South Africa–United Kingdom relations

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South Africa – United Kingdom relations
Map indicating locations of South Africa and United Kingdom

South Africa

United Kingdom

South Africa–United Kingdom relations refer to the current and historical relationship between the United Kingdom (UK) and the Republic of South Africa. South Africa is the UK’s largest trade partner in Africa and an important partner for the UK in a number of areas.[1]

Ties between South Africa and the UK include a shared language (English) and cultural links, similar systems of law and finance, and a shared passion for the same sports as well as a common interest in promoting trade and a rules-based international system.[1] There are also large numbers of South Africans living in the UK as there are a large number of UK citizens and people of UK descent living in South Africa. A large minority of South Africans are of British ancestry due to it once being a former colony of the British Empire.

History of South Africa[edit]

The United Kingdom and the area of Southern Africa that is today known as South Africa have had a long history with the UK playing a deeply important role in the formation of the modern South African state. The beginning of relations between South Africa and the UK began on the 31 May 1910 when the Union of South Africa was founded as dominion of the British Empire. From 1910 until South Africa declared itself a republic on the 31 May 1961 South Africa fought in support and as a part of the British Empire in two world wars.

When South Africa pulled out of the Commonwealth of Nations in 1961, some members[who?] felt that the only way to sort her out was to enforce monetary sanctions and forbid the sale of armaments to her. Other members, most notably Britain, resisted this. It had many key trade links and, in particular, needed South Africa's gold.

There were also tactical motives for not severing all ties with the apartheid government. As the southernmost nation in Africa, and the juncture at which the Indian and Atlantic Oceans collided, South Africa was still a vital point in sea-trade routes. In 1969, the Commandant General of the South African Defence Force (SADF) confirmed that, "[i]n the entire ocean expanse from Australia to South America, South Africa is the only fixed point offering modern naval bases, harbours and airfield facilities, a modern developed industry and stable government."[this quote needs a citation] South Africa was also a pivotal partner to the West in the years of the Cold War. If the West ever required martial, maritime or air-force services on the African continent, it would have to rely on South Africa's assistance.

From 1960 to 1961, the relationship between South Africa and Britain started to change. In his "Winds of Change" speech in Cape Town, Harold Macmillan spoke of the changes in Africa and how South Africa's racist policies were swimming upstream. Even as more countries added to the call for sanctions, Britain remained unwilling to sever her ties with the apartheid administration. Possible reasons were her copious assets in the state, an unwillingness to hazard turbulence brought on by intercontinental meddling, and the fact that many British people had kith and kin living in South Africa or, indeed, were living there themselves. Along with America, Britain would persistently vote against certain sanctions against South Africa.

Margaret Thatcher's opposition to economic sanctions was challenged by visiting anti-apartheid activists, including South African bishop Desmond Tutu, whom she met in London, and Oliver Tambo, exiled leader of the outlawed ANC guerrilla movement,[2] whose links to the Soviet bloc she viewed with suspicion,[3] and whom she declined to see because he espoused violence and refused to condemn guerrilla attacks and mob killings of black policemen, local officials and their families.[4]

At a Commonwealth summit in Nassau in October 1985 Thatcher agreed to impose limited sanctions and to set up a contact group to promote a dialogue with Pretoria,[5] after she was warned by Third World leaders, including Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, that her opposition threatened to break up the 49-nation organisation.[6] In return, calls for a total embargo were abandoned, and the existing restrictions adopted by member states against South Africa were lifted.[7] ANC president Tambo expressed disappointment at this major compromise.[8]

Since the end of apartheid, South Africa has rejoined the Commonwealth of Nations. Current Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Cameron has condemned Margaret Thatcher's policy of constructive engagement, irking many older Conservative Party members.[9]

Economics[edit]

As of 2012 UK remains one of the top two investors in the South African economy.[1]

Trade[edit]

From 1998 to 2003 the UK was South Africa's third largest source of imports after which it then dropped to sixth largest in 2008. The UK was the top recipient of South African exports in 2001 and 2002 but dropped to fourth largest by 2008. Exports from South Africa to the UK are dominated by precious stones, mineral products, vehicles (including vessels), machinery and mechanical products, fruit and vegetable products, base metals and articles, prepared foodstuffs and beverages. Exports from the UK to South Africa are dominated by turbo jets, turbo propellers, gas turbines, machinery, mechanical appliances, electrical equipment, vehicles (including aircraft and vessels), and chemicals. In December 2011 UK Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Henry Bellingham MP, announced that UK-South African bilateral trade should be doubled by the year 2015.[1]

Bilateral Forum[edit]

The South Africa-UK Bilateral Forum was founded in 1997 to promote South African-UK relations by serving as a forum for the two countries to meet on a bi-annual basis so as to enhance economic and political relations. Top government officials from both countries often meet through this forum to discuss important issues.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Markus Weimer and Alex Vines (June 2011). "UK–South Africa Relations and the Bilateral Forum". Chatham House. Retrieved June 6, 2012. 
  2. ^ 'New "hope" after talking to Thatcher, says Tutu', Chicago Sun-Times (4 October 1985), p. 24.
  3. ^ Nicholas Ashford, 'Why we should talk to Tambo', The Times (9 September 1985).
  4. ^ Johnson, 'Thatcher Defends Botha', Associated Press (29 October 1985).
  5. ^ Maureen Johnson, 'Commonwealth Reaches Accord On Limited South African Sanctions', Associated Press (20 October 1985).
  6. ^ Jeff Sallot, 'Unified action sought on apartheid Commonwealth at risk, Thatcher told', Globe and Mail (17 October 1985).
  7. ^ Ashford, 'Thatcher refuses to budge', The Times (21 October 1985).
  8. ^ Richard Evans, 'Tambo scorns Thatcher stand / ANC President criticises British Premier's resistance to sanctions against South Africa', The Times (26 October 1985).
  9. ^ Daley, Janet (28 August 2006). "Cameron rebuts Thatcher's view of Mandela". The Daily Telegraph (London).