Glenn Babb

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Glenn Babb in Verona

Glenn Robin Ware Babb (born 4 June 1943)[1] 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.[2]

Babb was educated at Stellenbosch University and at Oxford having been awarded the Joerg Gosteli bursary. While at Oxford, he rowed with the Lincoln College VIII and was part of the first crew to attempt to beat the Guards' record of fifteen and half hours for rowing from Oxford to London.[3] Thereafter he joined South Africa's Department of Foreign Affairs.[2] He also earned a law degree from the University of South Africa with a distinction in Constitutional Law.[1]


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 with his brother Frederick became the first dentists in Johannesburg. Frederick famously gave dental treatment to the imprisoned Leander Starr Jameson and his men after the Jameson Raid. Charles sent his son, Lawrence Doering, to St John's College as a founder pupil in the Union Grounds. Five generations of his family have attended the same school. At St Johns he was made Head of House and won the trophy for the best Drum Major in the Witwatersrand Command band competition. Glenn Babb married Tracey Dibb on 31 May 2003. Babb has two sons and two daughters.[1]

Early career[edit]

Babb worked as a schoolteacher in 1964 before continuing his education at Oxford University (Lincoln College). In 1967, he joined the Department of Foreign Affairs where he produced the book "Prison Administration in South Africa" and "South West Africa Survey 1967" 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. During this time he was made Chairman of the Young Diplomats Association of Paris. He returned to Pretoria in 1972 and was Training Officer with the Department. He authored the books "Training for the Diplomatic Service"[4] 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. Here he was asked to play cricket for the first Italian international team against the Indian Globetrotters and played in two matches. In 1981, he again returned to South Africa to become head of the Africa Desk at the Department of Foreign Affairs and held that position for four years.[1]

Ambassador to Canada[edit]

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.[2]

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"[2] rather than sanctions or divestment. Babb referred to apartheid as a relatively "benign policy"[5] and a means of controlling "urbanization"[5] and claimed that sanctions would harm South African blacks more than the white minority.[6] 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."[7] 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.[7]

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".[2] 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.[8]

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, and 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, the Peguis Band in Manitoba, with media in tow, in order to press his point.[9] 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.[10]

In 1987 he addressed the Royal Military College, Kingston, Ontario on the "Strategic Value of South Africa".[11]

Return to South Africa[edit]

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.[12] As such, he initiated, after a meeting with President Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of the Congo, the Brazzaville talks for the withdrawal of South African troops from Angola and ending the country's involvement in the South African Border War.[1]

In the 1989 general election in South Africa, he entered politics as the ruling National Party's candidate in the electoral district of Randburg. He was the first ever National Party candidate to share an election platform with a black. [13] President F.W. de Klerk made a point of visiting his constituency during polling day. [14] He was eventually defeated by Wynand Malan, co-leader of the liberal Democratic Party.[15] He was nevertheless appointed to a seat in the South African parliament by F.W. de Klerk who, as State President, had the constitutional right to fill four seats in the House of Assembly of the South African Parliament through direct appointment.[16]

Babb subsequently left parliament after two years, in 1991, and returned to the Department of Foreign Affairs, serving as South Africa's ambassador to Italy[17] 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.[18]

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.[19] During his ambassadorship in Rome, he was nominated to be South Africa's Commissioner at the Venice Biennale in 1993 and 1995. South Africa participated for the first time in three decades again in 1993 with an impressive exhibition of several artists' work called "Incroce del Sud" which received good reviews. He was also appointed in 1991 by the Board of the Non-Catholic Cemetery in Testaccio as the administrator of the cemetery and presided over the 200th anniversary of Shelley's birth - both Shelley and Keats are buried in the cemetery.[20]

He also served as Commissioner of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Italy.

In 1995 he left government service.[2] In 1995 he became chairman of AGIP Lubricants.[21]

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.[22] In 1999 he arranged Profumo d'Italia Flavour of Italy with the approval of the Italian Ambassador and the Italian-South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry at the V&A Waterfront, a wide-ranging promotion of Italian goods which included a masked ball, two nights of opera, a gondola on the harbour, stands for Maserati and Alfa Romeo, two Italian film stars, Franco Nero and Claudia Pandolfi, who opened the Italian film evenings, Italian music in the Amphitheatre and Italian cooking and cheese-making lessons. Two million people visited the event. [23]

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. [24] 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.[2] 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, "Study on the Future of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of Countries" [25] which was published in French and English by the ACP in Brussels on 13 February 2006

Babb was chairman of the Owl Club, from 2006 to 2007, a gentlemen's club, in Cape Town.[1]

In January 2009 Babb was shortlisted for the position of Chief Executive Officer of NEPAD in the African Union.[26]

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.[27]

In July 2014 Babb was appointed chairman of the Ethics Committee of Southern Wind Shipyard and non-executive director of the company.

