Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Peter J. Skoufis
We had no problems with the integration of the administrative activities. When I first arrived in South Africa, I encountered my first Department financial crisis which would occur periodically. We had a change of administrations in Washington, with Eisenhower being the new President and John Foster Dulles the Secretary of State. Immediately, there was an economy wave. Certain programs were eliminated, staffs were reduced and we were supposed to do more with less. Before I had arrived, it had been the practice for the Ambassador, the Political and the Economic Sections would move to Cape Town for the session of the South African legislature. When the legislature was not in session, the staff would move back to Pretoria. We had an Ambassador's residence in both places. The maintenance of the Cape Town residence was the responsibility of our Consulate General there. I used to go to Cape Town at the beginning of the legislative session to make sure that all preparations had been made for the Ambassador and the accompanying staff. This included not only housing, but also the office work. We were fortunate that our Air Attach� had a plane at his disposal which we would use to fly to Cape Town and back. He needed the flying time and we needed the transportation. That is also the way we shuffled the mail pouch back and forth. The pouch would come to Pretoria from Washington, where we would sort the mail and transship those pieces that were addressed to the people in Cape Town. If there was something urgent for the Ambassador, we had the capability of wiring it to him by using the old-fashioned one-time pad system. Generally speaking, those situations were few and far between. Most of the time, the pouch system was adequate and the material was shipped on the Air Force attach�'s plane.
I was never in Cape Town for a whole legislative session. As I said, I went at the beginning and sporadically thereafter. We didn't move any of the administrative staff. After the economy drive started, we ceased sending whole sections to Cape Town. Instead, if the legislature was to debate an economic matter, we would send someone from the economic section to Cape Town for that debate and then he or she would return to Pretoria. If the issue was political, the chief of the Political Section would go or a member of his staff. The Deputy Chief of Mission would always stay in Pretoria. There were times when we had skeleton staffs both in Pretoria and Cape Town. The system worked adequately.
We had 4 constituent posts: Durban, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town and Johannesburg plus the Embassy at Pretoria. It was a very interesting operation. It ran well, partly because we were at the end of the communications line from Washington. We got a pouch once a week on the Pan American flight. It was a big occasion; we would go to the airport to meet the flight. Then we would be busy for two or three days dealing with the material in the pouch; then we would reseal that pouch for its flight back to Washington. It was a good operation; we had a chance to play a lot of tennis and golf.
Q: When you went to Pretoria, you had not had any State Department administrative experience. What did you expect and what did you find?