Archive (Reagan Library)

South Africa: State Department memorandum to McFarlane (following up US measures) [declassified 1999]

Document type: Declassified documents
Venue: State Department
Source: Reagan Library (NSC African Affairs Directorate Box 91026)
Editorial comments:
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1929
Themes: Foreign policy (Africa), Commonwealth (South Africa), British policy towards South Africa

Washington, D.C. 20520

OCTOBER 1, 1985


SUBJECT: Sustaining a Public Diplomacy Program on South Africa

As directed by your memorandum of September 5, a special working group has been established under State Department chairmanship to plan and implement a strategy for gaining better public understanding and support of US policy toward South and southern Africa. An interim report on the first phase of that effort was provided on September 16. Attached is through that working group by USIA, AID, and State to follow up by (1) strengthening the ability of our Embassy to communicate effectively with audiences in South Africa; and (2) involving a broader base of US citizens and institutions in working with their South African counterparts for peaceful change. The memo is intended to serve as a basis for discussion of policy and funding implications by the SPG October 2.

Nicholas Platt
Executive Secretary


SUBJECT: Sustaining a Public Diplomacy Program on South Africa

NSDD-187 directed SPG principals to undertake an immediate program to gain better public understanding and support of US policy toward South and southern Africa. As directed by your memorandum of September 5, a special working group has been established under State Department chairmanship to develop and coordinate a strategy for this program. This would have three phases:

  1. An initial, urgent public outreach effort, focused on key leadership and media groups and closely coordinated with our efforts to prevent Congressional adoption of unhelpful legislation.
  2. A medium-term program to strengthen Embassy Pretoria's ability to communicate with audiences in South Africa through expanded political reporting, press and public outreach, and educational, human rights, and economic aid to black South Africans.
  3. A longer-term effort to build a broader base of domestic support by involving key American citizens and institutions in ongoing contacts with South African counterparts and in programs for constructive, peaceful change.

As noted in my interim report of September 16, the working group has developed and begun to implement a strategy for carrying out the NSDD which would focus on six major programs:

  1. High-level briefings to explain our policy and the President's Executive Order to key US religious, business, labor and other leadership groups who could mobilize support for it.
  2. Meetings with key media by senior White House, State, and other officials to encourage more thoughtful, less sensational treatment of developments and our policy for dealing with them.
  3. Reaching out to media outlets outside Washington through a carefully crafted speaker program using US ambassadors with experience in Africa.
  4. Working with targeted US institutions to help develop policies to deflect pressures for disinvestment.
  5. Carrying the message to important European and African governments and publics.
  6. Increasing our activities within South Africa to gain more understanding of our policy among both whites and blacks.

Actions Taken So Far

As reported to a meeting of the IPC September 20, we have already moved to implement the first, most urgent phase of this effort. White House briefings were arranged for key religious leaders to explain our policy, and with the chief executive officers of 20 US companies - supporters of the Sullivan Principles - to discuss what policies could counter disinvestment pressures. A Corporate Council on South Africa has been formed by companies with business interests there.

Immediately following the President’s Executive Order on September 9, an intensive “phone bank” gave direct-line briefings to 23 key television, press and radio outlets. Senior State officials have appeared on national media and have briefed state legislatures and non-governmental organizations. A carefully targeted speaking program has been undertaken across the country, with 12 US ambassadors to Africa speaking in 53 selected cities. Over 150 public appearances on South Africa have been scheduled.

To increase support in Africa, AF ambassadors returned from a conference in Washington this month with carefully tailored messages to African governments explaining our position. Assistant Secretary Crocker spoke last week to several European and Latin American cities via Euronet. A senior State official may visit Europe next month to discuss South Africa, possibly in the context of a major conference.

Planning Under Way

Through the Special Working Group, the State Department, USIA, and AID have developed a coordinated action plan to move into the medium- and long-term phases of this effort. Ambassador Miller will provide a briefing on these plans, as well as actions taken so far, to a meeting of the SPG October 2 which will take up the issue of our longer-term objectives and the resources which will be required to accomplish them.

Resource Implications

To be effective, this effort must be sustained. It is now clear that the Working Group should continue for at least one year. Funding and positions for a staff of seven professionals and two secretaries are being provided by USIA, DoD, and State.

The key to our success, however, lies in South Africa. It will be hard to win a public debate in the United States unless black leaders in that country moderate their criticism and are drawn into cooperation with us on a range of programs which address shared interests. As noted under item six, it is essential to engage more actively in programs to communicate with black and white communities within South Africa. Phase Two will need a coordinated effort by USIA, AID, and State to reach out with both more contact with the press and programs to provide more educational, human rights, and economic aid to black South Africans. Phase Three will need to follow up with programs to involve Americans in a long-term process of constructive contributions to defusing violence and speeding up the process of political and economic change.

