South African Foreign Policy
Department of Foreign Affairs
1. Drafting and editing procedure
3.1 South Africa's democratisation process
3.2 South African transition and the changing world situation
3.3 The "New World Order"
3.4 South Africa's re-entry into the Community of Nations
B. Defining South African Foreign Policy
4. International Trends
4.1 Globalisation of the economy and bloc formation
4.2 Growing importance of multilateralism
4.3 Regional and continental cooperation
4.4 The electronics revolution and information super-highway
4.5 The growing gap between North and South
4.6 Complexity of technological issues
4.7 Focus on good governance, human rights and democratisation
4.8 Security issues
5. Redefining South African Foreign Policy
5.1 Introductory remarks
5.2 Principles and cornerstones
5.3 South Africa's international priorities
5.4 Interface with economic and defence policies
5.5 Relative importance of technical disciplines
5.6 Interaction with civil society and interest groups
5.7 South Africa's limitations and strengths
6. Multilateral Relations
6.1 The challenge of multilateralism
6.2 Multilateral policy and objectives
7. Bilateral Relations
7.1 Point of departure
7.2 The nature of South Africa's interaction with the international community
C. Practical Involvement In The Operational Environment
8. Strategic perspectives, priorities and objectives: An overview of bilateral relations with regions
8.1 Southern Africa (SADC member countries)
8.2 Equatorial Africa and the (non-SADC) Indian Ocean Islands
8.3 North Africa
8.4 The Middle East
8.7 North America
8.8 Latin America
9. Organisational dimensions: The Department of Foreign Affairs
9.2 New Missions
9.3 Department of Foreign Affairs Personnel
9.4 The nature of South Africa's foreign representation
9.5 Foreign representation: responsibilities
10. Inter-Departmental Cooperation
10.1 Introduction: interfacing with other departments and organisations
10.2 Economic and development coordination
10.3 Defence and Intelligence
10.4 Key responsibilities
[ Top ]
This discussion document is a further step in the process of policy
review which began in 1993. Paragraphs 3.1 and 3.4 describe the initial steps
taken by the Department of Foreign Affairs to review policies
with the object of formulating the foreign policy of the democratic
Policy workshops were held within the Department under the chairmanship
of the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and the 1994 and 1995 Foreign
Affairs Parliamentary Budget Debates were used to expand and formulate
updated policy papers on specific issues and on general policy
directions. Many institutions, organisations and persons were
consulted. The Portfolio Committee for Foreign Affairs of the
National Assembly and the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry,
Public Enterprises and Foreign Affairs of the Senate, were among
the bodies that were actively engaged in the discussions.
During this period the Department of Foreign Affairs proposed
the creation of a South African Council on Foreign Relations. Informal discussions
on the role and organisation of an advisory body of this kind
were held with prominent persons and organisations. This process
of consultation is still expanding.
A Heads of Mission Conference held in September 1995 played an
important role in giving the process further momentum. Internal Departmental
consultations and preparatory work have since taken place in order
to proceed with the drafting of this discussion document.
The process took place in parallel with pressing Departmental
activities and the rationalisation of the new Department, in itself
a comprehensive and demanding undertaking.
This discussion document will be made available to interested
parties for written comments and proposals. These should be sent to the Office of
the Director-General of Foreign Affairs in Pretoria or in Cape
Town. It is intended to arrange
meetings with the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee to discuss
the document and new proposals, to be included in the revised
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The purpose of this discussion document is not to formulate fine-tuned
foreign policy for the democratic government of South Africa. Neither
is it a comprehensive "manual" on the complexities and
all the dimensions of foreign policy and South Africa's international
As a working document, the paper provides an overview of the many
components of international relations, objectives and priorities which warrant
the attention of policy makers and the policy dimensions which
Government and all its extensions need to consider.
The proposal is that South Africa's policy initiatives should
be modest and not overly ambitious. A reactive policy is inappropriate and the
challenge is therefore to shape a pro-active policy in keeping
with South Africa's resources and commensurate with its international
position. Economic imperatives and political realities need to
be balanced. The risks of oversimplification and dramatisation
should not be ignored.
It is hoped that commentators and other interested parties will
formulate constructive suggestions and criticisms which can be used by the
Ministry and the Department of Foreign Affairs to draft a consensual
document for submission to Parliament as a White Paper on South
African foreign policy.
During the pre-1994 election period when constitutional negotiations
were under way, South Africa's foreign policy and international relations
were already undergoing a transition.
During the negotiations on the Terms of Reference of the Transitional
Executive Council (TEC), the Department of Foreign Affairs formulated the
terms of reference of the Sub-council on Foreign Affairs in consultation
with the negotiating parties. These were described as follows in the TEC Act:
"Powers and duties in regard to foreign affairs"
The Council shall, for the purpose of attaining its objects, through
its Sub-council on Foreign Affairs, in regard to foreign policy
liaise, monitor, make recommendations and, where it is considered necessary, assist
with a view to -
The Subcouncil therefore became actively and effectively involved
in the conduct of South Africa's international relations, as regards not only
policy matters but also the creation of the new Department of
Foreign Affairs, budgetary matters, senior personnel appointments,
the opening of new missions abroad and other management matters
of medium or long term importance.
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The Subcouncil also participated in a series of policy planning
conferences involving all South African ambassadors and other South African
foreign representatives of major political organisations. In
New York, Geneva, Brussels and Addis Ababa the conferences dealt
with South Africa's multilateral interests and the role the country
can play in international organisations. During conferences in
Washington, Paris, Nairobi and Singapore, the Subcouncil reviewed
South Africa's bilateral relations with all areas of the globe.
The conferences formulated directives which the Department of
Foreign Affairs and its representatives abroad used as policy
and operational guidelines during the transition process. At
the end of its term, the Subcouncil reported to the TEC and to
the Government of National Unity and the preparatory work done
by the Subcouncil was of service to the Minister and Deputy Minister
of Foreign Affairs in dealing immediately with priority matters
after May 1994.
During the 1990 to 1994 period while South Africa was in a transition
which led to democratic elections (the major focus in the country and an important development for foreign governments and other observers) the world as undergoing its own process of transition. The "bipolar world" of the Cold War era made way for a "multipolar world". New economic and regional groupings came into being, ranging from an expanded EU to NAFTA, Mercosur, ASEAN and a "new" SADC. Security issues were undergoing fundamental
changes and peace-keeping, peace-making and other issues such
as arms control required revision and redefinition.
President Mandela, in a speech at the UN World Summit for Social Development
in Copenhagen on 12 March 1995, described South Africa's position in these words:
"The irony of democratic South Africa's late entry into international
affairs is that we can reap the fruits of a world redefining itself."
South Africa needs to establish a role for itself in the, as yet
undefined, new world order.
The "New World Order", about which much has been written
and said, has several dimensions. While it relates to the international relations
between sovereign countries or regions, its emergence reaches
into the domestic life of individual countries. The democratisation
of Eastern Europe and fundamental changes to NATO, the former
Soviet Union, Germany and the EU have had an effect on budgets,
employment, social welfare, economic growth and many other aspects
of the life of the states involved. Contrary to initial expectations,
these changes have not brought general peace and prosperity.
From an economic perspective, the end of the old East/West confrontation
has brought increased competition for investment funds and markets
but also opportunities to forge new economic partnerships and
blocs. The new World Trade Organisation (WTO) is expected to
play a more active role in the promotion of global trade and the
resolution of trade disputes than was the case under the General
Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). But there is the risk
that the gap between the "haves" of the North and the
"have-nots" of the South may grow and thus give rise
to increased friction, particularly with regard to scarce resources.
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The words of President Nelson Mandela to the United States Congress
on 6 October 1994 place this issue sharply into focus for South Africa:
"The new age will surely demand that democracy must also
mean a life of plenty. As the images of life lived anywhere on our globe become
available to all, so will the contrast between the rich and the
poor, within and across frontiers and within and across the continents
become a motive force impelling the deprived to demand a better
life from the powers that be, whatever their location."
South Africa, as a small to medium-sized economic power with an
open economy which is dependent on international trade, will have to play a
role in the constructive advancement of the new "economic"
world order towards a more equitable set of practices.
The political and security dimensions of the developing new order
are equally challenging. While democratisation has brought human rights to
many citizens all over the globe, the security risks have not
decreased dramatically. There has been a shift from the previous
risks of super-power nuclear confrontation to other forms of insecurity,
often of a more regional or domestic nature. Extremist organisations
are a threat to peace and revived nationalist movements in some
areas threaten to spill over borders and trigger prolonged conflict.
Ethnic conflicts, organised crime, drug trafficking, cross-border
migration, refugees and continued arms proliferation are also
elements which lead to friction between neighbouring countries
and a heightened state of tension.
