From the Archive of Sir Roy Welensky, 1961

Congo political cartoon
“Target shooting at the Congo”

Back in January, I posted one of three letters that were sent to me from the Archive of Sir Roy Welensky, the last Prime Minister of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland; written by High Commissioner of South Africa, H.L.T. Taswell, and marked “TOP SECRET”. Since they don’t appear to be available anywhere else, I decided to publish the other two letters here today, in full (emphasis mine).

12th October, 1961

TOP SECRET

SECRETARY FOR EXTERNAL AFFAIRS.
PRETORIA

The Federation and the Katanga

At Sir Roy’s request, I had an interview with him this morning.

He told me that there were certain things he would like to have brought to the notice of our Prime Minister. One of them was that he had had a talk about ten days ago with Tshombe. The interview took place at Sir Roy’s request and Tshombe was flown to the airport at Salisbury with two Katanga Ministers. They spoke for about five hours in secrecy.

While he did not always think too much of the black man as a statesman, Sir Roy said, he was greatly impressed with Tshombe’s ability and sincerity. Sir Roy told Tshombe he had arranged the meeting because he felt there were certain points he wished to stress and hoped he would take his advice.

Sir Roy told him that it was impossible for him to try to fight the whole Afro-Asian bloc on his own and that it was essential to avoid a further clash with the U.N. which could be disastrous particularly with Nehru, his greatest enemy, doing everything he could to crush the Katanga completely.

The Katanga was the first setback the Afro-Asian bloc had suffered in Africa and it was therefore essential that he, Tshombe, should do all he could to capitalize on it. He must play his cards extremely well. As a start, it was most desirable that he should have talks with Adoula and reach a Congo settlement. He suggested that he should insist that all outsiders, including the United Nations, be excluded from the talks. Furthermore, any agreement reached with Adoula should be on a phased basis. No irrevocable step should be taken and each successive phase of a settlement should only be put into operation when each previous step had been carried out in an entirely satisfactory manner. Sir Roy hoped too that Tshombe would move in the direction of a federation in which a certain degree of autonomy would be retained by the Katanga.

Tshombe accepted this advice with much gratitude and since his return it appears that he has been working in this direction.

In so far as the United Kingdom and the Katanga were concerned, Sir Roy said his tactics all along had been to keep the United Kingdom fully informed on how he viewed developments. He had given them advance warning all along of trouble and had forecast developments with accuracy.

The United Kingdom, however, had preferred to close their eyes to all this and to let the United Nations go ahead unchecked.

When the Indians moved into the Elisabethville Post Office last month and the fighting started, Sir Roy delivered an ultimatum to the United Kingdom. He said that regardless of what the Federation’s legal position might be he was going to aid Tshombe. The Federal Air Force was at the alert and unless the United Kingdom took steps at once to the check the United Nations he was ordering the RRAF into action.

“While Tshombe and I could not have taken on the world we could have cleared up that U.N. bunch in no time. And that, ‘he smiled’ would really have started something.”

This ultimatum infuriated the United Kingdom and Sir Roy’s public statement that the British were going back on assurances they had given regarding the Katanga so incensed Mr. Sandys that he said he would have no further dealings with Sir Roy.

Driven into a corner, however, and fearful of the consequences for themselves of any federal armed intervention, the United Kingdom brought pressure to bear on the United Nations and the United States for a cease fire.

Since then Sir Roy has been pressing a reluctant U.K. to take further action by supplying them with information on the U.N. violations of the ceasefire and their military build up. He has been asking the United Kingdom what justification there is for example for the bringing in of Canberra bombers and jet fighters when the Katanga has only one Fouga jet trainer. The United Kingdom are now finally reacting favourably to all this and their influence on the Americans and U.N. is discernible.

In this connection, he mentioned that a further U.N. attack on Tshombe was expected this past week-end but it had not materialized. The danger of such an attack, incidentally, was the motive behind the issue of Sir Roy’s statement last Saturday. The text was telegraphed to you.

We believe that O’Brien’s recall for consultation is imminent and that he is unlikely to return to the Congo.

While Tshombe and his regime are by no means out of the woods, Sir Roy believes that they now have a reasonable chance of survival.

