Pretoria plays the ‘useful idiot’ in thug-friendly foreign policy

Pretoria plays the useful idiot in thug friendly foreign policyFOLLOWING the example of human rights abusers such as China and Russia, SA regards international protection of human rights as a pretext for interference in the domestic affairs of sovereign states and part of a "western conspiracy". Voting against such measures in the United Nations (UN) has become a consistent pattern of its foreign policy.

This is exactly the opposite of what was expected from a country that owes much of its liberty to the struggle for human rights. What makes the volte-face even more remarkable, if not cynical, is that the African National Congress (ANC) uses the very same arguments as the apartheid government regarding the applicability of the Westphalian noninterference principle (Article 2 par 7) of the UN Charter.

After the success of the ANC’s universal human rights campaign against apartheid, it was logical to expect that it would make international morality the lodestar of its future foreign policy.

That was precisely what former president Nelson Mandela did. He proclaimed: "SA’s future foreign relations will be based on our belief that human rights should be the core concern of foreign relations … we are ready to play a role in fostering peace and prosperity in the world we share with the community of nations."


About The Project

South Africa's conduct of international relations, especially its role in international organisations like the UN Security Council, its choice of strategic partnerships, its leadership role in Africa, its public engagement and foreign policy decision making, has been intensely debated in the recent past. The FPA programme aims to provide a nuanced analysis and facilitate a structured discussion of South Africa's foreign policy in a changing world environment for purposes of informing its future direction.

Aims and Objectives of The Project

The purpose of this focus area is to unpack the extent to which the policy in its making, its nature and its application constitutes a principled and pragmatic response to a complex international environment. In doing so, we hope to be guided by an objective to promote a foreign policy that positions SA as a responsible global citizen committed to building bridges between various power blocs for the benefit of Africa and South Africans.

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