73. Telegram From the Department of State to the Mission to the United Nations1

214498. Subject Escher Report on Namibia.2 Ref: USUN 4982, 4985.3

Dept concurs that we should do what we can to continue SYG mandate on Namibia. Problem is how to do so in face of widespread disapproval of Escher report and of need to avoid US or Western imprint on any future efforts.4 We wish to avoid being closely identified with any particular course of action at initial Council meeting but believe we (or French if they are willing to continue leading role) can make certain observations along following lines to guide discussion in a useful direction. Purpose of early discussion should be to draw out Africans on whether and how they think mandate should be extended and what they realistically think can be achieved.
Discussion should take note of what two missions to Namibia/South Africa have already accomplished. Most important development is that a UN presence has been established and UN now has access to peoples of the territory. The Escher report has confirmed certain UN tenets on Namibia: the overwhelming majority of black Namibians are [Page 180] against continued South African presence in the territory and do not want separate development. Exercise has clearly heightened awareness among Namibians of alternative to continued South African rule. South Africans are now less likely to rush into repressive policies in Namibia than in the past.
Security Council should not become deeply involved in discussion of merits of Escher report. Escher’s efforts should be viewed as a stage in continuing process and not as a definitive indication of where UN and SAG stand on Namibia. While Council free to reject Escher’s efforts, we believe it would be short-sighted to do so in view of some positive aspects of discussions with Vorster, i.e. Vorster’s implicit willingness to treat Namibia as a whole by appointment of advisory council directly under him, his readiness to examine removal of restrictions on movement and to permit legitimate political activity. Council could deal with problem of Escher/Vorster statement in eventual resolution by taking note of Escher report. FYI. We do not believe we should make any effort to retain Escher as SYG’s representative. It would be better to treat his mission as if it all along had been intended as a one-shot affair. End FYI.
Although SYG’s mandate should continue it obvious that he cannot personally undertake travel and consultations necessary. A Secretariat official (FYI, perhaps Guyer or Chacko End FYI) would probably be a better choice than again going through tedious process that resulted in appointment of Escher. Council should try to avoid putting future representatives under same pressure that Escher faced to bring home the bacon in a very short period of time. Deadlines lead to one-shot operations instead of a continued UN presence. There should be periodic review to keep pressure on SAG but timing should be at about six-month intervals to allow room for maneuver and more opportunity for SYG to be involved.
We believe that three-member advisory committee should maintain its present role. More direct participation such as accompanying SYG’s representative on his rounds would probably be rejected by South Africa. Council could ensure that SYG’s mandate does not allow for any commitments without Council approval and in this way there would be no need for advisory group to play a greater role as watchdog.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 19 SW AFR. Confidential. Drafted by Halsted (IO/UNP); cleared in AF/S, IO/UNP, AF, L/AF, and AF/RA; and approved by Herz. Repeated to London, Pretoria, and Paris.
  2. In an effort to continue contacts between the U.N. Secretary General and South Africa concerning self-determination and independence for Namibia, the Security Council appointed a representative, Alfred Martin Escher. Escher visited Namibia and South Africa in October and November 1972. His report is summarized in Yearbook of the United Nations, 1972, pp. 607–610.
  3. In telegram 4982 from USUN, November 25, the Mission reported on the negative response to the Escher report in the Security Council, and possible suspension of the Escher mission. In telegram 4985 from USUN, November 25, the Mission reported on a meeting between Waldheim and a group of African representatives opposed to continuing the Escher mission, believing he went beyond his mandate in negotiations with South Africa. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 19 SW AFR/UN)
  4. See footnote 2, Document 74.