When the ANC won the 1994 elections, one of its commitment was to work on the country’s foreign policy. There was a recognition of other African countries and in how they all as a collective suffered under the apartheid regime and the minority domination. The ANC saw a special need to build one solid able relationship with the Southern African region. When the ANC came into power it mandate was to strive for close regional cooperation and integration, including peace and security within the continent. “The ANC placed itself squally in the South, and committed itself to ensuring that the position of countries in the South are not prejudiced in the world economy and to addressing growing tensions between North and South”. The months before the election in April 1994 saw the ANC preparing for government by fine-turning policy positions on many governance issues and recognising the need to establish human resources to set up new international mission abroad. Today South Africa exercises it foreign policy through the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), which is currently led by Minister Maite NKoane-Mashabane. Within the period of three consecutive years, DIRCO publishes a strategic plan which contains policy formulation, goals and directions on how South African’s policies should be conducted and coordinated.
The main aim of foreign policy practice is to maximize national interest and South Africa has been so far adhering to it by regularly evaluating or reassessing it policies in order to ensure that the national interest is maximised. To ensure that goals are still achieve at the public interest. South Africa holds what is called a white paper which carries all the mandate on South Africa’s foreign policy and it is whereby the Minister of foreign policy is the person responsible for formulating, promoting and executing South Africa’s foreign policies in cooperation with the president (Department of International Relations and cooperation, 2012). When one looks at the South Africa’s foreign policy with it history of the apartheid regime, it is important to critically asses the South Africa’s foreign policy during apartheid to post-apartheid. There has been much change between the two eras or difference in the South African foreign policy during apartheid and today under democracy, therefore I will discuss the foreign policy during apartheid to post-apartheid South Africa by critically analysing it according to it leadership of Nelson Mandela, to Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma focusing on each president foreign policy agenda’s in assessing the South Africa’s Foreign policy.
South Africa foreign policy under Nelson Mandela
When South Africa transitioned into democracy, much change was to take place. There was a need for in change in South Africa’s foreign policy and not just in the field of it foreign policy but South Africa as a whole. Democracy meant huge changes are going to take place in South Africa and all this to be done under the leadership of the late Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela faced a formidable task of translating the gains of liberation diplomacy, into a pragmatic and principled foreign policy. Much was to be done in South Africa when it came to it foreign policy, such as the image the institutional framework inherited from the successive apartheid regime and change it foreign policy. When Nelson Mandela came into power there were certain areas of focus that were very important to be addressed as possible such as the economic development, alleviating the tension that was growing between global North and South, and multilateralism. The SADC was another important key area of focus and it was the most important that need attention far more than the others because the ANC recognised a special relationship with countries of the Southern African region, as all of them had suffered under apartheid. It was to strive for close regional cooperation’s and integration and renounced all hegemonic ambitions in the region.
South African foreign policy after apartheid can generally be split into three phases, as explained by Venter and Landsberg (2006):
1). Ethics as Pragmatism
2). Redefinition of it role
3). the African Renaissance
The shift in power in 1994 ultimately led to a shift in political direction. This was largely due to the fact that democratic South Africa was in a sense borne out of actions by Non-Governmental organisations, the actions by the AAMs, and the actions by the UN and other anti-apartheid states. There was a new set of guidelines and principles to guide South African foreign policy implemented by Nelson Mandela and Alfred Nzo, who was at time the minister of foreign affairs. These guidelines were specific on ethics and the protection of human rights, in order to protect people from what they had suffered under the apartheid regime. South Africa’s main aim or goal was to promote democratisation and human rights; conflict resolution and peaceful settlement of disputes as the preferred ways of solving or resolving disputes, international law; equality between states and having Southern Africa in particular, and Africa in general from the core south Africa foreign policy. This was also in line with the internal political climate at the time such as the Truth and Reconciliation commission (TRC), which was established to deal with the human rights abuses committed during apartheid. The TRC was a restorative justice organ for those who suffered under apartheid regime and highly felt that their human rights were violated.
South foreign policy under Thabo Mbeki
When President Nelson Mandela’s terms as the president of South Africa ended, Thabo Mbeki was his successor, who was at a time his deputy president. When Thabo Mbeki came into power after Nelson Mandela, he went back to re-asses the South Africa foreign policy as a whole, so it can be realign according to his own domestic policy principle as the new president. President Thabo Mbeki saw a need to change the human right driven foreign policy of Mandela to a more pragmatic orientation where the main goal was the progress of Africa, through his concept he introduced the African Renaissance. Thabo Mbeki had his own set of goals or vision when it came to South Africa foreign policy. His focus was nevertheless to globalisation of the world economy, multilateralism, regional and continental cooperation, and the growing gap between the global North and global South. “The review also led to South Africa articulating a clear and precise national interest regime” (Lobo, 2014). South Africa’s foreign policy goals were clearly defined in domestic regional, highlighted the importance of strategic partnerships and alliances, both in terms of the economy and geography. The national interest of the country was the main priority and the development of the national interest as the first step in formulating a foreign policy. National interest provide the necessary measures of consistency to national policy; a state, consciously adhering to its national interest in a rapidly changing situation, is more likely to maintain its balance and continue to progress towards its goals that it would if it changes its interest in adapting to each new situations.
Another priority was the closest region, then Africa, South-south cooperation, North-south, and finally strategic bilateral cooperation. All of these priorities mentioned above were the utmost importance for foreign policy. All in all, Thabo Mbeki also saw a need for a revamp in OAU, in conjunction with his call for an African Renaissance. African Renaissance became a key pillar of Mbeki’s foreign policy since 1999. The concept of a rebirth of Africa consisted of two visons, one of modernity and one of tradition and heritage, both these visions had their own set of goals. In modernity, he referred to it as a modern Africa where the majority of people will have access to new information super highway that was the internet and other transportation and economic success through the development of infrastructure and an increased inflow of foreign direct investment (FDI). The second vision which was of tradition and heritage, lied on the idea of a collective Africa functioning or operating under the idea of Ubuntu. “This concept entails development through values such as humanness, people realising their humanity through their interaction with others, reciprocal respect, sharing, trust and helpfulness”.
The implementation of GEAR policy south Africa is said to be seen as have taken a step back from pursuing it goals on foreign policy based on Ubuntu, as GEAR leans towards the Breton woods institutions, such as the world bank and the international monetary fund’s in order to increase financial growth (Venter and Landsberg, 2006) . When one looks at the principle of Ubuntu, it is in contrast with the desire that Africa should be able to help itself, and not be dependent on help from the West and western style of economy which is capitalism. Much of restructuring was done by Mbeki such as the OAU to further promote the agenda of the global South which lead to a creation of the AU in Durban in 2012 and to the creation of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). It did not end here but also the restructuring of the way the department of international relations worked, that is by bureaucracy. With all this several changes, Mbeki made in foreign policy, it led to a shift in economic policy, the policy of the RDP was exchanged for the GEAR.
South Africa foreign policy under Jacob Zuma
Jacob Zuma was sworn in as a president when then ANC won the general elections on 6 May 2009 and he was sworn in three days later. Jacob Zuma was mostly known for his contribution on domestic policies, such as job creation, education, crime, rural development and land redistribution. They was a concern in Zuma presidency compared to Mbeki as Zuma was not the same type of central foreign policy-maker as his predecessor Mbeki and these concerns were drawn upon the issues such as the arm sales to Libya, Syrian and Venezuela, the failure to deal properly with the two visa issues of the Dalai Lama and his voting record in the issues with Zimbabwe and Libya. “However, Zuma was instrumental in securing an institution to the group of emerging economies, BRICS, to which South Africa was officially admitted in 2011 and he undertook direct meeting with Robert Mugabe and the late Morgan Tsvangirai” (Lobo.2014). There has been a shift in South Africa’s foreign policy under Zuma administration. In comparison between the two leadership pf Mbeki and Zuma, Mbeki’s vision was based on peaceful resolution to conflicts on the African continent in order to advance the African Renaissance. Whereas on Zuma’s side, his vision was more towards on global economy. And this is evident with South Africa leading role in both the post-Doha Development Agendas (DDA) and it calls for a transformation of the WTO into an organisation which better ensures that trade is accessible to developing countries, on a more equitable basis, and that trade rules do not subvert their development prospectus (Lobo,2014). Another important sphere or factor in Zuma’s economic diplomacy was South Africa’s inclusion into BRICS in 2011, which included South Africa’s main trading partner China.