The African continent, to whose future South Africa is inextricably
linked, cannot escape the impact of the new world order. In the formulation
and implementation of South Africa's foreign policy on the continent,
particular attention will have to be given to measures to prevent
conflict; the monitoring of events; becoming involved in concerted
preventive diplomacy; and ways to influence the emergence of
a constructive new order on the continent in a positive and significant
The scope and purpose of this document preclude an exhaustive
discussion of the current world situation but it is essential to consider South
Africa's own policies, priorities and actions in the proper realistic
context of the global situation. Minister Alfred Nzo, in September
1995, described the global environment and its impact on South
Africa in the following terms:
"Our operational environment has changed dramatically. The
end of the Cold War has created a new global situation in which our young
democracy must find its feet. The new world order, if it exists
at all, is fraught with uncertainties and insecurities. Ideological
conflict has to a large extent been replaced by economic competition,
the rules for which have not yet been fully agreed upon. The
ground beneath our feet is not firm: It is volatile and unpredictable.
Yet it is our primary task to secure and promote the sovereign
integrity of the South African State, as well as the security
and welfare of its citizens. These are the considerations which
ultimately determine everything we do in the conduct of our foreign
The discussion of South Africa's foreign policy and the practical
aspects of international relations must be seen to take place against the
background of the real world and the limitations it imposes on
[ Top ]
South Africa's return to the international community from 1994
onwards has made a significant contribution to the definition of the general direction
of the country's foreign policy.
Shortly after the inauguration of the new government, South Africa:
- gained re-admission to the Commonwealth;
- resumed its seat in the United Nations;
- joined the G77
- joined the Organisation for Africa Unity (OAU);
- joined the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC);
- joined the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM);
- rejoined United Nations Specialised Agencies such as ILO, WHO, FAO, etc; and
- initiated negotiations with the European Union (EU).
Apart from the formal multilateral re-admission of South Africa
to the world community, other inter-state and inter-government actions characterised
that return. President Nelson Mandela paid formal state visits and many working Presidential visits to African, Asian and European states and to the United States of America. Similar visits by the Executive Deputy Presidents and the Minister of Foreign Affairs also took place.
The number of foreign state and official visits to South Africa
also increased significantly.
Diplomatic relations have been concluded with 78 states since
1994, and South Africa's representative offices abroad have increased to 95 from
less than 50 in the eighties.
On the economic front the world has opened to South African trade
while foreign industrial, trade and financial involvement in South Africa is
making a substantial contribution to the reconstruction of the country's economy.
A further element of South Africa's re-admission has been the
involvement of foreign donors in the South African Reconstruction and Development
Programme (RDP). Many governmental and nongovernmental donors
have given or pledged development assistance for this major government
objective. In the process, a further dimension has been added
to South Africa's relations with the international community.
It could be claimed with confidence that South Africa's return
to the international community as a respected "world citizen" has been welcomed
widely and warmly the world over. It would be hazardous, however,
to read more into the world's reaction than was intended: support
and admiration for South Africa's peaceful democratisation. The
world's reaction does not represent an indefinite continuation
of the unique relationship or so-called honeymoon which South
Africa has experienced since 1994. Many expectations about South
Africa's international role have been created, but at the same
time many demanding responsibilities have been assumed.
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Deputy President Thabo Mbeki, in his address to South African
ambassadors during the September 1995 conference, formulated South Africa's
position in the following terms:
"A distinguishing feature of South Africa is the sustained
interest of the rest of the world in the future of South Africa. The depth of
this interest is not only confined to government, but includes
ordinary people and especially those who were involved in the
anti-apartheid movement abroad. They have not disengaged themselves
from South Africa since the elections. However, the strength
and persistence of the international focus on South Africa puts
the South African Government of National Unity under pressure
to contribute positively and constructively to the global community.
The Southern African region expects a positive contribution from
South Africa in terms of their own development. They expect that we
interact with them as a partner and ally, not as a regional super
power, so that what we achieve, in terms of political, security
and economic relations is balanced and mutually beneficial.
There are also expectations from Africa that South Africa should
make a significant contribution towards peace and development on the
continent. South Africa's problems cannot be worse than those
experienced by other African countries. Despite our own limitations
and problems, it is our objective to make a significant contribution
to ensuring peace, democracy, respect for human rights and sustained
development. These principles are fundamental to our foreign
Another aspect which is a logical result of South Africa's return
to normalised international affairs is that of competition. States are often
allies and competitors at the same time. They may cooperate at
the WTO to reduce tariffs in third countries but their industrialists
may be fierce competitors for market access to the same country.
In South Africa's case, we function as part of Southern Africa
and Africa and therefore share an interest in accessing EU markets
for export products. Yet there is also competition, which creates
an element of rivalry which is healthy in a market-driven economy,
but which must be handled with circumspection at inter-government
In the domestic arena, this situation emphasises the need for
government, industry and labour, the "tripartite partners", to develop
an integrated, harmonised approach to commitments, expectations,
competition and other international complexities which affect
South Africa's national interest.
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As South Africa develops foreign policy principles and practical
foreign policy objectives and priorities which meet the needs of the country
and which are in keeping with the means of South Africa, both
constant and variable influences from practical trends and events
elsewhere can be expected. These will require responsible but
flexible reactions from the government departments and others
involved in the particular sphere.
It is impractical to discuss all the trends in detail, but an
awareness of the phenomena and of the areas in which trends occur must be fostered
in South Africa.
For a number of reasons the economies of individual countries
have become "the economy of the world". Computer technology has increased
the speed of interaction between producers and markets. The lowering
of tariffs has removed many of the obstacles which previously
affected the location of production facilities. The relative
saturation of old markets has forced entrepreneurs to look at
markets abroad in order to survive. Labour costs in industrialised
markets have compelled foreign companies to relocate to, or to
establish facilities in, countries where production costs are
lower, in order to survive and prosper.
Regardless of the reasons for this trend, South Africa must take
due cognizance of the implications of this important trend for foreign and economic
policy, and formulate industrial, investment, labour and political
policies which promote the national interest.
The formation of blocs is frequently linked to mutual economic
interests. Latin American countries formed Mercosur in the Southern cone of South
America while the USA, Canada and Mexico formed NAFTA. The European
Union is now one of the oldest surviving and developed economic
blocs. ASEAN and others followed. The strength of SADC as a
future economic bloc must not be underestimated and must clearly
feature prominently in the responses of South Africa and Southern
Africa to bloc formation elsewhere. The objective, however, should
not be to force confrontation with other blocs but rather to develop
mutually beneficial relationships.
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With the growing complexity of international interaction in almost
every sphere of human life, the role of multilateral organisations in reconciling
and harmonising the frequently conflicting interests of countries,
will necessarily increase.
The growing power of the European Union, almost as a supra-state,
and the concomitant reduction of the powers of national parliaments to
legislate outside EU guidelines is an example of one type of multilateralism.
Another more cooperative but not less powerful example is the
growing power of a governmental international organisation such
as the WTO to regulate, monitor and arbitrate disputes by agreement
of the contracting states.
In another category, contracting parties may group together in
a loose formation where voluntary adherence is the cornerstone and where the organisation
has practically no powers. Yet, as the contracting states have
a mutual desire, to cooperate and to benefit from the harmonisation
of policies, there is a high degree of multilateral cooperation. The Commonwealth and the Non-Aligned Movement are examples.
A fundamental issue all these organisations have in common is
that the national state considers it in its interests to cooperate and therefore
voluntarily shapes its domestic policies to comply with the agreed
international policy. Toxic waste management, civil aviation,
shipping and disease control are only a few of the many areas
involved. Of importance in the discussion of foreign policy and
the subsequent consideration of policy options is the need to
be conscious of a growing need to formulate domestic policies
in accordance with international standards, international obligations,
international trends and, in the process, still to promote South
Africa's own well-being and prosperity. The process is a complex
one requiring frequent and substantive consultation among all
the role players, both at home and abroad.
The Department of Foreign Affairs is, by definition, responsible
for maintaining regular contact between South African government bodies and the
international community. In the multilateral context, the Department
and its missions abroad interact with other government representatives
on a daily basis. As the natural extension of South Africa's
technical departments abroad, the Department is well placed to
act as a link between the South African departments and their
counterparts abroad. The Department does not usurp the responsibilities
of the technical departments but merely acts as an agent on behalf
of and at the request of the relevant departments. Furthermore,
the Department frequently informs nongovernmental organisations
in South Africa on the nature and scope of their counterparts
elsewhere, and is prepared to expand this role.
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Elements of "threat and opportunity" are inherent in
the trend towards bloc formation. When policies are formulated in South Africa, role
players should consider the manner in which a particular issue
presents an opportunity for South Africa to promote the interests
of the SADC region or the African continent. Interaction with
the international community in the area of agricultural research,
for example, should automatically inspire South African role players
to consider and pursue the benefits such actions could have for
The reverse is also true. South Africa should regularly monitor
events elsewhere, on other continents and in other regions, to evaluate how these
could potentially threaten or compete with the interests of the
African continent. An awareness should be fostered in this regard
among South African institutions and private companies.
