284. Paper Prepared in the Department of State1

[Omitted here is the table of contents.]

Southern Africa—Policy Review


Since January of this year, the new Administration has moved vigorously to establish an effective approach to the deteriorating situation in southern Africa. After a series of policy reviews, including Presidential Review Memorandum No. 4,2 the President determined that: (a) henceforth the US Government would pursue active efforts to bring about political change in South Africa, as well as Rhodesia and Namibia; (b) we should play a more direct role in supporting efforts by the United Kingdom to reopen negotiations leading to majority rule in Rhodesia; and (c) the US Government also should participate directly in initiatives being organized under the auspices of the United Nations to bring Namibia to independence within the framework of Security Council Resolution 385.

Pursuant to Presidential directives we have taken a series of major initiatives, including the following:

—We have advised the Government of South Africa of our views on the need for progressive transformation of South African society.3

—We have pursued, through the 5-power Contact Group (sponsored by the United Nations Security Council), negotiations with South Africa on the future of Namibia.4

—We have collaborated with the United Kingdom in launching discussions with all parties directly involved in the Rhodesian question with a view to getting negotiations in train.5

We examine in the attached country papers the results of our initiatives to date and suggest some next steps we could take to pursue the goals we have set for ourselves in the region.

[Page 868]


[Omitted here is background information on the Rhodesian settlement negotiations.]

The Settlement Proposal

As developed by the Consultative Group following discussions with the four nationalist groups, the Rhodesian authorities, possible donors to a development fund, and interested private parties, the proposal would include a constitution for an independent Zimbabwe, an arrangement for the transitional period and a Zimbabwe Development Fund. It would be embodied in a White Paper, to be issued by the UK Foreign Office, which is now in its early drafts. The British Government would present the White Paper for parliamentary approval in mid-November. Smith would insist on submitting it to a referendum of Rhodesian voters. It is also still possible, though unlikely, that final approval might be given by the parties at a formal conference.

Following its endorsement by Parliament the agreement would come into effect, presumably some time next spring, on a designated day on which Smith would leave, the British take over, the fighting cease and sanctions disappear. The Caretaker Government’s principal task would be to organize and conduct elections to select the future independent government of Zimbabwe. It is contemplated that it would need from three to six months to complete this task upon the termination of which the country’s independence would be declared. The whole process would be completed during 1978.

The independence constitution would be based on four fundamental principles: democratic elections, universal adult suffrage, a bill of rights which is justiciable and entrenched, and an independent judiciary. It is also contemplated that it would establish a Republic headed by an elected President with executive powers. The President would be elected at the same time as a single-chamber National Assembly by a system which would ensure that he would have the support of the majority of its members. The President would be responsible to the Assembly and would appoint a Vice President and other ministers from among its members. The Assembly would be elected on the basis of single member constituencies. It is proposed that a small number of members (perhaps 20) be specially elected by the Assembly itself from among a list of candidates from the white and black communities proposed by the President.

Transitional arrangements would include a caretaker constitution providing for appointment by the UK of a Commissioner with responsibility solely to HMG and in whom would be vested all legislative and executive powers, although it is not expected that the Commissioner would make extensive use of his legislative power. He would be [Page 869] charged with day-to-day administration of public business, maintenance of law and order, the administration of an election and, subsequently, independence. All armed forces would be under his command including the Commonwealth force, (renamed) police force, what remains of the present Rhodesian armed forces, and the Nationalist fighting forces.

The Zimbabwe Development Fund would be created with a target of about $1.2 billion from donations by donor governments from Europe, America, Asia, and the Middle East. Its purpose would be to contribute to restoring the economy of Zimbabwe to the rapid growth it has engaged in the past. It would concentrate in the fields of rural development, training and education and infrastructure creation, particularly in electrification and transportation. The Fund would provide foreign exchange through program aid which may assist in permitting remittance overseas of pensions and other assets during the early years of independence. It would be administered by the IBRD in consultation with the independent Government of Zimbabwe.

Outstanding Issues

The Consultative Group travelled to Lusaka and Rhodesia in early July, then to London to see Foreign Secretary Owen. The nature and extent of the difficulties we face in achieving a negotiated settlement were put into sharp focus by the Consultative Group’s talks with Nkomo and Smith and by the British change of heart regarding a British role in the Commonwealth Force. These difficulties include:

(1) Law and Order. Intimidation and violence have characterized past elections in Rhodesia. The present bitter division between ZAPU and ZANU is likely to increase during the transition period. It is generally believed that a fair election could only be assured with an impartial government and armed forces. A Commonwealth force supplemented by the use of the existing police might be able to provide this. However, the UK has now informed us that because of the reluctance by other Commonwealth members to commit forces, the growing prospect that at least some elements of the Patriotic Front would continue the fighting, and the reservations which the British Cabinet has about direct UK military involvement, they do not believe such a force is possible. This means that law and order must either be maintained by the existing Rhodesian armed forces or taken over by the guerrilla fighters. It is as unlikely that either white Rhodesians or the Muzorewa or Sithole factions would accept control by the Patriotic Front’s armed forces as that the Patriotic Front would accept maintenance of law and order in the hands of the present forces. The Rhodesians claim that the present army is a professional force, the impartiality of which is widely accepted. Some elements like the Selous Scouts, the Territorials, and [Page 870] the all white Light Infantry Brigade might be disbanded. However, we believe that even so, the Patriotic Front would reject such a proposal, and use it to gain sympathy from the Front Line states and others of its African supporters. The entire settlement proposal outlined above therefore is threatened by the impasse over control of law and order during the transition period.

