89. Telegram From the Embassy in Germany to the Embassy in South Africa1

13051. From Secretary Vance for Ambassador. Department pass White House. Subject: President Carter Letter to Prime Minister Vorster.

1. Following is text of letter from President Carter to Prime Minister Vorster dated July 17 which you should deliver to Vorster after concerting with the local Ambassadors of the other four in the Group of Five. It is important the letter be delivered today, July 17, if at all possible.

2. Begin text:

Dear Mr. Prime Minister:

Fifteen months ago our governments undertook an unprecedented initiative—a collective diplomatic effort by the Five Western members of the Security Council to find a peaceful settlement of the problem of Namibia. We recognized the difficulties involved but accepted them because of the need to find an alternative to the violence and instability which seemed inevitable in that critical part of Africa.

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Now after fifteen months we are on the verge of a breakthrough which could change the course of history in Southern Africa. We have arrived at a final proposal which your government accepted on April 252 and which SWAPO accepted without change on July 12.3 The Front-line states have endorsed the proposal, as have a broad spectrum of political parties in Namibia. The proposal also enjoys wide international support and we stand ready to move promptly into the Security Council for its implementation.

When South Africa first announced that it accepted the proposal, our governments immediately hailed your decision as an act of statesmanship. There is no doubt that we could never have arrived at the point we have without a willingness on your part to persevere, and to take a broad view of the various issues in the interests of arriving at an internationally acceptable settlement.

It became apparent at an early stage that there was one issue which could not be addressed as part of the proposal, Walvis Bay. The positions of the parties were so diametrically opposed that our governments repeatedly took the view that it could not be included as part of the proposal. Progress on the proposal was only possible because of a general willingness to permit this issue to be addressed after independence. As you will recall, we stated both publicly and privately to you that, as Canadian Foreign Minister Jamieson said before the General Assembly on April 25: “We consider that all aspects of the question of Walvis Bay must be subject to discussion between the South African Government and the elected Government of Namibia.”

Our governments have continued to maintain this view and have resisted all pressures to include the question of Walvis Bay as part of the proposal. At the same time, the importance of Walvis Bay to the future of Namibia is inescapable, a point which South Africa has also implicitly acknowledged through the willingness it has expressed to us to negotiate with the independent Government of Namibia on this issue. Although Walvis Bay was not part of our proposal, we welcomed this willingness because Walvis Bay is critical to the future of Namibia economically, is linked to it geographically and ethnically, and is regarded by the international community as essential to the viability of Namibia. We continue to believe that Walvis Bay cannot be part of the proposal but that all aspects of the question must be the subject of discussions between South Africa and the elected Government of [Page 237] Namibia. This is the position we have taken, and it is the position we shall continue to take in the future.

We stand by the proposal we have placed before the Security Council and we pledge our support to the faithful implementation of its provisions.

Mr. Prime Minister, we have come to the point where an historic opportunity now rests with you to create conditions which can lead not only to peace and prosperity in Namibia but also to a new and improved political climate in the whole region. We know that the path of violence promises the opposite. An internationally acceptable settlement of this long-standing issue is now within our grasp. We therefore urge you personally to continue to help attain this great prize.4

May I also say that I am pleased with the report from Ambassador Smith concerning his discussions during his recent visit to your country.

Sincerely, Jimmy Carter

His Excellency Balthazar Johnnes Vorster, Prime Minister of the Republic of South Africa, Union Building, Pretoria. End text.

3. Signed original of letter being air pouched.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Cables File, Presidential Messages In/Out, Box 102, 7/78. Secret; Niact Immediate; Exdis. Sent for information to the Department of State. Printed from a copy that was received in the White House Situation Room. President Carter and Vance were in Bonn on a State visit and to attend the G–7 Economic Summit.
  2. In telegram 818 from Cape Town, April 25, the Embassy reported that Botha accepted the Five’s proposal on Namibia. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780176–0694)
  3. See Document 88.
  4. In telegram 4178 from Pretoria, July 23, the Embassy transmitted a letter to Carter from Vorster, explaining his government’s position on Walvis Bay and expressing gratitude for Carter’s “understanding.” (National Archives, RG 59 Central Foreign Policy File, D780302–0999)