Modern electronic communication systems have increased the volume
of information available as well as the speed and ease with which
government leaders can make contact with each other. The use
of the Internet, computers, modems and other devices enables delegations
at conferences and ministries to remain in constant contact with
principals. While these facilities may not affect the substance
of policy, they have had an influence on the speed with which
consultations take place as well as on the nature of foreign policy
making and the execution of policy.
This technology poses particular challenges in the field of inter-governmental contact and relationships between political leaders. In the African
context, a good information and communication system would be
a crucial element in preventive diplomacy and the process of peace-making.
For SADC countries, the imaginative use of communication systems
could bring substantial benefits.
The gap in economic and general wealth between the industrialised
countries of the North and the developing nations of the South, has been the
subject of many studies and conferences. There is a growing belief
that present developments such as the lowering of tariffs and
trade barriers are only benefiting the North with its strong industrial
base and its wealthy consumers, and that the trend is towards
fewer advantages for developing countries and a consequent widening
of the North-South gap.
The "Midrand Declaration" which was adopted at the ninth
session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development on 11 May 1996 referred
to this perception. It acknowledged that increased globalisation
and economic interdependence is a powerful impetus to liberalisation
of trade flows, finance, information and technological change,
but warned that the impact of globalisation is uneven, and that
the least developed countries, particularly those in Africa, are
unable to benefit from trade because of weak supply capabilities.
The declaration, noting that it was in the interest of all countries
that a mutually beneficial multilateral trading system continues to develop, called
for the recognition of differential impacts on countries and the
solidarity necessary to ensure that all would benefit - a true
partnership for development.
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South Africa, as a country firmly placed in the South, geographically
and developmentally, has to be aware of the risks of marginalisation
in a trade sense. Sound cooperation with other countries of the
South and with clients and suppliers in the North, should be an
integral part of foreign policy and of economic policy.
Minister Nzo formulated South Africa's position as follows in
"... the position in which South Africa finds itself is that
it has features both of the developed and the developing world. It is truly at the
point of intersection between both worlds - an industrialised
state of the South which can communicate with the North on equal
terms to articulate the needs, the concerns and the fears of the
developing world. Conversely we can interpret the concerns and
the fears of the developed world."
(Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs, 14 March 1995)
"Although we believe our future will be closely linked to
the development of the South-South concept, there are certain realities that we dare
not ignore. The United States of America and the other G7 countries
constitute the undeniable economic power base of the world today.
These countries are essential to the economic well-being of the
developing world, including South and Southern Africa. Furthermore,
the G7 countries have been most supportive of the Government of
National Unity and have been generous in their commitment to our
economic success. For this we are grateful, and we will continue
to build on this sound foundation in the future."
(National Assembly, 18 March 1995)
Countries poor in natural resources such as Japan and Switzerland
have proved that they can compete in the industrial race because of their
early investment in human resources through education and training.
In many developed countries, while there is annual economic growth,
a decline in the number of jobs has been experienced. This trend has enormous
long-term implications for countries, both economically and socially.
The number of unemployed or retired people increases annually
and these people will become such a heavy responsibility for national
governments that the problem will take on an international dimension.
South Africa will not be able to escape some of these problems
and early monitoring of these eventualities and international cooperation
will become important. The trend will affect the mobility of
labour, especially the categories of highly skilled technicians,
scientists, engineers and managers. Within the SADC context,
South Africa will have to develop programmes to promote technical
and scientific education to cope with the demands of the next
few decades. Benefiting from the experience of other countries
should be part of the strategy.
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The advancement of human rights and the promotion of democracy
are pillars on which South Africa's foreign policy rests.
International organisations and governments all over the world
increasingly place a high premium on the performance of countries and governments
in these areas. Development assistance is, in many cases, linked
to democratisation programmes, the observance of human rights
and the exercise of good government. South Africa's own recent
experience in this field makes it an example many refer to as
a model. Many governments expect South Africa's adherence to
these principles and values to be an example to other countries
in Africa and elsewhere, inspiring them to democratise and to
improve their human rights record.
Security issues fall within the field of foreign policy and international
relations, where they affect relations between states and influence the promotion
of the national interests of countries in the international sphere.
They extend much farther than defence matters. In recent years new dimensions
have become increasingly important in international security; these include
regional conflict resolution and peace-keeping, drug trafficking, illegal arms trading,
non-proliferation of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction,
migration and refugees. Several aspects of this will be discussed in the rest
of this paper. It is important, however, to recognise this as
an important international trend which affects, in a very direct
sense, the formulation of foreign policy and the promotion of
good international relations. It is particularly important for
South Africa in the context of the SADC and relations with Africa.
The need for a codified foreign policy and an assessment of current
foreign policy has been the subject of deliberation for some time. Referring
to the principles of South Africa's foreign policy (see 8.2 below),
Minister Nzo has said:
"As a set of commitments, those principles constitute the
broad aspirational tenets of our approach to foreign policy, and, if
consistently adhered to will render our foreign policy predictable
and in line with our perception of the kind of nation we seek
to be, and the kind of world we wish to live in. They also serve
as a yardstick by which the quality of our practical foreign policy
decisions may be measured, and are consequently a very useful
It is when we move beyond this level of policy consideration that
we have to ask ourselves to what extent does South Africa require a codified
foreign policy doctrine; and what means do we have to ensure
that such a doctrine would be attainable and if necessary, enforceable?
This is a complex question which I would encourage you to address
during the course of your deliberations this week. In essence
we have to answer the question of whether our current foreign
policy, in which each decision is made on its merits within a
prescribed normative framework, is adequate enough for our circumstances."
[ Top ]
South Africa and more particularly all the arms of government
which function in the international arena, such as the President and Deputy Presidents,
members of the Cabinet, senior officials and diplomats, operate
in the global environment as it is today. That environment has
evolved over time and since the recent demise of the Cold-War-driven
bipolar world, has started taking on a new shape which is not
yet clearly defined. The earlier discussion of trends was an
attempt to survey the general nature of the global environment.
The relatively insecure, flexible and still evolving nature of
the new global environment provides a favourable climate for South Africa to
adopt a more pro-active and assertive foreign policy posture.
While South Africa has to maximise political and economic benefits for the country in the existing
global environment, opportunities exist (and should be actively
pursued) to change those aspects of the present global environment
which are not favourable to South Africa and Southern Africa.
This means that South Africa should, in multilateral forums and
through bilateral negotiations, aspire to amend the rules formulated
in the past by specific interest groups, whether political or
institutional. This approach does not imply a confrontational
stance towards the major economic powers of the world or towards
international organisations such as the WTO, the IMF or the United
Nations. Instead, it implies engaging them, with the active participation
of other interested nations, in a thorough analysis of the systems
and rules created over time. There is a perception arising from
OECD, World Bank and other studies that these do not benefit developing
nations and new economies of the South but rather tend towards
entrenching the dominant position of the North. This approach
must not take on the dimensions of an ideological struggle between
North and South, but should be an honest search for equitable
solutions to the problems of the present-day global situation.
To sum up, South Africa needs to develop a pro-active foreign
policy approach, within its means, to achieve strategic objectives which benefit
the people and the country in general as much as possible.
Foreign policy is a multidimensional set of policies, objectives,
principles, strategies and plans which cannot easily be packaged into a neatly
described "formula". It is also not always practical
to distinguish between aspirations, general objectives and underlying
philosophy. Nevertheless, it is important to consider in broad
terms the general orientation of South Africa's policies. A broad
approach, supported by a range of more detailed and sometimes
complex components, forms the policy framework adopted in this
[ Top ]
Minister Alfred Nzo has spelt out South Africa's foreign policy
principles in the following terms (Heads of Mission Conference, September 1995,
"The underlying principles which serve as guidelines in the
conduct of our foreign relations include:
- a commitment to the promotion of human rights;
- a commitment to the promotion of democracy;
- a commitment to justice and international law in the conduct
of relations between nations;
- a commitment to international peace and to internationally
agreed-upon mechanisms for the resolution of conflicts;
- a commitment to the interests of Africa in World Affairs;
- a commitment to economic development through regional and
international cooperation in an interdependent world."
It may be questioned whether these principles are sufficient,
whether they go far enough, whether they are achievable, or how far the Government
should and can go in imposing them on others. Are there no other
principles or cornerstones which should be considered?
Speeches made by President Nelson Mandela, the Deputy Presidents,
Minister Alfred Nzo and Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad, have highlighted a
number of additional cornerstones and main preoccupations of South
Africa's foreign policy.
- The present policy and execution of policy represent a break
with the past.
- Foreign policy is an integrated part of government policy
aimed at promoting the security and welfare of South Africa's
- Exercising regular choices between available options in the
international arena based on South Africa's interests and means
is a part of the foreign policy process.
- South Africa is a democratic country and the formulation of
foreign policy should be an open and transparent process. However,
South African actions must be in keeping with international practice,
including the need for appropriate confidentiality. Diplomacy
is by its very nature "quiet diplomacy" and not diplomacy
through the media.
- Officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and other
officials representing South Africa abroad must be fully acquainted
with the policies and strategies of domestic departments in order
to pursue the national interest in all spheres.
- South Africa must strive to be a responsible global citizen.
- South Africa supports the global free trade system.
- North-South and South-South cooperation will be promoted.
- South Africa must associate itself with international efforts
to develop and implement environmentally friendly policies.
- South Africa adheres to the philosophy of non-alignment and
friendly, constructive relations with all nations, that is, universality
- Multilateral cooperation at all required levels is essential
and is supported by South Africa. A holistic approach should
be pursued wherever possible.
- The United Nations should be reformed and strengthened to
enable it to deal with matters such as global economic and environmental
challenges and the achievement of sustainable development.
- Foreign policy objective should seek to promote mutual benefits
and mutual respect in bilateral relations.
- South Africa should deal with African partners as equals and
avoid all hegemonic ambitions. A narrow, short term approach
aimed at promoting self-interest must be avoided.
- Confidence-building and cooperation should be prominent trends
of South Africa's African policy. Peace-making and conflict-prevention
should receive priority consideration.
- South Africa will cooperate with all other countries in shaping
and defining the new world order and promoting multilateral cooperation
in the international community.
- Scientific and technical development and cooperation in Antarctica
and globally, will be promoted and environmental protection will
- As far as South Africa's means allow, all efforts to alleviate
the plight of refugees and children in Africa and elsewhere and
particularly the work of the UNHCR must be supported.
- South Africa should remain actively engaged in efforts to
secure world-wide peace, promote disarmament, prevent genocide,
- of nuclear and other arms of mass destruction and achieve
a new world security regime.
[ Top ]
In his address to the Foreign Affairs Portfolio Committee of Parliament
on 14 March 1995, Minister Alfred Nzo made the following observations
about South Africa's foreign policy objectives and priorities:
"In terms of foreign policy, Africa is clearly to be a priority
in the years ahead."
"The promotion of economic development of the Southern African
region is of paramount importance as the economies of the countries in the
region are intertwined to such an extent that, for South Africa
to believe that it could enter a prosperous future in isolation
without taking neighbouring countries with her, would be unrealistic
"South Africa will also strive to engage the industrial world
in development in Southern Africa with the objective of enhancing the fullest
possible development of its human and natural resources by combining
foreign capital with our own expertise."
"South Africa exchanges the equivalent of 64 per cent of
its GNP with the outside world ... (and) ... it follows from our broad national
interests and governmental policy that the emphasis with all European
countries, should fall upon economic, technological and scientific
Economic relations are, clearly, a further priority in South Africa's
interaction with the international community in both our bilateral and our multilateral
relations. Achieving sustainable economic growth in South Africa
is a government priority and its international dimension is important
for all departments and government agencies involved. To attain
the objectives which government departments are expected to achieve,
proper coordination at the policy and working levels is essential
and it is important to work towards an integrated "economic
foreign policy". The global economic environment is a fiercely
competitive and complex arena in which South Africa is a relatively
small economic power. Policies should therefore be formulated
to achieve sound priorities.
[ Top ]
Minister Nzo made the following observation in Parliament on 8
August 1994 about South Africa's international relations:
"Without international interaction such as trade, scientific
and technological exchange and cultural exchange, South Africans and
South Africa would be much the poorer. In this regard the Department
of Foreign Affairs, universities, institutes and the media have
a particular responsibility to stimulate a debate on our international
relations, to inform the public and involve the people of South
Africa in the promotion of our international relations."
Political and security priorities in this context are inextricably
linked. President Mandela and Deputy President Mbeki have referred to South Africa's
identification with Africa. Mr Mbeki, at the UN Security Council
on 25 May 1994, stated:
"We are also committed to participate to the full extent
of our abilities in the efforts spearheaded by the OAU to address the related issues
of peace, security, stability, cooperation and development on
President Mandela, in the UN General Assembly in October 1994,
"We are part of the region of Southern Africa and of the
continent of Africa. As members of the Southern African Development Community and the
OAU, and an equal partner with other member states, we will play
our role in the struggles of these organisations to build a continent
and a region that will help to create for themselves and all humanity
a common world of peace and prosperity."
South Africa's security and political priorities are in Africa
and the above statements summarise the Government's position clearly. It should
be added that much of the action suggested above will take place
against the background of the United Nations' own political objectives
and operations, including peace, prosperity, economic well-being
and respect for human rights. Peace-making and conflict prevention
are two essential elements of the strategy which is under review,
also in the OAU.
[ Top ]
The discussion on South Africa's priorities clearly highlights
the integrated nature of the challenges facing South Africa in the global and African
contexts. To be effective, South Africa must progressively harmonise
the policies and strategic objectives which are formulated and
pursued by government departments. In paragraph 4.3, reference
was made to the nature of South Africa's economic priorities in
the international arena and to the need for integrated policy
and priority formulation. The private sector and labour also
have roles to play in certain areas and in this regard NEDLAC
and several other existing coordination forums play important
Foreign policy and defence policy are two components of a country's
approach to the global environment. In the introductory parts of this discussion
paper, reference was made to the new world order, to important
trends in security-related issues and to the changing dimensions
of the multipolar world. Proper coordination of a country's policies
on security matters is therefore an obvious necessity. In the
African context South Africa's involvement in conflict prevention
and peace-keeping requires harmonised foreign and defence policies.
International arms sales by South Africa and the country's commitment
to the prevention of the proliferation of conventional and nuclear
arms, also require the harmonising of the defence and foreign
policies of South Africa. This is achieved through committees,
at ministerial and official level, which have been created by
Government to oversee policies and actions in this regard.
In the SADC, in the OAU context, and in a host of international
organisations the major subjects of discussion are water, civil aviation, health,
weights and measures, intellectual property, shipping, nuclear
research and many other technical and scientific topics. Wherever
a governmental or nongovernmental representative of South Africa
participates in an international activity, conference or project,
he or she becomes involved in the execution of some aspect of
foreign policy. Minister Alfred Nzo, in his speech to ambassadors
in September 1995 emphasized that ...
"Foreign Affairs will play a coordinating and facilitating
role to further that single most basic goal of helping to create a better life for
South Africa's people."
The Department of Foreign Affairs is in a position to assist government departments and NGOs to monitor, prepare and pursue their international
objectives and to maximise benefits for South Africa in the international
[ Top ]
In the preceding paragraphs reference was made to the many role
players in South Africa's international interaction. On the domestic front,
civil society, local authorities, special interest groups and
many others have some role to play in enabling the Department
of Foreign Affairs to give the Government comprehensive, well-considered
and practical advice. The process of policy formulation must
be as transparent as possible to ensure maximum support for the
Government's international activities. In addition to its ever-increasing
interaction with Parliament, universities and institutions, the
Department of Foreign Affairs should actively stimulate debate
on international affairs and foreign policy. Expanded interaction
with interested parties can be achieved by means of domestic seminars
and conferences, as well as through interaction with foreign organisations
and governments in the context of international conferences held
in South Africa. Further mechanisms can be explored.
Minister Alfred Nzo and Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad have often
stated in parliamentary and other speeches that South Africa's initiatives
in Africa in particular and internationally in general should
take place within the realistic parameters of South Africa's capacity
to implement decisions. They have also stated that foreign policy
should be formulated against the background of what South Africa
can realistically hope to achieve. Apart from global constraints,
budgetary restrictions placed on the Department of Foreign Affairs
and other departments also play a role. This limits South Africa's
membership of international organisations, the number of embassies
the Department is able to establish abroad and the number of personnel
assigned abroad, to mention a few areas. Active participation
in those forums where South Africa can play a meaningful role
and where the country has real interests should therefore be a
Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad, in a speech to the Senate on 25 May
1995, formulated the relative priorities of South Africa's international
initiatives within the context of limited resources as follows:
"Although South Africa's capacity may be limited, the
Government of National Unity (GNU), will do whatever it can to assist in efforts
aimed at the furtherance, worldwide, of peace and of democracy,
of human rights, of sustainable development, of protection of
the environment, of disarmament, and of making our world a more
agreeable and friendly place to live in."
[ Top ]
Earlier the growing role of multilateralism was discussed as a
trend. It also constitutes a challenge to develop expertise in a specialised
and highly technical area. The Minister of Foreign Affairs made
the following observation to the Foreign Affairs Portfolio Committee
on 14 March 1995:
"The Government's foreign policy objectives in the multilateral
field are to ensure that South Africa plays a role commensurate with its status
and abilities in respect of the global issues which preoccupy
the world today and which are at the same time of major national
concern. Such global issues include economic and social development,
human rights, disarmament, environmental issues, control of illicit
drug trafficking, refugees and migration, peacekeeping and global
There is also an interplay of bilateral relations between two
countries and their actions towards each other in a multilateral context. Support
of a candidate in one organisation may result in a favourable
bilateral action, more trade credits or more development assistance.