(2) The Zimbabwe Development Fund. Owen wishes to make it clear that continued contribution to the Fund at least by the US and UK would be contingent upon performance by the independent government of Zimbabwe of its side of the settlement agreement, including the various constitutional undertakings on pensions, human rights, etc. We have expressed our reservations to this proposal and compromise language has been agreed to which makes only general reference to the idea. The White paper states that the arrangements it contains “as a whole constitute an essential basis for the establishment and continuing operation of the Fund.” Owen feels strongly that private assertions to Smith that we would use the Fund as a lever to ensure the independent government’s performance of its obligations offers an important reassurance to the whites. He understands the difficulties we would have in getting Congressional support for the Fund if its relationship to the independent government’s observance of its commitments were too explicit.

(3) Patriotic Front Intransigence. As the Patriotic Front, and particularly Nkomo’s ZAPU has gained military strength and recognition from the Front Line, and the OAU, it has increasingly insisted on its claim to be the sole representative of the Zimbabwe people. Nkomo has stated that his struggle is for the assumption of power, not just the attainment of majority rule and independence, and his recent statements indicate that he will be satisfied with nothing less than surrender of power by Smith to the Patriotic Front. Neither Nkomo nor his ZANU partners have at the moment a strong electoral position within Rhodesia, though Nkomo’s organization is good and a well organized campaign might bring him greater support than many observers now believe possible.

It seems unlikely that the frontline Presidents would intervene at this stage to bring a settlement. After more than 12 years of failed efforts by Britain, and more recently the US, to bring Smith to reason, they are skeptical that the current initiative will be any more successful. They are convinced furthermore, that what progress has been made has resulted from their own efforts and those of the Nationalists to bring pressure on Smith through military action. They are particularly conscious of the Angola experience and believe that maintenance of Patriotic Front unity is indispensable to avoiding civil war within an independent Zimbabwe. We believe that they will only be willing to [Page 871] weigh in to support a settlement when we can bring firm evidence to them that Smith has finally agreed to turn over the government and submit to a free and impartial election on the basis of one man one vote.

It seems likely that Nkomo’s recent statements simply assert a maximum bargaining position. If Smith were to agree to leave office, turning the government over to a genuine impartial British administration supported by an external force, and if both Sithole and Muzorewa agreed to the settlement and to participation in it, and finally, if Nigeria and the Front Line could be brought to support such a settlement as they earlier promised to do, Nkomo would be faced with either participating in it or being frozen out. Under these circumstances it is quite possible that he would go along. This is the strategy which the US–UK initiative had been following.

(4) Smith’s Intransigence. In recent discussions, Smith told the Consultative Group that the package which appeared to be unfolding provided insufficient assurances and confidence building measures for the white population of Rhodesia. They would not accept it and he could not recommend it to them, he said. However, senior officials of the regime seemed to believe that Smith might accept a proposal of this kind. The South Africans have urged us to present our package as soon as possible. It is, therefore, believed that Smith’s position also is designed as a bargaining measure to secure the most favorable position terms.

(5) The Internal Option. If Smith persisted with his intransigence he might attempt to work out a settlement with such leaders as Sithole or Muzorewa. He is certain to try this if he cannot get adequate assurances on the protection of law and order during the transition period. However, he would probably prefer not to have to resort to this solution since he understands that it would not bring international acceptance and, therefore, could not end the war or terminate sanctions. Nevertheless, an agreement with Sithole might bring back many of the ZANU fighters and there is a real question whether Zambia would long support a ZAPU armed struggle against a black African Government. At the present time Smith is waiting to see the details of the US–UK package before deciding whether to attempt an internal settlement. In the meantime, he permitted Sithole to return and will probably do the same for a number of exiled Muzorewa men. At the same time, he continues harassment of the internal ZAPU organization, thus preparing the way for an internal settlement if he should decide to try it.


1. Continuation of the Present Initiative. Most of those with whom the Consultative Group has carried out its discussions have supported both the concept and method of its operation. Smith probably hopes [Page 872] that it will come up with something he can accept. The South Africans are anxious for its results to be announced. Many of the African nationalists and even the Front Line Presidents have pinned hope on its eventual success. Nkomo would like to use it to gain power. Virtually no one has rejected its efforts. However, the law and order impasse would have to be overcome if the initiative is to succeed. This might be accomplished if other Commonwealth nations could be persuaded to commit forces. The Patriotic Front’s acceptance of its broad outlines might help encourage such commitments but this appears unlikely. The Front may acquiesce but it is unlikely to take any steps which would encourage establishment of an external force. Greater US support (still short of troops) might cause the British to take heart but Owen was pessimistic, and U.S. congressional/public support in turn is dependent upon a substantial collective effort. A UN force is out of the question. We might proceed with the initiative while studying more carefully the exact requirements of an external force, encouraging the British, and talking to Commonwealth countries ourselves in the hope of a breakthrough.

2. A Temporary Slowdown and Withdrawal from Initiative. While all parties are anxious for Owen to return to Africa to present his proposals, Smith and the Patriotic Front have both taken maximum negotiating positions and indicated little flexibility, apparently for tactical purposes. A slowing down of US–UK negotiating activity might cause concern and some loosening up in their respective positions. However, in the interval the war will continue and perhaps intensify, making settlement that much more difficult and Smith may turn to an internal settlement.

3. A Power Sharing Solution Backed by the US and UK. In the face of the present impasse the British are considering returning to a Geneva type formula in which an agreement is reached among nationalist groups on an interim government with our encouragement. Joshua Nkomo would have to be the leader of such a government and it should include Ndabaningi Sithole. Mugabe and his ZANU followers would undoubtedly demur but Sithole might lure many of the latter away. Intelligence reports indicate he has support among ZANU military forces. Such an agreement might be reached by accepting Nkomo’s suggestion of a conference between the Patriotic Front, Smith and the British. We and the South Africans might press Smith to attend on the basis of a promise from Nkomo that the warfare would cease. Nkomo in turn might be brought to agree to such a commitment on the basis of knowledge that he would head the interim government and Smith had agreed to majority rule/one-man one-vote when it took over. An election would be held at the end of the interim period.

