As has been noted, the three components
and alter perceptions,
of strategic significance, namely, national capability, ego
interact with each other.
information regarding South Africa's national capability.
The previous chapters have provided
Attention is thus now focused on the ego
perceptions which were based on the RSA's national capability in the timeframe under discussion.
This chapter covers the period from World War II to approximately 1989, when State President P.W. Botha
ended his term of office. The Second World War and the era immediately thereafter has been selected as
a starting point as South Africa played a comparatively minor role in world affairs in earlier years. This was
primarily the result of colonial ties with Britain. It was only with the onset of the Second World War that
South Africa really entered the international arena and became an independent world player.
Initially a colonial power and then progressing to a sovereign nation, the RSA was alleged to have followed
an "outward" policy of persuasion, threat and subversion as regards neighbouring states. Relations with the
rest of the world varied, but condemnation was particularly strong on the issues of Namibia (formerly South
West Africa) and South Africa's apartheid policies.
The result of such condemnation was a period of
international isolation which spanned the better part of four decades.
This chapter will place particular
emphasis on ego perceptions of strategic significance as regards South Africa's geo-strategic
supply of strategic minerals, regional and economic prowess, and position as a Western ally
Strategic significance is affected by ego perceptions when both leaders and the public or a relevant segment
thereof, agree on the state's importance to the international community. These perceptions form the basis
of the state's external policies. It is vital that ego perceptions are neither over nor underestimated, as this
can lead to negative consequences as regards national strategy. Care should therefore be taken to ensure
that a realistic ego perception is formulated.
This will in turn ensure the formulation of a realistic national
strategy. Ego perceptions are not, however, stagnant and any changes in this regard can be accompanied
by resultant changes in strategic significance.
A state ascribes its role perception to the perceived importance of its commitment to regional and global
interests and thus its external relations.
Such role perception is largely dependent on the availability of
resources to fulfil and perform the desired role. It is here that national capability and the ability to mobilise
the necessary resources are of vital importance.
It thus stands to reason that a stronger state, with an
accompanying strong national capability, will have more commitments abroad than a smaller, less powerful
Many states that operate in a regional or system-wide context perceive themselves as playing a specific role
Large states can play more than one role simultaneously, while smaller states are likely to retain a single role.
Throughout history, the three major orientations of isolation, coalition formation, and nonalignment have
appeared repeatedly.
Basically, all three relate in some way to the making or avoidance of external
commitments. National roles, such as those mentioned above, provide guidelines for action and also reflect
the objectives of governments on a regional and global level. It should, however, be remembered that in
certain conflict situations, actions taken can contradict a nation's typical rol~ conception in an attempt to
take advantage of a certain situation.
The availability of necessary resources will also influence such a
decision and it would appear that the more active a state is in the international arena, the more role
conceptions it will develop.
A brief historical description of South Africa's role during the Second World War is now offered as it
provides an indication of the RSA's strategic significance at the time.
The Second World War was fought between the years 1939 and 1945, and involved a battle between the
Axis Powers ofJapan. Italy and Germany, and the Allied Powers which consisted of the US, Russia, France,
Britain and their collective allies. This devastating war was fought primarily in Europe, North Africa, the
Far East, and the Pacific and began as a result of Hitler's territorial aggression.
September 1939 brought with it a time of decision for the Union of South Africa as regards a wartime
General Hertzog was of the opinion that the Union should remain neutral and continue with
current international relations as if a war was not being fought. He based this opinion on three arguments,
A declaration of war would subject the Afrikaner nation to a shock that would last for many years;
The war did not involve the Union; and
Germany was merely attempting to rectifY the injustices committed at Versailles.
General Smuts offered a counter-proposal
and wanted to end relations with Germany, insisting that the
Union refuse to maintain an attitude of neutrality, thereby siding with Britain. He did not, however, want
to send fighting forces overseas, although he stressed that Germany must be prohibited from reclaiming
South West Africa with military force in the future. Following a majority vote in the "Volksraad", the Union
officially gave their support to Britain in the war against Germany4)
Although the use of aircraft in the
Second World War made enemy territories more accessible, the Union of South Africa was left relatively
unaffected by enemy attacks. This was partly due to geographical position. as well as the fact that the Allies
had "control of the seas". German submarines did, however, manage to sink several ships along the South
African coast. Yet the route around the Cape was still perceived as being one of the safest during the war.
It was thus during this war that the Union took on greater responsibility as regards the protection of the sea
route around the Cape. The South African Air Force even searched for enemy submarines and guided Allied
ships to harbours of safety. 5)
The Union also made a large contribution as regards the provision of canons, aircraft and armoured vehicles
- the result of a strong national iron and steel industry.
harbours and the Union also sent troops into battle.
Allied ships could be repaired in the Union's
South Africa became a primary supplier of food
resources to Allied convoys that converged in the harbours to obtain food for the soldiers aboard, as well
as for those on the warfront and certain civilian populations. Another contribution made by the Union was
that of Smuts acting as an advisor to the British Government during the war6) It is thus clear that the Union
of South Africa contributed to overall Allied strength during the Second World War.
The end of the War brought a certain amount of optimism to the South African Government, which was
convinced that their support during the war years had led to prestige and honour in the international
The war had even proved favourable for the Union in that few physical hardships had been
suffered and that South Africa now possessed an increased manufacturing industry due to the decreased
availability of imported goods.7) Smuts dominated South Africa's foreign policy during his premiership and
held enormous prestige abroad. His focus was directed at the international system as a whole and he was
concerned with such issues as the rebuilding of Europe and the structure of the United Nations. Smuts was
committed to the ideal ofan international organisation and was involved in the drawing up of the first draft
of the aims contained in the preamble to the Charter. His greatest hope was that the British Commonwealth
would continue to grow in strength and support the United Nations.
Smuts was convinced that the
Commonwealth could become the third "Great Power" between the Soviet Union and the US.S)
Smuts believed that an emphasis on independence of action within the Commonwealth
could lead to a
reconciliation between the Boers and the British. He also had aspirations for increased South Mrican
influence in Africa as a result of Commonwealth membership, but was later forced away from his previous
plans into a position where it became necessary to defend his country's internal racial policies. The leaders
who followed Smuts thus all found themselves as defenders of the White society and overseas aspirations
were temporarily forgotten.
In fact, by the late 1940slearly 1950s, it became obvious that the Union could
no longer rely solely on Britain for protection, as the latter had lost control of the seas. The Union would
have to take responsibility for her own protection and survival on land, sea and in the air. 10)
Attention is now focused on the key elements of South Africa's national capability and resultant ego
perceptions of strategic significance. It is these elements which not only enabled South Africa to conduct
various roles on the international stage, but were also the source of ego perceptions of strategic significance.
The strategic significance of the RSA has been reflected in changing role perceptions.
These role
perceptions and perceptions of strategic significance have been asserted and emphasised by various South
African leaders and spokesmen, based on elements of national capability.
No state could deny South Africa's important strategic position at the Southern tip of Africa. Parts
of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans can be completely controlled from the Cape and nations realised
the importance of favourable relations with those in such a strategic position, especially in times
of war.
South Africa was also the strongest military power in Africa and was thus a key player in the battle
against communist aspirations on the continent.
The RSA possessed the most professional and
well-equipped army and would serve as a base for armed forces in wartime.
National heavy
industries would be responsible for the provision of weapons and military vehicles, foodstuffs, and
medical support:1)
As the White buffer-states which guarded South Africa's Northern borders
gradually collapsed, the RSA eventually became the last state on the African continent to be under
White minority rule. The perceived Soviet threat revolved around such possibilities as the USSR
gaining access to ports in Angola, Mozambique and other African states. This would have placed
the Soviets in a position to harass and limit Western shipping.12)
South Africa's economic wealth remained of vital importance to the international community,
esp~ially the country's rich gold deposits. The RSA also possessed coal, steel and various other
important minerals, including uranium. 13)
In a 1980 South African Parliamentary session, it was noted that as the African continent was the middleman
between superpower conflict, South Africa, being a part of this continent, had been awarded a certain degree
of importance. The reasons for this importance were stated as not only the RSA's mineral wealth, but also
the relatively strong industrial sector, infrastructure, level of technological development, and the fact that
South Africa was considered the only real "power" in Africa. It was even noted that the US had come to
the conclusion that the defence of Western Europe depended, to a certain extent, on South Africa.14)
In a previous Parliamentary session it had been stated that the question was not how important the world
was for South Africa, but rather how important South Africa was for the defence of Western democracy
and for the maintenance of a stable Southern African region.
It was noted that together with close
neighbours in Southern Africa, South Africa held the key to the security of the Western World against
Marxist threats.
It was also noted that South Afiica had become more self-assured, partly as a result of
the realisation of the factors noted above. 16)
South Afiica's primary focus during the apartheid and Cold War era was thus on South Afiica's importance
as not only an anti-communist stalwart for the West, with military power and facilities which could be
utili sed both in peace and wartime; but also as a supplier of strategic minerals and a valuable economic
player in the Southern Afiican region.
The aspects of South Afiica's national capability which had a
particular influence on ego perceptions of strategic significance are discussed below.
The sea-lanes around the Cape of Good Hope have traditionally been a "bone of contention" in terms of sea
control. Although the Cape Route itselfis hazardous, it would be far more dangerous for ships to attempt
to sail further South.
This would be the ultimate scenario if the South African Government restricted
waterborne traffic. From a political perspective, this gave South Afiica an added advantage, especially as
regards the growth of Western imports ofenergyI7)
Much of Western Europe's oil supply in the period
under discussion travelled the route around the Cape, as did a large portion of US oil imports.
It was
therefore vitally important for the West to prevent a pro-Soviet regime in South Afiica that could impose
a blockade.
The South Afiican Minister of Defence in 1956, F.C. Erasmus, emphasised the importance of protecting
Afiica and the Cape Sea Route in particular. He noted that the demand for oil by Western nations would
ultimately increase and that the Suez Canal would not be able to cope with this increased demand. It was
thus vital to keep the Cape Sea Route open, in spite of enemy attempts to take control of this route and sink
oil tankers.19)
In fact, from as early as the mid-1960s, an increasing amount of imports to the US and Western Europe
travelled around the Cape Sea Route. This was generally as a result of such factors as the expansion of
world trade, as well as the specific consequences of the closure of the Suez Canal in 1967. Even before its
closure, it was becoming obvious that many oil supertankers were too large for the Suez Canal and that the
only other option was therefore to use the Cape Route.
Southern Afiica also had a key role to playas
regards the necessary surveillance for European security interests and was thus important to North Atlantic
Treaty Organisation (NATO) lines of communications.
The fact that the USSR was active in the Indian and
Atlantic Oceans, as well as in Southern Afiica, made the possibility of a future threat to the Cape even more
realistic. 20)
Prime Minister Vorster also emphasised the importance of the Cape Sea Route during the 1970s, as
evidenced by the following statement when he voiced the opinion that the US was the leader and protector
of the free world and thus had a role to play in the protection of the Cape Sea Route: "We want to safeguard
the Cape Sea Route because ultimately the Cape Sea Route is of more importance to the free world than
to South Africa"ZI)
The South African Government consistently emphasised the RSA's geo-strategic position, for example,
when the Minister of Foreign Affairs, R.F. (Pik) Botha, stated the following in 1979:
"South Africa's strategic position in the world cannot be denied. Occupying the Southern-most part in the
African continent its strategic location is immediately evident, a sentinel to the world's most important canal.
Indeed it is no exaggeration to state that the closing of this gateway, mid-way between the two oceans,
would have a devastating effect on the side against whom the closing is directed. We find ourselves midway
between the East and the West, geographically
This geographical factor might in the future
assume greater significance. Our shores are washed by both the Indian and the Atlantic Oceans. It is as if
we are destined either to brave the stormy seas of both oceans or to enjoy the tranquillity of our shores
divorced from both. Thus far we have been a target for many and diverse forces. We have attracted stormy
weather. However, we have no intention of remaining a target. We have the will and the desire and the
technical skills and the resources to set up targets of our own, new objectives to be achieved. These targets
would include the achievement of peace and stability in the whole of Southern Africa, the re-enforcement
of mutual trust among the leaders and nations of our region and the establishment of a sub-continental
solidarity which could form the basis for close co-operation in all the important spheres oflife. We will have
to give serious consideration to the desirability of adopting a neutral position in international affairs, a
neutral position in the struggle between East and West. Our sole commitment ought to be towards the
security and advancement of our own Southern African region. Southern Afiica could steer a new course
of its own midway between East and West.
I believe that such a course could initiate a new era for the
subcontinent, a new era of prosperity and greater understanding among our various peoples".
Botha was responding to years of international pressure aimed at instilling reform as regards South Africa's
domestic apartheid policies. The UN General Assembly passed numerous resolutions condemning apartheid,
but the South African Government insisted on non-interference in domestic affairs and thus ignored these
Attempts were made to impose economic and diplomatic sanctions on South Africa, but the
US and Britain initially refused to consider such pressure. These efforts will be discussed at a later stage.
It was thus from as early as the 1940s that South Africa realised she could no longer rely on complete
support from the former colonial power and other traditional allies.
Interestingly enough, P.W. Botha had in 1980, noted that international councils were not acknowledging
the importance of South Africa's strategic position. He made particular mention of the Cape Sea Route and
stressed that although the military leaders of the West and indeed the Free World, were aware of South
Africa's strategic position and important situation, the politicians had been silent on this matterZ3)
South Africa's position as the guardian of the Cape Route was reinforced by the fact that by the 1980s, some
25000 merchant ships passed along this stretch of coast, carrying approximately 80 percent of NATO oil
requirements and about 70 percent of mineral requirements.
At one point, South Africa did propose the
e'stablishment of a South Atlantic Treaty Organisation with such countries as Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay
and Chile, but this met with little response.
Then there was the heavily relied-on issue of Soviet
expansionism in Southern Africa, which waned in the 1980s and is noted below. The US State Department,
however, issued a report in the mid-1980s stating that the Cape sea-lanes wen: under "minimal threat" and
that the collaboration of the South African Government would not "significantly increase" the US ability
to protect them. 2~)
In 1982, P.W. Botha made the following statement regarding South Mrica's strategic significance: "South
Africa is drawn into international politics simply because it is important.
It is important to America, it is
important to Russia, it is important to the European Economic Community" 25) He continued to emphasise
South Africa's role in the region in the following political statements: "We are not an island. We are firstly
part ofa large continent ..." and "We are an African state and we have interests in Africa"26) This issue is
discussed in further detail at a later part of this chapter. Botha also emphasised South Africa's strategic
geographical position by stating: "It is important to Southern Africa as a trade partner, as a transport partner
and it is important on the most important route round the Cape. The most important route on the globe.
And it is important because of its strategic minerals...There is an interdependence between nations as far as
transport and trade are concerned".
Botha was thus, by the early-l 980s, focused on South Africa's gee-
strategic location and regional strength. He also continued to stress the right to self-determination and was
determined that the RSA would not succumb to the disinvestment campaign.
An important part of South Africa's geo-strategic importance was the anti-communist ideology held by the
nation's leaders and this is discussed below.
By the late 1940s, Dr Malan had assured his electoral supporters that South Africa would not remain neutral
if a war resulted from Russian aggression and would support the anti-communist countries.
Yet after
Britain's refusal to supply the RSA with arms, doubts were expressed as to the continued necessity of South
Africa's unconditional support of the West.28)
By the mid-1950s, South Africa's strategic significance, particularly as regards communism, was noted by
a member of the South African Parliament who emphasised that, from a strategic viewpoint, South Afiica
held a very important place in the world. Mention was also made of Africa's role as the key continent in
the relationship between East and West.29)
In 1956, Prime Minister lG.
Strijdom, referred to the
communist threat that could consume the entire African continent and also noted the importance of a
combined effort to fight the common enemy.
He stressed that the whole idea of co-operation
discussions between South Africa, Britain, France, Portugal and America would be in the event of a possible
world war, where the South African coastline would be of value to everyone.
In a 1961 South African
Parliamentary session, South Africa's strategic significance in the struggle against communism was again
noted, when it was stressed that the RSA was the base from which the Western World could attempt to
regain what it had lost.
South Africa would possess the only warm water route between the Eastern
democracies and the West and it was emphasised that communism would be able to cut the West offfrom
its Eastern democracies within 24 hours.31)
When the UN General Assembly passed a resolution in 1961
condemning South Africa, the South African Foreign Minister, Eric Louw, threatened to retaliate against
any sanctions. He is quoted as saying: "Punitive action works both ways," and mentioned withholding the
use of South African harbours as an example. 32)
P.W. Botha made several references to the assumption by the West that South Africa would automatically
serve as an ally during a conflict situation. This was a particularly sensitive issue in light of international
attempts to isolate the South Africa as a result of the country's domestic apartheid policies: "Perhaps we
have tried too hard to assure the West of our support.
Perhaps we should consider not letting our
availability be taken for granted quite so much". He also made reference to the RSA's future neutrality
when he stated: "South Africa will never fight for the West on its battlefields again. South Africa will in
future be neutral. For as long as I am Minister of Defence, I will not allow the sons of South Africa to die
for a West who has rejected South Africa and has completely abandoned her". 33) Prime Minister Vorster
was, however, aware of his country's increasing isolation and had stated that South Africa would be ready
to face a communist attack alone as "certain countries who profess to be anti-communist will even refuse
to sell arms to South Africa to beat off the attack"34)
State President Botha reiterated this position of neutrality in 1988, stating that South Africa was not an
automatic ally of any major power and that these powers should not assume that in a great upheaval South
Africa would automatically side with one of them: "For the sake of our own interests, we shall co-operate
with any country that shares common interests with us. But our priority lies in Africa" 35)
Soviet involvement in Angola only served to further convince the South African Government that they were
facing a "Total Onslaught".
As far back as 1978, P.W. Botha had stated that: "The ultimate aim of the
Soviet Union and its allies is to overthrow the present body politic in South Africa and to replace it with a
form of government to further the objectives of the USSR".
P. W. Botha emphasised the writings of a well-known strategist during a February 1980 South African
Parliamentary session: "The danger for the West lies in the capture of an industrial base, the Republic of
South Africa, which could finance the construction
and imposition of MarxismlLeninism
in its most
oppressive form throughout Africa". Botha stated that the British Prime Minister believed that the RSA was
on the Soviet Union's priority list and referred to an interview with a member of the Russian Politburo, who
admitted that it had been stated that the elimination of Western influence in Southern Africa was the major
objective of Soviet foreign policy.37)A few months later, the South African Foreign Affairs Minister stated
that if Russia was not stopped it would dominate the world.