Countries and especially delegates are often faced with a barrage
of requests for a vote of support for issues or candidates 'in
the interest of bilateral relations'. Trade-offs are not uncommon.
Sensible handling of these situations requires early consultation
and the developing of practical criteria to facilitate and justify
Within the area of multilateral relations, clearly discernible
themes or issues have become predominant at present. Issues relating to the protection
of the environment as well as issues relating to the quality of
life, have become justifiably all-important. Linked to this are
issues such as refugees, children, women, human rights and migration.
South Africa has become actively involved in these areas and
will continue to be faced with the need to develop capacities
to interact at an international level.
Conflict prevention and peace-making are of substantial concern
to South Africa in the African context, just as peace-keeping and peace-making
in Bosnia are to the UN and to the Europeans. Preventive diplomacy
has become an essential and fundamental consideration in the international
context for political leaders and diplomats. Once conflict occurs,
diplomacy is faced with a new challenge, which is more difficult,
traumatic and costly - both materially and in terms of human life
- namely devising appropriate peace-making and peace-keeping operations. The regional group to which a country belongs often plays a fundamental
role in multilateral diplomacy. On many issues, such as on tariffs and
on trade and industrial policy, South Africa consults with SA
Customs Union member states before making commitments in negotiations
with the EU. SADC countries as a regional group should also be
consulted on broader policy issues.
On security issues, South Africa should consult the SADC countries
and the OAU in order to develop common positions at the UN or other forums.
It is sometimes a time consuming procedure with mixed results.
African partners may even be in conflict with South Africa's
other international commitments or fundamental policies, for example
on arms control or the control of advanced technologies. These
aspects require extensive and regular consultation and are a multilateral
[ Top ]
Multilateral relations focus on global issues. South Africa's
participation in and interaction with the organisations which deal with such issues
are the substance of multilateral diplomacy.
Global issues have domestic relevance and the role that South
Africa seeks to play in the development of international thinking in these areas
must be related not only to our international objectives but also
to domestic policies.
Some of the issues which need to be further analysed and developed
are referred to below:
- The foreign policy of a democratic South Africa is characterised
by rapid change. South Africa's new membership of the SADC, the
OAU, the NAM and the G77, as well as its return to the Commonwealth
and the UN General Assembly and various specialised agencies,
underline the substantial change which has already occurred.
- The concept of the traditional nation state is changing, with
most countries constantly losing some degree of sovereignty, especially
in the multilateral context. The example of European countries
losing sovereignty to the EU was cited earlier in the document.
South Africa is, to some extent, also affected.
- There is a need to increase the awareness of the importance
of multilateralism as a major facet of both South Africa's international
relations and policy planning. Bilateral missions abroad should
also focus on multilateral issues in formulating their objectives
and should forge a link between bilateral and multilateral relations.
- The international community is expecting South Africa to assume
an important role in some organisations and there is the perception
that South Africa has the necessary power, capacity and prestige
to fulfil this role. The country is expected to play a bridging
role in ensuring that North/South relations are non-antagonistic
and more equitable.
- Opportunities must be identified where South Africa can play
a role in the development of thinking on international issues.
- Regular analyses of South Africa's relations and cooperation
with regional groupings and blocs should be made to achieve policy
- South Africa should apply the criteria of national interest,
capabilities and feasibility in deciding on the country's participation
in UN peace-keeping, peace-making and peace-enforcement operations
in a regional or global context. This issue will require wider
discussion with other government departments and with OAU partners.
- The SADC's Council of Ministers has recommended that an Organ
on Politics, Defence and Security should be created. South Africa
should wholeheartedly support this recommendation and commit itself
to its approval by the SADC summit in August 1996. The Organ
will provide an important forum within which issues such as political
dialogue, the strengthening of democracy and threats to the peace
and stability of the sub-region can be addressed.
- South Africa should engage in the debate on the various aspects
of the reform and financing of the UN.
- The Government has committed itself to a policy of non-proliferation
and arms control which covers all weapons of mass destruction
and extends to concerns relating to the proliferation of conventional
weapons. A primary goal of this policy is to reinforce and promote
South Africa as a responsible producer, possessor and trader of
advanced technologies in the nuclear, biological, chemical and
conventional arms fields. To this end, a new conventional arms
control system has been established; participation in the various
non-proliferation regimes and suppliers' groups is actively being
pursued; and positions which publicly support the non-proliferation
of weapons of mass destruction have been adopted.
- The new global situation, more than ever before, requires
South African foreign and defence policy to be harmonised in a
comprehensive security policy.
- Involvement in more political international forums such as
the UN, the NAM, the G77 and the Commonwealth, however, requires
preparations and deliberations of a different nature. Consistent
and comprehensive policies linked to priorities will have to be
developed as South Africa experiences more high-level involvement.
- South Africa must recognise that it has limited experience
at the OAU and that it should develop an understanding of the
functioning of that organisation. A number of power centres exist
in the OAU and on the Continent. South Africa will have to work
within the SADC to coordinate its positions on global issues at
the UN and elsewhere in the process of developing OAU positions.
- A matter of future importance will be the reform of multilateral
organisations such as the UN and the OAU. A clear strategy on
this must be developed and South Africa will need to interact
with our OAU partners. Many member nations are appreciative of
South Africa's growing contribution to this debate. Solidarity
with the hopes and aspirations of Africa should be the watchword.
- South Africa has a leadership role to play in the SADC and
in the NAM and a clear vision as well as a set of objectives for
that role should be developed.
- South Africa has a role to play in the debate on the issue
of economic growth and development in a world economy which is
becoming increasingly liberalised and globalised.
- South Africa's position as host of UNCTAD IX and President
of UNCTAD for the next four years creates important opportunities
for enhancing its role in multilateral diplomacy and in the efforts
to arrest the process of marginalisation of the Least Developed
Countries (LDCs), most of which are in Africa.
- South Africa will have to develop consistent policy positions
on UNCTAD and the WTO which address trade and development issues.
This will require coordination between the various government
departments, and joint committees should be established to develop
expertise on technical aspects of international trade and development.
- South Africa's current negotiations with the European Union
(EU) and the mandate of the negotiating team are of prime importance
and are being followed closely by economic stakeholders at home
and abroad. The outcome of these negotiations will have an important
effect on the South African economy, since the degree of market
access to EU countries and the relevant tariffs will influence
production and employment in this country. Interdepartmental
cooperation and regular liaison with the private sector and labour
organisations will continue to be the cornerstone of these negotiations.
- The involvement of South Africa's Customs Union partners in
the planning of the negotiations with the EU is essential, and
the member states of the Lom harming their interests.
- South Africa will progressively need to develop an understanding
and constructive relationship with the African Development Bank
(AfDB) and the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).
- The implications of the issue of human rights as a cornerstone
of South African foreign policy must be fully explored.
- The establishment of a regional disaster centre to deal with
natural disasters in the Southern African region should be considered,
as should practical measures to facilitate the rendering of humanitarian
- As a country with marine borders on three oceans, the Indian,
Atlantic and Southern, South Africa should protect and advance
its significant marine and maritime interests in the multilateral
- South Africa's involvement in South Atlantic and Indian Ocean
regional groupings merits special attention.
- Environmental and conservation issues are of great importance
to South Africa. These should be dealt with within the context
of sustainable development.
As indicated in the introductory paragraph, this discussion has
not focused on individual multilateral issues, since those issues that warrant
more detailed analysis will be dealt with in separate papers which
will be published by the Department for comment.
[ Top ]
Later in this document, the different regions of the world are
discussed within the context of bilateral relations. The underlying philosophy of
South Africa's relations with individual countries, however, needs
In order to ensure that prejudice or bias is not a factor when
discussing the nature of South Africa's bilateral relations, it is important
to approach the discussion within the framework of United Nations
and other international resolutions and initiatives. Useful criteria
in the identification and analysis of special issues are United
Nations resolutions or special initiatives as well as other multilateral
international procedures and projects.
The Government has adopted the view that South Africa's relations
with countries should be a matter of bilateral concern between the
particular country and South Africa. In applying the principle
of universality, South Africa as a sovereign state should consider
its national interests when conducting relations with other states.
Two related aspects should be clearly understood. By trading
or concluding diplomatic relations with a particular country South Africa is
not expressing approval of the domestic policies of that country's
present government. The President and the Minister of Foreign
Affairs have often stated that South Africa will promote human
rights and democracy as fundamental principles in the conduct
of foreign relations. It could be argued that the most basic
reason for establishing diplomatic relations is to create a channel
of communication, which, in fact, is then used to convey to the
government of that country the values which South Africa promotes
and propagates. In essence, the approach followed is that communication
and persuasion could be more constructive than isolation.