Such an agreement would be difficult to achieve. Though Smith has dealt with Nkomo many times in the past and respects him, he [Page 873] would have difficulty leading the Rhodesian whites to an accommodation with Nkomo and the Patriotic Front. Nkomo would have difficulty from Mugabe and his ZANU element. Sithole and especially Muzorewa would not readily give up their present strong popular position. Nevertheless, such a possibility is being actively considered by the British and may be proposed by Owen when he arrives for talks on the 23rd.

4. A Smith-Backed Internal Solution. If we disengage from the present initiative or if we propose a settlement which makes inadequate provision for maintenance of law and order, Smith will attempt an internal settlement, probably with Sithole. Such settlement would probably succeed in drawing away many of the ZANU military forces but it would be adamantly opposed by Nkomo. Nor is it certain that Muzorewa, who stubbornly maintains his leading popular position, would withdraw. Kaunda would continue to support Nkomo and ZAPU but it is not clear that he would long countenance active military subversion from Zambia into an independent Zimbabwe ruled by black leadership. It is possible that an internal solution that showed promise of holding together for any time might also attract Nkomo into some form of power-sharing solution described above.

Issues to be Decided in Preparation for Owen Visit Here

—Should we advise Owen to go ahead with his plan for a trip to Africa in late July or early August?

—Should he simply present the constitution for an independent Zimbabwe without a proposal for law and order?

—Should we encourage Owen to continue with the present strategy and explore with him ways of resurrecting a Commonwealth Force? Or should we advocate dropping the present effort and exploring other options?

—In developing the various options that should be discussed with Owen, should we focus on the four in this paper?


[Omitted here is background information on the Namibian settlement negotiations.]

Negotiating Strategy

Our negotiating strategy on Namibia, as it has evolved based on Resolution 385, has been to tailor the provisions of the Resolution in such a way that they could be acceptable to South Africa while retaining the basic elements in order to make the package acceptable to the UN, the Africans, and SWAPO. After two rounds of talks with the South Africans and subsequent briefings of other concerned parties, significant progress has been made, but a number of important issues remain [Page 874] unsettled. Additional discussions with the South Africans are still necessary, and we have to weigh the reactions of the other parties.

One aim of the process we have undertaken with the Contact Group has been to create a situation in which the parties most directly involved (i.e. South Africa, SWAPO, other Namibian political groups, and the UN) will negotiate more or less directly. Through the efforts of the Contact Group, we would hope that substantive differences between the sides could be reduced to an extent which would permit either direct talks or indirect negotiations through some informal conference mechanism. The holding of an actual conference is not essential.

In its discussions with the South Africans and in its briefings of others, the Contact Group has attempted to stick to general principles as much as possible and to make it clear that it was neither empowered nor attempting to negotiate.

Current Status and Next Steps

At the current stage in our efforts to reach a settlement of the Namibian problem we are not presented with a situation which necessitates the consideration of a range of options. We are engaged in a process which has shown some significant success and which requires that we follow particular courses of action. Our immediate goal now is to include other concerned parties more directly in the process in which the Contact Group becomes no more of a negotiating entity than it currently is. The following are steps currently under way or now being discussed by the Contact Group:

—Develop plans regarding the procedures and mechanism for the role the United Nations will play in elections and the transition process.

—Drawing on our studies, urge the United Nations Secretary General to develop the details of a potential UN role in Namibia. At some point thereafter, in consultation with him, prepare a Security Council resolution which would confirm the agreement reached with the parties involved, and give him authority to appoint a Special Representative and the necessary support staff.

—Obtain information from the South Africans on the withdrawal of their forces. This is a vital issue which has been emphasized by all parties concerned. We should also discuss with the South Africans the duties and responsibilities of the Administrator-General before they are promulgated.

—Bring the Front Line states and the Nigerians more directly into the process. Consider how we might undertake to promote confidence among them that an acceptable settlement on Namibia can be achieved. We have asked Nyerere and Kaunda to encourage SWAPO to participate in discussions with the Contact Group. The attitude and actions of the Front Line states and Nigeria could be of crucial importance in [Page 875] overcoming SWAPO suspicions and possible objections to the efforts of the Contact Group.

—Consult SWAPO more fully as the process continues. As long as SWAPO remains on the sidelines its suspicion will continue to grow. The Contact Group has invited Sam Nujoma and other SWAPO representatives to come to New York for discussions on the Western initiative and the direction it is taking. We hope such a meeting can take place sometime during July.

—Give consideration to the possible financial implications of the transition period and after. Costs could be considerable in terms of the requirements for UN involvement in the election process.


The actions proposed above are designed to head off possible problems and maintain momentum as the process unfolds. There are, however, two broad contingencies which must be kept in mind: SWAPO or the South Africans may balk at a critical juncture.

If discussions proceed as successfully as they have so far, there is a good possibility of coming up with proposals that we consider acceptable and reasonable by September. At the current stage of the Contact Group’s efforts, it would appear more likely that SWAPO would put a roadblock in the way of a settlement, and South Africa may be betting on that possibility. While SWAPO has not rejected the Contact Group’s initiative, the SWAPO leadership has been maintaining a hard and uncompromising line. This may be due to a large extent to the exclusion of SWAPO from real participation in the process, but we should also be aware of possible SWAPO intransigence for reasons of its own, including internal political ones.

SWAPO strength for the most part comes from its support from the African states, particularly the Front Line nations and Nigeria. If we believe that a reasonable basis exists for an acceptable settlement, but are faced with SWAPO rejection, we would have to do all we could to convince the key African leaders that a just settlement is achievable with reasonable compromises.