Touching on the Indians, Sir Roy said that one of the main reasons for their use was that other troops, particularly the Tunisians, had shown themselves to be extremely faint hearted. When the action started in the Katanga, the Tunisians had refused to leave Leopoldville.

Sir Roy, however, does not underestimate Indian motives. Referring to the report of an agreement between Lumumba and [Rajeshwar] Dayal for the settlement of two million Indians in the Congo, he stated that he had heard that documentary proof of this was available but he had not yet been able to lay his hands on it.

Referring to the Indian military build-up, he said he hoped we fully appreciated the grave danger it presented to us as far as S.W.A. was concerned.

His security people had information that a further contingent of Indian troops had arrived at Dar-es Salaam on October 8th on an American transport ship. The name of the vessel was something like “Blatchford”.

Touching on the question of foreign mercenaries, Sir Roy mentioned that the Federation had taken a man by the name of Browne off one of the two Dove aircraft that came up from South Africa recently on their way to the Katanga.

Sir Roy said they have proof that Browne was working for both sides – the U.N. and the Katanga. This is the man Col. Zinn spoke to the Commandant-General about when he visited South Africa recently.

After the interview I asked Federal security what they knew against him specifically. They replied that the white Katanga security people had long suspected Browne of double dealings. Also, when he was taken prisoner of the U.N., along with other mercenaries, earlier this year he was released “almost in a matter of minutes” while the others were detained. As a personality too federal security have no time for him and do not trust him in the least. His British passport was impounded by the United Kingdom High Commissioner here and he has been declared a prohibited immigrant by the Federal Government. He may since have made his way into the Katanga.

On the subject of Dag Hammarskjoeld’s [sic] death, Sir Roy said that he was preparing to have an enquiry take place under the chairmanship of the Chief Justice of the Federation, Sweden and I.C.A.O. would be invited to attend and he hoped to obtain another judge from a neutral country such as Switzerland. He would insist that the enquiry be a public one as there were certain things he felt should come out in the open and not be hushed up.

Hammarskjoeld’s plane left Leopoldville in such secrecy that even the United Nations Commander there did not have details of the flight. The plane had sufficient petrol on board when it started out for 13 hours flight. When it was over Ndola it still had sufficient fuel for another 8 hours. The plane had taken a round about route to avoid Katanga. There were 7 guards on board and a large quantity of ammunition. The general impression gained was that all were greatly afraid of an attack by the Katanga jet. The plane circled Ndola but did not ask for permission to land. There is reason to believe that the pilot may even had made a mistake in the altitude of Ndola and confused it with that of a place with a similar name in Angola.

Hammarskjoeld’s bag of documents was intact and could not be opened as it had a special locking device. Various parties tried their best to gain control of the bag. It was finally handed to the U.N. Representative. The Swedish Minister in South Africa was one of those who made strong endeavours to secure it. The Minister, Sir Roy said, gave the impression here of being an unpleasant character who required watching.

Turning to the Federation’s own present position, Sir Roy seemed very heartened by the removal of McLeod as Colonial Secretary and by the increasing feeling among Conservatives that the British Government should go more slowly in its African policy and that the interests of the white man should be protected.

The situation in Northern Rhodesia was also improving. Kaunda was being more and more discredited and his campaign of violence had backfired on him considerably. The Northern Rhodesia Government was distributing posters showing the damage done to schools and this was having a telling effect on the the Chiefs. The United Federal Party was now actively backing Katilungu of the A.N.C. with funds and helping him in his campaign. He was following closely behind Kaunda on his tour through parts of Northern Rhodesia and meeting with considerable success.

Although Heinriche and the Campbell, Booker Carter group were also backing Katilungu Anglo-American’s position was not very clear. Rhodesia’s Selection Trust, it seemed, did not approve of the idea at all. They had backed Kaunda very strongly, Sir Roy added, and Kaunda was also McLeod’s choice as leader of Northern Rhodesia.

He remarked incidentally that neither Anglo-American nor RST contributed financially to the United Federal Party any longer. (In a recent report I commented that I had heard these companies had recently restored their support. The information was given to me by an opposition M.P.)

Sir Roy did not touch on Dr. Banda directly. He just nodded his head and smiled when I commented that Banda would find himself very isolated if Katilungu were to come to terms with the United Federal Party. Sir Roy just did not seem to worry what happened to Banda.