He emphasised that Russia had the
technological knowledge to enslave the entire world once it had been subjugated by force. 38)
The early 1980s thus witnessed an increasing preoccupation with the perceived communist threat. P.W.
Botha referred to the strong military position of the Soviet Union, whose aim was the application of a
"global strategy". He emphasised the value of South Africa for the West in this regard and stated that the
RSA was, economically and strategically, a vital point for the West. Should Marxism take control of South
Africa, however, it could become the point from whence a stranglehold could be applied on the West.39)
Other members of the South African Parliament also noted South Africa's strategic significance by
emphasising South Africa's role as the most important country in such a cardinal part of the globe.
It was
emphasised that the Soviet Union would do everything in its power to destabilise Southern Africa so that
it could deny the West access to strategic assets. The West was in turn interested in a stable South Africa
because it did not want the Soviet Union to achieve its goals. South Africa had an important role to play
in this situation, namely, to maintain and restore stability on the sub-continent.40) South Africa's strategic
position as regards the maintenance of international stability for the democratic West and for Southern
Africa in general, was thus noted and Southern Africa was considered to hold extensive strategic importance
for the West, for Europe and for the US.41) The South African Minister of Defence, Magnus Malan, also
emphasised the communist threat, noting that the Russian policy of expansionism was a threat to the entire
region and that interest in South Africa in this regard was bound to increase.42) It was announced in 1986
by the Director of the Africa Institute of South Africa, Dr Erich Leistner, that "all out" armed internal
conflict in South Africa would lead to Marxist-Leninist dictatorship in the RSA and then to the rest of the
Southern African region. 43)
As is evident from the statements above, South Africa was perceived, at least by local politicians and
statesmen, as being vitally important in the battle against communist expansionism. It was anticipated that
the RSA's key geographical position and ideological preference would be considered valuable by the
international community.
Yet towards the late 1980s, as the Cold War drew to a close, P.W. Botha
tentatively acknowledged
Soviet attempts at reconstruction
when he stated that according to Pravda,
Gorbachev had indicated that the Soviet Union was willing to make a constructive contribution towards
solving the problems of Southern Africa. Botha stressed that any contribution in terms of economic aid,
upliftment and development in the region would be welcomed, but should the USSR under the leadership
continue to exploit Southern Africa as an area for the export of weapons and revolution, its
relevance in the search for peaceful solutions would further decrease. 44) Ego perceptions of strategic
significance thus revolved around South Africa's importance in the battle against comm~nism, where it was
repeatedly stressed during the period under discussion in this chapter that should the RSA fall into
communist hands, the rest of the region would follow. This would undoubtably have a significant impact
on Western strategic interests in the area.
As noted above, South Africa played a valuable role during the Second World War as regards the provision
of facilities for Allied forces.
The RSA possessed the following advantages in this regard:- (1) modern
airfields for the launching and landing of patrolling aircraft; (2) the necessary command and communications
systems; (3) a fully developed naval base, namely Simonstown, the only one in Southern Africa; (4) the only
maritime defence forces in Southern Africa; and (5) several other large, developed harbours which could
be utili sed for shelter, repairs and refuelling.45)
Mention of South Africa's military power cannot be made without noting the importance of Simonstown,
initially a small seaside resort close to Cape Town. It was here that the British built a dockyard on the sea
route to India.46)In fact, Simonstown served as a base for the British Navy from the early 1800s and played
an especially important role as an Allied naval base during the First and Second World Wars following the
closure of the Suez Canal. This role contributed to South Africa's strategic significance in generaL The
Simonstown Agreement of 1955 resulted in an agreement for the handover of the base to South Africa,
although Britain would retain certain privileges. The base officially became the property of the SA Navy
on 1April 1957.47) The Agreement was, however, terminated in 1972 by mutual agreement. 48) Simonstown
offered valuable facilities, such as a graving dock capable of taking two frigates; extensive dockyard
facilities; air communication; and the required industry.49)
P.W. Botha emphasised the importance of the strategic location of the RSA in this regard, when he noted
that in a global war, South Africa would be important in respect of the protection and/or interdiction of
shipping, as a base for maritime operations, as an air base, for logistic support, and as a communications and
repair base. In a localised conflict, the RSA was also of inestimable importance, even if merely used as an
observation post. SO)
Botha referred to the importance of both Simonstown and the strategic significance of the RSA during 1980
South African Parliamentary sessions and noted that most military leaders in the international community
were well aware of this fact. 51)He emphasised that the West would struggle without a stable South Africa,
especially considering the RSA's
industrial potential, modem harbours, including Simonstown in its
modernised form, and military power. 52)
It was noted in 1983 by the Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs and Fisheries, lW.E.
Wiley, that
recent international events had re-emphasised the serious threat of Russian submarines for Western nations.
In this regard, the cancellation of the Simonstown Agreement had resulted in a more self-sufficient Navy
that had made tremendous technological progress. 53)A level of self-sufficiency was also achieved as regards
military technology in general, predominantly as a result of the international arms embargo against South
In fact, of all the sanctions applied by the international community against the RSA, the arms
embargo was hoped to have enough of an impact on the South African Government to result in political
There is, however, the perception that an arms embargo served as a compromise for several Western powers
who resisted mandatory economic sanctions against South Africa. 54)The trade in armaments to and from
the RSA continued, however, and there was thus substantial debate as to whether the arms embargo against
South Africa was, in fact, effective.
Defence Minister Botha had already in the early 1970s claimed that South Africa was almost self-sufficient
as regards arms procurement and that the country did not require any armaments from the outside world
for its internal defence". 55)The South African perception of self-sufficiency in armaments production is
reflected in the 1977 Defence White Paper, where it is stated that: "The RSA is fully self-sufficient in respect
of armaments required for its internal protection. Although the same cannot be said in all respects as regards
a conventional external threat. ..the RSA ensures its safety by negotiating licences for more sophisticated and
expensive equipment". 56)
Prime Minister Botha announced in late 1980 that: "If sanctions in one form or another are applied against
us, we shall fight them tooth and nail... We have experience in fighting sanctions. An arms embargo was
applied against us for a number of years, and I happened to be in the thick of that fight. We not only
withstood it, but we are now in a position where we are exporting arms of sophisticated types".57) The
South African Government was thus confident that the country's national capability would be strong enough
to withstand international sanctions and this realisation had an important impact on ego perceptions of
strategic significance.
International sanctions against South Africa had little effect other than to ensure
increasing resistance by the South African Government. The Armscor chairman, in fact, stated in 1983 that
74 percent of all war material was being produced within the RSA and admitted that the rest was being
acquired in a clandestine manner. 58)By 1985, Defence Minister Malan declared that: "We are entirely selfsufficient insofar as conception, design and development are concerned". 59)
There can thus be no denying that the arms embargo resulted in the expansion of South Africa's domestic
arms industry in anticipation ofbeing denied access to traditional suppliers. In 1981-82, South Africa's arms
exports were valued at $23 million and by 1984, most of the RSA' s military budget was spent on local arms
A successful arms embargo also depends on the co-operation of all parties concerned, but
South Africa managed to locate alternative suppliers of production licences, including Italy and France.
South Africa purchased foreign licences for arms production from as early as 1960 and then gradually
transformed herself from arms importer to arms producer and eventually, arms exporter
to as the military industrialisation process.
This is referred
As regards nuclear weapons, the decision to develop these weapons was made in 1974 and the requirement
was intensified following the deployment of Cuban forces in Angola a year later. The perception was that
in the event of threats to the RSA, the South African Government would provide details of the country's
nuclear capability to Western nuclear powers and request them to intercede with the Soviet Union on their
behalf in order to prevent an attack.
In 1977, the South African Information Minister made an ominous reference to the potential use of nuclear
technology by declaring that: "Let me just say that if we are attacked, no rules apply at all if it comes to a
question of our existence. We will use all means at our disposal, whatever they may be. It is true that we
have just completed our own pilot plant that uses very advanced technology, and that we have major
uranium resources" . Yet the UN General Assembly concluded in 1980 that many analysts were convinced
that the South African Government would rely on the psychological aspect of a nuclear threat and would
thus resist the testing or deploying of such weapons. The South African Government then announced in
1984, that nuclear technology and material would only be exported to recipients who guaranteed placing
such items under IAEA safeguards. Nuclear interests would also be administered in line with the principles
of the Non-Proliferation
Treaty and the guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. It should also be noted
that South Africa had, in fact, signed the Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963, which prohibits nuclear tests in
the atmosphere.
By September 1987, Prime Minister Botha declared that the South African Government
was prepared to discuss signing the NPT, which would result in IAEA inspections of nuclear facilities62)
The South African Government thus appeared to be relatively confident as regards the RSA's military
capability, especially as the international arms embargo had resulted in the stimulation of an extensive local
arms industry. This further enhanced ego perceptions of strategic significance.
The political manipulation of prices or access to minerals within South Africa would have created serious
problems for Western economies.
platinum, and lithium.
The minerals in question were gold, diamonds, chrome, manganese,
Four minerals, however, were considered critical to the West's defence and
industrial capacity, namely, chromium, manganese, vanadium, and the platinum-group metals. The regular
supply of these essential minerals was frequently cited as sufficient justification for the maintenance of
amicable relations with the South African Government. Although the mineral needs of the various Western
states were different, they were each dependent on secure mineral sources outside their borders.
hardships of a complete disruption of mineral exports and imports could be minimised, however, by
stockpiling and substitution development.64)
South African politicians emphasised the importance of the RSA's national resources and it was noted that
these resources had long been made available to the US and the rest of the Western world through a process
of honest international trading.65) South Africa found herself in a situation where resources were becoming
scarce and where strategic resources held a new position in the world as a result. The belief was that the
availability of certain minerals determined whether goals on a national and international level could be
attained. South Africa had an important role to play in the provision of minerals and energy and this had
become increasingly accepted by leading international figures who realised South Mrica' s importance for
the West, particularly as South Africa was the primary goal of Russian imperialists in Africa.
It was
emphasised that whoever controlled the worlds strategic resources could determine the global balance of
power. 66) A pro-Soviet regime in South Africa was thus to be avoided at all costs.
In May 1980, P.W. Botha once again referred to the danger of communism for the West's mineral supplies,
especially if the RSA was defeated in this regard.
He stressed that the West would pay a greater price than
South Africa, in spite of the hope that another arrangement could be made as regards the minerals that South
Africa provided.67) The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Information, Mr R.F. Botha, was also convinced of
the RSA's strategic significance in this regard and emphasised that control over South Africa's natural and
mineral resources, in conjunction with the RSA's geographical position, would tremendously improve the
position of the Soviet Union against the rest of the world,,68)
The 1984 White Paper on Defence and Armaments Supply states that: "One of the major considerations of
Soviet strategy with regard to Southern Africa is the control of the subcontinent's
riches in strategic
minerals and the denial of these to the West... Several world-wide and regional organisations, of which the
United Nations and the Organisation of African Unity are the most important, also lend themselves to
furthering USSR objectives in Southern Africa by joining in the propaganda onslaught against the RSA,,69)
South Africa was thus perceived as the protector of Western interests in the region. Prime Minister Botha
noted this in 1980, when he stated the following: "Russia has its eye on Southern Africa, for if it can gain
control of our mineral resources, it will in some cases control the strategic minerals of the whole world since
it already controls a good deal of it". 70)He also noted a few years later that this nation was intent on
controlling the supply of oil from the Middle East and minerals from South Africa to the West, so that it
could dominate the West and force it to surrender.71)
In 1986, the South African Minister of Manpower even went so far as to suggest the establishment of a
South Africa-Soviet Union precious metal cartel. Yet it was noted that it was perhaps more the price of
South African minerals that was the attraction for the West as it was possible to find alternative suppliers.
The US, however, considered certain strategic minerals important enough to exclude them from the
Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act (CAAA).72) This will be discussed at a later stage. By 1987, General
Malan continued to stress the intentions of the Russians to control the sea route around the Cape and
prevent Western access to South Africa's minerals.73l
There is thus no denying the strategic importance of South Afiica to the US and indeed the West, not only
because the RSA possessed key minerals which were of great importance to the economies of many
industrial nations, but also because the USSR was the only other major world producer of these critical
minerals. Considering that America's allies in Western Europe and Japan were even more dependent on
imported raw materials from South Africa, there was great concern during the Cold War years that these
states would become dependent on the Soviet Union if South African supplies were cut. There was also
concern that the USSR and the RSA could manipulate mineral prices if a pro-Soviet regime emerged in
South Africa. 74)
The South African Government took full advantage of this perception of strategic importance, especially
as regards strategic mineral resources, as is evident from the above-noted statements during the period under
discussion; and threatened to embargo the West in response to sanctions as a result.'5)
During much of the era prior to and during the Cold War, South Africa emphasised the country's importance
to the African continent in general and for the Southern African region in particular. This is evident in many
of the statements noted above. Attention is now firstly directed to ego perceptions in this regard, followed
by a discussion of the economic prowess of the RSA in the region, which ultimately resulted in a situation
of dependence for many African nations.
Southern Africa consists often states, namely, Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia
(South West Africa), South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Nine of these became independent
between 1964 and 1990.
Mention is also often made of the so-called Frontline States (FLS) which
comprised Tanzania, Zambia, Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Botswana.
During the 1970s, the
regional environment for South Africa turned increasingly negative, especially following the collapse of
Portuguese rule and the independence of Angola and Mozambique.
In the decade that followed, the fact
that South Africa formed part of the African continent and was considered vital to the economic success of
the Southern Afiican region, was expressed time and time again. Attempts were also made by South Africa
to find peaceful solutions to conflicts in Angola and to resolve the South West Africa/Namibia question in
order to encourage peace in the region and promote a positive image internationally.
These issues will
be discussed at a later stage. Attention is now focused on the role perceptions of South Africa in the region
which flowed from the specific elements of national capability noted above.
During the Cold War years, South Africa collaborated with the Western powers in a conscious effort to
contain communism.
A period of isolation then followed as a direct result of South Africa's internal
apartheid policies. In an attempt to break through this bamer of isolation, South Africa's foreign policy was
directed in an outward movement.
A new policy towards the rest of independent Black Africa was in fact
initiated from approximately the mid-1960s.78)
South Africa offered aid of both a technical and general
nature to African states and in the early 1960s, Dr. Verwoerd had already proposed
a Commonwealth
between neighbours at the Southern tip of Africa. This would become a multi-racial common market or free
trade zone without political domination by any single member
Although this plan never came to fruition,
attempts at closer ties with the so-called buffer states continued to be made throughout the I960s and early
The primary aim of this new "outward" policy was the economic penetration of Southern Africa and the
creation of a regional system. By using the country's abundant economic resources, South Africa hoped
to induce political co-operation with Africa. This "outward" policy of South Africa was not merely an
economic policy, but was also an attempt to improve international status and position. The South African
Government hoped that other states would be positively influenced and that this would foster further
economic (and thus political) co-operation.
As South Africa was the most highly industrialised country on
the African continent, it was possible to assist other states with advice and technology in various fields,
ranging from medical issues to the iron and steel industry. Emphasis was placed on the provision of water
supplies and plans for a hydro-electric scheme were discussed with Lesotho.
South Africa claimed to be
promoting the interests of the West by this policy of co-operation and by becoming a link between the
Western nations and Africa South of the Sahara.81)
South Africa had a close interest in the British territories ofBasutoland,
Swaziland and Bechuanaland and
there were strong economic links between these territories and the RSA. These small countries had little
hope of isolating themselves from a country which almost completelY surrounded them; supplied them with
a market for their produce; provided labour opportunities for their citizens; and allowed them access to
South Africa's superior infrastructure. Bechuanaland and Basutoland gained independence in the mid-1960s
and became the independent states of Botswana and Lesotho respectively. Relations between these states
and South Africa continued to be friendly and Prime Minister Vorster indicated his willingness to increase
contacts with other African states.82) Swaziland gained independence in 1968 and also continued cordial
relations with South Africa. The friendly atmosphere between South Africa and these three states would
serve as a moderating influence at the UN, in the GAD and in the British Commonwealth as regards criticism
directed at South Africa and pressures for sanctions.
A trade pact had been signed in March 1967 between South Africa and Malawi and this was viewed as a
dramatic landmark of the "outward" policy. It was also agreed to exchange diplomatic representatives.
These developments were largely due to the insight of Dr. Kamuza Banda, who realised the futility ofan
economic boycott against South Africa. Dr. Banda's attitude of economic realism thus reinforced the
traditional South African belief that economic self-interest would conquer ideological ideals. 84) In December
1969, a new customs agreement was signed between South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho and Botswana,
which indicated closer economic links and co-operation between these states. 85)
Prime Minister Vorster declared that although South Africa was motivated by a degree of self-interest, it
was not this alone which had resulted in the "outward" policy. South Africa, as a highly industrialised and
wealthy state, felt deep concern for her poorer neighbours and developed a sense of responsibility in this
The "outward"
policy had as its basis, "tolerance and mutual respect, the recognition of the
sovereign independence of all states, and non-interference in each other's domestic affairs"
obvious attempt to avoid external criticism of internal arrangements.
This was an
The South African Government
emphasised that military forces would operate in neighbouring states only at the request of that particular
government and retaliation would only occur in times of necessity.
Yet this "outward" policy did afford
South Africa a degree of elementary recognition in the world community, especially as a regional power.
The RSA' s leaders appeared determined to foster peace on the sub-continent in an attempt to prevent
instability in the region. An example of this is Prime Minister B.1. Vorster's opening Parliamentary address
on 31 January 1975, which referred to his government's
intent to end the violence in Rhodesia.
stated that South Africa would continue to do everything possible, without interfering in any country's
domestic affairs and without attempting to prescribe to anyone, to bring the parties together and to promote
understanding of each other's problems.87)
Prime Minister Vorsterhad noted South Africa's role in Africa, stating that: "As we are a part of Africa and
because we know Africa and its circumstances, we do indeed have a role to play in the development of the
continent. ..we are prepared from time to time to offer such technical and financial help as we can. We have
done it in the past. It is our policy and we are prepared to continue with it". The importance of noninterference in domestic affairs was also emphasised: "Agreement
policies certainly not a requirement
in respect of one another's internal
or a condition for discussions and co-operation
with other
countries ...The South African Government will not allow itself to be dictated to in respect of its domestic
policy, just as we do not wish to dictate to other countries what their domestic policy should be". As
Foreign Minister, Dr Muller also referred to the sovereign independence of states by stating that: "The way
to peace lies through detente, the recognition of the principles of sovereignty, equality, non-interference and
mutual respect".
