Tag Archives: Brian Urquhart

Apartheid: “A Policy of Good Neighborliness”

Here are a few videos of Dr. Hendrick Verwoerd, who has been called the “Architect of apartheid” for the policies he put into practice during his time as Minister of Native Affairs and as Prime Minister of the Republic of South Africa.

Recently, in a speech to the Democratic Alliance’s Federal Congress, Allister Sparks listed Verwoerd as one of the “really smart politicians” he had met in his 64 years as journalist in South Africa – but he also included his friend and colleague Helen Zille – an anti-apartheid activist and journalist, who put her life in danger to expose the cover-up of Steve Biko‘s death, calling her “the smartest political tactician of all.” I think the assumption by those upset with his inclusion of Verwoerd, is that they think he admires him personally, when he only called him “smart”. Verwoerd was smart, in that he knew how to manipulate public opinion for personal gain and to turn human rights backwards – when Dag Hammarskjold met with Verwoerd in January of 1961, Brian Urquhart wrote in his biography of him “He had felt that he had been speaking to Verwoerd across a gulf of three hundred years”. But to better understand why people are upset to even hear his name, you must hear Verwoerd in his own words.

“Our policy is one, which is called by an Afrikanns word “Apartheid”. And I’m afraid that has been misunderstood so often. It could just as easily, and, perhaps, much better be described as a policy of good neighborliness. Accepting that there are differences between people, and that while these differences exist, and you have to acknowledge them, at the same time you can live together, aide one another, but that can best be done when you act as good neighbors always do.”

“The Republic is the only sure and stable friend that the western nations have in Africa. We are here to stay, and we are here to aide all others in whatever they may need and can get from us. We have, for a very long time, developed in South Africa a nation of our own – friendly, prosperous, progressive. We hope that the rest of Africa will become likewise.[…] Of course there has been sensational journalism and conditioned reporting, which created the impression that there would be great difficulties ahead of us. We have no doubt at all this will pass. Certain restrictive measures had to be taken recently, mainly to insure to protection of the masses – of all races who seek peace and order. Therefore, a stable government will continue in South Africa.[…] Here the solution is sought by openly retaining the white man’s guiding hand; which elsewhere is the hidden guarantee of industrial development, and even good administration.”

In 1966, Hendrick Verwoerd was assassinated, stabbed in the chest and neck while at his desk in Parliament, but it wasn’t the first attempt made on his life. Six years earlier, at the Johannesburg agricultural show, he was shot in the head twice. This video shows that earlier attempt.

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First United Nations Staff Day 1953

First United Nations Staff Day 8 Sept 1953
Dag Hammarskjold with Danny Kaye, Marion Anderson and Ezio Pinza
First United Nations Staff Day, 8 September 1953, UN photo

Invitation for First UN Staff Day 8 September 1953
Vlado’s invitation, from the personal collection

If anyone deserved a special day of recognition, it was the UN staff of 1953, who had been slandered by the U.S. federal grand jury on 2 December 1952, saying that there was “infiltration into the U.N. of an overwhelmingly large group of disloyal U.S. citizens”. Secretary-General Trygve Lie gave the FBI carte blanche of New York Headquarters “for the convenience” – and this was after he gave his resignation, on 10 November 1952; which he gave under pressure of McCarthyism, and the Soviet Union’s refusal (for years) to recognize him as Secretary-General because of his involvement in Korea. Hammarskjold was sworn in on 10 April 1953, and he did all he could to defend and support his UN staff, and managed to get the FBI removed from UN Headquarters by November 1953.

With appreciation to the author, here are excerpts from chapter 3 of Brian Urquhart’s biography of Hammarskjold:

“On January 9 [1953], President Truman, by Executive Order 10422, introduced a procedure by which the U.S. government would provide the Secretary-General with information on U.S. candidates for employment and would empower the U.S. Civil Service Commission to investigate the loyalty of Americans already employed by the UN. In the same month, the Eisenhower administration’s new representative to the UN, Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., as one of his first official acts asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to investigate all members of the U.S. mission to the UN as well as U.S. members of the Secretariat itself. For the latter purpose Lie permitted the FBI to operate in the UN Building, for the convenience, as he explained it, of the large number of Secretariat officials who would have to be interrogated and fingerprinted. To the Secretariat, the presence of the FBI in the “extraterritorial” Headquarters Building symbolized yet another capitulation to the witch-hunters.”

[…]

“Another problem inherited from Lie was the presence of the FBI in the UN Building. The extent of that agency’s activities was revealed on June 20 during an incident in the public gallery of the Security Council, when an American agent in plain clothes attempted to take a demonstrator away from the UN guards. Hammarskjold demanded a full investigation of this incident and protested vigorously to the U.S. mission. He had also learned of the case of a senior official who had been given a detailed questionnaire on his relations with various people and his views on Communism. The fact that the official had felt obliged to reply raised in Hammarskjold’s mind a serious question of principle. Did a government have the right to question a respected official of the UN with a long and good record of service on the basis solely of suspicion and rumor? Surely the proper course was for the government concerned to tell the Secretary-General of its suspicions, leaving it to him alone to decide what action, if any, should be taken and what questions should be put to the official concerned. He therefore instructed the members of the Secretariat that until he could get the FBI off the premises their reaction to inquiries about their colleagues could in no circumstances go beyond the duty of everyone to help the law. A member of the Secretariat must make it clear that there were questions that, as an international civil servant, he had no right to answer and these included questions relating to his UN work and to the activities of the UN itself, as well as the political or religious views or past relationships of himself or of his colleagues. This meant, in fact, that only nonpolitical criminal activities were a legitimate subject for investigation by the FBI. In November 1953, making use of the opportunity provided by a remark to the McCarran Subcommittee by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover that the extraterritorial status of international organizations in the United States made it impossible for the FBI to operate on their premises, Hammarskjold asked for the immediate removal of the FBI from UN Headquarters.”