In September 2015 Babb organised the international Sol d'Oro Southern Hemisphere Olive Oil competition in Cape Town which ended with a gala prize-award evening at the residence of the first Italian ambassador to South Africa, Casa Labia. It was attended by the Premier of the Western Cape, Helen Zille, and the Minister of Agriculture, Alan Winde.[28]


Babb has published short stories and poetry,[29] articles on legal subjects,[30] and numerous other reports and articles, including:

  • Prison Administration in South Africa. Department of Foreign Affairs, 1968.
  • Training for the Diplomatic Service. SA Institute for International Affairs, 1975.
  • South Africa: Where we stand. C-FAR Canadian Issue Series, 1986.
  • Il Capo: una delle prime citta d'acqua del Nuovo Mondo. Aquapolis Quarterly, International Centre Cities on Water, 2000, Vol 3-4.
  • The Future of the African Caribbean and Pacific Group of Countries. ACP/28/012/06 Brussels, 13 Feb 2006.
  • Abubakr Effendi: Among the Young Turks in Afrikaans. Quarterly Bulletin of the National Library of South Africa, 2010, Vol 64, No 1.
  • International rhetoric and diplomatic discourse "African Yearbook of Rhetoric" Vol 3, No 3 2012

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Mr Glenn Robin Ware Babb". Who's Who of Southern Africa. Media24 Digital. 6 January 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-19. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g MacGregor, Karen (30 August 2003). "Apartheid envoy reviled in Canada". Globe and Mail (Toronto). 
  3. ^ "The Daily Mail" 9 June 1966
  4. ^ South African Institute of International Affairs ISBN 0620000414(0-620-00041-4)
  5. ^ a b Rosenfeld, Erica, "Apartheid on way out, Babb insists ", Globe and Mail, 27 October 1985
  6. ^ Canadian Press, "Back Pretoria, envoy urges", Globe and Mail, 18 November 1985
  7. ^ a b Cox, Kevin, "Envoy says South Africa hard done by," Globe and Mail, 17 October 1985
  8. ^ "50 picket CBC over apartheid", Toronto Star, 21 January 1986
  9. ^ South African ambassador to visit Peguis Indian Reserve, CBC Television, March 9, 1987
  10. ^ "Rapport" 31 January 2016
  11. ^ "International Conservative Insight" January February 1987 ISSN 0831-4268
  12. ^ Gawith, Philip, "South African exporters come out into the open", Financial Times, 4 October 1990
  13. ^ "Beeld" 18 July 1989, "Citizen" 19 July 1989, "The Star" 22 July 1989, "Business Day" 20 July 1989, "Pretoria News" 20 July 1989
  14. ^ "Beeld" 7 September 1989, "Business Day" 7 September 1989 "Valeurs Actuelles" 25 September 1989
  15. ^ "De Klerk's Party Wins By-Election Decisively", Christopher S. Wren, New York Times, 8 November 1990
  16. ^ Reuters, "Electoral college approves de Klerk as president", Toronto Star, 14 September 1989
  17. ^ "South African Artists on Show at the Biennale", Alan Cowell, New York Times, 26 June 1993
  18. ^ Who's Who of Southern Africa 2007
  19. ^ Sant' Egidio (2003), Mozambique: Achieving Peace in Africa, George Washington University  (R Morozzo della Rocca) 2003
  20. ^ "Meridiani" Spring/Summer 1993.
  21. ^ Business Times 23 October 1995
  22. ^ "Foreign Representatives in South Africa". Department of Foreign Affairs website. 
  23. ^ "The Cape Times" 9 April 1999
  24. ^ Quarterly Bulletin of the National Library of South Africa Vol 64 No 1
  25. ^ Study on the Future of the ACP, ACP Group ACP/28/012/06 PAHD/AB/mjb 
  26. ^ African Union correspondence ECO/NEPAD/21/055, 8 January 2009 
  27. ^ International rhetoric and diplomatic discourse "African Yearbook of Rhetoric" Vol 3 No 3 2012
  28. ^ "False Bay Echo" 17 September 2015
  29. ^ Stellenbosse Student, 1962 and 1963.
  30. ^ Acta Diurna, 1965