Although certain successes were achieved with the "outward" policy, for example, the above-mentioned
establishment offonnal diplomatic relations with Malawi in 1968, followed by an exchange of state visits
in the early 1970s; the OAD managed to block the continuation of this policy by means of a 1971 resolution.
Yet six OAU members, namely, Gabon, Mauritania, Lesotho, Malawi, Ivory Coast, and Madagascar voted
against the motion; while Niger, Swaziland, Dahomey, Togo, and Upper Volta abstained. With the collapse
of Portuguese colonialism and the resultant independence of Mozambique and Angola in the mid-1970s,
Vorster moved towards a new policy of "detente", which was vaguely defined as the formulation of a
Southern African "constellation of completely independent states" to form a "strong bloc" and "present a
united front against common enemies". 89)
By 1976, the importance of stability and economic prosperity in the Southern Afiican region was once again
on the agenda, when RF. Botha stated at the UN that: "We in South Africa appreciate that the prosperity
of our neighbours is also in our interests. Their security is our security". 90)Th~ Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Dr H. Muller, also stated that South Africa's objective was, in fact, to avoid military confrontation.
RSA wanted peace in Africa, peace which promoted development. 91)In this same sentiment of regional cooperation and interdependence, Prime Minister Botha made a New Years appeal in 1980 to South Africa's
neighbouring states to join the proposed Constellation of States and is quoted as saying that while "we are
prepared to strive for such peace, we are also prepared to fight for that peace and protect it"92)
The international outrage at the Soweto uprising, however, effectively threw South Africa's regional and
international policies into disarray.
In the Defence White Papers of the 1970s, mention was made of a
"Total Strategy" where economic, political, socio-economic, and military resources would be utilised in
order to defend and advance South African interests at all levels.
The concept of "Total Strategy" was first introduced in the 1973 White Paper on Defence and was covered
in increasing detail in the 1975 and 1977 White Papers. The "Total Onslaught" against South Africa was
described as "communist inspired", but included forces from the ANC, SW APO, the UN, the OAU, and the
West. The aim of these forces was the overthrow of the current constitutional order and the establishment
of a "communist-oriented,
Black government".93) The concept of this strategy was thus developed as a
counter-attack strategy. "Total Strategy" was defined in 1977 as: "The comprehensive plan to utilise all the
means available to a state according to an integrated pattern in order to achieve the national aims within the
framework of the specific policies".94) Attention was increasingly focused on the perception that should an
ANC government come to power in South Africa, communism would have a firm hold on the region. As
already noted, there was also the perception that a Soviet Union-Southern African alliance would control
an extensive amount of the world's strategic minerals.
P.W. Botha became the South African leader in September 1978 and the "Total Strategy" was adopted as
official state policy.
The idea of a constellation of states was once again emphasised in an attempt to
construct a regional alliance to battle the ''Marxist Onslaught". The idea was to achieve "regional solutions
to regional problems". One objective was to ensure that neighbouring states were not utilised as launching
pads for guerilla or terrorist attacks on South Africa. Another was to ensure that the Soviet-Bloc powers
did not gain either a political or a military "foothold" in Southern Africa. South Africa also wanted to
maintain and strengthen existing economic ties within the region and demanded that these states resist calls
for mandatory trade sanctions against the RSA.
Black Southern African states were, in fact, to limit
criticism of South Africa's domestic policy. The so-called 12 point plan detailed specific policies regarding
the planned utilisation ofall available means in this regard. Methods of economic coercion were also noted,
including the limiting or prohibiting the use of South Mrica's railway and harbour facilities for the export
of goods originating in the Black states; and the regulation of access to and movement through the RSA. 95)
P.W. Botha mentioned this "Total Onslaught" at various political meetings. For example, during a 1970
South African Parliamentary session, he emphasised that the Western World was being threatened by the
global and total strategy under the leadership of aggressive communism.96) The national doctrine of creating
a "Total Strategy" to meet a "Total Onslaught" was thus formulated in response to changes in South
Africa's external environment, including the collapse of Portuguese colonial rule and the independence of
several African states. Counter-terrorist wars were waged in both Angola and Namibia as further examples
of this perception of "Total Onslaught", which was ultimately blamed on the Soviet Union.
Yet the idea of Southern African co-operation was continually stressed by various politicians from the
inception of the original "outward" policy and in 1979, P.W. Botha stated South Africa was offering the
region co-operation by way of a peace agreement and a non-aggression pact, involving the combatting and
destruction of terrorism, the mutual recognition of borders, and a common decision to fight communism in
Southern Africa. 97)
The application of the "Total Strategy" is divided into various phases, the first involving the Constellation
of States initiative and running from late 1978 until mid-1980. The plan for this Commonwealth-type body
was partly negated by the formation of the Southern African Development
(SADCC) in April 1980, comprising Angola, Botswana, Mozambique,
Coordination Conference
Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland,
Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The principle strategic objective of the SADCC was considered to be
the decrease of external dependence on particularly the RSA. 98) The SADCC is discussed in further detail
at a later stage.
The second phase of the "Total Strategy" began in mid-1980 and continued until late 1981. This is referred
to as a period of destabilisation where the South African Government not only increased military action
against neighbouring states, but also applied economic methods of coercion. An example of the latter was
the withdrawal of approximately 20 locomotives on hire to the National Railways ofZimbabwe.99)
and controls were implemented at Lesotho borders in May 1983. Lesotho is completely surrounded by
South Africa and is thus susceptible to any coercive measures.
Military action was also taken against
Lesotho, as well as against Angola, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique.
Two events in this
regard should be noted, namely, South Africa's invasions into Angola from 1975; and the signing of the
Nkomati Accord in 1984, where both South Africa and Mozambique made a commitment to the peaceful
settlement of disputes and rejected the threat or use of force against each other.
A new phase of so-called intensified destabilisation began in early 1982 and it was announced in 1983 by
the South African Foreign Minister that the RSA was determined to force the ANC from all neighbouring
Attempts were made to reduce support for the ANC in these countries and maintain existing
economic links in light of attempts to reduce economic dependence on South Africa.lOl)
P. W. Botha,
however, responded in 1983 to accusations of destabilisation by emphasising the numerous co-operative
agreements between South Africa and several Southern African states. He insisted that he was "prepared
to conclude defence agreements with every state in Southern Africa that shares a common interest with us,
and I am prepared to conclude agreements with them in which we state that we will not allow our territories
to be used against one another".
Yet South Africa continued to feel threatened, as evidenced by the following statement made by P. W. Botha
in the early 1980s: "Is there a threat against the Republic of South Africa?
The answer is clearly,
yes ...Soviet intervention is a fact ...The Soviet aim is to create for itself an intensive power-base in order to
bring the Republic of South Africa within its sphere of influence". Botha was convinced that South Africa's
strategic position was such that it had become "a focal point in the struggle between the major powers of
the world"
It was announced by Pik Botha in late 1984 that: "South Africa is an increasingly confident
regional power which has the will, the power and the resources to playa role it has been invited to fulfill in
the search for peace in this region".
Although accused of destabilisation by neighbouring states, P.W. Botha stated on numerous occasions
throughout the 1980s that economic dependence was not the aim of the RSA: "It has never been our aim
or our wish to bring about a system of economic dependence
under South African dominance.
Interdependence is an inescapable fact oflife of Southern Africa, which we cannot ignore if we want to serve
our best interests.
It would be to the detriment of all of us". JOS) Botha emphasised the old idea of a
of Southern African states when he again extended a "hand of friendship" to South
Africa's neighbours and proposed that urgent consideration be given to the establishment ofa permanent
joint mechanism for dealing with matters of security, particularly threats to the peace and prosperity of the
Yet in reality, many neighbouring states were facing a situation of economic dependence.
In 1988, the South African Minister of Defence, General Magnus Malan, delivered a lecture on The
contemporary strategic situation in Southern Africa. Here reference was repeatedly made to the necessity
of an increase in South African influence in the region, such as: "South Africa serves the interests of its
people and of the region of which it is part. It is in South Africa's interests to have stable, prosperous and
developing neighbours.
For this reason South Africa offers aid and provides assistance in many
areas ... South Africa is the stabiliser of the region and would like to expand this role".
The RSA also
recognised the sovereignty and territorial integrity of her neighbours.
General Malan stated that "All
indications are that South Africa's role and influence in Africa must increase. The collapse of Africa on a
variety of fronts, such as infrastructure, agriculture and medical services, is in reality due to an inability to
control technology. It is technology that has made South Africa an acknowledged regional power. I believe
that co-existence and good neighbourliness is possible in Southern Africa. Our challenge in this region,
which contains some of the world's richest raw materials and greatest potential, is to enter into lasting
relationships with one another. ..For I share the concern that no significant foreign investment will flow into
Southern Africa as long as it is seen as a place of conflict and unrest".
Malan noted that although the RSA did not plan any territorial expansion, subversion or aggression against
another state, threats to South Africa, her people and interests, would indeed be countered.
African Security Forces would thus be prepared accordingly.
The South
Mention was also made of the Soviet and
Cuban threat in the region, where a weapons build-up was continuing. There were, however, increasing
indications that Africa was looking inwards for solutions to African problems and South Africa, according
to Malan, was playing a key role in this regard. Four matters were of particular relevance to General Malan
in 1988, namely, the Soviet arms build-up in Southern Africa and the presence of foreign forces; the·
revolutionary and terror threat to South Africa; the possibility that rapprochement between East and West
could exclude South Africa; and the fact that there was no solid evidence of the new Soviet international
relationships, at least in Southern Africa. General Malan also noted that South Africa was increasingly being
referred to in international circles as a regional power.
As has been previously noted, the African continent in general suffered a distinct loss of global interest
towards the end of the Cold War. The effects of communism had left most of Eastern Europe in poverty
and ruin. Much of the developed world began pouring funds and other types of aid into these former
communist countries and Africa became well and truly marginalised.
International funds were no longer
easily available and Africa was left to resolve her own problems. This in turn created an opportunity for
South Africa as regards her strategic significance and role on the continent, especially in the Southern
African region. There is thus ample evidence of ego perceptions of South Africa's strategic significance in
the Southern African region. The RSA was intent on establishing a role on the sub-continent as a relatively
powerful ally, who could ensure stability in the region and provide economic assistance to her poorer
Trade with these nations was a vital aspect of this role and is discussed below.
South Africa was considered the so-called economic powerhouse of the Southern African region and in
1988, approximately eight percent of the RSA' s exports were intended for Africa. The key to economic
co-operation lies in geographical proximity, as well as in cultural, historical and personal links. The 1910
Southern African Customs Union remained the most important multilateral trade agreement in Southern
Afiica in the mid-to late-1980s. This agreement was re-negotiated in 1969 and had a particularly important
impact on the trading patterns of Swaziland, Lesotho and Botswana. The Common Monetary Area and the
Southern African Regional Tourism Conference were other important multilateral economic agreements of
the time-frame under discussion. Zimbabwe and South Africa were party to the most significant bilateral
trade agreement in the region, which amounted to almost R 750 million in 1986. Zimbabwean industry was,
in fact, dependent on exports to South Africa, and there was also a trade agreement between the RSA and
Development aid projects were undertaken by the South African Government in various African countries
and emphasis was placed on the Lesotho Highlands Water Project. In 1988, South Africa was also officially
represented in Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland, Malawi and Zimbabwe by the Departments of Foreign
Affairs and Trade and Industry.
Escom, the RSA's power supplier, supplied electricity to Botswana,
Swaziland, Mozambique and Lesotho, and mention has also been made of South Africa's port and transport
infrastructure which were vital to many Southern African economies.110) These actions can all be considered
indicative of South Africa's strategic significance to the Southern African region.
By implementing a higher degree of economic integration,
it would become more difficult for the
international community to isolate the RSA and impose sanctions without endangering the economies of
neighbouring states. The effects of international
sanctions against South Africa on these states will be
discussed at a later stage of the study. The added advantage was that South Africa would become known
as a strong regional power that could actively promote the economic development and security of the
region. The "outward" policy had been introduced with the assumption that "prevention is better than cure"
and that economic development of the entire region would secure South Africa's strategic perimeter by
preventing a spill-over of internal conflict from neighbouring statesll1)
The South African Government thus used vital economic links to emphasise the RSA' s strategic importance
to the international community.
It was hoped that these economic considerations would outweigh the
criticism directed at South Africa's internal racist policies.
This was especially the case as regards
landlocked African neighbours who relied heavily on the RSA for a variety of supplies.
It thus became
customary for many states to openly criticise South Africa, whilst covertly trading with the RSA. Many
African nations were aware of their degree of dependence on South Africa, but did not want to incur the
wrath of the international community by openly disregarding their wishes. Trade between the RSA and
African states was therefore not publicised.
Although eventually forced into isolation, South Africa
responded by becoming virtually self-sufficient in many aspects.
Yet although P.W. Botha had in the second halfof1984 spoken of optimism and confidence as regards the
RSA's role in Southern Africa, the situation had worsened by 1986, with internal violence, fighting in the
region and international pressure, all increasing the problems for South Africa.
There was still, however,
a degree of economic dependence as regards neighbouring states, especially in the areas oflabour, trade and
A decline in the South African economy would thus have unavoidable consequences for
neighbouring states.
It has already been noted that the RSA became a target ofthe international community in the form of various
sanctions, in an attempt to coerce the government to alter its internal policies. These sanctions not only
failed to achieve their objective, partly due to South Africa's strong national capability, but also strengthened
ego perceptions of strategic significance in that they were not universally applied. Although the international
sanctions campaign against South Africa will be further discussed in subsequent chapters, it can be noted
at this point that although the RSA did manage to circumvent many sanctions, they did have financial
consequences for South Afiica. According to President P. W. Botha: "Between 1973 and 1984 the Republic
of South Africa had to pay R22 billion more than it would have normally spent. There were times when it
was reported to me that we had enough oil for only a week". In 1987, South Africa's Minister of Finance,
Barend Du Plessis, stated that: "Billions of Rands of scarce capital ...have been squandered on building up
the country's strategic reserves of oil through fears that supplies would be cut off' .113)Yet the oil embargo
was dismissed by Prime Minister Botha as "not feasible".114) Thus although the international sanctions
campaign was costly for the South African Government, domestic reform did not result, primarily due to
the fact that many states, including those in Southern Africa, did not apply strict sanctions against the RSA.
Ego perceptions of South Africa's importance to the international community and particularly the Southern
African region, were thus reinforced.
In the period under discussion, South Africa can be perceived as having travelled full circle. The country
moved from compatriot, to pariah, and by the end of the era under discussion was moving once again to
the level of compatriot.
The stage was set for irreversible change and it is this change which would
ultimately determine South Africa's strategic significance in the future. The era immediately following the
Second World War was filled with hope for an improved world. This hope was subsequently dashed by the
rise of communism and international outrage at South Afiica's internal racial policies. What followed was
a lengthy period of international isolation, which South Africa contested on the grounds of the country's
strategic position, especially in view of communist ambitions on the African continent and the RSA's
abundance of certain strategic minerals. This line of reasoning worked fairly well with the US and Britain.
Eventually, however, even these last two stalwarts of South African support succumbed to international
pressures and criticism turned to condemnation and damaging measures. This will be further discussed in
the following chapter.
South African attention, however, remained focused on the Southern African region where the RSA held
many neighbouring states in a situation of economic dependence.
As the Cold War drew to a close, it
became apparent the Africa would increasingly have to seek local solutions to local problems and South
Africa, as one of the strongest nations on the continent, was a key player in this regard. As South Africa
gradually returned to the international arena and domestic reforms began to surface, another change took
place with the coming to power ofF. W. de K1erk in 1989. This can be perceived as the beginning of a new
era for South Africa.
Ego perceptions during this period were thus centred around South Africa's geo-strategic position, where
the Cape Sea Route played a valuable role in the transport of Western oil and other related products. It was
repeatedly stated that should South Africa fail to resist communism, this route would no longer be available
to the West. Such a situation would have extensive strategic implications for the Western World. South
Africa's military capability was also perceived as playing a valuable role in the protection of this vital area
of the globe. Add to these aspects, the RSA's key strategic mineral reserves and role as a stabilising force
with extensive economic capabilities in a turbulent sub-continent,
and South African politicians had
numerous factors to emphasise regarding the RSA's strategic significance.
South Africa thus held a distinct perception of strategic importance during the years of isolation and this was
duly demonstrated by the various speeches delivered by politicians in this regard. Yet the perceptions of
the international community should also be taken into account. Was South Africa really that important to
global security or was this merely an incorrect perception on the side of the RSA? Alter perceptions of
strategic significance up until the end of 1989 will thus be discussed in Chapter 5 of this study.
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p. 145.
Wessels, A.,"Die Suid-Afrikaanse Vloot: verlede, hede, toekoms", Mi/itaria, Vol II, No 3, 1981,
pp. 12-13.
Martin, L W, "British policy in the Indian Ocean", In: Cottrell, A J and Burrell, R M(eds), The
Indian Ocean: its political. economic, and military importance, Praeger Publishers, New York,
1972, p. 416.
Banetjee, D, "South Africa: The security and strategic dimension", Africa Quarterly, Vol 32,
No 1-4, 1992-93, pp. 165-166.
Evans, L H, "South African foreign policy and the New World Order", Issup Bulletin, No 4, 1993,
Boyce, A N, "South Africa's external relations after 1948", In: Breitenbach, J J, op cit,
Davis, R and O'Meara, D, "Total strategy in Southern Africa: an analysis of South African regional
policy since 1978", Journal of Southern African studies, Vol 11, No 2, April 1985, p. 187.
Spence, J E, "South African foreign policy: the outward movement", In: Potholm, C P and Dale,
R( eds), Southern Africa in perspective: essays in regional politics, Free Press, New York, 1972,
Motshabi, K, "South Afiica's actions against neighbouring states", In: Orkin, M(ed), Sanctions
against apartheid, David Philip Publishers, Cape Town. 1989, pp. 123-125.
"The contemporary strategic situation in Southern Africa: the RSA's role and influence must
increase", Paratus, December 1988, pp. 14-15.
Graham, D G, "The prospects for increased economic interaction in Southern Afiica", Issup
Bulletin, No 3, 1988, pp. 3-7.
Woldendorp, J, "Some successes of the oil embargo", In: Hanlon, J(ed), South Africa: the
sanctions report: documents and statistics, Commonwealth Secretariat, London, 1990,
pp. 175-176.
As has been determined, national capabilities do not serve much of a purpose until they are turned into an
advantage for the state concerned, that is, when they affect relations with other states. An example would
be South Africa's vast mineral wealth and the question of whether these minerals were considered important
enough by the international community to alter or at least maintain, perceptions of the RSA's strategic
significance. Another relevant question regarding alter perceptions concerns the country's internal politics.
Did the RSA's internal problems affect the level of significance or was the country's strategic significance
of enough importance to the international community that the issue of internal racial conflict played a
diminished role?
These and other issues will be discussed in this chapter.
As previously noted, the evaluation of South Africa's strategic significance is based on elements of national
capability; ego perceptions
as regards importance
to both regional and global environments;
confirmation by other states of the RSA's strategic significance. A state's own role perception, as well as
its national resources are linked to the external environment and while the former relates to national policy,
the latter provides the operational means. Interaction with foreign powers is, however, vital in that unless
members ofthe external environment respond to a particular state's policies, strategic significance will not
reach its full potential.
Although certain states have remained isolated for many years, it is not an ideal
situation and entails many hardships for the country and its citizens. South Africa's external relations were
inextricably linked to the country's internal policies, more specifically, the policy of apartheid or racial
Although the entire international community had an effect on South Africa's strategic
significance, certain states have played a more important role in the country's history, namely, the US,
Britain (as well as other parts of Europe), the Southern African region, and the USSR.
Alter perceptions primarily concern two aspects, namely, perceptions of the international community or
external environment regarding a certain country's strategic significance, and the actual relations which take
These two aspects often do not concur, a point which has been illustrated by the international
community in its relations with South Africa. An example of this duality was the fact that illicit trading with
the RSA continued (especially with African states), whilst heavy criticism was openly directed at South
Africa's internal policies. The RSA's strategic position, as well as an abundance of natural resources not
available in Africa and overall strong national capability, thus placed additional emphasis on South Africa's
strategic significance.
Relationships between the state concerned and the international community are
therefore key indicators of alter perception.
Although few states actually made official statements regarding South Arica's strategic significance during
the period under discussion in this chapter, it can be deduced from the relations between the RSA and
certain countries that South Africa continued to hold a certain degree of importance in the international
region in general and the Southern African region in particular. These relations between the international
community and South Africa can therefore be considered to substantiate perceptions of the RSA's
Mention is made of various factors which influenced attitudes towards South Africa. The first ofthese was
increasing Western preoccupation with the countering of communist influence during the 1970s and 1980s,
particularly in the African region.
Another factor was that of the priority of economic considerations,
especially the availability of resources and trade opportunities.
The perception was that the Soviet Union
was attempting to prevent the extension of Western links in Africa and the rest of the Third World . Western
attitudes were further influenced by the human rights standards which were being set on the global stage and
South Africa's racist policies were seen to be in direct contrast to these standards. This last factor can be
considered to have had a negative impact as regards international support for South Africa solely in light
of her geo-strategic position.
Sentiment as regards the RSA's international policies was in fact severe
enough to warrant an extensive sanctions campaign.
Being situated at the tip of Africa in what can be considered a relatively isolated position, South Africa was
eager to establish relations with especially the Western Wworld and her neighbours on the African continent.
Yet it can be noted that the 1940s to early 1960s were marked by requests and appeals to the South African
Government to reject apartheid. The following years, however, witnessed resolutions calling for economic,
financial and military sanctions against the RSA. Although most nations in the global environment criticised
South Africa's internal racist policies, with many imposing sanctions against South Africa to varying
degrees; several also attempted to defend the RSA at international forums and refused to apply stringent
economic sanctions as a result of such factors as traditional ties, economic constraints, and humanitarian
concerns. The international sanctions campaign will thus form an important part of this section of the study
and is discussed at a later stage.
The US and South Africa have had a fairly long history of relations and the following section has thus been
organised chronologically for ease of reference.
US perceptions of South Africa's importance were predominantly dictated by Washington's desire to ensure
the RSA's assistance in containing the Soviet Union and its communist allies. South Africa was also
perceived to be strategically important in a region filled with unrest and there was the added issue of the
RSA's importance to the US economy.3) This latter aspect refers in particular to South Africa's wealth of
strategic minerals and it has been noted that without these minerals, it would not have been possible to make
the necessary military equipment during the Cold War. This made South Africa strategically important for
the US on both economic and national securitylevels4)
As will be discussed at a later stage, these minerals
were considered important enough to be excluded from comprehensive US sanctions. President Reagan in
fact emphasised the concept of "linkage" which referred to his belief that Soviet action anywhere in the
world affected US-Soviet relations. The Reagan Administration's primary concern as regards Mrica was
superpower competition for control of resources.
The US can be considered to have had relatively little interest in African affairs throughout much of the
1960s and any visible interest proved to be more economic than political. This state of affairs did attract
vigorous criticism from those who favoured stronger measures as regards South Africa's apartheid policies.
The Truman Administration ofthe US had, however, recognised South Africa's strategic importance in the
years following World War II and thus proceeded to encourage the RSA's economic progress. This was,
of course, aimed at reinforcing the allegiance of South Africa to the West. 6) The US voted against apartheid
for the first time during a UN session in October 1958, although South Africa was still considered an ally
in the fight against communism. In 1961, John Kennedy, a strong anti-apartheid supporter, took over the
American Presidency and relations between the two nations changed dramatically as Kennedy was totally
against the "tyranny" of apartheid.
This change in relations had been preceded by the Sharpville incident
of21 March 1960, where 67 protestors were killed by policemen, resulting in international outrage.7) The
1960s thus marked the beginning of a deterioration in relations between the US and South Africa.
Following the formation of the OAU and the resultant demand that the US choose between Africa and the
White rulers of South Africa and the Portuguese territories, it became more difficult for the US to resist
pressures to impose sanctions against the RSA. The US then eventually voted in favour ofa second call by
the Security Council for an arms embargo and in 1964, banned the sale to South Africa of materials for the
making of arms. The 1963 arms embargo was also strictly observed. There was growing concern in the US
that any available arms would be used to enforce apartheid.
In 1965, the US National Security Adviser, McGeorge Bundy, approved a recommendation by the State
Department to withdraw official guarantees for investors in South Africa. By 1966, the issue of South West
Africa was attracting attention and the US supported a UN General Assembly resolution "terminating"
South Africa's mandate over the territory.
sanctions against the RSA during the 1960s.9)
The US, however, continued to resist punitive economic
When US National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger, ordered various global strategic evaluations in early
1969, National Security Study Memorandum
39 (NSSM 39) dealt with Southern Africa and proposed
various options. The so-called Tar Baby Option was recommended by Kissenger and approved by Nixon
and proposed closer co-operation with South Africa, as well as improved relations with Portuguese leaders
in Angola.
The arms embargo was, however, not to be lifted, although the distinction between civilian and
military equipment
was no longer as rigid.
The final year of the decade
that economic sanctions against South Africa had failed
West Germany, Britain, and Japan was blamed.
also witnessed
Trade by the US, as well as
In early 1971, US President Nixon made public the chapter entitled "Africa", in the annual State of the
World Report. This chapter can be considered one of the primary comprehensive statements on US interest
in African affairs. In this document, Nixon stated that: "Our goal is to help sustain the process by which
Africa will gradually realise economic progress to match its aspirations". Economic interests in the continent
were considered extensive, although it was noted that it was not the task ofthe US to determine the pattern
of relationships among African states. Mention was made of the Nixon Doctrine's encouragement of selfreliance, although Nixon believed that the US could assist Africa in achieving peace, justice and economic
development: "We look to African leadership to build the framework within which other nations, including
the US, can fully contribute
to a bright African future"
This can be considered a reference to South
Africa's possible strategic role as not only a valuable economic player on the African continent, but also as
a "peacekeeper"
and stabilising force.
It was predicted that African nations would utilise fora such as the UN to promote pressures on the South
African Government and in 1971, David D. Newsom, US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs,
noted that the African continent was likely to become increasingly frustrated at the lack of international
support in this regard.
In defence of the US position, Nemson referred to the US actions noted above,
although there remained an element of veiled support for the RSA in such statements as: "Specifically, much
as we deplore apartheid in South Africa ...we cannot agree that they automatically constitute a threat to the
peace ...We have long had relations with South Africa. Although we strongly oppose racial discrimination,
we recognize the complexity of the problem South Africa faces".
The issue of sanctions was also not
neglected and the indication was a move away from isolation, in that although the US had in fact supported
economic sanctions against Rhodesia, the South African scenario was believed to be an entirely different
matter. Newson also hinted that the US was unlikely to become involved in military intervention on any side
in Africa.B)
Kissinger and Ford, however, possibly realising the need for the Black vote in America, began to switch to
a policy in 1976 which emphasised "a more humane point of view". Kissinger is quoted as saying that
pressure must be exerted "to bring about change" in South Africa and to ensure majority rule and an end
to apartheid. Yet the US continued to refuse to support UN resolutions calling for an oil embargo, as well
as extensive economic and trade sanctions, and also defended South Africa's membership of bodies such
as the Universal Postal Union and the UN General Assembly. The Nixon Administration had in the early
1970s, however, advised American enterprises in the RSA to pressure Pretoria whenever possible and this
was considered an alternative to sanctions.14) Kissinger met with South African Prime Minister Vorster in
the mid-1970s and talks between these two statesman were perceived as a dramatic diplomatic breakthrough
for the RSA and acknowledgement of South Africa's key role in Southern Africa. IS)
When Secretary of State Kissinger went to sub-Saharan Africa in 1976 on an official visit, one of his primary
missions was stated as being an attempt to reduce Soviet influence in the area.16) US alter perceptions as
regards the region were thus firmly directed towards the superpower battle for influence and it was here that
South Africa would playa key role.
In the meantime, trade between the USA and South Africa was on the increase and the hope was once again
fostered that economic and not political considerations, would be the deciding factor in future relations
1976, trade between the RSA and the US increased by 21 percent and by the following year, there was also
an increase in US investment in South AfricaY) It thus appeared that the US considered the RSA valuable
enough to resist international pressures for severe sanctions. Yet the late 1970s witnessed a certain lack of
interest in South Africa by the Carter Administration, where the threat of sanctions was used in an attempt
to force change.
Although the US Administration developed a somewhat "hardened" stance against South Africa with the
assumption of the American Presidency by Mr Jimmy Carter in 1977, Carter expressed a desire for peace
in Southern Africa and stated that economic sanctions against South Africa would be counter-productive,
especially as he recognised the RSA as a stabilising force in the region.
naval attache in Pretoria and commercial officer in Johannesburg.
The US, however, withdrew its
US Vice President Walter Mondale met
with Vorster in Europe in May 1977 and insisted on the "full political participation by all the citizens of
South Africa".
Certain American businesses in the meantime adopted the so-called Sullivan Principles
which set conditions for remaining in South Africa. 19) During Carter's 1978 NATO speech he, however,
warned that the organisation could not be "indifferent" to the activities of the Soviet Union and Cuba in
Africa. 20)
FOllowing Carter, President Reagan and his Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Chester
Crocker, followed a policy of "constructive engagement" during the 1980s. This policy can be defined as
an attempt to persuade President Botha to demolish apartheid, while at the same time opposing the armed
struggle of the ANC. 21) Crocker had stated that: "Under constructive engagement, we would continue our
adherence to the arms embargo, our refusal to make use of South African defence facilities, our categorical
rejection of apartheid policies and institutions - as well as our rejection of trade and investment sanctions
and all forms of economic
warfare against South Africa".
UN Ambassador
Jeanne Kirkpatrick
The idea was thus to work towards
had announced
in 1981 that: "The Reagan
administration holds the view that economic sanctions are not a very useful instrument of policy".
Crocker emphasised that South Africa formed the centrepiece of US policy in the Southern Mrican region,
in part due to the economic, technological and military strength of the RSA; but also because the West had
economic, strategic, political, and moral interests at stake.
Although it was noted that racism was
unacceptable, the stated long-term objective ofuS policy was: "The emergence of a domestic order in South
Africa that will permit the United States to pursue a full and normal relationship with it". The importance
of the Cape Sea Route, especially as regards petroleum and non-fuel minerals, was also noted; as was the
fact that Soviet expansionism in the area was to be avoided. An added concern was that as Southern Africa
was more important to the West than to the Soviets, military force should not become the principle means
for change in the region. The emphasis was thus on stability. Economically, South Africa was considered
one of the few growth points in Africa and could serve as a "regional engine of development"
importance of resisting communist expansionism was also reiterated by Crocker: "The top US priority is
to stop Soviet encroachment in Africa".
Ronald Reagan voiced his concerns about Africa's strategic significance when he stated the following: ''I'm
concerned - scared is the proper word - about what is going on in Africa ...Many Americans have interpreted
our interest in Africa as an extension of our own desire to achieve racial equality and elimination ofinjustice
based on race. I'm afraid that is a naive over-simplification of what really is at issue, namely, a power
struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union"
It is interesting to note, that for the US and
Britain, South Africa became a difficult issue, as attempts had to be made to balance concerns as regards
both communism and apartheid.
George Bush held similar perceptions: "Today Africa is ignored at our peril...African resources, such as oil
and strategic minerals, are vital to our economy; Southern Africa, in the course of the next decade, could
well be the focal point of East- West confrontation".
Bush emphasised that although human rights continued
to be a concern, strategic interest could not be ignored.
In specific reference to the RSA's strategic
importance, he stated the following: "South Africa has a position astride the sea lanes and has natural
resources important to us, such as industrial diamonds and chrome". He also noted that in order to advance
US interests, economic, technical, and military assistance should be provided to those nations who shared
US goals and values.
Criteria for assistance would include importance to the US, in terms of natural
resources, strategic position and influence in Africa; the government's
attitude as regards issues of direct
significance to the US; the country's
current and potential contribution to international and regional
peacekeeping; and the amount of US investment in the nation concerned.
From the above-noted conditions, is was clear that South Africa was one of the few, ifnot the only, nations
in the region and probably the continent, that could fulfill most of these conditions. It can thus be deduced
that the US considered the RSA to be of considerable strategic significance.
The 1981 State of the Union
Address continued to emphasise both the value of African mineral resources for the US economy and the
necessity of expanding efforts to promote trade and investment in this part of the globe. 29)
In 1981, Reagan stated the following: "Can we abandon a country that has stood beside us in every war
we've ever fought? ..A country that strategically is essential to the free world in its production of minerals
we all must have and so forth?" He is also quoted as believing in "continued friendship" with South Africa
instead of being "aloof and distant". The US would thus continue to support the UN arms embargo; while
at the same time refraining from economic warfare against the RSA. Although there were concerns as
regards the situation in Namibia and Angola, the emphasis was once again placed on the communist threat
in Southern Africa.30)
When South Africa mounted an extensive intervention
in Angola in 1981, US
Secretary of State, General Haig, made excuses for the RSA by referring to Cuban forces and Soviet
advisers and arms, which had apparently been "used to refurbish SW APO elements that move back and forth
freely across that frontier and inflict bloodshed and terrorism upon the innocent non-combatant inhabitants
of Namibia"
These events emphasised the fact that the RSA's strategic significance, at least as regards
the US, was based on South Africa's strategic minerals and vital role as an anti-communist
ally on the
African continent.
The Reagan Administration's
attitude towards South Africa and other Third World countries has been
labelled as "too simply anti-communist"
or "an obsession with the Soviet Union".
Although the US
condemned violence in South Africa, the Administration chose to remain politically neutral in its relations
as the RSA was generally believed to support the regional political status quo. This did not find favour with
the Frontline States. Crocker based his strategy on the belief that the US could not break the White minority
regime in South Africa and that "constructive engagement" thus had more potential for resulting in change
than blatant confrontation?2)
The strategic significance of South Afiica was also indicated by other US politicians, including those of the
Democratic Party who had noted the continent's vast resources in the mid-1980sHl
The Republican Party
had in turn stressed the priorities of opposing Marxist imperialism in Africa and establishing democracies
with market-based
South Africa, with her strong anti-apartheid
stance and relatively
successful economy, would thus serve as a successful example in this regard. In earlier years, the American
Party had deemed South Africa valuable enough to calIon the US Government to cease its acts of hostility
towards the RSA and "all other non-communist countries.3')
Even Andrew Young, who served as a UN
ambassador and held strong anti-apartheid views, had admitted that long-term US self-interest coincided
with Afiica's self-interest.
South Afiica, as one ofthe most powerful countries on this continent, was thus
awarded a certain degree of strategic significance, as is evident from the above statements.
Public pressure in the US in the mid-l 980s, however, resulted in a tougher stance against apartheid and
Secretary of State Shultz's Advisory Committee eventually rejected the policy of"constructive engagement"
and called for international efforts to implement economic sanctions and isolat~ South Afiica. The US antiapartheid movement sought disinvestment from the RSA and by 1985, almost $4,5 billion of public funds
from corporations doing business in South Afiica had been withdrawn.
Although the early 1980s were
also characterised by increased international loans to South Afiica, the decade was thus characterised by
increasing disinvestment from the RSA. This disinvestment was the result of two factors, namely, pressure
by US anti-apartheid lobbies; and increasing uneasiness among businessmen as regards the security of
investments in South Afiica38)
When the American Chase Manhattan Bank recalled its finances, followed by other US and European banks,
the result was a severe financial crisis for South Afiica.39l The most effective sanctions were, in fact,
perceived as those applied by the banking institutions and it was thus what can be termed the "market
forces" sanctions which did the most darnage.40) Yet in 1986, a spokesman for the US State Department
had the following to say as regards the ffiM decision to disinvest: "We regret any decision to reduce US
private sector involvement in South Afiica. It will harm Black workers and reduce US influence".4\) The
emphasis from both the US and Britain always appeared to be on the potential harm to Black workers and
not on the effects upon the Pretoria Government.
The economic situation in South Mrica, however,
continued to deteriorate following the Rubicon speech, with the most damage caused by the effects of a
capital outflow (as noted above) from 1985 to 1988, which amounted to approximately $11 billion 42)
In an attempt to defuse extensive sanctions in 1985, the White House used Executive Order 12532 to
prohibit "trade and certain other transactions involving South Afiica". This included an embargo on the
export of nuclear goods or technology to the RSA, although few new sanctions were announced.43) On 2
October 1986, the Senate joined the House, overriding the President's veto and enacting the CAAA. The
stated purpose of the CAAA was to set out a "framework to guide the efforts of the US in helping to bring
an end to apartheid in South Afiica and lead to the establishment of a non-racial, democratic form of
The CAAA and its measures would attempt to encourage Pretoria to repeal the state of emergency; respect
the principle of equal justice for all; release Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners; end aggression
against neighbouring states; negotiate with all racial groups; permit freedom of political expression; and set
a timetable for the ending of apartheid legislation. The CAAA called for such actions as the prohibition of
the importation of South Afiican coal, iron, steel, agricultural products, textiles, and uranium.
legislation, however, also called for the ANC to "suspend terrorist activities" in the period proceeding
negotiations with Pretoria; to "re-examine their ties to the South African Communist Party"; and to declare
support for a "free and democratic post-apartheid South Africa".4S)
It is important to note that certain metals such as chromium, the platinum-group metals and manganese were
excluded from the CAAA, as they were considered to be strategically vital for the US.46) This can be
to relate directly to previously-noted
ego perceptions regarding South Africa's strategic
Although a 1986 US Department of State Bulletin emphasised the ending of apartheid in South Africa, the
value of the RSA was also noted: "We must recognise that South Africa is an integral part of and major
player in Southern Afiica. Our influence with South Afiica on ending apartheid is related to the success of
our efforts in the region as a whole".47) When the February 1987 Department
of State Bulletin was
published, it was once again noted that should Southern Africa succumb to conflict, major US political,
economic and strategic interests would be jeopardised.
