49. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in South Africa1

75658. Cape Town for Ambassador. Addis for Newsom.

Subject: Attendance at Opera House Opening. Ref: Tananarive 673.2

Appreciate rundown reftel on background Opera House controversy, its role in tenth anniversary celebrations, and considerations relating to US attendance at inaugural performance.
Believe that neither you nor any other US official should attend inauguration Opera House. In view attention and controversy now focussed on Opera House and the backward step it represents in race relations, attendance would be counter our stand on SA racial system and our efforts keep US association with anniversary celebrations to minimum and in low key.
Recognize your absence will be conspicuous, may interject irritant in your relations with SAG, and risk impression it is reaction to Congressman Diggs’ rather intemperate telegram.3 Believe that best course is your absence from Cape Town at time of Opera House inauguration as suggested in second alternative outlined reftel and we plan inform Diggs of your absence accordingly. As noted reftel, this avoids necessity of making substantive issue of matter.
Regarding Diggs demand for policy against attendance at any events in segregated facilities, we would note that such policy generally not feasible as long as we maintain diplomatic relations with South Africa; in South Africa and elsewhere we have made amply clear in many other ways—and will continue to do so—that we are absolutely opposed to racial segregation and discrimination.


  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, SOC 14 S AFR. Confidential; Priority. Drafted by Pletcher, cleared in AF, and approved by Johnson. Repeated to Addis Ababa, Pretoria, Tananarive, Durban, and Johannesburg.
  2. In telegram 673 from Tananarive, April 30, the Embassy provided background on the opening of the Malan Opera House in Cape Town, where only whites were allowed to attend, and the pros and cons of U.S. attendance. Marshall proposed two possible courses of action: attendance with an explanation to the South African Government of the difficulties created by the situation; alternatively, the Ambassador and Consul General could be out of town and unable to attend. (Ibid.)
  3. In telegram 72440 to Cape Town, April 28, the Department included the text of a telegram sent by Diggs to the Department in which he questioned the Department’s commitment to opposing apartheid: “Demand Dept show cause as to why US Ambassador should not reject invitation with appropriate public statement. Further demand Dept establish policy against attendance by our diplomatic representative of any event in any facility that is racial, exclusive or segregated. Otherwise such insensitivity blatantly hypocritical in view of our expressed opposition to apartheid.” (Ibid.)