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1986 Feb 13 Th
Archive (Reagan Library)

South Africa: Crocker telegram to State Department (talks with Pik Botha in Geneva) [declassified 1999]

Document type: Declassified documents
Document kind: Telegram
Venue: USMission Geneva
Source: Reagan Library (NSC African Affairs Directorate Box 91026)
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1806.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1,082
Themes: Commonwealth (South Africa), Foreign policy (Africa)

O 131806Z FEB 86

FM USMISSION GENEVA

TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3340

GENEVA 01477

NODIS

FROM CROCKER

DEPT PASS TO NSC: VADM POINDEXTER

EO 12356: DECL: OADR

TAGS: PREL, SF

SUBJECT: GENEVA MEETING WITH PIK BOTHA

  1. ENTIRE TEXT.

  2. SUMMARY. MY TALKS HERE WITH SAG FOREIGN MINISTER BOTHA REVEALED A GREAT DEAL ABOUT THE STATE OF REFORM. ITS FUTURE PROSPECTS AND LIMITS IN SOUTH AFRICA. A PRESIDENTIAL LEVEL MEETING IS NOT IN THE CARDS IN THE NEAR FUTURE: PIK ACKNOWLEDGED THAT THE SAG CAN COME NOWHERE NEAR MEETING OUR NEEDS AT THIS TIME. END SUMMARY.

  3. IN OUR SESSIONS WITH STAFFS PRESENT AND IN A LENGTHY, VERY FRANK, ONE-ON-ONE DINNER CONVERSATION, PIK PORTRAYED HIMSELF AS A LEADER OF THE REFORM WING OF THE NATIONAL PARTY. HE IS PLEASED BY THE RECENT SAG DECISIONS REFLECTED IN P. W. BOTHA'S JAN. 31 SPEECH, NOTWITHSTANDING THE DEVELOPMENTS OF LAST WEEK WHEN HE WAS PUBLICLY SLAPPED DOWN BY P. W. BOTHA FOR SUGGESTING TO THE PRESS THE POSSIBILITY OF A BLACK PRESIDENT IN SOUTH AFRICA'S FUTURE. HE VIEWS THAT INCIDENT AS HAVING SUCCEEDED IN FORCING OUTWARD THE BOUNDS OF PERMISSIBLE DISCUSSION AND CLAIMS TO HAVE RECEIVED WIDE SUPPORT FOR HIS STANCE ACROSS THE S. A. POLITICAL SPECTRUM.

  4. PIK ASSERTED IN OUR OPENING SESSION THAT THE USG SHOULD VIEW P. W.'S JANUARY 31 SPEECH AS A “TREMENDOUS ACHIEVEMENT,” PARTICULARLY IN ITS ASSERTION THAT APARTHEID IS AN OUTWORN DOGMA, ITS “LOOSENING OF THE NUT” ON THE CONDITIONS OF MANDELA'S RELEASE, AND ITS OFFER TO CREATE A NATIONAL STATUTORY COUNCIL IN WHICH BLACKS WOULD PARTICIPATE IN DECISION-MAKING (IN STIL UNSPECIFIED FASHION). THE SPEECH ITSELF SHOULD BE SEEN AS INDICATIVE THAT THE SAG HAS NOW TRULY CROSSED THE WATERSHED TOWARDS ACCEPTANCE OF REAL POWER SHARING WITH BLACKS, AND, AS SUCH, IT SHOULD BE TAKEN AS HELPING SET THE NECESSARY CONTEXT FOR A PRESIDENTIAL VISIT.

  5. I PROBED HIM ON THE DIRECTION OF SAG REFORM PLANS, ITS LEGISLATIVE INTENTIONS, THE MEANING OF SOME PROMISES ALREADY MADE, E. G., INFLUX CONTROL REFORM, THE STATUTORY COUNCIL, AND ITS MANDELA GAME PLAN. IN EVERY AREA PIK CAME UP SHORT, VAGUE OR BOTH. HE POINTED TO THE POWER OF THE WHITE RIGHT AND THE SAG'S OWN LEGALISTIC KNOTS AS BRAKES ON MORE RAPID CHANGE. HE MADE IT CLEAR THAT WHILE THE SAG WANTS MANDELA OUT OF JAIL, IT HAS NOT YET FIGURED OUT HOW TO DO SO BEYOND WAITING FOR FURTHER MOVEMENT FROM ANGOLA AND MOSCOW. THE SAG IS ALSO HIGHLY [end p1] HIATUS IN THE SCHOOL BOYCOTT AT THE END OF MARCH. THEY FEAR AN UPSWING IN VIOLENCE AND ARE THUS UNPREPARED TO LIFT FULLY THE STATE OF EMERGENCY UNTIL THE SCHOOL SCENARIO PLAYS ITSELF OUT.

