Foreign Relations

South Africa Table of Contents

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible for South African foreign policy decisions. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs conducts liaison with foreign governments and international organizations on all matters affecting official relations. These relations are conducted through foreign government officials, through diplomats accredited to South Africa, and through South Africa's accredited embassies, consulates, and other missions abroad. Until the early 1990s, the DFA and the diplomatic corps competed against numerous counterestablishment "diplomatic services" run by antiapartheid organizations in exile, especially the ANC. The aim of these parallel communication channels was to isolate the South African government within the international community as a means of pressuring Pretoria to abolish apartheid.

After the abolition of apartheid and the inauguration of the democratically elected Government of National Unity, South Africa's foreign relations were dramatically transformed. The country's diplomatic isolation ended, and existing relations with other countries and with international organizations improved. South Africa reestablished diplomatic and trade relations with many countries, particularly in Africa, and established new relations with some former sanctions "hardliners," such as India, Pakistan, Bahrain, Malaysia, Jordan, Libya, and Cuba. Several regional and international organizations invited South Africa to join, or to reactivate its membership, including the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and the United Nations (UN). In addition, South Africa participated in international and bilateral sport, academic, and scientific activities, often for the first time in decades. Relations with the countries of the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and Central Europe improved. South Africa had full diplomatic ties with thirty-nine countries in 1990; that number increased to sixty-nine in 1993, and to at least 147 in 1995.

After the April 1994 elections, President Mandela appointed two ANC members, Alfred Nzo and Aziz Pahad, as minister and deputy minister of foreign affairs. He refused to make immediate sweeping changes in the diplomatic corps. The pillars of South Africa's future foreign policy had been enunciated by Mandela in late 1993, in an article published in Foreign Affairs . These principles are the promotion of human rights and democracy; respect for justice and international law in interstate relations; the achievement of peace through "internationally agreed and nonviolent mechanisms, including effective arms-control regimes"; incorporation of African concerns and interests into foreign policy choices; and economic development based on "cooperation in an interdependent world." In southern Africa, Mandela denounced South Africa's earlier economic domination of the region and its deliberate destabilization of neighboring states. Instead, Mandela called for "cooperation in regional construction, infrastructure and resource development projects . . . in virtually every sector and area." Finally, Mandela advocated the full reintegration of South Africa into global trade networks.

These foreign policy principles were being implemented even before Mandela's inauguration. For example, in early 1994 de Klerk and Mandela, along with the presidents of Botswana and Zimbabwe, helped mediate an end to a military revolt in neighboring Lesotho. In mid-1994, South Africa provided its first assistance to a UN peacekeeping operation when it supplied hospital equipment for Rwanda. Also in 1994, President Mandela agreed to help resolve the intractable civil war in Angola, although he cautioned against unrealistically high expectations in this and other deep-rooted political and ethnic conflicts.

Relations with African States
Relations with the United States
Relations with Other Countries
International Organizations

More about the Government of South Africa.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress