South Africa’s foreign policy fails

Designed and executed with gusto by Thabo Mbeki during his years as president, SA repeatedly and confoundingly positioned herself on the opposite side of democracy and the public interest in every African country that had a political crisis. In Zimbabwe, SA sided with deceit and ensured injustice by imposing a farcical arrangement that obviously wouldn’t stand the test of a few years. Then she went and helped achieve exactly the same in Kenya.

In Côte d’Ivoire, again prodded by Mr Mbeki, SA wavered and still ended up (predictably) on the side of deceit and injustice, even as the entire world saw exactly what was going on there. President Jacob Zuma had adopted Mr Mbeki’s philosophy: "support the incumbent no matter what!" It had to take weeks of the world throwing up its hands in exasperation at SA before the country weakly began to acknowledge the fallacy of its position.

And then came Libya and, lo and behold (some would say true to type), SA somehow landed on Muammar Gaddafi’s side. The country had to be goaded into accepting a no-fly zone and no sooner had she done this than she turned against her own position, eviscerating any iota of credibility she had left in international relations!

Zimbabwe has been in turmoil and countless lives have been lost ever since SA’s intervention. Kenya went into turmoil and is in the throngs of a deep political crisis arising from the injustice of its current "arrangement". Côte d’Ivoire sadly is now in civil war as the loser and winner of the last presidential elections slug it out, with SA firmly on the loser’s side. Now Libya is at war, partly because Mr Gaddafi can rely on the support of SA and the African Union in murdering his own people.

These foreign policy bungles are a painful repudiation of everything one would expect of the African National Congress after the experience of apartheid. The question then is: what is SA’s foreign policy for?

George Uriesi

Atlanta, Georgia, US. This article was first published in the Business Day