

[Page 701]

Botha: They gave you this in writing?

Kissinger: No, orally.

Botha: He came to Washington?

Kissinger: No, London.

Botha: I’ll be going back to South Africa next week. I’ll be seeing Mr. Vance on Thursday. I had a lot of trouble getting to him. I told him you had said no objection, and I’d be going back to South Africa and my Prime Minister would be asking me if I’d seen him. So he said all right.

So, as far as you know, it’s part of the plan to retain the civil service and the judiciary unaltered.

Kissinger: Yes.

Schaufele: And the economic system.

Kissinger: Those are additions we managed to get into the plan.

Botha: May I ask: Can’t we call this National Security Council by another name, or give it additional powers?

Kissinger: You can have ideas of your own.

Botha: Because I’d like to get it back as far as possible to Annex C.

Kissinger: That’s been my intention.

Botha: Because he’ll tell us he was willing to cooperate on the basis of Annex C. If we can now tell him: the Council of Ministers is the same; the judiciary and civil service are in place. So we’re as well off, or better.

I think Ivor or the man with him . . .

Schaufele: Dennis Grennan.

Botha: . . . said the Chiefs of Staff could also be Rhodesian.

Kissinger: I don’t know.

Botha: Or they could be seconded.

Kissinger: Yes.

Botha: So the Rhodesians would pay them.

Kissinger: That I don’t know.

Botha: I told Ivor we had to make it look like Annex C, not like a new plan.

Schaufele: I heard on the radio that Smith has already rejected the “four alternatives” he [Richard]announced in his press conference.5

Kissinger: He spoke too damn much.

[Page 702]

Schaufele: I have to say, Pik, about this National Security Council, given the British unwillingness to have the troops there, and their love of law and order, they’ll be more objective on the National Security Council than elsewhere.

Kissinger: I agree with Bill on that. They’ll play around perhaps on political issues.

Botha: He said there would be assurances against factional strife?

Kissinger: Yes.

Botha: They don’t have the power.

Kissinger: Don’t you think Nkomo, Sithole, Muzorewa and Mugabe will sit down together? [Laughter]

Botha: They’ll be after each other, bribing and fighting.

Kissinger: Really? [Laughter]Don’t they just want what is the best for their people?

Botha: My Prime Minister will say it’s a new Angola situation.

Kissinger: I’ve come reluctantly to the conclusion this is the best that can be gotten. Any more will make us the fall guy and not change the plan.

Botha: He’ll say to my Prime Minister: You told me you wouldn’t push us beyond Annex C. We’ve kept saying it.

Kissinger: Then he’ll have to fight. And against us too.

He’s obviously briefed Clark and Diggs.

Botha: Can I tell my Prime Minister you would have stuck to Annex C?

Kissinger: Yes. But that’s not the issue. If I were still in office, I would have taken over the negotiation.

Botha: If Mr. Ford had won, you’d have pushed Annex C.

Kissinger: We did anyway. I’ll show you the letter I wrote to Kaunda.

Botha: What do they say when you say this was the basis?

Kissinger: They evade it. They say it was all on the assumption that Smith would be overthrown. Which I never told them.

Schaufele: Richard says there is no assurance of irreversibility with Smith there.

Kissinger: Let’s go down to my office and I’ll show you my letters to Kaunda.

Botha: May I ask you, Mr. Secretary? Ivor told me they never were committed to it.

Kissinger: Bullshit. Excuse me.

Botha: I said really? Ivor said: You’re putting me in a difficult position. His man, Squire then answered. He said they weren’t carrying the [Page 703] ball then. I said: You mean you never consulted with the Americans? Ivor said yes, we and the Americans developed it, but it always had on top of it: “Paper for discussion.”

Schaufele: They’re still saying it.

Kissinger: When I went to Zurich, I stopped in London and they gave us this paper. I gave it verbatim to your Prime Minister. Even the spelling was British.

Botha: That’s right.

Kissinger: Your Prime Minister had some comments on it and I went back to London. I met in the Cabinet Room with Callaghan and Crosland. They had problems which I immediately transferred to you. They wanted equality on the Council of State. We ended up with that and with a black majority on the Council of Ministers.

It’s a totally dishonorable procedure. I am willing to go along with the idea that, however we got here, it’s no longer possible to negotiate Annex C.

Botha: That’s another question.

Kissinger: That’s right. But they can’t now claim they had nothing to do with it.

I am not amused by what the British are saying.

I want to show you my letters. So you know we made a massive effort.

[The Secretary took Ambassador Botha to his office where they conferred alone from 9:42 to 10:20 a.m. The Secretary showed Botha his letters of December 6 to Nyerere and Kaunda and their replies. The meeting then ended.]

  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 breakfast meeting was held in the Monroe-Madison Room at the Department of State. Brackets are in the original.
  2. See Document 235.
  3. See Document 228.
  4. See footnote 4, Document 232.
  5. Richard held a press conference in Washington on December 22 during which he outlined alternatives for administering the defense and justice ministries in the interim government. (“Briton Lists Rhodesia Alternatives,” The New York Times, December 23, 1976, p. 3)