There is also the possibility of renewed South African obstinance. If South Africa should balk because of what we could also view as unreasonable SWAPO conditions, we would have to work through the Front Line states and the Nigerians in an attempt to elicit the necessary compromise. On the other hand, South Africa for a complex of reasons could refuse to make further concessions which we might feel are not unreasonable. In such a case, we would have to consider what steps we could take and what pressures we could exert to regain South African cooperation.

[Page 876]


A. The Vienna Talks and the South African Response

In response to the President’s request for a study of measures to promote the progressive transformation of South African society,6 the Administration determined that an important first step was to inform the SAG leaders in a clear and authoritative manner that our policy toward South Africa had changed, and to insure that other countries and parties in southern Africa were also aware of the change. Accordingly the Vice President met with the South African Prime Minister in Vienna on May 19 and 20 and, in addition to discussing Namibia and Rhodesia, described our new policy to him.7 The essential message was that the US believed continuation of institutionalized racial discrimination and deprivation of political, economic and social rights for the majority of South Africans was contrary to basic principles adhered to by the American people, would lead to further isolation of South Africa from the international community, and inevitably would result in a racial confrontation with drastic consequences. For reasons of principle as well as self-interest, the US could not continue to have the same kind of relationship with South Africa as long as that country pursued its apartheid policies. We would not tell South Africa how its government should be organized, but we believed that two principles needed to be observed: (a) the elimination of racial discrimination, including separate development, and (b) full political participation by all of the people of South Africa. The Vice President put American policy towards South Africa clearly and incisively on the public record in his press conference following the meeting with Vorster May 20.8

One month later, it is difficult to assess the net effect of this change of U.S. policy on various elements of South African society.

Not surprisingly, however, the first reaction of the South African Government (SAG) to the Vice President’s message has been a categorical refusal to make changes as the result of American pressures. Rather, the SAG has engaged in a campaign to depict our policy as designed to “submerge” the white minority. South African Government actions relating to race relations since Vienna have apparently been shaped by immediate internal concerns rather than a response to the American initiative. In public statements, however, South African leaders have diverted attention from the real issues central to the need to move away from the apartheid system, by charging that the U.S. has issued [Page 877] a demand for an immediate move to one-man, one-vote which they charge would mean destruction of the white population. There are some indications that such SAG tactics against the new American approach may at least temporarily weaken the position of white liberals advocating political change but who are also concerned about their security under a rapid transition to majority rule. It is too early to judge the depth of this effect.

Reaction in the black community in South Africa is even more difficult to gauge. The principal medium generally thought to represent broad African views, the World newspaper, has welcomed the new policy; Ambassador Young, its most visible proponent in South African eyes, has become something of a hero for many South African blacks. Soweto student leaders promised the Ambassador during his recent visit to South Africa that they would endeavor to keep the June 16 anniversary of the outbreak of last year’s riots a peaceful event. On the other hand, the leaders of the influential Black Peoples Convention refused to see the Ambassador at all.

On a broader scale, the improved credibility of our southern African policies among the leaders of black Africa probably stems in large measure from our willingness to confront South Africa on the question of its own policies.

B. Public Explanation of Policy in the U.S.

In view of the current intensive effort by the South African Government to depict our policy toward South Africa as misguided and inimical to peace and stability in South Africa, as well as to Western interests in general, we believe that the Administration should consider—on an urgent basis—ways to present as effectively as possible our position on the South African question to the American public.

C. Next Steps

Having communicated to the South African Government and the world that we would pursue a policy of active concern with South Africa’s internal racial policies, we must now decide what form of follow up is most likely to help us move toward our objectives.

We had earlier determined that we would base our next steps on the South African response to the Vice President’s message in Vienna. If the South African Government had in any way responded positively, we would have been able to react in a similar fashion. In fact, however, the public response of South African leaders to U.S. policy as set forth by the Vice President has been strongly negative. South African officials, especially Prime Minister Vorster and Foreign Minister Botha, have:

—reassured white South Africans that no basic changes in the government are contemplated and attempted to rally whites by playing on their fears of blacks.

[Page 878]

—emphasized to the West South Africa’s perception of the threat of communist control of South Africa’s resources and of the strategic sea lanes around the Cape of Good Hope.

—claimed that the government is working toward some change by accelerating the pace of separate development, and by reducing discriminatory practices.

—appealed to the American people to modify US policy along lines more acceptable to South Africa.

Moreover, there has been no private indication of any different approach. In private conversations with American officials, senior South Africans have, in addition to making the foregoing points, suggested:

—that US policymakers continue to misunderstand the situation in South Africa;

—that policy toward South Africa is being made by a group of young liberals who are opposed to the South African Government;

—that Vice President Mondale, in view of his liberal record, is not really a reliable interlocutor;

—and, in any event, that the U.S. Government policy is not truly representative of the beliefs of the American people.

In the face of this response, we have laid out in this paper a range of steps which might be taken to indicate to South Africa that American policy was accurately presented by the Vice President, and that we are serious about carrying it out. In reviewing these steps, we should give careful consideration to several factors, including timing, feasibility, cost to the U.S., problems in implementation, and impact in South Africa and elsewhere, especially Africa and the U.S. itself.

A first consideration is whether sufficient time has elapsed to have allowed the South Africans to reflect fully on the new U.S. policy, and to have considered their response. The sharp negative quality of their initial reaction was perhaps predictable, but argues for some steps in the near future to support our stated policy. On the other hand, in our response to Presidential Review Memorandum 4, we suggested that a six-month period might be allowed before taking measures clearly to demonstrate the seriousness of our purpose regarding South African policies and actions.9

We believe that factors which could affect the timing of future steps require some further study. Our initial review of steps we might take suggests that careful consideration must be given to the implications of each of these steps before we carry any of them out. We need to assess the impact (economic or otherwise) that particular steps could have on South Africa itself. We will also want to examine the financial [Page 879] cost to the United States which in some cases might be minor, and in other cases may amount to hundreds of millions of dollars. Moreover, a number of these measures can be implemented by the Executive Branch, but others will require new legislation from the Congress, and still others could exact a substantial price in domestic political reaction. Some (UN action, for example) can only be implemented with the cooperation of other countries, especially our allies.

