172. Telegram From the Embassy in Botswana to the Department of State1

2752. From Low. Subj: Rhodesia Talks: Summary Carver-Chand of Salisbury Visit.

1. Summary: We found substantial acceptance of the principles of the Anglo-American proposal among both Nationalists and regime officials but firm opposition from Smith and his Ministers. They did not reject the idea of meeting with the Patriotic Front in Malta but would not send military officials and contend that there should be a political-level meeting with Nationalists and the regime in Salisbury first. Government and security officials listened carefully to Lord Carver’s proposals on law and order during the transition period and the creation of a new army. They raised a number of problems but refused to give any reactions to it. All accepted further talks but nothing specific was agreed upon. Smith seems prepared to drag things out quite a bit further. End summary

2. During the four days in Salisbury, Carver, Chand, Weir and Low with various other members of the parties met first with Rhodesian security chiefs on Wednesday afternoon Nov 2,2 government officials [Page 504] Thursday morning,3 Muzorewa and Sithole Friday4 Chinamano on Saturday,5 and Smith and three Ministers on Sunday.6 I had a private meeting with Gaylard, and Weir and I met with the South African representative. We also had a number of social contacts with private and regime officials.

3. No meeting had been arranged with Smith. When we raised this point on Thursday, it became clear that the regime first wanted to satisfy itself that we were meeting with Muzorewa, Sithole and Chirau (ZUPO). Since Graham was already scheduled to meet Chirau and we did not want to load the circuit any heavier in terms of our relations with the Patriotic Front, we decided against a meeting with him. This apparently irritated the Rhodesians who kept asking whether the meeting had been arranged while we finalized a place and time for the Smith encounter. At that occasion, Smith’s first comment was to express his dissatisfaction with our failure to see Chirau.

4. In virtually all the meetings, Lord Carver explained at some length and detail his proposals for maintenance of law and order during the transition period and the creation of an army for an independent Zimbabwe (ZNA). He stated that he was basing primary responsibility for law and order on the police force. His objective he said was to reduce the number of armed men at the time the transition period began to a considerably smaller size on independence day. In the process, he sought to build a force which owed allegiance to no political figure. He would start off by eliminating a number of elements of the present Rhodesian forces including all purely white units or subunits. The force to be created would consist of six to eight battalions, three of the presently existing Rhodesian African rifles, and three to five which were either from liberation forces or the citizenry at large (as the statement on law and order put it: “open to all citizens”. There would as well be a reserve force (or National Guard) of perhaps twelve battalions made up of men from liberation forces. The arms for these [Page 505] forces would be held by the regular army. Carver described his plan to have forward control points to process liberation forces back into civilian life, reserve or active service. He described the need gradually to integrate the command structure of the liberation forces into the army.

5. Prem Chand contributed relatively little to the formal conversations. He outlined his ideas about the achievement of a cease-fire explaining that at least one month was needed from the time agreement was reached until the cease-fire could come into effect. During this period, he would want to assign liaison and observer groups to various units both inside Rhodesia and, he insisted, in Frontline countries, too. Regarding the maintenance of law and order during the transition period, he acknowledged that UN forces would find any resort to force difficult and at one point told government officials that there would need to be access by the police to help from constituted forces other than the UN.

6. The meetings with Nationalist leaders showed a substantial common ground on the principles of the Anglo-American proposal. Sithole listed all those with which he agreed and Muzorewa indicated that he supported the British role in the transition period. Meetings with regime officials also indcated that the discussion had now proceeded beyond the principles of the proposal although there was lengthy discussion of law and order in the transition period and the independence army. It was clear, however, that the same tacit acceptance of the principles of the proposals did not extend to Smith and the political level above the security chiefs and government officials. It was widely said that Foreign Secretary P.K. van der Byl was the leader of those opposed to the proposal. His public statements during our visit attacking Carver, associating the Zambian attack on a Victoria Falls hotel with his visit and other comments, certainly bore this out. Smith, too, made public statements indicating the proposal had been widely rejected and possessed major flaws.

7. We had some difficulty keeping the political and military areas separate. The Nationalists all claimed to control substantial proportions of the liberation forces. Muzorewa said he controlled most of those within Rhodesia and claimed that even if we successfully negotiated a cease-fire agreement with Patriotic Front his forces would not necessarily accept it. He insisted on being consulted at all stages of cease-fire discussions and threatened to reserve support of the proposal in the event he was not. He did concede that most of the forces outside the country were controlled by the Patriotic Front and accepted that a cease-fire with those forces could be separately negotiated on condition however that the cease-fire with forces inside the country be negotiated with him. Sithole claimed that we were refusing to visit operational areas where he could show us his military support. He brought two [Page 506] military officers with him who had a brief private discussion with colonels Reilly and Rous. Lord Carver however instructed his military officials to have no further contact with Sithole’s group. Colonel Reilly remained in Salisbury for further discussions with Rhodesian regime security chiefs under Johanny Graham’s supervision. He will leave with Graham on Wednesday.