Measured against the capacity of developments in that country to damage US interests, our Embassy in South Africa is thinly stretched. We have dispatched on temporary duty an additional deputy political counselor whose primary responsibility will be liaison with black opposition groups. We are considering the practicality of re-opening a consulate (and branch USIS post) at Port Elizabeth, a center of recent and anticipated black unrest.

The strategy outlined above will require several additional State Department slots in FY-86 in addition to the temporary domestic positions which have been approved for the Working Group. Additional officer and secretarial positions at our Embassy and in the AF bureau of the Department are being considered. We intend to upgrade our ability to meet three rapidly increasing demands: political reporting and analysis; administrative support for expanded programs by other agencies; and backup for the State Department desk.

USIA is responding to the call for enhanced programming activities within South Africa by improving outreach efforts to black journalists, entrepeneurs, industrial relations officers, trade unionists, and teachers. More exchange programs will be offered to disadvantaged South Africans from those fields. There will be an increase in the number of American lecturers in South African universities, and USIA proposes an undergraduate-level scholarship program in the US for South African students.

Over the long term, institutional linkages will be encouraged through grants to US universities seeking to exchange faculty and administrators with South African counterparts. Depending upon the availability of funding for the linkage and undergraduate programs, the total exchange program for South Africa would almost double this next year, both in terms of numbers (313 grantees) and budget ($3.4 million). If a consulate and USIS branch in Port Elizabeth is opened, USIS staff in South Africa would increase from 13 to 18 Americans and from 30 to 41 local employees. USIS South Africa's operating budget would increase from $1.9 million to $2.9 million to support an enhanced program.

Among the private-sector groups which will be used to forge more contacts with South African institutions in cooperation with USIS is the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

AID proposes to step up programs in South Africa to benefit those disadvantaged by apartheid, an essential part of the strategy of constructive engagement.

Since the Executive Order was signed, there have been signals that U.S. civic, educational and business firms are anxious to increase their contacts with South Africa and try to exert influence on the situation to bring down the barriers of apartheid. A number of universities have come forward and expressed to State and AID officials their interest in direct involvement on the South African scene. It is important to consider a further increase in our aid efforts as a signal of our commitment to change in South and southern Africa.

AID proposes a supplemental appropriation for southern Africa to include $15 million additional funding for South Africa programs and possibly further assistance to develop alternate transportation routes for those Front Line States in southern Africa who are being directly affected by the turmoil in their neighbor to the south. The South Africa supplemental would permit an expansion of scholarship programs (both U.S. scholarships and the internal scholarships called for in the Executive Order) by providing an additional $6 million above the $11 million in the current budget. AID also proposes to increase support for South African labor unions through the African American Labor Center of AFL/CIO by raising the grant to that organization from $1 to $1.5 million. Two new activities will be developed: grants to South African community organizations ($3.5 million), and matching grants for stepped-up community assistance programs of U.S. companies (Sullivan Code), university-to-university programs, and programs of other U.S. institutions active in South Africa ($4 million).

The proposed supplemental would increase FY 1986 AID programs in South Africa from about $15 million to $30 million. Because of the uncertain political environment and multiplicity of groups we would be working with in South Africa, it is important that the South Africa component be appropriated on a no-year (or at least a two-year) basis. It will also be critical to the success of the effort to launch a campaign on the Hill to try to achieve broad bipartisan support, since the expanded program will necessarily involve contact with a broad spectrum of private organizations in South Africa.

With respect to the Front Line States, we believe it is important to demonstrate that the United States is committed to stability in the region while attempting to promote peaceful and orderly change in South Africa. One of the most critical economic problems facing the southern African countries is relieving the transportation bottleneck these countries face due to over-dependence on South African routes and the insurgency in Mozambique. Consequently, AID is considering additional aid to finance maintenance and rehabilitation of rail and road systems - principally through Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia. This program would be carried out in conjunction with other donors including the EEC and the World Bank.

AID has budgeted for two additional local-hire positions to administer its increased programs.

Though not a member of the working group, Commerce supports this strategy and recommends developing initiatives to encourage greater US contact with black business leaders in South Africa, including stepped-up US private and official purchases from non-white business groups.

As we move into the third and longest-range phase of this strategy, we will need to multiply the impact of USG program money by turning turn to the private sector for financial as well as leadership involvement. Initial response has been encouraging. At the President's and Secretary's meeting with key US chief executive officers September 16, it was indicated that as much as $100 million could be spent by US companies in South Africa to upgrade programs there in support of Sullivan principles.

Washington, D.C. 20520