We will want to weigh the impact many of our actions will have on our allies, and consult with them (especially the UK) perhaps even on some steps we could take unilaterally. As discussed below, the impact of some actions in the economic field will be sharply reduced without similar steps by our allies, who are also South Africa’s major economic partners.

We should keep in mind the differences in objectives that would be served by each possible measure we could select. Three distinct political objectives should be considered as part of the evaluation in choosing a particular step:

—effect on public opinion in the United States, South Africa and black Africa, as well as elsewhere;

—disengagement or disinvolvement of American Government and other activities from South Africa;

—impact on South African economic and political life.

A key decision will be selection of the first steps. We might want to choose, initially at least, a small step which would be a modest indication to the South African Government that we are firm in our policy. This would enable them to avoid being put in the position of seeming to yield to public outside pressure should, on reflection, they decide to move in the direction we want. On the other hand, we may want to make our first move a clearly symbolic act which will capture public attention in South Africa, as well as in this country and elsewhere. Or, if our purpose is to show that we mean business, we may wish to take a step with substantial effect on South Africa, such as an effort to limit American trade and investment in that country. It should be noted that measures which appear to be first steps towards more serious actions would probably be more effective than one-time steps.

(Any proposed economic measures would be especially difficult to implement, inasmuch as they would probably encounter opposition from within as well as outside the U.S. Government. Those who are concerned about implementation of such measures should note that they are not likely to be considered until we arrive at a later stage in a situation of SAG failure to move toward positive changes. And they would be considered in the context of our economic, as well as political, circumstances at the time.)

In addition to disassociating ourselves from the South African Government as long as present racial policies are continued, we are [Page 880] also committed to using our influence in South Africa in a direct way to influence change. We have been increasingly active in this area in recent years, having expanded our cultural exchange program, made low-key efforts to provide training to elements of the black population, and sought to persuade American firms in South Africa to improve their employment practices for blacks. Further activity could include: (a) increased U.S. Government encouragement of U.S. firms to improve their employment practices including dealing with the black labor unions, and (b) discussions with other governments to encourage improved employment practices by all foreign companies and to minimize any competitive disadvantages which U.S. firms might incur acting alone. It seems likely, however, that poorer relations with South Africa will affect the scope of our activities, although we will want to continue and expand them where possible.

Specific Measures

We are presenting measures for consideration on a continuum ranging from measures with relatively little direct impact to those which are much stronger. At the same time, we offer some comments on the impact we believe these measures would have on South Africa, the objective we believe they could serve, and the costs and problems which would be involved in carrying them out.

1. Closure of Missile Tracking Station

The station is a part of the Air Force’s eastern test range. It is maintained in a stand-by mode by a contractor, and has not been in active use for several years. Closing the station would not be a major political signal to either the SAG or its opponents. It would be seen as a gesture of dissociation, however, reducing further our involvement with South Africa.

2. Reduce the Size of the Defense Attache’s Office

At present the Defense Attache Office (DAO) includes an attache from each of three services, two assistant attaches, and seven American enlisted men, as well as three locals. The DAO operation includes an aircraft which is useful both to the Embassy in meeting logistical leads and for various technical assignments. This office maintains a low profile liaison with the South African defense forces. It helps us to keep in touch with developments in those forces and provides some useful intelligence on maritime movements around the Cape.

The Department of Defense believes that control of the strategic position astride the main oil route from the Middle East oil fields to Western Europe and the United States would become vital to the security of the United States in the event of conflict in Europe between NATO countries and members of the Warsaw Pact. Currently, approxi [Page 881] mately 80% of the oil destined for Europe traverses the Cape route. The Defense Department states that the active support of the South African Government would be important to defending it from interdiction by hostile forces. The Department of State, however, believes that while it is vital to keep the sea lanes open, it is unlikely that hostile action to close them would occur in the remote area of South African waters. State does not agree, therefore, that South African support would be relevant in this context. Moreover, State doubts that the size or even the existence of the DAO is relevant to this issue. Our Ambassador has recommended that, given the limitations on military cooperation, a DAO of the size that we now have in South Africa is not justified in any event. He recommends that it be reduced.

3. Discourage Cooperation in Sports

Although the U.S. Government has no control over the activities of U.S. sporting organizations, a statement discouraging such activities would have considerable influence on those areas of sporting activity, outside the Olympic movement, where cooperation with South Africa continues. Official American discouragement of future athletic cooperation would have high symbolic value for both black and white South Africans. Such a step would respond to increasing African and UN pressure to isolate South Africa in this field.

This would arouse opposition in the United States, however, among athletes and others who would contend that it runs counter to American efforts to keep politics out of sports and that athletic competition with South Africa is a positive influence for change in racial attitudes and practices.

4. Discourage Future US Investment in South Africa, Unless Investors Implement Fair Employment Practices

We may wish to abandon our present policy towards American investment in South Africa by making a public statement discouraging new investment in that country unless the investors are willing to implement strong fair employment practices. Such a position could be taken publicly without concrete steps for enforcement, at least at first. (We would also continue to urge firms already operating in South Africa to adopt such practices.)

A public posture of discouraging investors unwilling to enforce fair employment practices would have substantial, though somewhat limited, impact on opinion in South Africa and elsewhere. Some critics would charge that the US is continuing to support South Africa, while others might call this unjustifiable interference in American business activity. Such a policy would be in keeping, however, with our approach based on moderation and non-violent methods of bringing [Page 882] about a progressive transformation of South African society. It would be more effective if done in cooperation with our allies.