8. All of the Nationalists brought up in one form or another the need for some way to participate in running the country during the transition period. Lord Carver suggested to each of them that a list be drawn up of those who would have direct access on request to him. He also called attention to the provision in the proposal allowing for the possibility of an advisory council. He said he would give the matter further consideration.

9. At all three formal meetings with the regime as well as during private contacts we pressed the need to continue discussions on the transition period with the Patriotic Front at Malta. The initial reaction was entirely negative. Gaylard found all kinds of reasons why Smith would turn it down. By Saturday evening, however, he had agreed that it made sense and agreed to support the idea with Smith, providing we accepted that similar meetings would be held in Salisbury with Nationalists there. Smith himself started out extremely negative towards the idea contending that we were putting the cart before the horse and what was needed now was not cease-fire conversations but political conversations between political figures on the constitution and transition period. He said he could certainly not send security people to such a meeting and ended up by saying he thought that political meetings should be held first in Salisbury.

10. Comment: On this, my fourth visit to Salisbury, I was more impressed than before with the normality of life in the city and the obliviousness of many people to the war going on. True, the paper was dominated by our talks and the war. TV news contained incidents largely devoted to killing of “terrorists” and, by them, of black Rhodesians. For one reason or another, I received a general impression that while the Rhodesians did not want to close off the discussions and there had been considerable acceptance of the provisions of the proposal, nevertheless there was no likelihood of its early acceptance. On the contrary, they might be prepared to drag it out for some time.

11. It is probably early to say where we now are in the process. We will want to have the results of Johnny Graham’s constitutional discussions before that can be fully assessed. The Rhodesians and probably the Nationalists inside the country expect that we will have another meeting with the Patriotic Front. The DAR meeting was widely advertised as a flop but even among those who accept its positive feature in the willingness to continue talks there is criticism of the fact [Page 507] that we have not yet entered into detailed discussions on the transition period, maintenance of law and order and creation of a ZNA. The PF says it won’t talk further with us without the Rhodesians but I wonder whether they can really maintain this position in view of the fact that (1) they claim the UK represents the Rhodesians, and (2) they were eager after Ivor Richards talks to negotiate a settlement with the British alone.

12. We are certainly not stymied. The South African representative in Salisbury agreed to urge the regime to attend the Malta talks7 but it seems to me unlikely that much pressure can be brought from South Africa until after the election at the end of this month. The Rhodesians seem to understand this. Their unwillingness to move ahead may be based on this and their judgment that the recent UN resolution will provide them with a respite from pressure from South Africa as well as perhaps their desire to see whether anything will come of the talks with Kaunda.8

13. In spite of the progress made in acceptance of the principles of the proposal, we seem to be a long way from agreement on the transition period particularly if we have to start off at Malta considering the PF’s plan.

14. There will certainly be further thoughts to be forwarded in the next few days.

15. Department please pass Lusaka and other posts as desired.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840077–2275. Secret; Cherokee; Niact Immediate; Nodis.
  2. Telegram 265910 to the White House, November 7, repeated telegram 985 from Gaborone, November 7, in which the Embassy reported on the conversation with Rhodesian security forces. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Cables File, Africa, Box 18, 11/77)
  3. In telegram 2762 from Gaborone, November 7, the Embassy reported on the meeting with Rhodesian Government officials. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840077–2265)
  4. Telegram 265925 to the White House, November 7, repeated telegram 2760 from Gaborone, November 7, in which the Embassy reported on the meeting with Muzorewa. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Cables File, Africa, Box 18, 11/77) Telegram 266078 to the White House, November 7, repeated telegram 2761 from Gaborone, November 7, in which the Embassy reported on the meeting with Sithole and six of his supporters. (Ibid.)
  5. In telegram 18518 from London, November 10, the Embassy summarized the meeting with Chinamano. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770415–1195)
  6. In telegram 3353 from Lusaka, November 7, the Embassy reported on the meeting with Smith. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840076–0976)
  7. In telegram 3357 from Lusaka, November 8, the Embassy reported on the meeting with Olivier. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840076–0971)
  8. In telegram 3361 from Lusaka, November 8, the Embassy reported on the meeting with Kaunda. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840076–0968)