47. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (Newsom) to Secretary of State Rogers 1


  • Relations with South Africa—Action Memorandum


The attached proposed instruction2 to Ambassador Hurd in South Africa is being brought to your attention because it involves a fundamental issue relating to our approach to that country.

We have made it clear by our declarations and our actions that we desire a policy of communication with South Africa. At almost the same time that we have been stressing this theme, the South Africans have expelled a number of American citizens engaged in religious and humanitarian work in that country. These have brought Congressional inquiries and letters from significant church groups in the United States.

Prior to his departure from South Africa, Ambassador Hurd lodged an official protest over the manner of the expulsions. The South African Foreign Minister’s response reflected some embarrassment and suggested that the action may have been taken by Interior and Police without wider consultations.

We are proposing that, upon his return from consultation, Ambassador Hurd raise the matter again, emphasizing the problems such actions create in our relations with South Africa. We feel that:

his failure to raise the issue after his return from Washington and after indicating to them, as he did, that he would discuss the matter here might suggest to the South Africans that we consider it, after all, of little importance;
a response to their obvious desire for better relations requires occasional frank discussion of some of the problems we face; and
such an approach might well strengthen the hands of the Foreign Ministry in dealing with other government agencies in future actions affecting us.

Ambassador Hurd has agreed to the instructions as attached. However, after our first discussion with him, during his routine call on [Page 130] Marshall Wright of the NSC staff, he mentioned our intention to raise the issue. Marshall Wright has since called me to ask about this matter and I have explained our rationale as above, making it clear, however, that this was solely at that time the view of AF, SCA, and L. He has suggested to me that such an approach, in his opinion, is not compatible with what he understands to be the President’s view on our relations with South Africa. He describes this as one which maintains our official posture of abhorrence for the system but avoids having the United States Government involved in direct pressure against the system, leaving this to private groups involved (as in the Polaroid case.)

In our view our official pronouncements on South Africa will not have credibility with that government if we do not raise with them in frank terms matters bearing on the total relationship of our two countries.

I believe, therefore, that the approach we have suggested is not only appropriate but necessary for the kind of relationship we seek.

In view of Marshall Wright’s intervention, perhaps you may feel that the matter should be formally submitted to the White House. It is my belief, however, that this is a matter which could normally be decided here without White House clearance.


That you approve the attached telegram to Pretoria.3

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL S AFR–US. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Newsom on March 27 and cleared in L.
  2. Attached but not printed.
  3. A handwritten notation on the last page of the memorandum reads: “Tel sent 4/1/71 3:30 pm.” It was sent as telegram 54780 to Cape Town. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL S AFR–US)