Support was also given to those US businesses that
had chosen to remain in South Africa. It was noted that violence in South Africa would have consequences
beyond the RSA's borders and would provide the Soviets with new opportunities for communist influence:
"We recognise that South Africa's evolution is intimately connected to the fate of an entire region"48)
During the Reagan presidency, Washington officials in fact referred to Africa as "a continent of great
promise" .49)
In 1989, Assistant
of State for African Affairs, Hennan
Cohen, emphasised
the US
Administration's commitment to a non-racial, democratic South Africa, especially at a time when dialogue
in the country was imminent.
This can be considered indicative of the US Government's continuing desire
for a stable South Africa, which would in turn help stabilise the Southern African region and thus protect
US interests in the area. Yet it can be noted that US interest in South Africa, as determined by the number
of articles published in American newspapers and periodicals, declined significantly from the mid-to-Iate1980s.51) This can, in turn, be considered an indication of changes in the external environment as the world
began to lose interest in the RSA and Africa in general towards the end of the Cold War.
In a 1989 US Department of State Bulletin, US interests in Southern Africa were summed up by the US
Ambassador to South Africa, Ambassador Perkins, who emphasised the maintenance of supplies of key
strategic minerals to the US which South Africa alone provided; the maintenance of American influence
through mutually productive diplomatic, economic, and cultural relations with nations in the region; and the
elimination of regional tensions which could escalate into superpower confrontations. Regional security and
stability were thus considered vital. 52) Although perceptions South Africa's strategic significance were not
as focused on the role of the RSA as an anti-communist ally in the late 1980s, there was thus still an
emphasis on South Africa's role for stability in the region, particularly as regards the security of US
economic and strategic interests.
There can be no denying the divided nature of the US approach as regards South Africa, with the US being
more a supporter of the threat of sanctions and not their actual application.
Whether this was for human
rights reasons or because the US had certain strategic interests in the RSA (particularly as regards South
Africa's valuable minerals and anti-communist position) can be debated. What cannot be contested is that
international sanctions could not be effective without the actual physical support of such powerful countries
as the US.
This is one of the primary reasons which caused the perceived failure of the international
sanctions campaign against South Africa.
Domestic change began to take place in South Africa at about the same time as other international events
were signalling the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the communist system. Although this chapter
only covers the period up until 1989, it is worthwhile at this point to note the description given to this new
era by American President, George Bush. He described it as an era where all the nations of the world could
live in harmony, free from terror.
He also called for a "partnership
of nations" using regional and
It soon became apparent, however, that the era of the Cold War was actually
more stable than the one that was to follow. The international environment in transition was far more
complex than originally anticipated.
This inevitably led to changes in role perceptions and the period
following 1989 will be discussed in the next chapter.
British perceptions in this regard were based on such factors as the value of South Africa for trade purposes
and as an anti-communist ally; while the historical ties between the two countries were difficult to avoid.
It can be noted that during the period under discussion in this chapter, the UK, an island nation, considered
trade to be of vital importance.
When Soviet expansionism became clear, the situation caused great alarm
and could explain the rationale behind Britain's lack of action against South Africa in the struggle to end
apartheid in the RSA. It thus became apparent that Britain depended on the world's sea-lanes and the Cape
Sea route played a vital role in this regard.
South Africa initially had a supportive friend and ally in the British, until British Prime Minister Harold
MacMillan delivered what became known as the "winds of change" speech to the South African Parliament
in early 1960. It was during this speech that he referred to the increasing political consciousness sweeping
across the African continent.
Yet although MacMillan stated that Britain could not support apartheid, he
remained opposed to sanctions against South Africa: "I certainly do not believe in refusing to trade with
people because you may happen to dislike the way they manage their internal affairs".
Although it was deemed improbable that a situation would arise whereby South Africa would engage in war
and not the UK, the British Government proceeded to impose an embargo on the export of arms to South
Mrica when the Labour Party came to power in Britain in 1964. The communist takeover in Zanzibar had
provided the communists with a base in the Indian Ocean on the East coast and this caused some concern,
as South Africa would not be able to fulfill her "moral obligation" to the West without the necessary
For Britain and the US, the idea of the USSR as the "enemy", made a convenient scapegoat to justify the
refusal to act against White minority rule in South Africa. Britain's Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, had
stated that: "Smith should realise that it is most unlikely that international military action including inevitably
certain big powers can be delayed for more than a very short period and the likelihood of Russian or East
European participation is very grave" m
By 1966, speculations of a British withdrawal from Simonstown were rife and the South African Minister
of Defence had warned that South Africa could not be relied on in an emergency situation if the necessary
armaments were not made available.
The South African Navy also offered to take over the primary
responsibility for the defence of the Cape Sea Route. When the Middle East crisis erupted that same year,
the West suddenly realised the vital importance of the route around the Cape and Western nations appealed
to South Africa to keep traffic routes open, especially after the closure of the Suez Canal. Yet the British
Government was not prepared to review the arms embargo, even when confronted with the advantages that
the RSA had to offer. 58)
The Rt. Hon. Geoffrey Rippon, MP, admitted in a Round Table document that should a major conventional
war break out, the Cape Sea Route would be of vital importance. He also noted the value of alternative air
routes through the South African region; the security of communications; the wealth of minerals available
in South Africa which should not fall into communist hands; and the fact that South Africa was the most
powerful country in Africa, as regards both industrial and technical capability. Rippon was concerned with
increased Russian naval activity throughout the globe and noted that South Africa provided the "only
significant friendly maritime force in that part of the world".
South Africa was also valuable from a trade
and investment point of view, and it was emphasised that the value of British exports to South Africa had
increased by 19 percent in a single year. In conclusion, he noted the following regarding South Africa's
strategic significance: "Whilst in no way suggesting that the Cape Route is the most important in the world
for Britain and NATO, the fact remains that, should it be lost to us in war, our problems would be multiplied
A case was made by the British Government as regards the sale of arms by Britain to South Africa on the
grounds that the RSA could contribute to the security of the strategically important Cape Sea Route. It was
anticipated that the route around the Cape would eventually increase in significance and that protection of
this route was thus vital in light of Soviet naval penetration.
South Africa had also demonstrated the ability
to playa valuable role in the Southern African region and it was determined that co-operation with the RSA
would be more productive than isolation. It was recommended that South Africa's capability as the "one
effective and reliable ally of the West in the area" be utilised.60) Spence emphasised that South Africa's
willingness to take greater responsibility for the stability and economic development of the region was
valuable for Western interests, in that it guaranteed security in an area prone to unrest and outside
Ultimately, Britain's conflicting strategic interests and moral concerns placed the British
Governrnent in a difficult situation.
The British Minister of State at the Ministry of Defence stated that
although morality was important and that principle and policy should be linked: "I fail to see the principle
which says that we should trade with them, invest in their country, make money out of their trade ...and give
them a greater share in the command structure of the Southern Atlantic, but refuse to sell them maritime
Britain thus had various military, political and economic interests in the Indian Ocean region. An example
of these economic interests would be that at anyone time during the mid- I980s, approximately one-fifth
of the British merchant fleet could be found in the area. Over and above these considerations was the fact
that British institutions continued to endure in many of the former colonies.62) These factors all contributed
to South Africa's strategic significance.
Throughout the years in question, Britain appeared to support South Africa, even to the extent of defending
a regime that many nations condemned.
Certain ethnic and family ties with many South Africans possibly
made the situation even more difficult. Britain also consistently criticised Black violence and insisted that
any attempts at change be peaceful ones. Although the US and Britain both condemned South African raids
into neighbouring countries, both also initially vetoed UN proposals for sanctions against South Africa.
Eventually, Britain conceded to minimal sanctions, but was one of the first nations to oppose such measures
as soon as De K1erk became South African president and indicated change. Britain also did not view the
ANC in a particularly positive light and in 1987, Mrs Thatcher referred to the ANC as a "typical terrorist
Yet in 1989, Mrs Thatcher told a South African newspaper: "I do not see how, in the modern
world, it is possible to achieve political stability except on a basis where all adults have the vote"
British relations with South Africa were thus characterised by a certain amount of hypocrisy and in 1988,
the British Foreign Secretary, Sir Geoffrey Howe, stated the following in defence of South Africa's
sovereignty: "The power of outsiders to influence events in South Africa is limited. They have to find
courses of action which will be effective ...The lead for change must come from inside South Africa. We can
only give advice and encouragement".64) Although the British Governrnent did vote in 1989 for the UN
General Assembly' sDeclaration on Apartheid and its Destructive Consequences in Southern Africa, which
contained ANC ideas for a future South Africa, most South African Black organisations viewed Britain with
what is classified as "deep suspicion". Mrs Thatcher used the argument that sanctions would only serve to
further harm people in Afiica: "The neighbouring countries would be the first to suffer from more general
sanctions against South Mrica, and for very understandable reasons have not imposed them themselves".
When the Commonwealth countries issued a statement in 1989, that Britain and the other 48 members had
agreed that sanctions against South Mrica should remain in place until there was obvious and irreversible
change; Britain issued another statement claiming that the Commonwealth
should "concentrate
encouraging change rather than on further punishment". The Foreign Secretary even went so far as to claim
that: "The Commonwealth statement sets out what the Commonwealth
Britain wants".
Britain in fact differed from the Commonwealth
wants; it does not set out what
statement on four issues, namely, she
rejected the paragraph which stated that sanctions had begun to influence the policies of South Afiica; she
rejected an Australian proposal to investigate ways of increasing financial sanctions and a call to make the
arms embargo more effective; she voted against an Australian-Canadian proposal to review the situation a
few months later; and she refused to agree to the creation of an independent agency to review and report
on South Afiica's financiallinksM)
Britain thus perceived the RSA as holding considerable strategic value and little during the Cold War years
reflected any change in this perception.
Based on such factors as historical ties and South Afiica's
significance in the fight against Soviet expansionism, Britain consistently supported South Afiica during the
apartheid era.
As already noted, not all nations were eager to express official support for South Afiica in light of
international condemnation as regards the RSA's apartheid policies. The EC countries were no exception
and this has resulted in few official statements of strategic significance in this regard. Yet as will be noted,
trade between the EC and South Afiica continued in spite of sanctions and the importance of the Cape Sea
Route for this purpose could not be ignored.
South Africa's primary value for the EC was as an economic
ally. Military technology and assistance received particular attention from France and the French not only
maintained a supply of arms to South Afiica, but also assisted in the development of a ground-to-air missile,
which Defence Minister P.W. Botha described in May 1969 as "the most advanced and effective weapon
of its kind". 67)
French, German and Italian interests in the Indian Ocean region were predominantly economic, particularly
as regards the oil trade, although France also had strategic concerns in the area which required protection.
Western Europe, in fact, imported much of its oil supplies, which then travelled around the Cape. The Cape
eventually became one of the most crowded shipping lanes in the world.
Add to this South Africa's
significance as a strategic minerals supplier and economic trading partner to the West, and the extent of
South Africa's importance becomes c1ear.69) It was noted in the early 1970s, that Europe was likely to
become even more dependent on outside petroleum sources within the next decade and this would place
increasing emphasis on the significance of the Cape Sea Route. 70)These international interests added to the
strategic significance of South Africa.
The Lome Convention linked many African states with the EC and although the Europeans did not want to
have to make a choice between South Africa and the rest of the continent, there were indications that a
choice might have to be made at some point in the future. This was indicated by such actions as proposals
for stockpiling in Germany and France, and suggestions in the US and Britain that companies should avoid
on South Africa. 71)
EC policy towards South Africa was based on the two aims of economic independence
developed Southern African nations, and the abolition ofapartheid.n)
for the less
Although European policy towards
South Africa fluctuated prior to 1990, the 1977 Code of Conduct regulated the employment practices of
European firms with subsidiaries in the RSA.
Yet by the mid-1980s, there was a certain amount of
opposition as regards the implementation of sanctions and there are believed to have been disputes between
EC members in this regard which led to a delay in the application of modest trade sanctions until late 1986.
This can be considered an indication of South Africa's strategic significance in that certain EC nations were
reluctant to impose sanctions and thus lose the benefit of trading with the RSA.
Five categories ofEC
sanctions were, however, in place by the end of the decade, namely, scientific, military, diplomatic, sport
and cultural, and economic. 73)
The Code of Conduct, in fact, resulted from attempts by Western governments to achieve reform in South
Africa using influence and pressure instead of revolutionary change. Yet, as noted above, although the Code
was supported by all Community members, there were differences as regards emphasis and interest. The
advantage for Community members in combining as regards operation of the Code was that each member
had increased protection from international criticism.
Yet the Code was voluntary, partly due to the
practical difficulties involved in such factors as investigating breaches. 74)
Although the so-called sanctions era resulted in a weakening of international relations, by the mid-1980s,
relations were returning to some semblance of normality and in May 1984, P.W. Botha and R.F (Pik) Botha
left on a successful eight-nation European visit.7~)It can also be noted that although anti-apartheid lobbyists
declared a political victory when companies left the RSA during the 1980s, it has been claimed that the
moves were instead motivated by the declining value of South Africa as a market, as a result of high
inflation, civil unrest and the collapse of the Rand. European companies were, however, slower than their
American counterparts
to disinvest.76) By 1989, European foreign ministers were refusing to tighten
sanctions, stating that the "time was not right". The fact that British and other EC trade with South Africa
had been steadily increasing can be perceived as one of the reasons behind this decision. 77) This indicated
continuing perceptions of strategic significance.
Thus although official statements regarding South Africa's strategic significance were somewhat muted,
partly as a result of the fact that the issue of trade and other relations with South Africa was such a sensitive
one, it can be deduced from the above that the perceived importance of the RSA as an economic partner
appeared to counter-balance some of the concerns regarding South Africa's internal affairs.
The 1960s and accompanying political change in Africa brought many African states to a distinctly hostile
stance against South Africa.
Yet in the second half of the 1960s, Malawi became the first country not
bordering on South Africa to actively support contact with South Africa in public. As already noted,
diplomatic relations between the two states were established. This "outward" contact was, however, only
explored after the South African Government had established workable relationships with the BLS States,
comprising Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland. 78)
It was these political, diplomatic and economic ties which prohibited Malawi from joining the African- Bloc's
attacks on both Portugal and South Africa. Its delegates generally abstained from voting on resolutions
which supported boycotts of Portuguese or South African goods.
This abstention was even carried over
to the South West African issue, where Malawi once again refused to support resolutions authorising the
UN to assume control of South West Africa. Malawi also voted against the expulsion of South Africa from
the United Nations Committee on Trade and Development.
Although these cordial political relations
between South Africa and Malawi were primarily motivated by economic necessity, Malawi's leader, Dr
Kamuzu Banda, believed that violence against South Africa would prove largely unsuccessful.
increased liaison with South Africa had several negative effects for Malawi, one of the most important being
the resultant collaboration of Tanzania and Zambia with Malawi insurgents. Malawi also became isolated
from Black states North of the Zambezi.79)
Priorto Rhodesia's Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) on November 11, 1965 (under the Smith
Government), South Africa and Rhodesia had enjoyed relatively close trade and commercial links. Yet, as
was the case with the Portuguese territories, there was a general "reluctance"
by the South African
Government to use military or political means to extend these links.80) On the announcement of the UDI,
Dr Verwoerd declared that his government would implement a policy of non-intervention and he urged
Rhodesia and Britain to resolve their dispute. South Africa attempted to maintain amicable relations with
both parties, although economic aid was given to Rhodesia when Britain and other members of the United
Nations imposed economic sanctions. As a result of this aid, sanctions against Rhodesia had limited success
and this ultimately resulted in African leaders demanding complete mandatory sanctions. These sanctions
would be supported by the necessary force to prevent South Africa and Portugal from aiding Rhodesia in
any way.81)
In spite of the severe condemnation directed at the RSA, a surprising amount of contact was made between
South Africa and neighbouring African states; indicating perceptions of strategic significance as regards the
RSA's undeniable value and role in the region.
South Africa not only maintained relations with British
colonies, but also conducted trade, diplomatic or consular relations with various Southern African, as well
as other African states, such as Angola, Egypt, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Rhodesia, and Zaire. Most
of these formal contacts were gradually terminated as political change began to take place in Africa.
Relations with Egypt ended in 1961, while those with Zaire and Kenya were terminated in 1960 and 1963
respectively. Informal relations with Ghana became hostile and Zambia severed links with South Africa in
June 1967 when Lusaka prohibited Zambians from working in RSA mines
Strained relations between Zambia and South Africa deteriorated further in 1967, when South African police
units were sent to the Zambesi Valley in an attempt to assist Rhodesian security forces who were tracking
down African guerilla forces in the region. This further strengthened President Kaunda's resolve to avoid
becoming an economic hostage of the White-ruled state. He was particularly aware of the fact that Zambia's
dependence on South Africa had increased and was determined to seek alternative sources of raw materials,
as well as develop other communication links. Kaunda felt vulnerable to South Africa and even attempted
to purchase a ground-to-air missile system from the UK in July 1968.83)
The South African Prime Minister issued a warning to the Zambian government that force would be met
with force if necessary, although it was stressed that South Africa preferred to avoid violence. This was in
response to Zambian demands that aid to Rhodesia be halted. Tensions between the two states continued
to be strained, however, as a result ofKaunda's willingness to allow "freedom fighters", whose targets lay
across the Zambezi, to operate from bases in Zambia. 84) Yet it is interesting to note that the Zambian
Minister of Foreign Affairs noted in 1986, that the establishment of Marxism in South Africa would result
in the entire Southern African region becoming communist states.85) This can be considered a reference to
the RSA's strategic significance as an anti-communist force.