During my interview I referred to our desire to overfly Federal territory in order to map our border. Sir Roy’s reaction was “Of course you can. Go ahead”. At the request of the Secretary for External Affairs here I have, however, put the request in writing and hope to have a formal reply shortly.

On defence generally Sir Roy did not say anything special but he gave me to understand that he would like to see Mr. Caldicott visit South Africa shortly.

Sir Roy said that he thought our Minister’s statement at the U.N. was a very sound one indeed and that Afro Asian reaction showed that body up in its true light. I gave Sir Roy a full copy of the Minister’s statement.

While one has gained the impression all along here that the Federal Prime Minister has been Tshombe’s main champion, the additional information Sir Roy gave me today shows just what lengths he was prepared to go to help the Katanga. But for the great pressure he brought to bear on the United Kingdom I think Katanga would have collapsed by now – and the U.N. and the Indians would no doubt have had more time to devote to S.W.A.

We can be extremely thankful that our Federal buffer to the north has as capable and resolute a Prime Minister as Sir Roy. We can be glad too that he has as skilled and well informed a Secretary for External Affairs as Mr. F.N.N. Parry. Both, moreover, show an exceptional amount of goodwill towards our country.

H.L.T. Taswell
High Commissioner

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2nd December, 1961

TOP SECRET

SECRETARY FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
PRETORIA

The Federation and the Dangers Ahead.

“The wind of change speech which Macmillan made in Cape Town was originally to have been made by Butler but it was postponed because of Strijdom’s death.”

That is what Sir Roy told me in the strictest confidence when I had an interview with him this morning. He asked too that the information be passed only to the Prime Minister, our Minister of Foreign Affairs and yourself.

He revealed this piece of information while talking about the great dangers facing Southern Africa.

Sir Roy, as you know, has just recently returned from London and Lisbon. Salazar, he said, is a worried, disillusioned and perturbed man who finds it extremely difficult to understand why his friends have turned against him.

“I am not disillusioned by Britain’s attitude” Sir Roy went on “I have known the British too long. If they tell you one thing now you can be almost certain that they mean exactly the opposite.

“A few weeks before McLeod was switched to another cabinet post I was assured” Sir Roy continued “that no such change was contemplated. Now I am assured that Macmillan will fight the next election. That just about convinces me that he will shortly resign in favour of Butler.”

Macmillan, Sir Roy added, has aged about five years mentally since he last saw him and will accordingly not be able to hold the reins of government much longer.

The present British trend to get out of Africa as quickly as possible is nothing new, he continued, it has been part of a plan for several years. Men like Lennox-Boyd and Home who developed such close and sound personal relations with people in British territories in Africa have been deliberately pushed aside. The British Government do not want people in top positions who have given firm assurances abroad which it would now be embarrassing for them to withdraw. The British want their hands free.

It was at this stage of the conversation that Sir Roy mentioned the wind of change speech in Cape Town.

Shortly before this he had said that “we in this country are on our own. I fully realize that.” He added that there was a tremendous danger of Southern Africa being cut off altogether of arms. The United Kingdom, he said, were selling fighter aircraft to the Federation at top prices. America on the other hand was supplying Yugo Slavia [sic] with aircraft at a nominal price of $10,000 each. Russia was now giving Migs to African states free of charge in order to help them in their struggle for freedom.

In the face of all this he went on, he was disgusted to see that Denmark had just refused to supply any further arms to Portugal. He deplored Israel’s action in voting for sanctions against us and added “I hope your Prime Minister is bending every possible effort to produce an atomic bomb in South Africa.”

Sir Roy stated that during he recent visit to London he had accused the British Government of deliberately going against the white man in Africa and of letting the Federation down at every turn. He told them too that he knew from information he had received in London that they were trying to put obstacles in the way of supplying arms to South Africa and, in turn, to stop the Federation from obtaining anything from the South.

The British Government hotly denied all this.

At present, Sir Roy went on, he could draw all he wanted from Kenya and Aden. Those bases would, however, one day close down and the only British base left in Africa would be the Federation.