5. Elimination of Commercial Services

Only one full-time commercial officer is presently assigned to South Africa—in Johannesburg. Two political-economic officers, one in Cape Town and one in Durban, deal on an irregular basis with commercial matters that are not handled by local employees. Five professional local employees are occupied extensively with the provisions of commercial services in Johannesburg and two other local employees, one in Cape Town and one in Durban, are heavily involved in commercial work. These commercial services support activities of American businessmen.

The Department of Commerce strongly opposes elimination of commercial services in South Africa, arguing that Commerce has a legal obligation to provide export marketing assistance to American businessmen. The commercial staff in South Africa, Commerce states, is vital in monitoring enforcement of Rhodesian sanctions, maintaining contacts with South African businessmen, and providing other services.

The Department of State agrees that export marketing assistance is an obligation of the Department of Commerce, although this does not mean that services must be provided in all cases or in every country. Some offices in State believe that the political benefits to be gained by eliminating commercial services in South Africa would be substantial enough to outweigh the economic costs of this measure. This would be a strong signal to South Africa, would have considerable impact on public opinion, and would disengage the US Government from another aspect of present involvement with South Africa.

6. Reduction of Mission Size, Including the Closure of a Consulate

Should a Consulate be closed, the one at Durban (5 Americans, 15 local employees) would be the most likely. Reductions in Embassy staffing might be effected first by relocating the regional IRS office, which covers most of Africa, and the office of the Agricultural Attache.

In enunciating our new policy, we have improved our credibility with many black African leaders. To maintain this new credibility, reducing official relationships would stimulate the least resistance domestically and would be less likely to encounter resistance from our allies than, for example, actions in the economic field. This measure would not have as strong an impact as other steps, but it would—especially if taken in concert with other steps—provide a signal to the South Africans, and to others as well. Reduction of our presence in South Africa will, however, limit our access to and knowledge of some sectors of South African society; closing the Consulate at Durban would reduce to some extent our information on Rhodesian sanctions violations and minerals exports from South Africa.

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7. Reduce or Prohibit Export-Import Bank Facilities

Although the Eximbank facilities available for South Africa do not include direct credits to South African purchasers, they do include loan guarantees, insurance, and discount loans up to $2 million.

In the wake of talks in Vienna with Vorster, an early denial of Eximbank facilities to South Africa could, in our judgment, be a powerful political signal that we indeed mean business.

The prohibition of Exim facilities for trade with South Africa is, however, likely to have an adverse impact upon U.S. trade with South Africa and could also affect U.S. investment in South Africa. In 1976 U.S. exports to South Africa totaled $1.25 billion, of which about $200 million was supported by Exim guarantees or insurance. At least some of these sales will be lost to European and Japanese competitors, if Exim facilities are cut off in the likely event that those governments do not take similar steps. Implementation of this option will also damage the Administration’s ability to insulate Exim (as an apolitical institution designed to promote US exports) from the political pressures of Congress.

8. Restrict South African Access to High-Level Technology

The most likely authority for control over the export of US technology to South Africa is the Export Administration Act. It is quite conceivable that this Act could be used to require the issuance of validated licenses (by Commerce) before designated goods and/or technology can be exported to South Africa. Thus, the USG would have a control mechanism for South Africa similar to that used for most communist countries. We could use this authority to limit South African access to advanced technologies in areas such as power production, electronics and other fields. We might also forbid further cooperation between USG agencies and South African entities in technological fields (we are presently undertaking a survey of such cooperation). We might deny visas to students who plan to study advanced scientific and technological subjects under the sponsorship of the South African Government and parastatal corporations.

For South Africa this is an important aspect of our relations, whereas except for a few areas, most notably coal gasification, it offers us limited technological data. There is precedent in our relations with communist countries for many steps in this area. However, with the exception of controls for national security reasons, we have traditionally opposed governmental intervention in the international transfer of technology. It is an ill-defined area and control would be cumbersome. There would be considerable short- and long-term costs in terms of lost revenues and markets. In this area in particular, careful study should be undertaken of the relative merits of measures we might take.

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9. Discourage Future U.S. Investment in South Africa (This proposal goes further than step 4—page 10 above.)10

Current U.S. policy toward investment in South Africa neither encourages nor discourages U.S. investment in South Africa, but informs potential investors of the social, political and economic conditions in the country. Total book value of U.S. investments in South Africa is about $1.6 billion.

The U.S. Government could actively discourage U.S. investment in South Africa. In the context of the Trading with the Enemy Act we could issue regulations that would prohibit transactions with South Africa. A non-regulatory approach would be more flexible and provide the same impact, e.g., wide dissemination of a new U.S. policy discouraging investment in South Africa.

Concrete action to discourage investment would be an unambiguous signal of a shift in U.S. attitudes toward economic relations with South Africa, and it may be possible to structure in such a way that would not harm existing U.S. investment. Moreover, it would be a valuable political gesture, domestically and internationally.

This would, however, counter our long standing effort not to impose national policies through regulation of foreign subsidiaries. If the measure did not have multilateral support from all the major foreign investors, the effort will not have much economic effect. It would have a negative impact on some segments of U.S. public opinion and Congressional attitudes toward evolving support for our African policies, and might lead to retaliation against U.S. firms already established in South Africa, and could reduce the extent of the positive influence that American firms can exert to improve the economic and social conditions of black South Africans.

The Department of Commerce believes that the impact that our discouragement of investment would have on South Africa would be limited because the SAG has already taken steps to reduce its dependence on foreign capital.