The second aspect relates to the perceived implications of relations
South Africa may have with other states. South Africa fully adheres to the
United Nations resolutions for which it has expressed support
and does not contravene those agreed decisions. South Africa,
and specifically the Government and the Department of Foreign
Affairs is fully aware of the often complex and sensitive nature
of international relations and would not engage in actions in
the context of relations with these states which threaten or affect
the national interest of third states, especially contiguous states
with whom South Africa also maintains friendly, constructive diplomatic
[ Top ]
In concrete terms, South Africa is and should be free to maintain
diplomatic and trade relations with any state which is not subject to a United
Nations embargo, where this is to the mutual benefit of both countries.
Such relations should not pose a real threat to the interests
of other states.
Foreign policy principles and the broad policy approach of the
Government need to be implemented in the practical arena of South Africa's international
relations. This process and the reverse process of interpreting
the practical environment in order to be able to identify policy
alternatives for the Government to consider are the responsibility
and constant concern of the Department of Foreign Affairs and
its missions abroad. The changing nature of the international
environment requires a regular assessment of the many practical
elements of the Department's operations in the multilateral and
bilateral fields and this is routinely done by the Department.
As observed by Minister Alfred Nzo (Heads of Mission Conference,
September 1995, Pretoria):
"A policy review is a perfectly normal and routine matter
after a change of government. What happened last April of course, was much more
than simply another change of government in South Africa. It
marked a profound and fundamental break with our past, and opened
the way for the building of a new nation, a new country, based
on democracy, justice and the rule of law."
A number of indeterminate considerations have a bearing on the
successful implementation of policy; these include international expectations
and domestic aspirations.
Deputy President Thabo Mbeki has made the following observations
about South Africa's relations with Africa and about interaction with the
rest of the world (Heads of Mission Conference, September 1995,
- The Southern African region expects a positive contribution
from South Africa in terms of their own development. They expect
that we interact with them as a partner and an ally, not as a
regional superpower, so that what we achieve, in terms of political,
security and economic relations, may be balanced and mutually
- There is also an expectation from Africa that South Africa
should make a significant contribution towards peace and development
on the Continent. Despite our own limitations and problems, it
is our objective to make a significant contribution in ensuring
peace, democracy, respect for human rights and sustainable development.
These principles are fundamental to our foreign policy.
- It remains a challenge to achieve higher rates of trade and
investment in South Africa. It is a major challenge for the Department
of Foreign Affairs to engage the international community in South
Africa and increase their involvement.
- Embassies should advise the Department on what the Government
needs to do to remove obstacles at the international level with
a view to sustained growth and development.
[ Top ]
Minister Alfred Nzo also identified some key aspects on the same
- Primarily the GNU wishes to create a better life for all South
Africa's people. All the Department's activities should be geared to achieving
- Another primary task is to secure the integrity and sovereignty
of the South African state and its citizens.
- South Africa lacks the capacity to operate at all levels and
in all spheres and therefore has to make important choices, constituting
- South Africa is committed to the interests of Southern Africa
and the African continent and wishes to be part of the African
- It is imperative to make an ongoing analysis of important
international matters to enable South Africa to take independent
positions consistent with the country's commitments. This includes
issues such as the restructuring of the UN Security Council and
South Africa's future role in peace-keeping operations. South
Africa strongly supports South-South cooperation and the objectives
of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).
Some key economic aspects which play a role in the practical side
of South Africa's foreign relations, as mentioned by Minister Trevor Manuel,
should also be considered (Heads of Mission Conference, September
- Incentives for foreign investment and measures to create an
investor-friendly climate are accorded high priority by the Government
and must be a focus of embassy activities.
- Missions have a special role to play in ensuring that foreign
investors are better informed about opportunities in South Africa.
- With the signing of the Marrakesh Agreement, South Africa
was fully reintegrated into the (trade) world and the Government
has embarked on a programme to make South African industry more
- There is a range of opportunities for foreign investors in
South Africa in the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP)
and this should be brought to the attention of foreign industrialists
and development assistance donor governments.
- The sequencing of the lifting of exchange controls is very
important considering the far-reaching implications it has for
the South African economy. Missions play a role in conveying
this to interested parties in the proper context.
[ Top ]
The Department of Foreign Affairs is responsible for implementing
Government policy in the international context in each region and in respect
of each country in an appropriate manner, commensurate with South
Africa's capabilities and interests in that particular area.
Complex relations between countries where South Africa is an interested
third party require a carefully considered approach and measured
actions. In the multilateral sphere where bilateral relations
and broader international issues are involved, well-planned initiatives
and specific objectives are required. In addition to the discussion
of major issues, in respect of which separate papers will be published
by the Department for comment, bilateral relations are highlighted
in the regional context in the following paragraphs. The focus
in this part is on achievable objectives, priorities and plans
- Relations with SADC member countries are of primary importance
and each embassy/High Commission must handle SADC issues in an
integrated manner, as a matter of priority.
- The South African RDP should be regionalised to promote development
projects in the whole sub-continent. Investment in neighbouring
countries by the private sector should be encouraged.
- Countries in the Region have dissimilar requirements and agreements
affecting the Region should take this into account.
- Mission objectives should focus on coordinating mechanisms,
promotion of trade and investment, regional development and interaction
with South African provinces bordering SADC states.
- Following consultation with the respective member countries,
future cooperation on a region-to-region basis between SADC and
the Gulf Cooperation Council countries (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait,
Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman) is envisaged.
[ Top ]
- The creation of new employment opportunities in South Africa
is being actively pursued by encouraging and facilitating increased
South African trade with the region. For this purpose, the establishment
of a diplomatic network, in the entire region, comprising both
residential and nonresidential representation will be finalised
as soon as possible.
- The participation of South African enterprises in development
and infrastructure projects in the region is being actively promoted.
This will boost the economic development of the region, and at
the same time, create additional employment opportunities for
South Africans. An ancillary effect would be to reduce illegal
immigration into South Africa.
- For the same reasons, substantial and ongoing foreign investment
from the industrialised countries of the world to the region is
being actively encouraged. In order to achieve this goal, South
Africa has to play an effective role in improving foreign investor
perceptions of the region, inter alia through substantial participation
in the prevention, management and resolution of conflict on the
continent. The OAU, as the principal regional organisation and
spokes body for the continent, is being strengthened and encouraged
by South Africa to play a more important role in this regard.
- The economic development of the region is being promoted by
demonstrating, through South Africa's moral leadership, that good
governance and democracy are essential prerequisites for development.
- Ongoing cooperation between South Africa and the region for
the purpose of disease control and the combatting of crime, such
as drug trafficking, is being pursued and expanded.
- The Department is busy consolidating its presence in North
Africa through residential and nonresidential accreditation which
will assist in dealing with relations in a more direct manner.
- South Africa's policy on the Western Sahara is based on respect
for the wishes of the inhabitants of the territory and it has
launched certain initiatives in an effort to find a solution to
the deadlock that persists.
- Economic relations with the region are receiving priority
attention as it can contribute significantly to the development
of the RAP.
- South Africa is acting in line with UN and OAU resolutions
regarding certain states in the area, whilst also playing an important
role in attempting to address issues of international concern;
- Attention is being given to religious radicalism, its threat
to the region and the effects which it may have on the relations
between South Africa and the region.
[ Top ]
- The principle of universality and even-handedness should be
applied and good relations pursued with all states in the area.
- South Africa remains committed to supporting the Middle East
peace process in an even-handed manner, in the belief that it
is only through negotiation that a just and lasting solution can
be achieved in that region.
- As a responsible member of the international community, South
Africa supports UN Resolutions pertaining to countries in the
area (eg. Palestine, Israel, Iran and Iraq).
- South Africa should strive to realize the full potential of
export markets, including the sale of technology, in the Middle
East and as a source of funding for the RAP. Economic relations
in general and South Africa's energy requirements in particular,
should receive priority attention.
- A further objective is to expand knowledge and understanding
of the area in South Africa and promote the acquisition of the
required language skills and expertise in the Department.
- Religious radicalism is a threat to some governments in the
area and may affect South Africa's relations with those countries.
South Africa will remain vigilant in the monitoring of any radical
movements, be they religious or political, which could impact
on our relations with the countries in the area.
- Asia as currently dealt with by the Department of Foreign
Affairs, stretches from Afghanistan, southwards along the western
coastline of the Indian sub-continent and Sri Lanka, along the
coastline of the Indonesian archipelago and Western Australia
to New Zealand in the south, eastwards to include the islands
of the Pacific Ocean, and in a northeastern curving arc, to Japan,
the People's Republic of China and Mongolia. Asia, as defined
above, includes the world's most populous countries and fastest
growing economies. It is predicted that by the year 2000 forty
per cent of all buying power will be located in East Asia.
- This region presents a range of opportunities for South Africa
in the fields of human resources development, service sector development,
mutual technology transfers, as well as bilateral tourism, trade
- Increased involvement by the South African private sector
will be supported by the South African Department of Foreign Affairs
to unlock the vast opportunities in this region.
