Search in

Digital Archive International History Declassified

February 06, 1978


  • Citation

    get citation

    Led by USSR Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, L. F. Ilyichev, the delegation met with southern African leaders to discuss the situation in Zimbabwe and Namibia.
    "Report on Soviet Delegation to Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique and Angola," February 06, 1978, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, SAPMO-BArch; Translated for CWIHP by Daniel Rozas.
  • share document


English HTML

Highly confidential


On 28 January of this year, a Soviet delegation headed by member of the CPSU Review Commission, USSR Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs cde. L. F. Ilyichev was sent to Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique and Angola.

The delegation was assigned to hand to the leaders of these countries personal missives from cde. L. I. Brezhnev in connection with the situation that has arisen in southern Africa, and to exchange opinions with them, as well as with leaders of the national liberation movements in Namibia and Zimbabwe, on specific questions regarding the situation in the southern region of the continent and on other problems that are of mutual interest.

The missives from cde. L. I. Brezhnev note the rising threat of a neocolonialist resolution of the problems of Rhodesia and Namibia as a result of maneuvers by the Western powers and racist regimes of Solebera and Pretoria, emphasizing the importance, given these conditions, of reaching unity between the countries “at the front” and the national liberation movements in southern Africa, in face of a mutual enemy.  Particular attention is paid to the importance of ensuring unity between the Patriotic Front of Zimbabwe, on increasing support for SWAPO [South West Africa People’s Organization] and the full realization of UN resolutions on Namibia and the implementation of sanctions against the Republic of South Africa.  The missives contain the assurance that the Soviet Union, on its part, will continue to exert every effort toward uniting the national-patriotic forces in southern Africa and continuously support every form of struggle to liquidate racism and colonialism in the African continent.  It notes that a large role in these questions can be played by the countries “at the front”.

The delegation was assigned to explain in detail the position of the Soviet Union on the problems facing southern Africa, focus attention on the importance of promptly surmounting the existing disagreements within the Patriotic Front of Zimbabwe and divergences on this question among the countries “at the front,” and express opinion on the importance of drafting a program for coordinated actions by the national-patriotic forces in southern Africa and the countries “at the front” to destroy the racist plans for legalizing the puppet regimes in Namibia and Rhodesia, which would for these purposes employ the UN, the OAE [Organization of African Unity], the nonaligned movement and the international democratic community.  The delegation was also entrusted to inform the African leaders of our principled view toward the current Peking leaders with respect to peoples’ independence struggles and exchange opinions on certain vital international questions.  

During its stay in Tanzania (29-31 January of this year), the Soviet delegation had meetings with President Nyerere, the National Executive Secretary of the Revolutionary Party of Tanzania, P. Msekwa, and the acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fouma.

Nyerere was pleased to receive the personal missive from L. I. Brezhnev.  He gave a high evaluation of the role of the Soviet Union and other countries of the socialist community in supporting the national-patriotic forces in southern Africa.

With respect to the problems of Zimbabwe, Nyerere stated that right now, when the “Anglo-American plan” is dead, the only remaining way for achieving this country’s independence is through armed struggle.  He assured that he is a sincere supporter of the genuine unity within the Patriotic Front of Zimbabwe and apparently has an equal approach toward ZAPU and ZANU [Zimbabwe African People’s Union and Zimbabwe African National Union].  However, Nyerere did not express any practical proposals for assuring such unity, limiting himself to general wishes on the necessity of working in this direction.  In addition, he spoke suggested that we should render assistance and support for ZAPU and ZANU on an equal basis.  In connection with this, he was explained that such a step can only further aggravate relations within the Patriotic Front leadership.

Speaking on the possible shift of events in Rhodesia, Nyerere did not exclude the possibility of civil war as a result of military collision between ZAPU and ZANU.  This perspective, judging by everything, seriously worries him, and this, in our opinion, creates a certain basis for further work with him with the aim of achieving a shift in the current position of the Tanzanian leadership on the question of Zimbabwe.

All in all, the Soviet delegation gathered the impression that the president of Tanzania for now continues to follow the previous line, relying on ZANU for insuring this party’s dominant role in the liberation movement of Zimbabwe.

Nyerere accepted the statements regarding the policy of the Peking leaders calmly and without objections.  He avoided further discussion of this subject, although, judging by his remarks and reactions toward the criticism of Peking, his approach to Chinese policy became more reserved.

During the meeting with our delegation, P. Msekwa was in favor of further development of cooperation with the CPSU, as well as through youth, women’s and other social organizations.

Meetings at the Tanzanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs showed that its position on fundamental international questions, including certain questions of disarmament, did not undergo changes.  Moreover, on a number of questions, in particular those pertaining to recognizing the new government of Kampuchea, the Tanzanians take a wait-and-see position.  

The meetings and talks held by the delegation in Dar-es-Salaam confirmed, in our opinion, the usefulness of a dialog with the Tanzanian leaders for the purpose of influencing them in the direction necessary for us.

On 2 February of this year, cde. L. F. Ilyichev handed L. I. Brezhnev’s missive to President K. Kaunda of Zambia and exchanged opinions with him on the problems in the situation in southern Africa and a number of other vital international questions.  

Having expressed a heartfelt thanks for the missive, K. Kaunda noted the friendly nature of Soviet-Zambian relations and spoke with gratitude about the Soviet Union’s support for the liberation movements of southern Africa.

During the meeting, Kaunda focused primary attention on the situation in Rhodesia, stating that the next three months may be “decisive” for that country.  Like Nyerere, though not in such categorical words, the Zambian president expressed the thought that the possibilities for a peaceful resolution of the Rhodesian problem are now exhausted and that “the liberation movement has nothing else left but to fight.”  Having agreed that unity within the Patriotic Front of Zimbabwe has a life-and-death importance in the resolution of the Rhodesian question, Kaunda directly tied the possibility of securing it with the achievement of mutual understanding between Zimbabwe and Mozambique.  The Zambian president believes that the essential condition for achieving mutual understanding with Mozambique lies in removing S. Mashela from Nyerere, who exerts a negative influence on him.  The Zambian president sharply and negatively reacted to the idea expressed by Nyerere and Mashela that we should render military assistance to ZAPU and ZANU concurrently, which, in his words, would only lead to further deterioration of relations between the partners in battle.  He expressed support for continuing Soviet support for ZAPU, emphasizing that such assistance must not be placed under the condition of the realization of unity within the Patriotic Front.