The Department of State agrees that South Africa has taken steps to reduce its need for foreign capital, but believes that it remains important to the South African economy, since the country continues to have trade imbalances as well as extensive plans for infrastructure development which would require outside funds. However, the high political and economic cost of this option would suggest careful study.

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9. Discourage U.S. Banks from Extending Loans to South Africa

U.S. banks at the end of 1976 had total claims on South Africa of approximately $2.24 billion, out of a total commercial bank exposure in South Africa of approximately $6.9 billion. Because of the current unsettled situation in South Africa banks are currently shortening the length of loan maturities. Private non-bank capital inflow in 1976 was also much lower than in 1975. U.S. action to discourage further lending activity to South Africa would therefore possibly accelerate an existing trend.

The method chosen to implement this action is important. One option would be to apply to South Africa provisions of the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917 which would allow Treasury to curtail or eliminate U.S. banking transfers to South Africa. Such a move unilaterally, however, may be affected by pending legislation concerning this Act and the requisite declaration of a national emergency.11 The net economic effort of such action might well serve to drive South African lending activity to other banks, especially the European banks in the Eurocurrency market. The option would thus impose a high cost to the U.S. with only possibly slight effect on South Africa, given the existing easy access to world capital markets and the very liquid position of banks.

The encouragement of U.S. banks to withhold loans to South Africa which would support apartheid policies or reinforce discriminatory business practices could be accomplished by another procedure, which offers more flexibility. By means of a letter sent to FED member banks by FED Board Chairman Arthur Burns, American banks could be urged to make no further loans to South Africa which were linked to discriminatory practices. This letter could be in addition to, or instead of, public statements by Administration officials. Letters by Chairman Burns have been effective in other instances in the past. Again, however, the effect of such an action would be considerably weakened if undertaken unilaterally. There would be heavy cost to U.S. banks and perhaps some erosion of support for the Administration’s southern African policies. More study needs to be done to assess the viability of this option, and Congressional reaction to it.

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10. UN Action Under Chapter VI—Non-Mandatory Steps

The Security Council could take recommendatory action under Chapter VI of the UN Charter.12 The current arms embargo against South Africa is voluntary and is a Chapter VI measure. Possible additional recommendatory action, which has been mentioned in the UN, could include: discouraging new foreign investment in South Africa (proposed by the Swedes at the 31st UNGA). There would be great pressure on all major trading nations, including the U.S., to comply with the resolution.

Action in the UN might persuade South Africa to make changes. Economic measures which had the full support of all Security Council members could be especially effective in making an impact on that country.

Action in this area will encounter opposition from business groups and others, who will argue that we are reducing our potential for constructive influence in South Africa. Our allies may be reluctant to see even voluntary action taken in this field and would probably be even more reluctant to join in any cooperative ventures.

11. UN Action Against South Africa—Chapter VII—Mandatory Sanctions

The UN Security Council has on several occasions considered resolutions to apply mandatory sanctions under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. The OAU has consistently recommended sanctions, particularly a mandatory arms embargo or economic sanctions. Several resolutions calling for Chapter VII action against South Africa for its internal policies are still pending in the Security Council from a deferred meeting in March on South Africa. They could be revived at any time and put to a vote at African request. Application of sanctions by the SC would first require a determination that a threat to international peace and security exists. There is a serious question under the UN Charter whether apartheid can be considered a threat to international peace and security, and the Africans recognize that this would be sufficient to justify a veto. The British and French indicated to us earlier this year that they are still opposed to any Chapter VII action on the question of apartheid and would veto.

D. The Arms Embargo and “Gray Area Sales”

Whether or not the Administration decides to take any steps to alter the US-South African relationship, a decision should be made [Page 887] now as to how we observe the arms embargo against South Africa. During the years of the Nixon and Ford Administrations, guidelines that were established and decisions that were taken in certain specific cases constituted a demonstrable relaxation of restrains on “gray area sales” (i.e., sales to the South African military of non-lethal items that presumably would not be used in combat operations). While this was greeted with favor by business firms involved in such sales, the relaxation was denounced by some members of Congress and critics of apartheid.

Background. In 1962, the U.S. instituted unilaterally a partial arms embargo against South Africa. In 1963, UN Ambassador Adlai Stevenson announced that the U.S. would halt all sales of military equipment to South Africa, with the exception of deliveries under existing contracts of certain items for South African external defense. The U.S. subsequently voted in favor of UN Security Council resolutions which called on all States voluntarily to terminate the sale and shipment to South Africa of arms, ammunition, military vehicles, and equipment and materials for the manufacture of arms and ammunition.

USG guidelines issued in 1964 prohibited all US exports to South Africa, or sales by the Defense Department in or to South Africa, of:

  • (a) items on the munitions list;
  • (b) items specially notified by State to Commerce;
  • (c) arms, ammunition and military vehicles;
  • (d) equipment and materials for the production and maintenance of arms and munitions; and
  • (e) other items of significant use in combat or in training for armed police, and paramilitary forces.

Exceptions were made for sales by and for civilian nongovernmental users of various items having both military and non-military utility. We also permitted sale of spare parts for previously supplied equipment pursuant to explicit pre-existing contractual obligations, in particular for the C–130 aircraft South Africa purchased in 1961. (We have on hand an application from Lockheed for sale of additional spares.) Revised guidelines issued in 1968 also exempted US-manufactured components of items produced in third countries, unless either the components or the end items were articles of a weapons nature.

In 1970 the guidelines for the US embargo were relaxed by NSDM 8113 with respect to sales of “dual-use” items to the South African military. That NSDM provided that “non-lethal dual-use items which are preponderantly employed for civilian use will be licensed to either civilian or military buyers” and that “non-lethal dual-use items which [Page 888] are preponderantly used by military forces, but which do not have a clear and direct application to combat or to internal security operations, . . . may be licensed to military buyers upon the recommendation of the Department of Commerce and with the concurrence of the Department of State.” Under these “dual-use” exceptions, licenses have been issued for sales to or for the South African military forces of various items, such as VIP passenger aircraft and computers to be used for personnel and supply control purposes.


