My Fellow Ambassadors (Diplomats about their career)
Associate professor, PhD at the Department of Diplomatic Service and Communication of the Faculty of International Relation of YSU

It is protocol for the newly arrived ambassador to call on fellow ambassadors, which I have been doing, assessing the position of the embassies in South Africa and trying to enlist them all to our position. What I wanted was a series of statements that we could all agree on. I called on all of the European representatives, told them what we were doing, and asked that they join us. I was welcomed with varying degrees of success.

I was supposed to work closely with our allies, especially the British, German and French, and in that order. The British never stepped out front, because they had too many business interests in the country. Neither did France, Taiwan, or Portugal. The French ambassador never joined me in any of my causes - the French did not always seem to care. We knew that some of their business people were making deals with the white business leaders in South Africa, and we finally let them know it.

The Swiss did not join us because of their South Africa business interests. When I asked the Swiss ambassador if he was trying to make a difference in South Africa, he said he was too busy with Swiss business to be out front making change or giving speeches.

The countries that did join forces with us included Germany (after a change in ambassadors), Australia, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Finland and the Low Countries - Belgium and the Netherlands. The Low Countries began to invest considerable money for social and political change. Austria also joined us, led by the perceptive Austrian ambassador, Alexander Christiani.

The German ambassador, Immo Stabreit, was one of the country’s most effective diplomats. Immo is tall, ascetic looking, and wears great ties. His predecessor had been sidetracked by his deputy, who had a personal friendship with Nelson Mandela, but when Immo arrived, he brought a new deputy and a new, more balanced policy from Germany. Before, the Germans had limited contact with white South Africans, but Immo had determined to be all-inclusive and to do what I was doing, which was to see everybody. On occasion, the British ambassador, Stabreit and I met to review the political situation and to compare policies.

The Soviets were not represented in South Africa. The Israeli ambassador consulted with me often, and I asked him once why we heard little from him about apartheid. Israel was very quiet about its interests in South Africa. Not much was known about the business relations between the two countries, but I did know that Israel provided technical assistance in different areas, including atomic energy. By purchasing technology and hiring technical experts from many places, South Africa had put together atomic nuclear activities. Some were trained on Soweto and Crossroads with the possible intent of putting down insurrections in these two townships. It became incumbent upon us to urge South Africa to adhere to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and insure that it put in place IAEA safeguards.

At that time, South Africa did not have relations with mainland China, the People’s Republic of China, but maintained relations with the Republic of China (Taiwan). The ambassador of the Republic of China (Taiwan) was a venerable gentleman and something of an apologist for the Afrikaner government.

The British never once forgot the economic side of the picture and did nothing that might harm British interests in the country. The uniformity of the Margaret Thatcher government dictated that British interests not be disturbed. A British Foreign Office memorandum in 1987 made the British position clear: "The government’s policy towards South Africa is to further the considerable British interests in that country.” The British did want apartheid eliminated, repression ended, the state of emergency lifted, and Mandela and other political prisoners released, but they preferred a policy of what they called "positive measures,” which is akin to constructive engagement. Prime Minister Thatcher gave the impression that anybody who did not agree with her could go straight to hell.

The British wanted change, but Thatcher did not want to force out of the country. She never imposed sanctions, because sanctions would hurt the blacks. British interests in South Africa included such financial pillars as Barkley’s Bank, one of the biggest investors, and Cadbury Chocolates. 

Whenever I met with British businessmen and government officials, they inevitably asked if their investments were safe. I could not give them any reassurances but told them that change, which was coming, would make investments safer than no change.
2125 reads | 10.10.2013

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