South Africa attempted to resist communist control in the Southern African region by taking military action
in neighbouring countries. The SADF assisted Renamo in Mozambique in their struggle against the Marxist
Government and also assisted UNIT A (Uniao National para a Independencia Total de Angola) in Angola
in an attempt to convince the Marxist MPLA (Movimento Popular de Liberta~ao de Angola) Government
to deny bases to SW APO and thus restrict the war to Angola. 86) It has already been established that a nonaggression pact, the Nkomati Accord, was eventually signed between South Africa and Mozambique in
March 1984.87) The Angolan issue is discussed in further detail at a later stage.
It was noted in 1988 that only a "handful" of African states had gone to the aid of the Frontline states in
their battle against the South African regime's policy. Several states, including Mauritius, the Seyshelles
and the Comoros were, in fact, criticised for their continuing trade links with South Africa.88) This can be
considered indicative of the RSA's continuing strategic significance to the region, particularly as regards
trade. In May 1988, the OAU' s African Liberation Committee issued the Harare Declaration on the Total
of Africa and the Elimination
of Apartheid,
which called for an increase in the armed
struggle and supported comprehensive sanctions against South Africa. OAU member states who continued
to collaborate with South Africa were also condemned.89) Realising the seriousness of the situation,
especially as regards the armed struggle, various Western countries held the perception that sanctions could
prove an alternative to violence.90)
The armed struggle was eventually suspended in 199091)
Kaunda, in fact welcomed the coming to power ofF. W. de Klerk in 1989 and was prepared to meet the new
South Africa President. At the 1989 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Summit, however, Kaunda insisted that
sanctions be maintained.92) Yet he had stated that he hoped to promote negotiations between the ANC and
the Pretoria Administration93)
The perception was thus that although the Frontline States were more
receptive to the idea of welcoming South Africa into the regional community, any major changes in relations
would only occur following permanent reform in the RSA.
Two states, however, will be highlighted due to their direct significance to South Africa, namely, South
West AfricalNamibia and Angola.
South West Africa became a League of Nations mandate territory under South Africa's administration after
the First World War. Smuts approached the UN (the League had since dissolved) after the Second World
War and requested approval for the incorporation of the mandate territory into South Africa. It was stressed
that South West Africa was well-suited to incorporation as it was geographically indistinguishable from
South Africa and economic integration was also firmly entrenched. Security was another reason behind the
request in that South West Africa had been a centre for pro-German sentiments and activity during both
World Wars. The UN rejected the request for incorporation and an "impasse" was reached in 1946 which
dragged on for many years. 94)
It was announced by Prime Minister Malan in late 1948, that the territory would be administered as an
integral part of South Africa. Two resolutions were passed by the General Assembly in November 1953,
one regarding a seven-man commission to study the situation, and the other demanding that the territory
be placed under UN trusteeship.9S)
SW APO became the main focus of opposition to South African rule and although the organisation initially
sought change by peaceful means, the armed struggle was later launched. Resolution 2145 was passed in
1966 by the UN General Assembly, stating that South West Africa was the direct responsibility of the UN.
South Africa promptly ignored this decision, built up the country's military potential in the territory and in
1969, passed the South West Africa Affairs Bill, which incorporated South West Africa into the RSA. In
1971, the International Court ruled that South Africa was occupying the territory illegally and thus began
a long battle between South Africa and the world community, the latter represented by the UN. SW APO
continued its activities against the RSA and a significant change occurred with the end of Portuguese control
in Angola, when SW APO was able to establish bases in Southern Angola. It was from this moment that the
war against SWAPO in South West Africa became linked to the civil war in Angola.96)
According to Prime Minister Vorster, South Africa had over the years repeatedly attempted to find an
acceptable basis for negotiations with the UN in order to solve the problem.97) In 1976, the UN Security
Council adopted Resolution 385 which condemned the RSA for, amongst other things, her "continued illegal
occupation" of South West Africa; as well as the use of the territory as "a base for attacks on neighbouring
countries".98) Although South Africa formally agreed on 10 June 1977 to accept a transitional government
in the territory that would include SWAPO, Resolution 435 resulted from South Africa's rejection of the
Waldheim recommendation in 1978, that 7500 UN personnel were required to implement the independence
plan. This resolution endorsed the Waldheim plan for Namibian independence and left the responsibility for
law and order during the transition period to South Africa, but under the supervision of up to 10 000 UN
Throughout the 1980s, the South African Government responded to international pressure regarding the
South West AfricalNamibia
issue with various statements
emphasising the dangers of communist
expansionism and thus the importance of the RSA as an anti-communist stalwart on the African continent.
P.W. Botha insisted that the issue for the communists was not South West Africa and its people, but that
the actual target was South Africa.1OO) Aware of the possibility of mandatory sanctions should the RSA not
comply, Resolution 435 was eventually implemented in the late 1980s. Although this chapter only deals with
the era up until 1989, it can be noted at this point that South African President F.W. de Klerk even attended
Namibian independence celebrations on 21 March 1990.101)
Angola did not have extensive economic or political links with South Africa, but did share a common border
with Namibia, which as noted above, had been under South African control prior to independence.
Following the Portuguese withdrawal and establishment ofa Marxist MPLA Government in Angola, South
Africa and the US supported the rival Unita movement (in opposition to the Cubans, East Germans and
It has already been established that South Africa was particularly concerned about SWAPO
guerrillas based in Angola who were challenging for control of South West Africa.102)
Although South
Africa decided not to intervene in the conflict in Mozambique in the mid-1970s (Mozambique eventually
reached independence in 1975), the opposite approach was adopted with regard to Angola. In October
1975, South African military forces crossed into Angola. The South Africans were, however, forced to
withdraw when no Western support was provided.
The UN Security Council adopted Resolution
387 in 1976, which condemned South Africa for her
"aggression against the People's Republic of Angola" and demanded that South Africa "scrupulously respect
the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the People's Republic of Angola"
the next decade, South Africa used the presence of SW APO bases in Southern Angola as a justification for
cross-border attacks, yet these were often in support of UNIT A operations.
In the 1980s, the US made it
clear that any settlement in Namibia had to be accompanied by a Cuban withdrawal from Angola. The civil
war continued through 1984-5 and South Africa continued to maintain an extensive military presence in the
South of the country.
The Lusaka Agreement resulted when the SADF struck deeply into Angola and insisted on assurances that
SW APO would not take advantage of the situation should South Africa withdraw.
turn comply with UN Resolution 435 if the Cuban troops were withdrawn.
South Africa would in
Angola and South Africa
had thus announced in Lusaka that joint steps had been established for a ceasefire.
In 1988, Cuba agreed
to the above conditions and the RSA's withdrawal indicated the end of the destabilisation policy against all
Frontline States, as the country now wanted to be perceived as a responsible member of the international
community and did not want to damage this new image. 108)
There was, however, one particular Southern African organisation which played an especially prominent role
in the international battle against apartheid and South Africa's economic dominance in the region, namely,
the SADCC.
Perceptions of the RSA's strategic significance were predominantly dictated by South Africa's economic
capability in the Southern African region. Circumstances and geography thus forced the Frontline States
to adopt their role in relation to South Africa. Zimbabwe was the key to the Frontline States because of its
central geographical position, level of economic development and important position as regards the region's
road and rail transport links. The SADCC actually only became a viable possibility following an end to the
war in Rhodesia when an independent Zimbabwe emerged in 1980.1(9) The foundation for the SADCC was
laid in Arusha, Tanzania, in July 1979, with the actual inauguration taking place in April 1980.110) It was
noted that Southern
Africa was dependent
on the RSA, particularly
the import and export of goods, and migrant labour.
as regards
The reduction of economic
dependence and the promulgation of regional integration were thus important aims. Ill) Yet the SADCC's
executive secretary, Simba Makoni, announced in 1987 that the creation of the SADCC had not specifically
been a move against South Africa. 112)
Pretoria responded to the development of the SADCC by attempting to maintain economic hegemony in
the region, largely by using the policy of destabilisation.
The strategy of the SADCC was to increase
regional co-operation, the key to which lay in the development and upgrade of the regional system of
transport and communications.
The SADCC's weakness, however, resulted from its dependence on
international aid to fund its policies. By the 1980s, the apartheid system was viewed so negatively that not
even the governments of Reagan in the USA, Thatcher in Britain or Kohl in West Germany would openly
support Pretoria.
The SADCC offered an alternative for the countries who wanted to avoid a stronger
Western policy and aid thus proved generous1l3)
Nonetheless, in 1985, the Frontline States called on
Western states to "broaden and intensify the pressure" of sanctions. Lesotho, Malawi and Swaziland later
joined their callI14)
Harare was the venue for the 1986 congress of the Non-Aligned Movement and the occasion was used to
increase pressures for sanctions against South Africa. A call was also made on Third World countries to
support the economies of the Frontline States.
Britain was in the meantime under attack from other
Commonwealth members for her refusal to apply sanctions to South Mrica and responded by increasing aid
to Mozambique during the 1980s. Britain was also providing military training for the armies of Botswana
and Zimbabwe; while the EC pledged a considerable sum for rehabilitation work on two of Mozambique' s
railways. South Africa in turn became aware that investments could now find their way to neighbouring
states, although in real terms, Western aid remained minimal. Yet Western strategy was to give relatively
generous aid to SADCC countries instead of applying meaningful sanctions or other pressures to South
Africa, thus indicating a certain perception of the RSA's strategic significance and a distinct lack of desire
to completely alienate South Africa. 115)
Although the SADCC was considered a success, it became increasingly evident that most Western investors
appeared more interested in the new opportunities presented by the changes in Eastern Europe. It was thus
hoped that a reformed South Africa might eventually join the SADCC: "We will definitely want to take
advantage of the strength and the advances achieved in the South Africa economy to act as a motor for
spurring development...our
first act upon the termination of apartheid will be to admit an independent and
democratic South Africa into the SADCC family"y6l It was also noted that the US State Department had
insisted that South Africa could not be ignored as regards economic development in the Southern African
The Frontline States thus found it difficult, if not impossible, to ignore South Mrica's strategic
significance as a vital regional player and the attitudes of these states varied according to their ability to
pressure from South Africa.
Zimbabwe, however, faced up to the regional realities at
independence when President Mugabe stated that: "We must accept that South Africa is a geographical
reality and, as such, we must have some minimum relationship with it". 118)
As noted, the SADCC states experienced a definite degree of economic dependence on South Africa and
their economies were thus linked to that of the RSA. Although the international sanctions campaign against
South Africa will be discussed at a later stage of this chapter, it is pertinent at this point to discuss the effect
of sanctions on these neighbouring states as this reflects the RSA's strategic significance to a certain extent.
Six of the nine SADCC member states are landlocked, thus emphasising the importance of South African
infrastructure for trade. Telecommunications were also involved in that in 1980, only 14 direct telephone
links out ofa possible 72 existed among SADCC member states. Links thus had to be routed through South
Africa and to a lesser extent, Western Europe. Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland were largely dependent
on energy imports from South Afiica, particularly as regards oil. Malawi also imported forty percent of its
domestic oil requirements. Food was a further important import, especially as agricultural and food output
in the region could not keep pace with rapid population growth; while industrial development in the SADCC
region was poor.
It is thus clear that the member states of the SADCC found it difficult to implement
economic sanctions against South Africa without causing considerable damage to their own economies. A
Gaborone press release in May 1979 referred to the situation as one of "brutal structural reality", where
South Africa would "naturally" dominate the area as a result of the RSA's size, wealth, technological and
military capabilities.
South Africa also possessed the most trained labour force.
Thus although the
stability and prosperity of the Southern African region was considered vital for the advancement of Western
interests, interests were more specific for South Africa's neighbours.121)
Approximately 12-21 percent of Mozambican, Zambian and Zimbabwean imports were from South Africa,
although only Zimbabwe and Swaziland were exporting significant amounts to South Africa. Five SADCC
states also had migrant labourers in South Africa, many of them working in RSA mines. Lesotho obtained
all of its electricity from South Africa; while Swaziland, Botswana and Mozambique also obtained about
one-third of their electricity from the RSA
When OAU Ministers in 1980 called for increased supervision
of oil tanker traffic to South Africa, in preparation
for an oil embargo, it was also indicated that studies
should be undertaken to determine the impact of such moves on the economies of Swaziland, Lesotho,
Botswana and Zimbabwe.I23)
It was thus clear that the strategic significance of South Africa to the
economies of these countries could not be ignored.
As indicated in the previous chapter, the asymmetrical interdependence between South Africa and other
states in the Southern African region was regularly emphasised by the South African Government.
creation of so-called buffer states where the RSA could exert political, military and economic influence
served to increase the dependence of these states on the goodwill of South Africa. They were also tied to
the economic success of the RSA In the mid-1980s, Zimbabwe was considered the most developed of the
Black Southern African countries. Yet its economy was dependent on trade and the use of South African
ports and railroads for this purpose. Thus although the Zimbabwean Government supported sanctions, it
was difficult to fully participate in their application. Botswana is another example of a country in a situation
of economic dependence and this was noted by Botswana's External Affairs Secretary who stated that: "We
appreciate why certain countries want sanctions, but we ourselves cannot impose sanctions".
economy was dependent on the export of copper, up to half of which travelled across South Africa. In
1982, South Africa also replaced the UK as Zambia's primary source of imports, which mainly consisted
of machinery and transport equipment, food, fuels, chemicals, and manufactured itemsl24)
Countries such as Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho were thus described as having high degrees
of asymmetrical interdependence with South Africa. As a result, Swaziland's conservative government
actually supported South Africa and the country's Prime Minister made the following statement as regards
sanctions: "We in Swaziland cannot support any action which will eventually threaten our own survival".
Malawi maintained full diplomatic relations with the RSA, through which most of its tobacco and tea crop
was exported.
South African tourists were another source of income. Mozambique was also relatively
dependent on the RSA, particularly as regards use of the Mozambican port of Maputo.
It is thus clear
from the above that it was relatively impossible for many Southern African states to implement sanctions
against South Africa, no matter how much they opposed the apartheid regime. They instead had to be
satisfied with pressurising the larger, more powerful states to impose sanctions against the RSA as these
states were less likely to suffer economic hardship as a result.
South Africa was thus vital to the political and economic future of the Southern African region, possessing
both military supremacy and a strong economy.
The RSA was, in fact, the region's
primary source of
technology, employment, capital, management, agricultural and manufactured goods, as well as internal
The country's
transport infrastructure was also difficult to avoid. It can be noted that when
President P. W. Botha announced in September 1985 that South African citizenship would be restored to
residents of the four so-called independent homelands, namely, Bophuthatswana,
Transkei, Ciskei, and
Venda, this was considered significant as the homelands policy was a vital part of the apartheid view. Yet
the perception was that this gradual movement away from apartheid was more the result of domestic and
not international pressure, as the latter only served to increase resistanceI261
South Africa's perceived
strategic significance thus played an important role in the decision taken by many Southern African states
not to impose strict economic sanctions against the RSA.
Relations between South Africa and many African states gradually improved during the 1980s as reform in
the RSA began to take place. These improved relations were not, however, always publici sed as many
African states continued to publically berate South Africa's internal policies and insisted on continuing the
sanctions campaign until a democratically-elected
government was in place. International sanctions can,
however, be considered to have failed in their primary objective offorcing the South African Government
to accept democratic elections under a one-man-one-vote
system, partly as a result of South Africa's
economic strength and partly because of their incomplete application by states who were too dependent on
South Afiica. This can be considered an indication of the RSA's strategic significance as trade with South
Africa was considered important enough to prevent the application of sanctions by certain African states.
It can be noted at this point that there is a general lack of sources regarding official Soviet perceptions of
South Africa's strategic importance during the period under discussion.
A c~rtain amount of deduction,
based on the extent of Soviet-SA relations, will thus be necessary as regards determining alter perceptions
of strategic significance.
Although the West emphasised the Soviet desire for communist expansionism in Africa, Soviet interest also
appeared to be focused on the RSA's mineral resources, particularly those minerals which could only be
found in two places, namely, the RSA and the Soviet Union. Control of South Africa's minerals would thus
leave the Soviet Union with valuable bargaining power.
There have been two arguments regarding Soviet interest in the Southern African region in general and
South Africa in particular, the one contradicting the other. The first argument, as relentlessly pursued by
the South Government itself and much of the Western World, was that communist expansionism in the
region was a reality, with the ultimate goal of denying South Africa's strategic minerals and the use of the
Cape Sea Route to the rest of the world. Once South Africa had fallen to communist control, it would also
be easier to destabilise and control the rest of the region, thus denying the West access to its numerous
political, economic and strategic interests. Mention has been made of the so-called "weak link" principle,
which implied that the Soviets would be able to ensure US economic and political concessions as a result
of the nation's dependence on external sources of strategic mineralsY7)
Supporters of this theory define the key objectives of Soviet policy in Africa as expanding the nation's
political and economic influence; diminishing Western influence; extending the global reach of Soviet
military delivery capacity; and counteracting the influence of the People's Republic of China in Africa. 12K)
According to Dr Igor Glagolev, who served as a consultant to the Politburo of the Communist Party ofthe
Soviet Union, Southern Africa formed the most dynamic part of the free world and Soviet policymakers
were intent on acquiring the riches of this region. The programme adopted by the Soviet Communist Party
in 1961 eventually included what Glagolev terms "active preparation for the future conquest of Africa". The
goal of world domination was considered a long-range aim, although important Soviet policymakers had
admitted that the governments of countries such as South Africa would be "liquidated".
Glagolev was
convinced that a communist takeover in Southern Africa would have enormous repercussions for the entire
free world, including a reduction in the availability of strategic minerals and a resultant recession in the
In 1985, the London Times detailed an assessment of Soviet influence in the Southern African region and
referred to the Cape as a prize for Soviet foreign policy. Aside from the RSA's strategic minerals, South
Africa was also an important trading partner for many countries. The article suggested that: "The indications
are that Russian policy is directed not towards the rapid overthrow of the Pretoria government, but rather
to a long period of destabilisation for the country leading only eventually - if possible - to the establishment
of a government dominated by Moscow". 130)
Although the world was surprised at the lack of attention paid to the Third World by Mikhail Gorbachev
in his Political Report to the 27th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1986 (in contrast
to the early 1980s when Brezhnev emphasised Soviet achievements in this part ofthe globe), it was stressed
that this did not actually indicate a curtailment of activities in the Third World. The belief was that the
Soviets were merely re-adjusting their focus and priorities. There was evidence to indicate that there had
been increased Soviet economic, diplomatic, political, and military activity in the Southern Mrican region.l3I)
There also appeared to be a particular emphasis on economic benefit for the USSR. 132)
The second argument
as regards the ultimate aim of Soviet policy in the Southern African region,
emphasised that the above scenario was unrealistic in that it exaggerated Soviet capacity and undervalued
Western strengths. It was, however, noted that access to naval basing facilities in Southern Africa would
reduce transit time for the Soviets as regards the projection of a naval presence in the Indian Ocean and the
maintenance of naval forces. Yet this argument also maintained that even Soviet economic co-operation
with the Third World was limited and that resource denial was not a "discernible" goal of Soviet policy.
