67. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassies in the United Kingdom and Togo and the Mission to the United Nations 1

215061. Lome for Newsom. Subj: Rhodesia: Godber Visit.

Summary. UK Minister Godber saw Acting Secretary Irwin November 26 to explain terms and next steps Rhodesian settlement, urge desirability withholding judgment until acceptability or non-acceptability to black Rhodesians known, and express hope that when UNSC considers anticipated condemnatory resolutions, there will be enough abstentions to preclude need for UK veto, which would however be used if needed. Godber expressed measured optimism that majority Rhodesians would find settlement acceptable and that whole business could be concluded first half 1972. End Summary.

UK Minister of State Godber saw Acting Secretary Irwin November 26 to discuss Rhodesian settlement. Turned over copies of settlement document itself, Declaration of Rights, text of letter from Heath to President,2 and text Sir Alec Douglas-Home’s report to Parliament. Godber explained future electoral provisions in particular detail, and said agreement reached is fully compatible with first four principles under which settlement sought. Compatibility with fifth principle, acceptability to majority Rhodesians, of course remains to be tested. [Page 164] Godber said all HMG asks is that judgment be withheld until commission to be set up to look into this has investigated and made its report.
In addition to chairman Lord Pearce, commission will include Lord Harlech and Sir Maurice Dorman plus other members. It will be empowered go anywhere and see anyone in Rhodesia, Godber said, although he said later in response to question it probably would not be given access to persons convicted of criminal as compared political offenses. Once commission is set up, Godber thought it could conclude work in couple of months.
If committee reports majority acquiescence, Rhodesian Government is to carry out all steps it has undertaken, and HMG will then do likewise, with process culminating in Rhodesian independence. Godber thought this might all be carried out within first half 1972 (by Easter, he personally hoped). If committee reports majority is opposed to settlement, HMG will bow out of whole thing.
Immediate HMG concern is weathering expected storm in Security Council.3 Godber said there will undoubtedly be resolutions put forward which HMG cannot accept. Will veto if necessary but would prefer see sufficient abstentions to prevent passage, which would mean seven, and hoped US would abstain. Acting Secretary made no commitment on this point.
In sum, Godber said this was best possible settlement under circumstances, it should be acceptable to Rhodesian blacks, and he hoped they would be let alone think matter out and express views freely.
In response various questions, Godber said (a) HMG absolutely opposed to active UN participatory role in commission, although he could perceive some utility in having UN observers, if of impartial nature—a possibility on which he personally had grave doubts; (b) Rhodesian Government will not retain overriding powers which would permit future independent government renege on agreement. Will revert in some respects to 1961 constitution which contains only standard emergency powers section; (c) HMG would have no truck with any kind of UN action purporting to set up governing body for Rhodesia; (d) if commission reports majority sentiment favorable to settlement, and follow-up actions then taken by both governments, HMG will not request SC to revoke sanctions, but simply inform SC that grounds for sanctions no longer exist; (e) HMG sees little likelihood successful Rhodesian right-wing opposition to settlement; (f) It is difficult predict how long it might take for black Rhodesians to attain voting majority but important thing is that there will be unimpeded progress toward that end, and end is inevitable at some future time.
In concluding remarks, Irwin said credibility of commission’s report will depend very much on way it operates. Godber agreed, said this is one argument for having UN observers, although HMG has not yet thrashed this question out. Irwin returned to question whether future Rhodesian Governments could be depended on carry out agreement in good faith. Godber said future constitutional changes would require separate majority of both white and black Rhodesians, which should help ensure against reneging by future Rhodesian Governments. If one is thinking of external guarantees of some sort, this means bayonets, which Godber said is out of question.


  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 16 RHOD. Confidential; Priority. Drafted by George on November 26; cleared in IO and AF; and approved by Irwin.
  2. Document 66.
  3. For a discussion of the Pearce Commission and Southern Rhodesia at the United Nations, see Yearbook of the United Nations, 1972, pp. 75–77, 118–121.