It could be said that the controversial aspects of foreign policy under Jacob Zuma came about during the Libya crisis in 2011, when at first South Africa adopted a policy of seeking a peaceful resolution to the conflict, in line with that of the AU, before all of a sudden changing policy directions in the UNSC when she voted in favour of Resolution 1973 which allowed NATO to actively engage Libya in its efforts to achieve regime change. South Africa’s decision of a policy change on the issue was not discussed with other African states in the AU, hence South Africa took a unilateral decision on African affairs, which was within the scope of the AU, and thus should have been discussed with other members. The perception remained that Pretoria failed to provide leadership at a time when foreign troops invaded African soil. This decision on this crucial matter may be one on the reasons for the perceived animosity towards South Africa in the AU.
Analysis of apartheid foreign policy
The National Party (NOP) was elected into power in 1948 under the leadership of Daniel Francois Malan. The 1948 elections in South Africa was made to be seen as more like the sack of Rome than a normal election. It is generally believed that it led to the introduction of apartheid as the system governing relations between blacks and whites. It was certainly the occasion, when Dr Malan put the word ‘apartheid’ into the world’s political vocabulary. The NP won the elections with the policy of apartheid, which was to a, large extent unknown internationally. What was clear though, was that apartheid was the continuation of the policies of segregation, as seen under the government of Botha, Hertzog and smuts, until the 1948 elections.
The first period of the NP in power was characterised by Dr Malan taking a small role in foreign policy as it was believed that he lacked the interest, knowledge, experience and skills necessary in foreign affairs. Malan had less experience or knowledge of international politics (Geldenhuys, 1984:10-11). His actual role in foreign policy formulation was not as clear cut as that of either Hertzog or Smuts, both of whom dominated foreign policy formulation in their respective government and were outstanding innovators in this field than Malan. As prime Minister, Malan showed no desire to play the role of international statesman but took an initiative in attending meetings of the Commonwealth premiers in London. “Malan regarded South Africa’s relations with the Commonwealth as a matter of crucial importance” (Geldenhuys 1994:20). Malan also took upon himself to request for the territories of Swaziland, Bechuanaland and Basutoland and this action can viewed as one of the first attempts at gaining control over nearby areas. Another Foreign policy matter in which Malan played a leading part was that of trying to get South Africa involved in a military pact with Western powers and both these attempts by Malan were turned down. None of Malan’s both request were successful.
They has been much change on South Africa’s foreign policy in comparison with the one during apartheid. Under the apartheid system, the foreign policy was not formulated like in the West with broad debates and inputs from various stakeholders and other interest groups, as we see it today. The South African government during apartheid which was under the National Party (NP) leadership’s main concern or focus was to maintain it domestic status quo of which was to sustain white morale and confidence in the government and to try to convince the restive black majority of the regime’s staying-power and of its ability to counter any armed attacks from within or without. The government was fighting for the white survival at a hostile world, and black opinion as articulated by political organisations such as the African National Congress (ANC), certainly complicated matters for the South African apartheid government in it foreign relations. When one looks at the past organised (white) public, the striking fact is that South Africa did not have anything like foreign policy community found in countries such as Britain and the United States. There was hardly any identifiable group of informed and influential people outside government who provided significant inputs in foreign policy making. Intellectual circles in South Africa were well removed from the formation of foreign policy.
