Archive (Reagan Library)

South Africa: Shultz memo for Reagan (Angola, Namibia, apartheid) [declassified 1999]

Document type: Declassified documents
Venue: Washington
Source: Reagan Library (NSC Country File Box 91343)
Editorial comments:
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 3pp
Themes: Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Commonwealth (South Africa), British policy towards South Africa



June 6, 1983


From: George P. Shultz

Subject: Southern Africa: Status of our Negotiation Effort

The pace of our southern African negotiation is increasing and I anticipate important developments in the weeks ahead.

Angola and Cuban Troop Withdrawal

We completed the latest round of our negotiation with Angola in mid April. The Angolan negotiator returned to consult with his leadership, armed with two draft formulas on Cuban Troop withdrawal. If approved, either would enable us to approach South Africa to begin pinning down the deal. Our communications with Angola are difficult and in the weeks since the Angolan Minister's departure we have had to rely on a variety of intermediaries. The picture, which emerges from the reports we have received, is not fully clear but it contains promising elements. We understand the debate within Angola's leadership has been sharp but the Angolans appear to have decided to cooperate with us and as a result they have begun talks with the Soviets and Cubans. Dos Santos traveled to Moscow in late May and discussions with the Cubans began June 3. The exchange between the Angolan President and the Soviets does not seem to have derailed our effort and we have just learned that once the Cuban talks are over, we should expect to receive a formal answer. This could take place next week or the week after. We cannot be certain of the outcome until we have a document in hand, formally committing the Angolans. Given the pressures on them, matters could still go awry. Nevertheless, I believe we have enough to go on to begin thinking about next steps in the negotiation.

Western Five Contact Group

I met with the French, British [Sir Geoffrey Howe], German and Canadian Foreign Ministers in Williamsburg on May 29. The Ministers were outspoken in expressing their frustration over the slow pace of the Namibia effort and the need for new momentum, if the Five are to stay together. They were skeptical about South Africa's intentions, even if we get a Cuban proposal from Angola. The French Foreign Minister has been especially disobliging in recent weeks, hinting at France's withdrawal from the Five if there is not fresh action. In fact, he disassociated France from the common Security Council debate strategy.

[end p1]

I find all of this quite exasperating and was blunt with our allies in letting them know that if they have a better way to proceed, they are welcome to take over the effort. I told them we are making progress with Angola and if we get a good proposal, we are prepared to use our full influence to bring South Africa along. South Africa has repeatedly said Cuban withdrawal is the last major obstacle to a settlement and while we expect a tough negotiation, there is ample reason to continue. We agreed to continue Ministerial discussion in Paris on June 8. I intend to ask our Allies in the Five look ahead and plan what they can do to help induce South African acceptance of a settlement. They have interests at stake and a role to play; I want them to continue with us in this important effort.

The African dimension

We emerged from the late May Security Council debate over Namibia in very good shape. I met the SWAPO President and the Front Line African Foreign Ministers in New York on May 26. The Ministers' moderation and desire to find a compromise impressed me. They were prepared to cooperate and as a result we and our allies were able to hammer out and support a resolution which does no damage to the negotiating process. I was also favorably impressed by the SWAPO President's account of how his movement would behave in an independent Namibia. His assurances about minority rights and economic policy are now “on the record” and I do not intend to let him forget them.

The resolution calls on Perez de Quellar to report to the Council in late August. I have already told him that we will work closely with him. As matters develop in the weeks ahead, I intend to stay in close touch with the Africans; they also have a role to play in reassuring South Africa.

South Africa

We face a tricky situation with the South Africans. Despite their commitment to the principle of a settlement, they are not eager to take the political risks involved. The South African leadership is of several minds and the military, in particular, is disinclined to take chances or to favor negotiated solutions. South Africa is ready to escalate further the war in Angola and has deployed a large strike force in southern Angola and northern Namibia. We have been successful in restraining the South Africans from serious military activity for better than a month but have been able to do so only with the greatest difficulty. Without an Angolan offer, restraint will erode. As a result, I believe we should not delay our discussions with the South Africans much longer and I intend to send Chet Crocker there later this month.

[end p2]


In our continuing contacts with Jonas Savimbi we are stressing that he has a vital interest in the success of our efforts to obtain agreement on the Cubans and Namibia. Without Cuban withdrawal there can never be a political solution to the Angolan problem. It is essential that our views get directly to Savimbi, and not through the filter of the South African military which is taking the line with him and others that a military solution in Angola is possible. Consequently, we are planning a new round with Savimbi. It will have to be discreet enough to avoid complicating our discussions with the MPLA.