It is interesting to speculate at this point whether Sir Roy’s strong remarks in London could not have had some bearing on the favourable negotiations which our Commandant-General and our Secretary for Defence were able to conduct in London recently.

Turning to the Indians in the Katanga, Sir Roy said that he had someone sitting in Dar-es-Salaam and watching troop movements. It was quite clear that more Indians were going into the Katanga than were coming out. Apart from the question of build up of U.N. strength it seemed probable that many Indians were being moved into the Congo as settlers. He confirmed that Indians were making an economic survey and taking an intense interest in mines.

“There is a great deal on the military side which I would like our Minister of Defence to discuss with your people urgently” Sir Roy went on “and I hope he can get down to see you very shortly. I don’t think this matter should be delayed too long.”

Turning to the Federation’s internal affairs Sir Roy remarked that economically the situation was much better than it had been expected to be at this time. Politically too the position looked hopeful.

A month or two ago Sir Roy declared that provided agreement could be reached internally with the constituent territories there would be little need for a review of the Federal Constitution. The British Government would be presented with a fait accompli and have to accept it as such.

I asked Sir Roy what progress he was making in this direction. He replied that Banda had already indicated his willingness to meet him after Maudlin’s present visit was over.

In so far as Northern Rhodesia was concerned Kaunda had already had a talk with Roberts, the leader of the United Federal Party there. Sir Roy has little time for Kaunda personally, however, he has reason to believe that Kaunda was at one time in an asylum and is mentally unstable. He doubts if he has full control of UNIP.

Barotseland, Sir Roy feels, is very much on his side and adamantly opposed to falling under a black nationalist government in Northern Rhodesia. The Federal authorities have provided the territory with a legal adviser to keep it fully informed and advise it on tactics when talking to the British Government.

Expressing confidence that it would eventually be possible to reach an agreement Sir Roy concluded “we will have no Congo here and if Britain tries to force one on us we will defend ourselves at gunpoint.”

This interview was one I had asked for prior to going on leave. As I entered his room, however, Sir Roy remarked that he presumed I had come in response to his request. When I explained that I had not, he said “but I told my people I wanted to see you. How is it these things go wrong?”

Looking back on my talk with him, I would say that Sir Roy is much more worried about the current dangers to the Federation than he cared to admit.

If the Katanga collapses, the Federation will be on its own. If attacked from outside it is very doubtful how long the Federation will be able to hold out on its own. Every effort will no doubt be made to hold the line of rail Northern Rhodesia and the Copperbelt and Southern Rhodesia.

With internal unrest fomented by the UNIP in Northern Rhodesia and by the NDP in Southern Rhodesia, to say nothing of trouble from Banda and from the dissident white elements, the position could be extremely difficult. Our buffer in the North could easily disappear leaving the path open for an attack on South West Africa and ourselves.

I should accordingly not be surprised to find that Mr. Caldicott’s proposed visit to South Africa, is to learn what our attitude is likely to be in the event of an attack on the Federation.

The following is the latest information available on the make up of the Federation’s population—

Whites: S.R. 220,610/ N.R. 74,600/ Nys. 8,730/ Total 303,940
Asians: S.R. 6,990/ N.R. 7,740/ Nys. 10,580/ Total 25,310
Others: S.R. 10,540/ N.R. 1,910/ Nys. 1,500/ Total 13,950
Blacks: S.R. 2,920,000/ N.R. 2,410,000/ Nys. 2,880,000/ Total 8,210,000
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Total: S.R. 3,158,140/ N.R. 2,494,250/ Nys. 2,900,810/ Total 8,553,200

In assessing the problems which face the Federation one must not underestimate the drive, determination and dynamic personality of Sir Roy who stand head and shoulders about all other politicians in this country.

H.L.T. Taswell
High Commissioner

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7 thoughts on “From the Archive of Sir Roy Welensky, 1961

    1. fabryhistory Post author

      I’m surprised you read it – that’s over 3000 words I transcribed! I actually had to transcribe it twice, so I’m glad you appreciate how fascinating it is.

      1. john zande

        I’m glad you did. It’s so strange to people frank, almost callous appraisals of such serious matters.

        The Rhodesian correspondences are doubly interesting because it foreshadows the rise of Ian Smith and his merry army. He’s not mentioned, but you can sense him there in the background.

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