- Politically, the region offers several bilateral and multilateral
opportunities for cooperation, ie in terms of South-South cooperation,
the Commonwealth, the Non-Aligned Movement and lastly in terms
of defining a New International Economic Order; this region has,
in large measure, successfully managed to overcome economic and
structural backlogs to compete successfully on the international
- It is the intention of the Department of Foreign Affairs to
develop bilateral relations with all countries in this region
to the optimum and in accordance with South Africa's national
interests, also by furthering top-level Government contact at
the highest level.
- Asia is a cradle of ancient civilisations which have
evolved their own present-day sociopolitical
characteristics. South Africa, in line with its own
commitment to achieving human rights objectives, will
pursue this question with diligence where required, but
also with sensitivity within the framework of the
totality of issues which make up bilateral relations
[ Top ]
- Relations with the European Union, in both the economic and
political areas, dominate South Africa's relations with the European
continent. Economic relations with the Continent represent more
than half of South Africa's international economic relations.
- These relations are well-developed and there is more scope
for expanding relations with Central and Eastern Europe.
- Owing to the peculiar bilateral/multilateral nature of relations
with the EU, the progressive development of a comprehensive strategy
to deal with relations involving all departments and organs is
a standing objective.
- Domestic issues which negatively affect European perceptions
of South Africa as an economic partner and of the country's future
should be identified by embassies and brought to the Government's
- The dramatic size of the economy of the United States compared
with those of other countries is a factor which cannot be ignored
when formulating policy and objectives. This must be seen in
the context of the tremendous influence the USA can exercise in
the world. South Africa and the South African economy, cannot
escape this influence. (With 260 million people, the USA has
a GDP of some R25 trillion compared to the South African GDP of
R480 billion. The South African budget is R160 billion compared
to the New York City budget of R105 billion.)
- The South African Embassy in Washington and other Missions
in the USA should pursue the promotion of South Africa's economic
relations with the USA as a priority and take steps to revitalise
and restructure those relations.
- The negotiating of a special trade agreement and cooperation
in the matter of intellectual property rights should receive priority
attention. A double taxation agreement and a bilateral investment
treaty are also receiving attention.
- The Binational Commission exemplifies the good political relations
that South Africa enjoys with the USA. The work of the Commission
remains a priority.
- The promotion of human rights and democracy in all parts of
the world is a shared objective of the two governments.
- South Africa is guided by its own strategic national interest
where relations with third countries are concerned and this is
done in a nonconfrontational, nonideological and rational manner.
Full account is and must be taken of the fact that the USA is
the strongest economic and military power and that, in some cases,
US legislation has an extra-territorial impact.
- South Africa's relations with Canada, a G7 country, are mature
and stable at the political level. There is scope for the expansion
of economic relations and the missions in Canada should pursue
this as a priority.
- Canadian development assistance to South Africa will be encouraged.
- Canada and the USA as major members of NAFTA represent a major
market for South Africa and a future agreement with NAFTA will
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Although Mexico and Central American countries are geographically
part of North America, the Department of Foreign Affairs includes them among
Latin American countries and pursues a coherent strategy towards
these countries as a group.
- South Africa has had missions in Latin America for a long
time but the extent of relations with that region has recently
increased substantially. Trade with Brazil exceeded R1 billion
per annum and trade with Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Cuba, Colombia
and Peru is following the same pattern. Tourism to South Africa
is also increasing.
- Economic and social reconstruction programmes in Mexico, Chile,
Cuba and Argentina have made much progress and South Africa could
benefit from the experience of those countries.
- Relations with Latin America should receive a higher priority
and representation, including nonresidential and honorary consuls,
should be considered.
- Other aspects of relations with the region which warrant more
attention are the arrangement of high-level visits to and from
these countries and the negotiation of agreements on combatting
Several organisational matters, such as the available budget,
the location of missions abroad, the availability of staff and administrative
effectiveness, play a role in the degree of success the Department
of Foreign Affairs can achieve in representing South Africa abroad,
in promoting South Africa's interests and in playing the role
discussed above (para 3.4).
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The Department's budget and the relative priority ratings accorded
to the various components of the budget, should be analysed. In the present
budget, fixed personnel and administrative expenses and membership
fees of international organisations account for some 69 percent
of the total budget. Approximately 31 percent of the budget remains
for initiatives specifically aimed at promoting South Africa's
interests abroad in the form of travel, attendance at conferences,
seminars, publications and shows.
Some embassies abroad are relatively expensive to operate. However,
these missions are situated in countries which are South Africa's major
trading partners and which also contribute substantially to South Africa'sRDPin
the form of development assistance. Similarly, international organisations
like the UN, which deal with issues of interest to Africa and the South and
even the Non-Aligned Movement, are based in expensive cities of
the North: New York and Geneva. The cost structure, cost of living and similar factors
in host countries, as well as the exchange rate between the Rand
and the relevant currency, determine the operating costs of a
mission. It is important to consider all the relevant factors
when evaluating these components of the Department's budget and
the related statistics reflecting South Africa's relations with
the countries in question.
In one case study, the annual budget of a medium embassy in an
expensive West European capital was compared with the development assistance
given to South Africa by that country. It was found that the
embassy could operate for 22 years on an amount equivalent to
the grant-in-aid provided by that government. The known new fixed
capital investment in 1995 from the private sector of that country
in South Africa was equivalent to the embassy's budget for some
80 years. The budget of the Department of Foreign Affairs (R1,146
bn per annum) should be seen in this context.
The Department of Foreign Affairs identifies with the Government's
objective of reducing government expenditure. During the annual process of
drafting the budget of the Department, missions and the Head Office
of the Department adopt a "zero basis" for compiling
draft estimates. Fixed compulsory expenses are reviewed and all
planned new expenditures must be fully motivated. The Department
exercises monthly and quarterly control over expenses. Furthermore,
the Department has embarked on a review of the Head Office post
establishment and its representation abroad with the specific
objective of right sizing the missions in order to achieve savings.
This is an ongoing process.
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It is neither possible nor practicable to have embassies in all
the countries with which South Africa maintains diplomatic relations. The Department
therefore adopts a strategic approach to ensure representation
in selected regions while nonresidential accreditation in other
countries is pursued. This ensures a global network of diplomatic
relations. Owing to the expansion of South Africa's relations
with the international community since April 1994, the Department
has been under pressure from many countries and from within South
Africa to expand the number of embassies and consular missions
abroad in order to facilitate trade, render consular services
and improve political relations in areas where no South African
representation existed. In view of the budgetary and personnel
implications, the Department considers proposals for the opening
of new embassies carefully before submitting a request to Cabinet
for the approval of new missions.
Economic, political and other criteria are used to evaluate the
need for new missions, in order to ensure a consistent and practical policy
and to determine relative priorities. In some cases, countries
may be politically influential, in areas that include multilateral
forums and may be strategically located but nevertheless present
limited scope for South African exports. In other cases, economic
criteria substantially outweigh political factors. In all cases
long-term prospects are important. Recommendations are considered
on the basis of coherent global and regional analyses.
The establishment of the new Department of Foreign Affairs incorporating
the old DFA, the TBVC departments and former representatives of the ANC
and of other political parties abroad has been accomplished.
Five new (four functional and one administrative) Deputy Directors
General have been appointed to the Top Management of the Department.
The Department has also, under the supervision of the Minister
and the Deputy Minister and in consultation with the Deputy President and the
President, completed a full review of South Africa's ambassadors
and consuls-general abroad. The majority of South Africa's foreign
representatives (ie Heads of Mission) are already appointees of
the GNU. Affirmative action is also under way to appoint other
staff members at embassies with the object of promoting broad
representativity at all levels as training and orientation courses
are completed. Since the availability of posts and budgetary
restrictions are limiting factors in the speed of implementation,
changes are made systematically as part of the process of staff
The Department places a high premium on its training. It has
established a training institute (the Foreign Service Institute) which is utilised
to the maximum extent to achieve the objective of a highly skilled
foreign service. In this regard, Deputy Minister Pahad's remarks
to the Senate on 25 May 1995, are of importance:
"To help us to improve our expertise, we are giving serious
consideration to our diplomatic training programme. The inception of the Government
of National Unity opened up many fields of opportunity for the
provision of diplomatic training to new and serving South African
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South Africa welcomes the establishment of embassies and consular
missions by countries with which formal relations have been established.
These offices function in terms of the Vienna Conventions on
Diplomatic Relations and on Consular Relations. They also function
in accordance with South African legislation on diplomatic immunities
and privileges. Over 100 countries are represented in South Africa.
South Africa has established diplomatic relations with 165 of
the more than 180 members of the United Nations. It is beyond South Africa's means,
and also impractical, to open embassies or consular missions in
all countries. South Africa maintains missions at embassy level
in 74 countries and another 21 additional consular and other missions
in important cities, particularly in regard to trade promotion.
