74. Telegram From the Embassy in South Africa to the Department of State1

345. Subj: Namibia in SC: SAG Position. Ref: USUN 1669.2

After studying SAG response to SYG last week,3 it became clear to me that what faces USG now is decision whether we should stay entirely on sidelines, adopting neutral posture, or play more active role. Our in-house analysis led me to conclusion that however attractive hands-off policy might appear to be, our own interests would be better served by some degree of activism. Prior to receipt of reftel, I had therefore instructed my staff to draft telegram which was to have recommended similar course of action as that set forth by USUN. This exercise no longer necessary, for I concur fully in both analysis and recommended courses of action proposed in excellent reftel.
I would like reiterate, however, certain points made by USUN which are particularly pertinent from this vantage point.
First is my conviction that despite ambiguities and possible loopholes, SAG statements are indeed most positive and forthcoming ever made on this subject and that they represent significant concession on its part.
I regard SAG statements as genuine attempt to continue dialogue on Namibia, and at some considerable domestic risk from its right-wingers in Cabinet as well as from much of white public in both South Africa and Namibia. In this connection, SYG quite correct in his statement that FonMin Muller was in a difficult position with SAG Cabinet (USUN 1667).4 If present SAG efforts are summarily rejected, I predict almost immediate SAG return to previous hard line on SWA. One outcome of this could well be sharp upturn in repression of black political leaders in Namibia—men like Chief Kapuud could be silenced.
SAG’s reversion to hard line on SWA in turn would almost certainly lead to spate of boycott and sanctions proposals, more inflamed rhetoric, and very painful decisions for us to make re how to vote on what will almost certainly be unrealistic, ineffective or simply unacceptable resolutions.
I strongly agree that some acknowledgement by USG of SAG movement on this question is called for. Similarly, importance we rightly attach to keeping dialogue alive and fact SAG has not been forthcoming lends great weight, in our judgment, to USUN’s recommendation that we join in urgent and concerted effort to keep it alive.
To be sure, undertaking an effort to prolong SYG’s mandate poses certain risks. We cannot be certain SAG will act in good faith in conformance with language of its own proposals or will instead exploit its ambiguities. And even if intentions are good now, there no rpt no assurance that domestic pressures will not induce the pragmatic Mr. Vorster to change once again his stance on SWA. Nevertheless, I feel that these risks are worth running. Without underestimating either the dangers of US “activism” on this question or the difficulties of US démarches in certain AF capitals. I therefore strongly recommend approval of steps suggested in para 5 reftel.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 19 SW AFR/UN. Confidential; Immediate; Limdis. Repeated Immediate to USUN and also repeated to Pretoria.
  2. In telegram 1669 from USUN, May 4, the Mission recommended several steps to promote continuing dialogue between the U.N. and South Africa. In addition to praising the efforts made by both parties thus far, the United States would encourage the United Kingdom, France, the OAU, and other states to support continuation of the mandate. (Ibid.)
  3. Foreign Minister Muller submitted a statement to Secretary General Waldheim on April 30 clarifying his government’s position on the future of Namibia. See Yearbook of the United Nations, 1973, p. 722.
  4. Dated May 4. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 19 SW AFR/UN)