Glenn Robin Ware Babb (born 4 June 1943) is a former politician and diplomat for the former apartheid government in South Africa. More recently he has been a businessman and entrepreneur. From 1985 to 1987 he had a high-profile posting in Canada where he was his government's ambassador to Ottawa and made frequent public statements against the anti-apartheid movement and in defence of his government and in opposition to the movement for economic sanctions on and disinvestment from South Africa that the Canadian government was leading internationally.
Babb was educated at Stellenbosch University and at Oxford having been awarded the Joerg Gosteli bursary. Thereafter he joined South Africa's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He also earned a law degree from the University of South Africa with a distinction in Constitutional Law.
Glenn Babb was born in Johannesburg to Eric Ware Babb and Ora Constance Loverock and was educated at St John's College, Johannesburg, a private school for boys. His great-grandfather, Charles Doering, came from a prominent Ontario family (United Empire Loyalists) which owned the Doering Stock and Dairy Farm in Chesterville, Ontario. Charles Doering became the first dentist in Johannesburg and sent his son, Lawrence Doering, to St John's College as a founder pupil in the Union Grounds. Four generations of his family have attended the same school. Glenn Babb married Tracey Dibb on 31 May 2003. Babb has two sons and two daughters.
Babb worked as a schoolteacher in 1964 before continuing his education. In 1967, he joined the Foreign Ministry where he produced the book "Prison Administration in South Africa" while in the legal division of the Department. In 1969 he had his first overseas posting when he was assigned to the South African embassy in Paris where he served as secretary for three years. He returned to Pretoria in 1972 and was Training Officer with the Ministry. He authored the books "Training for the Diplomatic Service" and "South West Africa Survey 1967". In 1975, he returned to Paris where he was the embassy's counsellor and then in 1978, he moved to the South African embassy in Rome. In 1981, he again returned to South Africa to become head of the Africa Desk at the Ministry and held that position for four years.
Ambassador to Canada
Babb's mission as Ambassador to Canada began in 1985 while South Africa was in crisis and international pressure on Pretoria was mounting. Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney threatened to break off diplomatic relations with the country when he spoke at the United Nations.
During his two-and-a-half year posting, Babb appeared on Canadian television more than 132 times and even more frequently on radio. He heavily lobbied politicians, journalists, intellectuals and universities in support of the Reagan Administration's policy of "constructive engagement" rather than sanctions or divestment. Babb referred to apartheid as a relatively "benign policy" and a means of controlling "urbanization" and claimed that sanctions would harm South African blacks more than the white minority. He also said of sanctions, "Whether you shoot the zebra in the white stripe or the black stripe," he said, "you are going to kill the zebra." He claimed that the disruption of mineral production in South Africa was in the interests of the Soviet Union and that South Africa was the only force standing in the way of an expansion of Soviet intervention in the African continent.
Many of Babb's appearances across Canada were met with protests. In 1985, when he was speaking at the University of Toronto's Hart House, anti-apartheid activist Lennox Farrell hurled the debating society's ceremonial mace at him. In Montreal, when entering the private Mount Stephen club to give a speech, club members and Babb were pelted with eggs and snowballs by protesters who called him "racist scum". In 1986, Babb appeared on the CBC Radio program Sunday Morning to debate Montreal human rights lawyer Irwin Cotler. The appearance was picketed by 50 anti-apartheid activists.
He was interviewed by the famous Jack Webster in Vancouver who told him: "You're doing very well, laddie". Elizabeth Grey of CBC spent a day with him and submitted her report for the broadcasting prize of 1985. His first interview after arrival in Ottawa was on "Crossfire" which immediately launched public interest in his frank and direct approach to what he regarded as the Canadian misapprehensions about South Africa's future
In an article in Fortune, Babb compared South Africa's treatment of its black population with Canada's treatment of Native peoples. "The media reaction was phenomenal, but some Indian leaders said I was on the right track," said Babb retrospectively. Accepting an invitation by Chief Louis Stevenson, Babb made a high-profile visit to a First Nations reserve in Manitoba, with media in tow, in order to press his point. Thereafter, delegations from the Indian representative body, the Assembly of First Nations, visited South Africa and gave credence to the view that there was indeed a comparative advantage for South African blacks.
Return to South Africa
In 1987, Babb was recalled to South Africa to take over as head of the Africa division and deputy director-general of the department of foreign affairs. As such, he initiated the Brazzaville talks for the withdrawal of South African troops from Angola and end the country's involvement in the South African Border War. In the 1989 general election in South Africa, he entered politics as the ruling National Party's candidate in the electoral district of Randburg but was defeated by Wynand Malan, co-leader of the liberal Democratic Party. He was nevertheless appointed to a seat in the South African parliament by F.W. de Klerk who, as President of South Africa, had the constitutional right to fill four seats in parliament through direct appointment. Babb subsequently left parliament after two years, in 1991, and returned to the foreign ministry, serving as South Africa's ambassador to Italy where he opened diplomatic relations with Albania, Malta and San Marino and was appointed the first South African Permanent Representative to UN Food and Agriculture Organisation since 1963. He participated 1991-1992 in the Mozambican peace negotiations in Rome between RENAMO and FRELIMO under the aegis of the Rome Sant' Egidio community and his role is mentioned positively in Sant' Egidio's report on the success of the Peace Protocol. In 1995 he left government service. In 1995 he became chairman of AGIP Lubricants. In 1998 he was appointed consultant to the government of the Western Cape and he continued in that role till 2002. In 1998 he was appointed Honorary Consul General of the Republic of Turkey with jurisdiction for the Western, Northern and Eastern Cape Provinces. In 2010 he authored the monograph "Abubakr Effendi - A young Turk in Afrikaans" relating to the work of the Islamic scholar sent in the 19th Century by the caliph to instruct the Muslims of the Cape. He has also been active with various business pursuits such as long-lasting milk [PARMALAT], oil lubricants, manufacturing, a tourism service, manufacturing wine vats and owning an office support and internet service. In 2005, his firm Babrius was appointed by the Secretariat of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of Countries [ACP] aligned to the EU to write a report, which was published in French and English by the ACP in Brussels on 13 February 2006
In January 2009 Babb was shortlisted for the position of Chief Executive Officer of NEPAD in the African Union.
In December 2012 he published an article in the African Yearbook of Rhetoric on rhetorical action in diplomacy with specific reference to the relative fortunes of Indians in Canada and indigenous peoples in South Africa which led to an interview on the CBC.
In July 2014 Babb was appointed chairman of the Ethics Committee of Southern Wind Shipyard and non-executive director of the company.
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- Stellenbosse Student, 1962 and 1963.
- Acta Diurna, 1965