Underlying this entire argument was thus the fact that although Soviet interests in this part of the globe were
real, they were not considered vital. Strategic involvement instead formed a part of overall superpower
rivalry133) In fact, the West was considered to hold more ofa threat as regards competition for mineral
reserves in that other nations could be denied access to these same sources. 134)Although there is a general
lack of information as regards true Soviet interests in South Africa, a few Soviet statements were made and
one involves support for the above theory: "Through the medium of the Union of South Africa the US
monopolies are striving to take control of South West Africa with its vast reserves of extremely important
strategic raw materials -copper and vanadium". 135)
During an interview with Olzhas Suleimenov, member of the Congress of People's Deputies and the
Supreme Soviet, Suleimenov emphasised the fact that the Soviet Union was not interested in South African
mineral reserves and instead preferred to concentrate
on accessing strategic minerals which lay in
As regards relations with South Africa, Suleimenov stated that the Soviet Union supported
the UN in the condemnation of apartheid. Moscow wanted human values to prevail in the RSA, without
ethnic or social domination and suggested the release of political prisoners and the unbanning of the ANC. 136)
As evidence of a change in Soviet policy towards South Africa, a former director of the Africa Institute in
Moscow emphasised in 1980 that the USSR did not want to prescribe any course of action to the RSA or
the ANC.
The solution to South Africa's problems would thus come from within the country itself This
can be considered a marked change to previous years when the Soviet Union had supported
confrontation in the Southern African region. It had apparently become Soviet policy to promote stability
in the developing world in order to prevent possible superpower involvement which could rapidly escalate.
A Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister in fact acknowledged that the USSR was willing to play the role of
mediator as regards the South African issue.137}
In conjunction with his "Perestroika"
line of thought, Gorbachev himself indicated that the USSR would
respect Western interests, including access to South Africa's minerals: "I have explained on many occasions
that we do not pursue goals inimical to Western interests. We know how important...other
Third World
regions and also South Africa are for American and West European economies, in particular as raw material
sources. To cut these links is the last thing we want to do, and we have no desire to provoke ruptures in
historically formed, mutual economic interests". 138)Gorbachev was noted as being eager for economic cooperation to replace ideological conflict.139)
Although the USSR supported UN sanctions against South Africa, the two countries did apparently share
a secret relationship for the marketing of gold and diamonds, emphasising once again the value of economic
interests over political concerns.l40} In fact, although South Africa and the West had for years emphasised
the "communist threat" in the Southern African region, it has been theorised that the region did not form
part of short- or medium-term USSR priorities.
US SR support was instead given to the ANC and for the
international sanctions campaign, which as noted above, was ignored at times.14l}
The Current Digest of the Soviet Press had indicated as early as the 1970s, that the Soviet Union continued
to support those who were fighting social, national and racial oppression, including those in South Africa
and that political ties in this regard were being increased: "The Soviet Union is expanding its political ties
with the developing countries ...the Soviet Union's mutually advantageous economic cooperation with the
young states has a solid foundation and good prospects". 142} Economic concerns were thus already a
feature of Soviet policy and increased the level of strategic significance awarded to South Africa and other
states on the African continent. Yet on the surface, support was given to the application of sanctions against
South Africa: "In its foreign policy activities, the Soviet Union firmly and unswervingly supports all UN
decisions and recommendations in regard to the boycott of Pretoria's racist regime".143}
Throughout the period under discussion in this chapter, the Soviet Union did hold certain perceptions as
regards South Africa's strategic significance. These perceptions were originally based on the RSA's vast
quantities of strategic minerals. With the USSR being one of the few, ifnot the only, other country to have
such a natural supply, control of South Africa's minerals by the Soviets would have extensive implications
for the international community. During the Cold War years, South Africa's position at the tip of Africa
was of particular interest to the USSR as this was along one of the world's most valuable trade routes.
There was also the important position of South Africa as an anti-communist ally for the West on a continent
where the USSR was trying to expand its influence. Towards the end of the Cold War, however, it would
at least appear that the RSA started to assume a certain degree of value as a stabilising force in the region.
In the pre-1990 period, there can be no denying that the official focus of relations between South Africa and
other countries was centred around the threat and application of international sanctions, in an attempt to
coerce the South African Government to change its internal policies. Many countries across the globe were
determined to effect change in South Africa, but the level of action varied from intense support for
comprehensive sanctions from the African states, to attempts by the US Government to forestall Congress
in their goal of extensive sanctions. Ultimately, the sanctions campaign covered most of South Africa's
activities and the RSA became one of the world's pariah states.
South Africa became an international outcast as a result of the country's apartheid policies and contact with
the outside world was gradually reduced over a period spanning approximately four decades. There was
little doubt that South Africa was effectively isolated from the international community and by 1989, the
RSA's isolation stretched over four areas, namely, diplomatic, military, economic, and socio-cultural.
international crusade against South Africa took various forms and the eradication of apartheid became a
moral issue for many international governmental and non-governmental organisations, as well as individual
governments and various private organisations.
The UN became the focal point for punitive measures
against South Africa from the very first session of the General Assembly in 1946.
A sanction has been described as a "threatened evil", the purpose of which is "to induce the threatened state
to refrain from certain conduct and instead do something else". Some unlawful act is committed prior to
the imposition of sanctions, which may take the form of economic coercion; armed force; the termination
of rail, sea and air links; exclusion from international institutions; the severance of diplomatic relations; and
non-recognition of a state or territorial acquisition.
In order for sanctions to be effective, they must be strictly enforced by a broad spectrum of countries. This
type of uniform enforcement is, however, difficult to achieve. Economic sanctions have thus seldom been
effective. The arms embargo against South Africa presents examples of circumvention and the RSA was
also able to establish a domestic armaments industry. The most successful use of sanctions has been when
they have been deployed by a strong state against a weaker state with which it is asymmetrically
Other policy guidelines as regards the probability of the successful application of sanctions
include the fact that they must be in the self-interest of the countries whose co-operation is required; they
should be applied in a short time-frame; and should also be specific in nature.
One of the factors which
resulted in Western resistance to sanctions against the RSA was the knowledge that South Africa forms an
integral part of an interdependent region. Sanctions could thus effect the entire region.
Economic sanctions against South Africa have included sanctions against the provision of defence industry
goods and services; the sale of nuclear technology; the importation or sale of Krugerrands; the sale of oil;
and the extension of loans.
The RSA attempted to counteract or at least reduce the impact of these
sanctions by locating alternative sources or turning to domestic capabilities.
It should also be noted that
South Africa could not be classified as economically or militarily weak when the arms embargo was
deciared.147) The success of sanctions thus depends to a large extent on the economic and political stability
of the target. As already established, the South African economy did eventually weaken by the mid-l 980s
as a result of numerous factors, thus increasing the possibility of success for economic sanctions
Those who opposed sanctions or disinvestment against South Africa did so on the grounds that they were
immoral; contrary to the wishes of most Black South Africans; and counter-productive
in that they harmed
the very people they were supposed to help. Sanctions were deemed not only disastrous for the economies
of neighbouring states, but also their political stability, and were considered to be mere interference by selfinterested foreign nations.148)
Apartheid has, however, been widely criticised on the international front in accordance with the UN Charter,
which obligates states to promote respect for human rights without distinctions based on race. The 1966
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the 1973
International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid denounced
apartheid as unlawful. The International Court of Justice also declared it to be contrary to the purposes and
principles of the UN Charter; while apartheid has been labelled an "international crime" by the International
Law Commission and other international bodies.
Although a mandatory arms embargo was eventually
declared in 1977 against South Africa, attempts to extend this to include extensive economic sanctions failed
due to the veto power of certain Western powers, including the US. Eventually the US Congress adopted
the CAAA of 1986; the Nordic countries imposed a total trade ban on South Africa; and the Commonwealth
countries, as well as the European Economic Community (EEC), imposed collective sanctions.149)
The UN Security Council is authorised under Chapter VII of the UN Charter to order enforcement action
against any state that threatens international peace, should it find that this is a "threat to the peace, breach
of the peace, or act of aggression" under article 39 of the Charter.
It should also be noted that the five
permanent members of the Security Council, namely, the US, the United Kingdom, France, China, and the
Soviet Union, have the power to block a resolution by means of a veto. The US and the UK in particular
utilised this veto regarding efforts to declare punitive sanctions against South Africa. Most of the Security
Council resolutions on South Africa were, however, adopted under Chapter VI of the Charter, which states
that the Security Council may recommend measures to rectify a situation that is "likely to endanger" or
"disturbs" international peace. The UN General Assembly, however, is limited solely to the making of
which ultimately mobilise international public opinion and pressurise the Security
India was the first nation to impose trade sanctions against South Africa when in 1946, legislation was
passed by the South African Government restricting Indian land ownership in the RSA This was followed
by an appeal to the conscience of the international world to take action against racism in South Africa.
While many countries were spurred into action, the US not only withheld even verbal condemnation, but
until 1958, abstained from voting on UN General Assembly resolutions which condemned South Africa's
racial policies. This action was defended by Article 2(7) of the UN Charter which stipulates non-interference
in domestic affairs. The South African Government continued to refuse to discuss the country's treatment
of its Indian population during the late 1940slearly 1950s on the same grounds.151)
Apartheid appeared on the agenda of the General Assembly by the early 1950s and the first resolutions in
this regard consisted primarily of appeals to observe the Charter's human rights obligations, as the situation
was not yet considered a danger to international peace and security. After 1960, international outrage at
the situation in South Africa deepened with the independence of several African states and their accept~ce
into the UN. States were requested by the General Assembly in 1961 to consider taking both separate and
collective action against South Africa. This was followed by appeals to member states to cease diplomatic
relations with the RS~ as well as boycott all South African goods; close their ports to South African ships;
prohibit the export of goods to South Afri~ and refuse landing and passage facilities to all South African
Although the RSA's primary trading partners did not implement many of the non-mandatory
South Africa did become more isolated on the international front.
The UN General Assembly had by this time realised that the appeals of approximately two decades had
practically been ignored and members were "discouraged" in the 1960s from collaborating with the South
African Government on economic matters. Apartheid was declared "a crime against humanity"
Assembly Resolution 1761 (XVIII)
of November 6, 1962, called for: "Boycotting all South African goods
and refraining from exporting goods, including all arms and ammunition, to South Africa"
The Security
Council adopted a resolution regarding the arms embargo in 1963, which called upon: "All states to cease
forthwith the sale and shipment of arms, ammunition of all types, and military vehicles to South Africa",
Although the UN General Assembly in 1969 requested that the Security Council consider the idea of using
force against apartheid and pressurising the South African Government to release political prisoners, the US
vetoed the idea. 156)
In 1970, the UN Security Council called on member states to strictly implement the arms embargo against
South Africa. The aim of such restrictions was to isolate the RSA and coerce the disintegration
of the
apartheid policy.157)By the mid-1970s, the US, France and Britain had vetoed a mandatory arms embargo
against South Africa in response to continued RSA presence in Namibia; although the US and its Western
allies eventually voted for the already-mentioned UN Security Council Resolution 385, which stipulated an
end to racial discrimination and political repression in Namibia; the repatriation of exiles; the release of
political prisoners; and free elections which could be held under UN supervision.158)
In 1977, following local unrest, the "massive violence against and wanton killings of the African people"
was condemned by the Security Council. Resolution 418 imposed a mandatory arms embargo against South
Africa and stated that: "The acquisition by South Africa of arms and related materiel constitutes a threat to
the maintenance of international peace and security". 159)The arms embargo against South Africa was
significant in that it represented the first time that the Security Council had ordered enforcement action
against a member state. The US (Reagan Administration) and the UK (Thatcher Government), however,
once again utilised their vetos to prevent further mandatory sanctions. 160)Security Council Resolution 421
provided for a committee of the Security Council to monitor the implementation of Resolution 418.161)
A state of emergency was called in South Africa in 1985 and this was followed by Security Council
Resolution 569, which called for the lifting of the state of emergency and urged member states to implement
such measures as the prohibition of all new contracts in the nuclear field; the suspension of new investments;
the restriction of sports and cultural relations; the prohibition of all sales of computer equipment for use by
South African military and police services; the suspension of guaranteed export loans; and the prohibition
of the sale of Krugerrands. 162)
President Botha opened parliament in 1986 and announced that the idea of an undivided South Africa with
only "one citizenship" had been formally accepted and Blacks were now offered an advisory role in
Yet he refused to negotiate with the ANC and had no intention of accepting a one-man-one-
vote or Black majority rule in a unified South Africa. 163)This did not find favour with the international
community and the sanctions campaign continued. In 1986, 126 member states thus voted in favour of a
resolution calling on the Security Council to impose mandatory economic sanctions against the South
Africa. 164)
One of the most serious implications of the sanctions campaign was the limiting of the inflow of foreign
capital into South Africa, which would have had serious implications for the RSA' s economy had sanctions
been extensively applied. Yet many states continued to trade with the RSA and between 1965 and 1975,
the net inflow offoreign capital increased from R 225 million to R 1774 million. The UK was one of South
Afiica's most important sources offoreign capital, although the US, France and Germany also constituted
As noted, the UK remained opposed to economic sanctions against the RSA, using the rationale that
sanctions would inflict damage on all involved parties and not just the South Afiican Government. Although
countries in Europe did apply certain sanctions, there were differences in application
degree of ineffectiveness as regards the application of sanctions.
This led to a certain
Local governments,
labour unions,
businesses, and both the private and public sectors of the international community, also became involved
in the sanctions movement.I66)
The main emphasis of the public sanctions movement was on disinvestment and divestment. The former is
defined as "selling or writing off direct, subsidiary, or other business investments in South Afiica"; while the
latter is the "elimination of any indirect investments in South Afiica by selling equity investments in
companies that either possess investments in South Afiica or conduct business with South Afiica".
Consumer boycott actions in the US and Europe did not achieve much success, but several major
corporations such as Apple Computer and PepsiCo did take disinvestment action.
Coca-Cola was one
company which while deciding to reduce its investments, believed that its presence in South Afiica was
beneficial from an employment perspective.
As has been indicated, contraventions of the international
sanctions campaign did indeed occur and several of these are discussed below.
There were various allegations of contraventions of the arms embargo and boycotts against South Afiica
and these reflect the fact that the RSA's strategic significance prevented the universal application of
sanctions. Of all the international sanctions applied against South Afiica, the international arms embargo
probably received the most emphasis.
It has, however, been noted that, as was the case with the oil
embargo, the arms embargo did not result in internal reform in the RSA in that South Afiica merely
developed a strong local defence industry in order to counteract the restrictions.
In response to increasing international calls for the boycotting of South Afiican goods and military
equipment, the RSA sought intermediaries for these exports to prevent announcement of origin. Several
countries are mentioned in this regard, including the UK, FR Germany and Israel. The US also imported
South Afiican equipment for military purposes. Such products increasingly fell under the category of dualuse equipment which was not affected by the arms embargo. As regards the South Afiican arms industry,
the declared export policy from 1982 had been aimed at Afiica, Latin America, the Far East', and the Middle
Portugal, Malawi and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) were all customers,
Botswana, Swaziland, and Lesotho.
as were Mozambique,
South African military support, in fact, assisted Rhodesia sufficiently
enough to survive UN and British economic and military sanctions. Chile, Guatemala and Paraguay are
noted as "keeping up relations" with South Africa as regards defence matters; while other customers have
been Morocco, Iran and Israel. Technological co-operation with Taiwan also took place. 16K)
Yet these are not the only countries which through the years have allowed South Mrica access to foreign
technology. Others include Italy, France, Japan, Belgium, Austria, Canada, and the Netherlands. 169)Many
countries have used so-called "loopholes"
in UN embargo
legislation in order to circumvent these
It is noted that the initiative for an embargo against South Africa came from the Third World
nations in the UN and not from the West. The result was a distinct hesitancy by Western nations to impose
severe sanctions against South Africa. 170)This hesitancy can be considered a result of the RSA's perceived
importance to the West.
South Africa's dependence on oil has been discussed in preceding chapters. This particular section will take
a brief look at efforts to circumvent the oil embargo and will highlight the increasing importance of
economic interests over political concerns.
In other words, a state's strategic significance became more
closely linked with economic opportunities.
It is generally accepted that the oil embargo against South
Africa did not achieve much success. Other than the imposition of extensive costs, South Africa did not
experience too much difficulty in obtaining oil imports. Opposition by the UK and the US within the UN
Security Council prevented the oil embargo from becoming mandatory in nature, although most UN
members voluntarily adopted an oil embargo, as did organisations such as the EC and the Commonwealth.
The embargo was also endorsed by all the primary oil exporting countries, including the member states of
the Organisation of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) and the Organisation of Petroleum
Exporting Countries (OPEC).171)
Most of South Africa's oil in the 1970s came from Iran, resulting in minimal effect from the OPEC and
OAPEC boycotts.
The fall of the Shah of Iran, however, changed this situation and the RSA lost her
primary supplier. Pretoria managed to buy oil from various countries between 1979 and 1982, although
sources then began to diminish.
Brunei became a supplier for a while, until a ban in this regard was
introduced in 1987. Approximately 35 percent of South Africa's imported crude oil had been carried on
or managed ships, but this arrangement followed a similar fate as that with Brunei in
accordance with 1987 Norwegian legislation. This legislation, however, had an extensive loophole as it was
still permissible to transport oil to South Africa on Norwegian ships if the oil was resold on the high seas.
According to the Shipping Research Bureau, much of the oil shipped to the RSA originated in a few oilexporting countries, particularly in the Persian Gulf area, namely, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and the United
Arab Emirates. Western shipping companies, especially from Greece, Hong Kong, West Germany, and the
UK then carried the oil to South Africa using their tankers.
It is thus relatively clear that although damaging to the South African economy, international sanctions were
not able to achieve their ultimate objective, namely coercing the government to change internal policies.
This was a result of the fact that South Africa was not only well-positioned in the global environment, but
also held extensive international economic contacts and possessed a relatively strong national capability.