But there was still the matter of the American staff members that had been dismissed or terminated by Trygve Lie because they plead the Fifth Amendment when investigated. Hammarskjold wasn’t able to make everyone happy with his decisions, but I feel he was trying to avoid giving the McCarthy crowd any kind of foothold for future harassment.

“During the summer a U.S. federal grand jury, the International Organizations Employees Loyalty Board, and two U.S. Senate Subcommittees continued to investigate present and former American Secretariat members. On August 21 the Administration Tribunal, the Secretariat’s highest court of appeal, rendered judgments in twenty-one cases of American staff members who had appealed against their dismissal or termination by Lie for having invoked the Fifth Amendment during investigations by the U.S. authorities. The Tribunal found in favor of eleven of the applicants, awarding compensation to seven of them and ordering the reinstatement of four. Hammarskjold declined to reinstate the four on the grounds that it was “inadvisable from the points of view which it is my duty to take into consideration,” whereupon they too were awarded compensation. His decision simultaneously dismayed a large part of the UN staff, who believed that their colleagues should have been reinstated, and enraged the anti-UN faction in the United States led by Senators Joseph McCarthy and William E. Jenner, who saw it as a recommendation for the payment of some $189,000 in compensation to traitors. The attitude of the senators was later reflected in the U.S. opposition in the General Assembly to Hammarskjold’s request for an appropriation to pay the compensation awards.”

For further context, you can read the speeches Hammarskjold gave to the staff in New York and Geneva in May of 1953 on the Dag Hammarskjold Library website.

Photos of Hammarskjold

Several months ago, I was sent something serious that has been troubling me, and I have been reticent to write about it, because I wanted to be more informed before giving my opinion.

The anonymous source that sent me the scans of letters from the archive of Roy Welensky (I have three, one of them is published here), also sent photos of the crash site and wreckage of the Albertina in Ndola. Some of the photos I recognized from Susan Williams book Who Killed Hammarskjold?, but many I had never seen before.

In one photo, labelled “Offloading wreckage of DC-6B SE-BDY prior to burial at Ndola airport”, you see white men standing around, talking to each other, while black men work to offload the wreckage from the back of a truck into a pit, which has been made by a nearby bulldozer that is preparing to flatten everything before burying it all. I don’t understand why the plane had to be buried, it makes no sense to me. Is it normal to bury planes like this? I’ve never heard of such a thing.

In another photo, labelled “Location of levelled site with “burial party” Messrs. J.D. Williams (Ndola Airport Manager) H.C. Bowell (Aircraft Engineer) M.C.H. Barber (Director of Civil Aviation) and M. Madders (Chief Aircraft Engineer)”, you see these four white men, standing side by side in the bulldozer tracks of the freshly covered grave of the Albertina, smiling, hands on hips, a pipe in the mouth of the Ndola Airport Manager. They look rather pleased with themselves.

But the most troubling thing I received were the autopsy photos of Dag Hammarskjold, six of them. I don’t know how many people have seen these photos, but they are shocking, and very sad. The post mortem of Hammarskjold makes no mention of the playing card that was placed in his shirt collar (an ace of spades, supposedly, which was from decks of playing cards found scattered at the scene) but there it was, very clearly seen in the three photos taken at the crash site. The card also appears to have been adjusted to its side in one photo. Even if it was placed there as a sick joke, it certainly lends a sinister note to the whole macabre scene. The three photos from the crash site show him on a stretcher, his clothes unburned and intact, his face streaked with blood, and the other three were taken in the mortuary, but there is no photo evidence of the actual place where Hammarskjold’s body was found. I wish I could publish these photos, so people could see for themselves, but I’ve been asked to keep them private.

Having seen them, I found myself very upset at Brian Urquhart after reading this passage he wrote in his biography of Hammarskjold:

“Hammarskjold was thrown clear of the wreckage and alone among the victims, was not burned at all. Although the post mortem showed that he had probably lived for a short time after the crash, his injuries–a severely fractured spine, several broken ribs, a broken breastbone, a broken thigh, and severe internal hemorrhaging–were certainly fatal. He was lying on his back near a small shrub which had escaped the fire, his face extraordinarily peaceful, a hand clutching a tuft of grass.”

Did Urquhart look at the same photos I did? Because the face of Hammarskjold does not look “extraordinarily peaceful” to me, it looks beaten and bloodied. And just like the post mortem report, Urquhart makes no mention of the obvious playing card. What was the point of this omission, if not to cover up the horror of the situation? These are just my observations.

Unfortunately, Urquhart was of the opinion that the testimonies of African witnesses who saw the Albertina followed closely by smaller planes just before the crash, and any other theory of murder, were just “fantasy”, as he writes in the epilogue of the biography:

“Although there is a large–and still growing–literature on Hammarskjold’s death, it is significant that none of those who cling to the idea that he was murdered in one way or another have seen fit to demand a new inquiry or to present serious evidence. The main conspiracy theories put forward are mutually exclusive–if one is true, all the others must be false–and so far none of them is backed by anything more than rumor, speculation, and fantasy.”

Urquhart wrote this back in 1972, but I wonder if he still holds the same opinion after reading Susan Williams book, and the September 2013 Report from the Hammarskjold Commission. After all these years have gone by, I have to ask, why is there still so much secrecy about what happened to Hammarskjold?