Permanent Missions to the United Nations and other international
organisations have been established in New York and Geneva while
embassies in Vienna, Addis Ababa and Nairobi also function as
multilateral missions to international organisations. Missions
in Paris, Rome, Washington, The Hague and Montreal have additional
multilateral monitoring functions. Brussels is the site of South
Africa's Permanent Mission to the European Union and other European
During 1994 and 1995, the Department of Foreign Affairs, under
the direction of the Minister and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, undertook
a thorough review of South Africa's representation abroad. One
objective was to rectify imbalances which were remnants of the
country's international relations before democratisation. A second
objective was to determine whether the existence of certain established
missions abroad was justified and to evaluate the reasons for
establishing new missions. In motivating the opening of new missions
to Cabinet, economic, political, security, cultural and other
criteria were used. The existing substance of relations such
as trade and potential for expansion in economic relations as
well as the political importance of a country are taken into consideration.
South Africa's real interests must be served before the establishment
of offices is considered justifiable. These are the criteria
utilised when representation is re-assessed annually, normally
in the course of compiling the annual budget.
A full list of South Africa's international representation is
attached as an annexure.
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Possibly because ambassadors are functionally attached to, or
are members of, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the erroneous perception exists
that embassies and consulates are the "offices of the Department
of Foreign Affairs". While Foreign Affairs is the department
with functional and budgetary responsibility for the management
of offices abroad, ambassadors are appointed by the President
and represent the whole Government and all government departments
abroad. In some cases the Departments of Trade and Industry,
Defence, Home Affairs and other departments attach officials to
embassies to fulfil specialist functions. While stationed at
embassies, they form part of the staff of the ambassador, who
is ultimately responsible to the President for conducting relations
with the respective country of accreditation.
This has an important practical value in that all government departments
the services of the ambassador and his staff on an "agency"
basis to act on their behalf. There is a need for a better understanding
by government agencies and especially provincial governments of
the role of the Department of Foreign Affairs at missions abroad.
In the discussion of global trends and the nature of the new world
order and of multilateral relations, the complexity and multidimensional nature
of international relations were highlighted. Many government departments
and nongovernmental organisations maintain international relations
to some degree, not to mention the extensive private sector international
network. No country can prosper in isolation: the degree of international
cooperation often has a direct bearing on a country's relative
level of political, economic, scientific and technological development.
The extent to which domestic interaction and cooperation takes
place in the process of expanding international relations also
has an influence in this regard. South Africa cannot escape this
reality and it is in the country's interest to pay constant attention
to this growing requirement.
The Department regularly interacts, both structurally through
interdepartmental committees and on a day-to-day basis, with all those departments
with some international involvement. Frequent consultations take
place with the Departments of Finance, Trade and Industry, Home
Affairs, Agriculture, Health, Defence and with the SA Secret Service,
all of which have representatives attached to some missions abroad
and with which (policy and operational) interfacing is essential.
To a lesser extent the Departments of Labour, Water and Forestry
Affairs, Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, Environment Affairs
and Tourism, and certain others, also interact with the Department
of Foreign Affairs concerning their specific responsibilities.
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The Department cooperates closely with the officials responsible
for the RDP in respect of a wide range of foreign donors and on related inter-governmental
initiatives. For this purpose an official of the Department has
been seconded to the RDP since its inception.
Interaction also takes place with the Reserve Bank, NEDLAC, SACOB,
labour organisations, universities, the FRD, the CSIR and numerous para-statal
bodies when matters of mutual concern are dealt with.
Organs of state with which expanding interaction takes place are
Parliament and the provincial legislatures. The Department is eager to facilitate
the international contacts of the provinces and has created a
special Directorate within the Department to develop this relationship
and liaison system.
A major focus of the activities of South African missions
abroad is the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RAP). Particular attention
is given to the international dimension and to the role of the
Department of Foreign Affairs in meeting the challenges presented
by the RAP.
An important role of the Department lies in the field of information.
For example, the Department can convey information on the RDP to governments,
non-governmental organisations and the private sector abroad.
Proper information assists these actors in identifying elements of the RDP in which
they could become involved, whether as donors or as project contractors.
Missions are also in a position to convey information to the
RDP on similar programmes, for example in Asia and Latin America,
to enable the RDP to benefit from the experience of other countries.
The Department can also play a helpful role in explaining the
sensitivities and difficulties surrounding the implementation
of the RAP.
The RDP presents many long-term opportunities and the Department
should bring these to the attention of appropriate foreign organisations.
In conjunction with the representatives of the Department of
Trade and Industry, private industry should also be briefed.
Closer liaison with provincial governments, especially in the
context of the RAP, is also a priority. The interaction with appropriate line function
departments of central government is important as these departments
are in a good position to identify viable projects in the provinces
in cooperation with the RAP. This is of use to foreign donors.
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The Interdepartmental Development Coordination Committee (IDCC)
has hitherto acted as a link between donors and line function departments.
It assessed the extent to which donor assistance could be integrated
into the general budget and whether projects were sustainable.
Now that this committee has been dissolved, new mechanisms will
be devised to provide effective and streamlined ways of ensuring
sound interactive partnerships. The Department of Foreign Affairs
will also continue to facilitate regular contact between foreign
donors and the Government.
The relationship between international economic relations and
the RDP was explained in clear terms by Deputy Minister Pahad in the Senate
on 25 May 1995:
"South Africa is critically dependent on its business and
economic relations with the outside world, particularly the industrialised world,
to meet the growing demands of our people for a better life, and
to ensure the successful implementation of the Reconstruction
and Development Programme."
The Departments of Foreign Affairs and of Trade and Industry have
also coordinated their activities. A special committee was established
to study how more regular and formalised liaison could be implemented. The
Directors-General of the two departments have taken the lead and
the nature and extent of cooperation have been expanded. Integrated trade and investment
activities at missions abroad are also being promoted. While
good liaison exists at the working level, a major challenge is
coordination at the policy level. Interdepartmental policy-coordinating
mechanisms, such as the External Trade Relations Committee which
already exists, are to be used more frequently and new areas of
responsibility will be developed.
The Department of Defence (South African National Defence Force)
maintains international liaison. The primary reason for this is to enable
the Defence Force to assess any international military threat
that may exist or develop. This goes hand in hand with liaison
with "friendly" defence forces in other countries.
The South African Secret Service maintains similar international
liaison and monitoring services in order to fulfil its function,
namely to take overall responsibility for assessing (intelligence
and security related) threats to national security. Cooperation
between these two Services is provided for in terms of legislation
and government policy. The international roles of these two departments
are precisely determined and they may not encroach on the responsibilities
of the Minister and the Department of Foreign Affairs. Close
liaison is important.
There is a new challenge for these two Services, especially in
the African context. South Africa, as mentioned earlier in this document,
is expected to play a role in OAU and UN peace-keeping and peace-making
efforts in Africa. These Departments will, together with the
Department of Foreign Affairs, have to play an increasingly important
part in drafting and executing the Government's policy in this
regard. Interdepartmental cooperation in this area already exists.
[ Top ]
The President is ultimately responsible for the international
relations of the country. It is the prerogative of the President to appoint ambassadors
and receive foreign ambassadors. In the execution of his other
international functions, he is assisted by the Deputy Presidents.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, in accordance with his Cabinet
portfolio responsibilities, is charged with the formulation and execution
of South Africa's foreign policy and with the daily conduct of
South Africa's international relations. He assumes overall responsibility
for all aspects of South Africa's international relations in consultation
with the President. In practice, he consults the Cabinet and
individual Cabinet colleagues on aspects of major importance as
well as aspects which overlap or link up with the activities of
other government departments and Ministers.
In view of his overall responsibility, the Minister advises the
President and the Deputy Presidents on those international matters in which they
should be involved and other Cabinet Ministers are required to
consult the Minister of Foreign Affairs on their international
role, where applicable. From this practice at Cabinet level,
which is a Presidential instruction, it also follows that there
must be similar interaction between departments.
A number of characteristics and crucial elements of South
Africa's foreign policy and international relations may be summarised as follows:
- South Africa must consistently endeavour to pursue a coherent
foreign policy, which includes economic, security and political
- Preventive diplomacy and pro-active initiatives should be
the approach, rather than reaction to events. A monitoring network
with African partners is essential.
- South Africa should assume a leadership role in Africa in
all those areas where a constructive contribution could be made
without politically antagonising the Country's African partners.
- The Government should continue to pursue a non-aligned approach,
with due regard for South Africa's SADC, OAU, NAM and other membership
- A diplomacy of bridge-building between the "North"
and the "South" should be pursued.
- In multilateral forums, South Africa should strive to promote
its interests in regard to the major global issues such as respect
for human rights, democracy, global peace, security and the protection
of the environment.
- South Africa should constantly endeavour to positively influence
and change the direction of events and developments internationally,
to the extent that they affect South Africa.
- Diplomatic relations and all related aspects should be a means
to an end, namely to promote the well-being of the country and
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