  6. BLUNTLY, BUT WITHOUT ACRIMONY, PIK SAID THAT, “I CANNOT GIVE YOU THE CLARITY THAT YOU THINK THAT YOU NEED FOR SUCH A MEETING TO TAKE PLACE.” LATER, HE SAID PRIVATELY TO ME THAT, “WE SIMPLY CANNOT MEET YOUR PRICE.” IN OUR PRIVATE CONVERSATION HE ACKNOWLEDGED THAT HE NEVER BELIEVED A PRESIDENTIAL MEETING TO BE A REALISTIC POSSIBILITY GIVEN WHAT HE FULLY UNDERSTANDS TO BE OUR DOMESTIC POLITICAL CONTEXT AND POLICY REQUIREMENTS. HE WANTS US TO CONTINUE TO HELP THE SAG, E. G., HE MADE A STRONG PITCH FOR A MORE FORCEFUL USG ROLE WITH OUR OWN BANKERS. BUT, MOST IMPORTANTLY HE WANTS US TO KEEP UP OUR PRESSURE AND SUPPORT FOR REFORM AS THE BEST WAY OF SUPPORTING THOSE LIKE HIM WITHIN THE NATIONAL PARTY WHO ARE PUSHING FOR CHANGE AND WHO WILL NEED HELP IN HARSH INTRAPARTY BATTLES YET TO COME. I ASSURED HIM OF OUR DESIRE AND DETERMINATION TO GIVE CREDIT WHERE IT IS DUE, AND TO STRESS PUBLICLY THE IMPORTANCE OF NEGOTIATIONS AND AN END TO VIOLENCE. AT THE SAME TIME, I POINTED OUT THAT WE HAVE NO INTEREST IN TRYING TO SELL OUR PUBLIC A RUSTY OLD STUDEBAKERR ONLY STEADY, CONTINUED SAG MOVEMENT (AND THE ABSENCE OF DISASTERS) COULD STRENGTHEN OUR ABILITY TO BE HELPFUL.

  7. WE HAD A LENGTHY DISCUSSION ON THE NAMIBIAN/ANGOLA ISSUE IN WHICH PIK REAFFIRMED THAT HE WANTS TO MOVE AHEAD ON SETTING A DATE CERTAIN FOR NAMIBIAN INDEPENDENCE, ASSUMING THAT AGREEMENT CAN BE REACHED ON CUBAN TROOP WITHDRAWAL PRIOR TO IMPLEMENTATION OF 435. HE SEES GREAT DIPLOMATIC AND PUBLIC RELATIONS VALUE IN DOING SO: “IT'S TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE,” HE SAID. HE SAID THAT LANGUAGE TO THAT EFFECT HAD BEEN IN THE FINAL DRAFT OF P. W.'S JAN. 31 SPEECH BUT THAT IT HAD BEEN SCRATCHED AT THE LAST MINUTE. HE CLAIMED SOME OF THE INTERNAL POLITICAL ACTORS IN NAMIBIA GOT P. W. TO TAKE IT OUT. THE MEETING WAS INTERRUPTED FOR SEVERAL MINUTES WHILE AN AGITATED PIK SPOKE WITH MINDEFENSE MALAN IN CAPE TOWN TO WORK OUT A PRESS LINE ON A S. A. PUBLISHED STORY THAT ASSERTED THAT SUCH AN ANNOUNCEMENT IS IMMINENT. THE RESULT: A STATEMENT THAT THE GOVERNMENT HAS MADE NO DECISION ON THE MATTER. PIK SUSPECTS THE INTERNAL PARTIES AND OTHERS WITHIN THE SAG OF LEAKING THE IDEA IN ORDER TO HAVE IT PREMATURELY SHOT DOWN. IN A SEPARATE CONVERSATION, ONE OF PIK'S CLOSEST AIDES ON NAMIBIA/ANGOLA EXPRESSED CONFIDENCE THAT THE ANNOUNCEMENT ON A DATE CERTAIN COULD BE MADE WITHIN THE NEXT TWO WEEKS. PIK WAS LESS CATEGORIC ABOUT TIMING AND WE AGREED TO STAY IN TOUCH.

  8. WE ALSO DISCUSSED OTHER REGIONAL ISSUES AND I LAID DOWN A HEAVY MARKER ON SAG-BOTSWANA RELATIONS, URGING PIK TO BE LESS HEAVY-HANDED IN SAG DEMANDS ON THE GOB. HE COUNTERED WITH REFERENCE TO PUBLIC UPROAR IN S. A. ABOUT TERRORIST INCIDENTS NEAR THE BOTSWANA BORDER AND STRONGLY HINTED AT A SQUEEZE ON RAILWAY TRAFFIC INTO THAT COUNTRY IF THE BOTSWANA GOVERNMENT DID NOT DEMONSTRATE A POLITICAL WILL TO CLAMP DOWN ON THE ANC. I LEFT PIK IN NO DOUBT THAT WE VIEW BOTSWANA IN A DIFFERENT LIGHT THAN WE DO LESOTHO. WE WILL HAVE TO FOLLOW UP ON THIS NEXT WEEK.

  9. [end p2]
  10. COMMENT: ALL IN ALL, THE MEETINGS WERE USEFUL.

PIK DID NOT COME TO GENEVA TO ARGUE FORCEFULLY FOR A PRESIDENTIAL MEETING AND THE OCCASION PROVIDED US WITH AN OPPORTUNITY TO DISCUSS SEVERAL ISSUES IN DEPTH. ONE NEED NOT ACCEPT PIK'S OWN HEROIC VIEW OF HIMSELF AS THE REFORMING WHITE KNIGHT TO GIVE CREDENCE TO HIS EXPLANATION OF CONTINUING STRESS WITHIN THE GOVERNING PARTY OVER THE TACTICS AND TIMING OF REFORM AND TO RECOGNIZE THAT WITHIN THE LIMITS OF THAT DEBATE HE IS ON THE RIGHT SIDE. I WILL REPORT MORE FULLY ON THE OVERALL IMPLICATIONS OF THE SAG POSITION ON MY RETURN.

(DRAFTED BY DAVIDOW: AF / S) CARMEN