We believe the Administration should now decide whether it will permit: (a) the export of U.S. items for sale to or use by the South African police or military forces, and (b) the export of spares and maintenance equipment with respect to items previously licensed for such sale or use.

(a) New items.

Option 1. Generally prohibit all exports for sales to or for use by South African police or military forces. Under this option, Commerce would require validated licenses for exports of all items for sale to the South African government, or for sale to or use by the South African police or military forces (the export of U.S. components for integration into such items would be included). Exports for sales to the South African government of items whose export is otherwise permitted by the guidelines would be licensed upon receipt of adequate assurances that no use will be made by police or military forces. Exports for sales of any items to or for use by the military or police would generally be denied, although specific exemptions for items of a non-weapons character might be granted on a case-by-case basis for humanitarian or other special reasons (such as disaster situations). All approvals of licenses in these categories would be made on the basis of recommendations by Commerce and concurrence by State.

Pros: —Minimizes the possibility that U.S. items would be used by the South African police or military for purposes related to combat or internal security operations.
—Minimizes reliance on questionable assurances by the South African police or military that “dual-use” items would in fact not be used for combat-related purposes in urgent situations.
—Demonstrates further that the Administration is firmly opposed to apartheid.
Cons: —Requires licensing of exports of many items now being shipped under general license, and will therefore result [Page 889] in increased administrative burdens on Commerce and State, and increased paperwork for U.S. exporters.
—Will not prevent South Africa from acquiring comparable items from other sources, which may result in a competitive disadvantage to U.S. suppliers. (This effect might be reduced by diplomatic approaches to other supplier countries, although it is not clear whether such approaches would be successful.)

Option 2. Prohibit exports for sale to or use by the South African military or police of specific categories of items. Under this option, Commerce would apply the procedures described in Option 1 to exports for any items in specific categories which appear on lists which State may transmit to Commerce from time to time. In addition to items whose export is presently prohibited, State would initially include those types of “dual-use” items which appear most sensitive or adaptable to use in combat or training activities, such as all types of aircraft and motor vehicles. Other items might be added from time to time as appropriate.

Pros: —Same as in Option 1, points 2–3.
—Reduces administrative burdens by concentrating on items of specific interest.
Cons: —Allows sales to or use by the South African military and police forces of many types of U.S. products, which will contribute to the overall operations of these forces and will generally facilitate their combat and counter-insurgency efforts.
—May allow exports of potentially sensitive items before State has had sufficient information or opportunity to put them on the list.
—Will continue to expose the U.S. Government to charges that it generally condones sales of U.S. goods to the South African military and police.

(b) Spares and maintenance equipment for previously-licensed items.

Option 1. Terminate all further exports of spares and maintenance equipment for items whose export would now be prohibited. Under this option, no further licenses would be granted for spares and maintenance equipment for items previously licensed but whose export would no longer be permitted. This would result in no contractual liability for the U.S. Government or the U.S. suppliers of these items, even where suppliers may have pre-existing contractual commitments to supply the items, since such contractual obligations are generally excused where subsequently prohibited by governmental action (although suppliers might [Page 890] suffer losses to the extent that they cannot find alternative customers for goods already produced).

Pros: —Terminates all U.S. exports to support the use of items whose export would be inconsistent with new U.S. policy.
—Precludes any further support of items with clear military applications (such as military cargo aircraft) under contractual arrangements predating the imposition of the embargo.
Cons: —Interrupts existing supply arrangements, and may therefore result in loss of profit opportunities of transitional costs for U.S. suppliers.
—May cause some uncertainty among customers for other U.S. products in some cases about the reliability of U.S. firms as a source of supply.

Option 2. Permit exports of normal quantities of spares and maintenance equipment for limited transition period. Under this option, the export of spares and maintenance equipment for items previously licensed, but now prohibited, would continue for a specified transition period of six months. During that period exports of spares and maintenance items would be permitted only to the extent consistent with the normal current maintenance requirements of the systems in question, and purchases for stockpiling in excess of those requirements would not be allowed.

Pros: —Eases transition costs and problems for U.S. suppliers, and permits them an opportunity to seek other sales prospects for their products.
—Gives customers of U.S. products fair notice and opportunity to find other sources of supply.
Cons: —Continues U.S. sales for support of systems whose export is inconsistent with U.S. policy, although for limited period of time.
—Puts administrative burden on Commerce to determine what quantities constitute normal maintenance requirements of systems in question, and may permit disguised stockpiling purchases for future requirements.
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Country Chron File, Box 48, South Africa: 7–8/77. Secret. Dodson sent the paper to Mondale, Vance, Brown, Turner, and Young under a July 19 covering memorandum. An agenda for the July 22 PRC meeting is attached but not printed.
  2. See Document 259.
  3. See Document 278.
  4. See Documents 5255.
  5. See Document 150.
  6. See Document 268.
  7. See Documents 158, 276, and 278.
  8. See footnote 4, Document 278.
  9. See Document 264.
  10. Reference is to paragraph “4. A Smith-Backed Internal Solution” under the heading “Alternative Directions.”
  11. Reference is to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (PL 95–223, 91 Stat. 1626), that gave the President broad authority over financial transactions and property in a foreign country, following a declaration of a national emergency under the Act.
  12. Chapter VI of the UN Charter requires countries with disputes that could lead to war to first employ peaceful methods, such as but not limited to, negotiation, mediation, and arbitration. Should these measures fail, the dispute must be referred to the UN Security Council.
  13. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XXVIII, Southern Africa, Document 40.