Foreign relations of South Africa
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The foreign relations of South Africa have spanned from the country's time as Dominion of the British Empire to its isolationist policies under Apartheid to its position as a responsible international actor taking a key role in Africa.
South Africa is active in the United Nations, the African Union and the Commonwealth of Nations. Considered a possible permanent addition to the United Nations Security Council, South Africa was elected in 2006 and again in 2010 by the UN General Assembly to serve on the Security Council, which it did until 31 December 2012.
South Africa, as a key member of the British Empire and Commonwealth, fought alongside the United Kingdom and the Allies in both World War I and World War II, and it participated in the postwar UN force in the Korean War. South Africa was a founding member of the League of Nations and in 1927 established a Department of External Affairs with diplomatic missions in the main Western European countries and in the United States.
South Africa introduced apartheid in 1948, as a systematic extension of pre-existing racial discrimination in the country. As a result, the country became increasingly isolated internationally until apartheid was ended and racial equality introduced in 1990–3.
Having emerged from the international isolation of the apartheid era, South Africa has become a leading international actor. Its principal foreign policy objective is to develop good relations with all countries, especially its neighbours in the Southern African Development Community (*-see note below) and the other members of the African Union. South Africa has played a key role in seeking an end to various conflicts and political crises on the African continent, including in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Comoros, and Zimbabwe. In August 1998, South Africa assumed the chair of the Non-Aligned Movement, which it relinquished in July 2002.
The South African government has been criticised by Human Rights Watch for deporting hundreds of thousands of Zimbabwean refugees and treating victims of political violence as economic migrants. By sending refugees back to persecution, Human Rights Watch has asserted that South Africa is violating the refugee convention and international law. (*)However, it is quite hard to understand how precisely they are exercising these "good relations especially with their neighboring countries" when they are severely limiting the access to foreigners in exactly those countries that they are claiming to support. Basically, from 2010, some citizens of the world have to beg (and pay) the South African government for the great opportunity of waiting between flights in their airports in transit towards their neighbors. To be noted that those highly restrictive measures are directly oriented against the neighbors, the transit visa not being necessary for any other destination.
United Nations Security Council
South Africa was a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council from October 2006 until 2008. South African votes in the UNSC have not been without controversy. In particular, a 'no' vote on a resolution criticising the Burmese government attracted widespread criticism.
South Africa also attempted to vote against economic sanctions for Iran; however, this was changed after South Africa realised that the 'no' vote would be defeated.
South Africa was once again a non-permanent member of the Security Council between 2010 & 2012.
|Country||Formal Relations Began||Notes|
|Angola||See Angola–South Africa relations
South Africa relations are quite strong, as the ruling parties in both nations – the African National Congress in South Africa and the MPLA in Angola – fought together during the Angolan Civil War and South African Border War. They fought against UNITA rebels, based in Angola, and the apartheid-era government in South Africa who supported them. Nelson Mandela mediated between the MPLA and UNITA factions during the last years of Angola's civil war.
|Botswana||See Botswana–South Africa relations|
|Egypt||See Foreign relations of Egypt|
|Madagascar||See Foreign relations of Madagascar|
|Malawi||See Malawi – South Africa relations
Since South Africa and Malawi had their first democratic elections in 1994, Malawi and South Africa have enhanced relations. In 2008, the two governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding designed to enhance the relationship between the two countries through enhanced security cooperation.
|Mozambique||See Foreign relations of Mozambique|
|Namibia||See Namibia – South Africa relations
Upon independence in 1990, Namibia's economy was still tied to South Africa's. To this day, the economy of Namibia is still closely contacted to South Africa through both institutional relationships (Southern African Customs Union, for example) and privately owned mining concessions. The South African rand is still legal currency within Namibia (while the Namibian dollar is not so in South Africa), and the currencies are traded on par locally.
|Swaziland||See South Africa–Swaziland relations|
|Zimbabwe||See South Africa–Zimbabwe relations
South Africa has a mission in Harare. Zimbabwe has an embassy in Pretoria and a consulate general in Johannesburg. The Government of Zimbabwe took a particular interest in the search for independence for Namibia (South-West Africa) from South Africa. In addition, as chairman of the front-line states in southern Africa, Zimbabwe spoke out vigorously against the policies of apartheid in South Africa and frequently called for the imposition of economic sanctions against the government. However, whilst supporting democratic change in South Africa, Mugabe did not support the idea of Zimbabwe being used as a base for anti-South African guerillas.