The very nature of the political system during apartheid in South Africa led the leadership to stay quite isolated from the populace, and it was able to conduct it foreign policy, almost without being held responsible and accountable to the constituents, either parliamentary or public. What further circumscribed the opposition’s role of foreign affairs was the absence of a parliamentary standing committee on foreign affairs, a body the United Party wanted but the government rejected it. The United Party was the opposition party to the National Party (NP). The foreign policy of South African apartheid government was based solely on ideological realism with a strong focus on self-preservation as it main goal of the various heads of states which was to sustain white power and defend it from guerrilla fighters operating in the neighbouring countries even though the apartheid government did hold some sort of relationship with the West, primarily, the United States (US), the United Kingdoms (UK) and the United Nations (UN) (Geldenhuys 1994:29). Realism in foreign policy is to project and defend the interest of the state in world politics and what was the apartheid maintained.
Analysis of South African foreign policy after apartheid
When evaluating conflict resolution and peace building, economic growth and unity in terms of foreign policy, it can be concluded that South Africa foreign policy has had enormous effect on the African continent. And it can be concluded that South Africa foreign policy is in some ways hegemonic. “a hegemonic state is explained as a country that plays a firm, strong, and a credible leadership role, enabled not only by (in the neo-realist definition) hegemony tied to military and political power (so called hard power measured in crude terms of more or less), but also on the ability to exercise unchallenged leadership.
After the end of apartheid, South Africa performed a radical shift in it policies, moving away from the realist ideology of the National Party (NP) government and facilitating an idealist approach, with human rights as it central tenet idealism, as opposed to realism which stresses on the notion of power-politics and security, with believes that international relations should be exercised in accordance with moral values, harmony, internationalism and the believe that peace is achievable by peaceful means and South Africa transitioning to democracy was the first step as according to idealism/liberalism, democracies do not attack one another and in democratic regimes, the masses have a great influence on the political elites. As war is a burden on the masses, they are and always will be inclined into peace. With this newfound philosophy, South Africa realigned itself ideologically with the west and it was ready to start interacting with other states again.
There was however, some discrepancies to this notion of a pure adherence to idealism, human rights and harmony. This was demonstrated with the “Two Chinas” diplomatic conundrum. Indeed, this signalled that Nelson Mandela chose to abolish his ties with the ROC instead opting to establish relations with the PRC, of which suggested that Nelson Mandela was perhaps more concerned with South Africa’s interest than those of maintaining the friendship with Taiwan, and remaining a strong opponent to human rights violation. What was drawn out this was Nelson Mandela acted in a manner that6 befitting international realism. In realism, a state is seen as the most important actor, and a state will always cooperate with another state if it is in a position to gain power or to increase its interest. And when going back to Nelson Mandel’s decision of choosing the PRC, his motive was in order to increase South Africa’s potential material interest along with the political interest through the PRC’s position in the UNSC. With Nelson Mandela’s act of not choosing Taiwan proved he was not in any way to pursue the idealist manner.
With Thabo Mbeki’s administration, his most controversial issue during his time as president was his policy of quiet diplomacy towards the former Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe. When Zimbabwe was suspended from the commonwealth of notions awing to alleged human rights abuses in the aftermath of its 2000 general election, Thabo Mbeki requested that Zimbabwe be reinstated and for him to apply quiet diplomacy instead of which it was controversial as Thabo Mbeki went against the central tenet of promoting human rights. They were debates circulating around this policy. Thabo Mbeki’s view on the conflict was that “the idea of confrontational or belligerent approaches only serves to heighten conflicts: the key is to reduce and contain such conflict” (Venter and Landsberg 2006:259).
Foreign policy is extremely important to every state in the world and it is exercised in order to promote the domestic policies of a state, to promote international peace, and to promote economic cooperation’s, to mention some its functions. In today’s increasingly globalised world, foreign policy is not only directed at other states, but also directed at international organisations, multinational corporations and various individual people. South Africa has gone through immense challenges, not just in terms of it foreign policy, but also in terms of it domestic policies and international reputation, looking back at the governing system of the apartheid government to Jacob Zuma’s administration. When one critically asses south African foreign policy of apartheid and post-apartheid era, the south African foreign policy during apartheid was crafted by the upper echelon of the National Party government without much influence from the civil society or other pressure groups, unlike government today democracy.
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