In recent years, following the political crisis in the country, the ex-president Thabo Mbeki mediated with the MDC and Zanu PF to form a unity government, and often remained silent on the issues in Zimbabwe, which drew criticism. Following a cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe, the ruling ANC in South Africa became impatient and has urged the parties to form a unity government.
|Country||Formal Relations Began||Notes|
|Bulgaria||See Bulgaria – South Africa relations
Interest Offices between South Africa and Bulgaria were opened initially in November 1990 and full diplomatic relations was established on 2 February 1992. Bulgaria has an embassy in Pretoria and South Africa is represented in Bulgaria through its embassy in Athens (Greece).
|Croatia||See Foreign relations of Croatia|
|Denmark||See Denmark-South Africa relations|
|European Union||See South Africa–European Union relations
|Finland||1949-05-15||See Finland – South Africa relations
|Greece||See Foreign relations of Greece|
|Ireland||See Foreign relations of the Republic of Ireland|
|Italy||See Foreign relations of Italy|
|Romania||See Foreign relations of Romania|
|Russia||1992-02-28||See Russia–South Africa relations|
|Serbia||See Foreign relations of Serbia|
|Switzerland||See South Africa – Switzerland relations
|Turkey||1991||See South African – Turkish relations
|Ukraine||See South Africa – Ukraine relations
|United Kingdom||1927||See South Africa – United Kingdom relations
|Country||Formal Relations Began||Notes|
|Argentina||See Foreign relations of Argentina
|Brazil||See Brazil – South Africa relations
Brazil has provided military assistance to South Africa in the form of warfare training and logistics. Bilateral relations between the countries have recently increased, as a result of Brazil's new South-South foreign policy aimed to strengthen integration between the major powers of the developing world.
|Canada||See Canada – South Africa relations
Canada established its diplomatic relations with South Africa in 1939, along with other nations, due to the outbreak of World War II. Canada actively encouraged the end of Apartheid in South Africa and the countries have had normal relations since then. The Constitution of South Africa was, in part, inspired by the Constitution of Canada, particularly the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Former South African President Nelson Mandela made an official state visit to Canada in September 1998. Mandela was made an honorary Canadian citizen, during his second visit to Canada. A 2003 visit by President Thabo Mbeki in November 2003, the Joint Declaration of Intent was signed to strengthen relations between the two countries. Canada has assisted South Africa in the areas of development (over $200 million) and the fight against AIDS in South Africa and to strengthen services provided by the Government of South Africa. Trade between the two countries totalled $1.8 billion in 2008.
Canada and South Africa are both member states of the Commonwealth of Nations.
|Mexico||26-10-1993||See Mexico-South Africa relations
There were no official relations between Mexico and South Africa before 1993. After the birth of democracy in South Africa, the countries established relations.
|United States||See South Africa–United States relations
The United States has maintained an official presence in South Africa since 1799, when an American consulate was opened in Cape Town. The U.S. Embassy is located in Pretoria, and Consulates General are in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town. Americans and South Africans also have many non-governmental ties: American missionaries, for example, have a long history of activity in South Africa. South Africans (particularly the ANC leadership) also acknowledge support from and ties to the anti-apartheid movement in the U.S.
Rest of the world
|Country||Formal Relations Began||Notes|
|Australia||See Australia – South Africa relations|
|People's Republic of China||See People's Republic of China – South Africa relations
Despite Pretoria's long relationship with the government in Taiwan and late recognition of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1998 the two countries currently enjoy an increasingly close relationship. Increasingly numerous official visits to each other's countries by their respective officials and rapidly increasing trade between the two countries has drawn them ever increasingly together.
|Republic of China||See Republic of China – South Africa relations
Relations were established between the two countries in 1949 and grew considerably after 1971 until South Africa announced that it would switch recognition from the government in Taipei to the People's Republic of China in December 1996.
|India||See India – South Africa relations
There is a major resident Indian community in South Africa that made a significant contribution to the struggle for civil rights; Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi pioneered the non-violent civil disobedience in the struggle of Indian people for civil rights in the 1890s and 1900s. Indians also contributed to the African National Congress's struggle against the Apartheid regime. The Indian government was an outspoken critic of the apartheid-era South African government, refusing to maintain diplomatic relations. India's support evoked goodwill in South Africa and other African countries.
|Iran||See Iran – South Africa relations
South Africa and Iran share historical bilateral relations and the latter supported the South African liberation movements. It severed official relations with South Africa in 1979 and imposed a trade boycott in protest against the country's Apartheid policies. However, in January 1994, Iran lifted all trade and economic sanctions against South Africa and diplomatic relations were reestablished on 10 May 1994.
|Israel||See Israel–South Africa relations
Former ANC leader Nelson Mandela first visited Israel in 1999. Mandela said: "To the many people who have questioned why I came, I say: Israel worked very closely with the apartheid regime. I say: I've made peace with many men who slaughtered our people like animals. Israel cooperated with the apartheid regime, but it did not participate in any atrocities". Then Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert visited South Africa in 2004, meeting with South African President Thabo Mbeki, the first visit by an Israeli leader since the end of apartheid.
|Pakistan||See Pakistan–South Africa relations|
|Sri Lanka||See Sri Lanka – South Africa relations|
South Africa and the Commonwealth of Nations
South Africa was a Dominion of the British Empire and the Commonwealth from 1910 until 1961.
South Africa was a republic outside the Commonwealth from 1961 to 1994, then it became a Commonwealth republic on 1 June 1994.
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- South African Embassy in Moscow
- Iran lifted all trade and economic sanctions against South Africa
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- US Policy on Namibia from the Dean Peter Krogh Foreign Affairs Digital Archives