Historically, South Africa has maintained a relative degree of strategic significance
as regards the
international community. The country's abundance of natural resources, particularly minerals; her strategic
location and historical ties with the United Kingdom; as well as her economic strength and strong anticommunist stance, have all played a role in South Africa's importance to the rest of the world.
throughout the sanctions era, politicians testified that this case was not as simple as that of Rhodesia (now
It was the RSA's perceived strategic significance which, in fact, became a deciding factor in
the application of further sanctions, as a result of the factors noted above. In the era following the Cold
War, South Africa's national capability was likely to become even more important for the rest ofthe African
continent as the country headed towards increasing regional commitments.
South Africa's status of strategic significance is the result ofa complex historical inheritance.
Yet it has
been with the Third World that South Africa has held great attraction, and the interdependence between
South Africa and the rest of Africa was likely to increase as the "old" Europe with its East-West divisions
crumbled as a result of the collapse of communism. With much of the international community in turmoil,
the African continent was bound to experience a definite lack of interest and a reduction in funding from the
outside world. Countries would thus become increasingly dependent on neighbouring states. As one of the
most powerful states in Africa, South Africa could be a valuable ally and trading partner within the Mrican
region and it was difficult to perceive South Africa as being excluded from this situation of interdependence .
By the late 1980s, South Africa's strategic significance had changed considerably, partly as a result of reform
in the RSA's internal policies. With the passing of the Cold War changes were inevitable, an example being
the delivery of Russian strategic minerals to the West by suitable sea routes that were once again safe for
such transportation.
South Africa's strategic significance continued to be concentrated on the nation's
importance to Southern African states in a regional context. Most of these states are landlocked and had
little option as regards trade with their powerful regional neighbour.
South Africa's strong infrastructure
facilitated the transportation of vital economic and industrial goods, and trade arrangements continued in
spite of continuous criticism as regards the RSA's internal policies. The commencement of the so-called
sanctions era thus witnessed a distinct reluctance on the part of South Africa's neighbours to apply punitive
sanctions. This is not to imply that South Africa's racist policies were not vehemently criticised at every
available opportunity. Much of the international community eventually obliged with various sanctions, albeit
to varying degrees.
Although financial damage did result from the sanctions campaign, trade continued, albeit in a clandestine
fashion. The arms embargo itself did little other than to result in a strong local military manufacturing
capability and generally served as a substitute for more severe economic sanctions. World leaders, especially
the UK and the US, in fact resisted sanctions for many years as a result of their perceptions of South
Africa's strategic significance.
Combined with the RSA's ability to counter international attempts at
isolation, the result was a relatively ineffective sanctions campaign.
Yet it is clear that although South Africa did hold a certain degree of strategic significance, it was the
government who reduced this value with their domestic policies or at the minimum, had a negative impact
on the level of strategic significance. A government can thus diminish the value of the state.
The primary aim of this chapter and the preceding chapter was to establish ego and alter perceptions
regarding South Africa's strategic significance during the period under discussion. Ultimately, there can be
no denying that the RSA was considered to be strategically
important by much of the international
In many cases to the extent that although there was extensive international condemnation
regarding South Africa's internal racial policies, in practical terms, little was done to isolate South Africa
in an attempt to enforce change.
When the South African Government eventually began to emphasise
domestic change, the RSA then slowly moved from a position of pariah status to one of increasing
international acceptance. In order to establish the depth of this acceptance and to further establish ego and
alter perceptions in this regard, it is necessary to study these aspects in the years 1990 to 1993. This study
will be conducted in the next chapter.
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Butts, K H and Thomas, P R, The geopolitics of Southern Africa: South Africa as a regional
superpower, Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado, 1986, pp. 156-161.
Scott Thompson, Wand Silvers, B, "South Africa in Soviet strategy", In: Bissell, RE and Crocker,
C A(eds), South Africa into the 1980s, Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado, 1979, p. 141.
Legum, G, "The Soviet Union's encounter in Africa", In: Nation, R C and Kauppi, M V(eds), The
Soviet Impact in Africa, D.C. Heath and Company, Lexington, 1984, p. 12.
Glagolev, I S, Soviet aggression in Southern Africa, Southern African Editorial Services, Sandton,
1980, pp. 1-11.
Roothman, Sand Nel, P(eds), The Soviet Union and South Africa in the 1980s: continuity and
change, South African Institute of International Affairs, Braamfontein, Johannesburg, August
1989, pp. ii-iii.
Macfarlane, N, "The Soviet Union and Southern Afiican security", In: Roothman, S ... [et aI], op
cit, p. 4.
Nation, R C, "Soviet engagement in Afiica: motives, means and prospects", In: Nation R
[ef aI], op cit, pp. 35-47.
Coker, C, "The Soviet Union and Eastern Europe: patterns of competition and collaboration in
Southern Afiica", In: Nation R C ... [et aI], op cit, p. 74.
Nel, P, "Explaining Soviet policy towards South Afiica", Soviet Revue, Vol 5, No 3, May-June
1989, pp. 1-14.
Gorbachev, M, Perestroika: new thinkingfor
our country and the world, Collins, London, 1987,
p. 178.
Campbell, K, M, "The Soviet-South Afiican connection", Africa Report, Vol 31, No 2, MarchApril 1986, p. 72.
Korobonski, A and Fukuyama, F, The Soviet Union and the Third World: the last three decades,
Cornell University Press, IthacaILondon,
1987, pp. 244-245.
Dugard, J, "Sanctions against South Afiica: an international law perspective", In: Orkin, M, op cit,
p. 113.
Landgren, S, Embargo disimplemented:
Press, New York, 1989, p. 21.
South Africa's military industry, Oxford University
Butts, K H. ..[et aI], op cit, pp. 146-151.
Ego and alter perceptions regarding South Africa's strategic significance to the rest of the world up until
the end of the 1980s have been discussed in preceding chapters.
As this study takes the form of a
comparative analysis, this chapter will focus on perceptions regarding the RSA's strategic significance in
the second period under discussion, namely, from 1990 to 1993. Although there will be a brief evaluation
of perceptions during the two periods at the end of this chapter, a more detailed comparative analysis will
be presented in the next chapter.
It has been established in previous chapters that both ego and alter perceptions, linked to national capability,
form part of the overall concept of strategic significance. A nation formulates its perceptions in this regard
in accordance with the capability at its disposal. In order for the state to have international importance,
however, these perceptions require a response from the international community and this response will take
the form of alter perceptions.
When ego and alter perceptions regarding strategic significance are similar,
practical measures, often in the form of relations, result. The extent of international relations can thus reflect
perceptions of strategic importance, especially in cases where few official statements are available in this
The changes in the external environment as a result of the ending of the Cold War eventually had an impact
on South Africa, with the end result being that Pretoria could no longer claim to be the target of communist
forces; while the ANC began to lose support in Moscow for its armed struggle.
As a result, the ANC
underwent a remarkable transformation in its focus and direction. This was evident when a senior member
of the ANC's International Department
stated the following in 1993: "Our future relations with the
international community will have to be based on economic and trade considerations rather than on
ideological considerations".
After decades of international isolation, South Africa was relocated to a very different position. A shift in
the global political and power balance, as well as radical internal political reforms, led the way for a
normalisation of South Africa's international position. Much of South Africa's foreign policy during the
Cold War era was largely determined by international reaction to the government's apartheid policies and
foreign policy was thus primarily directed at influencing international opinion in this regard.
Dramatic changes in South Africa's internal policies began to surface after the inauguration of State
President F.W. de Klerk, who committed himself to the negotiation ofa new constitution for South Africa.
His aims included the establishment of a multi-party democracy with regular elections, the protection of
minority rights, an entrenched bill of human rights, and a market-orientated
reaction in this regard was immediate and positive. Although many countries continued to enforce sanctions
against the RSA, on the insistence of the ANC, relations with South Africa thus continued to develop.
There could, however, be no doubt that once the initial euphoria regarding South Africa's transformation
had subsided, the road ahead would be fraught with challenges for the new post-apartheid society. South
Africa's policies would now have to be diverted from an emphasis on security issues to those concerning
wealth, welfare and the environment.
There was also the additional importance of re-establishing certain
international relations, not least of all so as to gain access to financial and other aid. The early 1990s
witnessed successful moves in this direction, although the issue of marginalisation could not be ignored.
The re-orientation of Western funding away from the Third World, in fact, left South Africa with several
opportunities on the African continent.
It can thus be anticipated that while alter perceptions regarding South Africa's importance would, inter alia,
be reflected by the extent of the RSA's relations with the international community; ego perceptions would
primarily emphasise South Africa's role on the African continent. The end of the Cold War also resulted
in the predominance of economic concerns, and both ego and alter perceptions were thus likely to reflect
the importance of international trade relations. In contrast to previous years, the focus would no longer be
purely on South Africa's significance in the attempt to control Soviet expansionism and this is emphasised
In Chapters 4 and 5 of this study, emphasis was placed on South Afiica's important position at the Southern
tip of the African continent. It was this geo-strategic position which resulted in a vital role for the RSA as
an anti-communist stalwart in the Third World. The threat of communism and Soviet encroachment had,
however, diminished by the early 1990s and South Africa lost an element of strategic significance in the
process. The global changes that occurred at the end of the Cold War thus forced the South African
Government to emphasise aspects of strategic significance other than ideological orientation.
Yet certain
elements of strategic significance remained in the new era, such as South Africa's importance as a strategic
minerals supplier, albeit amongst tougher international competition.
It has been established that a state
should adapt its roles in accordance with the changing environment and this chapter will present evidence
of South Africa's attempts at such adaptability.
As already noted, it is the elements of national capability which ultimately result in a perception of possible
roles for a nation and these roles are discussed below. Several important issues to be addressed which could
have provided the RSA with role opportunities include an acceptance that South Africa was undeniably
linked to global politics; the growing importance of regionalism, especially as regards Southern Africa; an
emphasis on South Africa's pivotal position in Africa; and the global extension of South Africa's bilateral
and multilateral relations. There was also a movement towards issues of human concern and a sensitivity
for global interdependence, including issues relating to the environment; arms control and non-proliferation
of weapons of mass destruction; and resource management.
Ego perceptions were thus likely to emphasise
South Africa's importance to the rest of the world as regards certain of these concepts.
South Africa is endowed with vast mineral resources which resulted in a general unwillingness by such
nations as the US to apply full economic sanctions against the RSA. In the post-Cold War years, with other
markets for these minerals opening up around the globe, it was unavoidable that a certain degree of the
RSA's strategic significance would be lost. Yet South Africa continued to hold a large percentage of the
world's mineral resources, for example, 80 percent of global chromite ore, which is vital for the production
of stainless steel. On the other hand, it was equally important for South Africa to become a producer of
"added-value" platinum and gold products if the country was to retain relevance as a minerals supplierJ)
Another issue of importance in the new era was that minerals could serve the additional purpose of wealth
creation for the fulfilment of important socio-economic development in South Africa. 8)
There is a difference between sensitivity and vulnerability as regards mineral dependency; with the former
referring to a short-term dependency without any changes in policy. Vulnerability refers to the resultant
situation after all efforts to evade dependency have failed.
Strategic minerals are those vital for the
continuation of industry, whose supply could be limited at some point.9) As already noted, the CAAA
exempted ten such minerals from its sanctions efforts against South Africa, namely, natural industrial
diamonds; chrysotile asbestos; cobalt; antimony; titanium; andalusite; manganese; vanadium; chrome and
ferrochrome; as well as the platinum group meta/s.lO) This can be considered an important indication of the
continuing role of South Africa as a supplier of these minerals, which were difficult to substitute or locate
elsewhere in an economically-viable manner.
Throughout much ofthe period under discussion in this chapter, emphasis was placed during South African
Parliamentary sessions on the value of minerals for the economy. It was noted that the mining industry was
"largely export-orientated"
and that exports in this regard had increased and would continue to increase as
the world reacted favourably to political change within South Africa. In fact, international interest in trade
with South Africa had improved considerably.
Gold continued to be the top earner offoreign exchange,
along with the platinum-group metals, copper and diamonds, and the RSA remained one of the world's most
important mineral producers, with mineral exports representing a little less than 50 percent oftota! exports.
As sanctions against South Africa were removed and the global economy strengthened, it was anticipated
that demand for the RSA's platinum group metals would increase.12)
Sanctions against South African minerals had never really proved effective, although the gold price had been
negatively effected by various factors during the early 1990s, which had led to a loss of employment for
many mineworkers.
Yet even coal had managed to perform successfully on the competitive international
South Africa's importance to the international community was indicated by the fact that the
volume of coal exports had increased to an all-time high by 199314) Mention was, however, made of the
weakened international economy which had a negative impact on the South African mining industry. Yet
mineral sales were increasing, thus emphasising the continuing strategic significance of the RSA as a
minerals supplier.
It was re-iterated that the country's mineral wealth had prevented major US sanctions
and the perception was that South African minerals would continue to provide the RSA with international
importance for many years to come.16)
As noted above, however, competition by mineral suppliers began to increase and South Africa was forced
to compete in areas where there had previously been little international competition.
It has been
established that the concept of strategic significance is a dynamic one and this dynamic extends to the actual
elements of national capability, in this case strategic minerals.
In other words, substitutes
for certain
minerals could eventually be located, as could alternative markets.
It was, however, anticipated that the South African mining industry would continue to provide both
employment and foreign exchange. If this assumption proved to be incorrect and mines were forced to close
as a result offalling prices and alternative minerals markets, the re-employment ofa large segment of the
community would place an additional heavy burden on society.
Another aspect which can be noted is the
basically undiscovered and undeveloped mineral resources of South Africa's neighbours and other African
Southern Africa in particular, would require the development of a mineral resource base and the
necessary infrastructure in this regard.
South Africa could playa valuable role in this regard and would
increase perceptions of strategic significance in this manner.
It was, in fact, emphasised that there was
increasing co-operation in the mining industries of South Africa and her neighbours, and that the RSA would
serve as a valuable source of finance for this industry in Africa. 20)
It would, however, appear that although South Africa was still considered a vital minerals supplier, the
impact of this particular resource on the RSA's strategic significance was not as extensive as it had been in
the Cold War years.
The importance of South Africa's geographical location, namely, as part of the African continent, has
already been established.
Although certain high-profile South African politicians had throughout the
apartheid era attempted to focus on the importance of relations with Africa, the idea became more popular
after the end of the Cold War as South Africa began to experience the threat of marginalisation along with
the rest of the continent. This was evident in statements made during South African Parliamentary sessions,
for example "We ...believe that the establishment of normal and constructive economic and diplomatic
relations between South Africa and the other countries of Africa should be a priority objective of foreign
policy ...the route back to becoming a full and accepted member of the world community is not through
America, Europe or Asia"21)
In his 1990 parliamentary address, State President de Klerk announced that the previous year was to be seen
as the year ofthe demise of communism. The President noted these dramatic events as having a direct effect
on the future of Africa, predominantly through a process of marginalisation.22)
More importantly, he
emphasised the importance of regional co-operation: "The countries of Southern Africa are faced with a
particular challenge: Southern Africa now has a historical opportunity to set aside its conflicts and
ideological differences and draw up a joint programme ofreconstruction
...The season of violence is over.
The time for reconstruction and reconciliation has arrived,,23)
The South African Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, L. Wessels, also emphasised that: "Africa is where
we belong ...the people of Africa are our people ...their problems are our problems. We are part of both the
challenges and the solutions of Africa".
This was considered a remarkable turnaround in relations and a
return to earlier days when South Afiican leaders had emphasised the importance of an Afiican community.
South Afiican Foreign Minister Botha urged a strengthening of relations between nations in the Southern
African region when he noted the marginalisation taking place and the important influence that South Afiica
could have in this regard: "Through trade, transport, investment, labour, migration, tourism and technology
transfers they (the countries of South em Africa) can interact more closely and beneficially with the strongest
and most diversified economy South of the Sahara, that of South Afiica".
This can be considered a
"marketing effort" for the continuing strategic significance of the RSA, albeit with a different emphasis than
during the Cold War years. According to the 1990 Foreign Affairs Deputy Director, Rusty Evans, proposals
for a regional development
programme for Southern Africa had been welcomed by the leaders of
Mozambique, Angola, Zaire, and Zambia. 26)
Yet there was a certain amount of skepticism as regards the high expectations held by African countries for
the fledging democracy of South Africa. It was noted that the RSA's role in Afiica would be influenced by
such factors as the extent oflocal problems, as well as the enormity of Afiica's development crisis. South
Africa's own development and economic concerns would absorb most, if not all, available funding in the
short-to-medium term. This was not to deny the important role that the RSA could play on the continent,
particularly as regards technical expertise and by keeping Afiican development issues on the agendas of
international forums.27)
Emphasis was placed on Afiica's challenges and prospects, where South Afiica
could reap valuable benefits in the future if the RSA's economy improved and in turn strengthened the
economies of surrounding states?8) South Africa's ultimate role in the global community would, however,
depend on both local and international developments in the years to come, as most countries were adopting
The State President shared the following as regards the RSA's role on the African continent: "South Africa
is part of Africa. Her people of all colours, cultures and creeds belong to Africa - as much as the citizens
of any other country on our continent. Logically, therefore, close co-operation between South Africa, her
neighbouring states and even countries further afield in Africa would be in the best interests of everybody". 29)
By 1992, the effects of marginal isat ion were noted during South African Parliamentary sessions. In spite
of Africa's extensive natural resources, the continent had a poor economic record, partly as a result of a lack
of technological and management skill, as well as a dependence on foreign debt. These problems would
need to be addressed as not even South Africa would survive a collapse of the total regional economy.30)
It would thus appear that the South African Government had come to the realisation that survival in a
marginalised section of the globe was relatively dependent on national capability and ultimately, influence.
Africa had demonstrated the apparent inability to function effectively on a state-to-state
basis and the
individual nations of this vast continent would \'herefore have to group together to ensure survival and
growth. South Africa would play an important role as a stabilising force and development would ultimately
result.3\) It was, however, noted that development would take place by means of "joint projects based on
the principle ofpartnership ...we are not a donor country and must therefore, together with fellow African
countries, tackle the problem of marginalisation as a common problem which will require a joint strategy". 32)
South Africa's ambassador to the EC in the early 1990s, B. G. Ranchod, emphasised the importance of South
Africa for the EC and other countries as a powerful ally in the struggle to rebuild the African continent.33)
The State President also mentioned what he believed to be a changed thinking about South Africa and the
complexity of the country's internal problems. Nothing could be allowed to disturb the stability of South
Africa, as any instability could spread to the rest of the continent.34)
Earlier in the year, attention had been called to the fact that although links with Europe were important,
South Africa was not merely an extension of Europe on the Afiican continent: "We are an African country ...
A new South Africa will to able to make the Southern African region one of the success stories of the
world".3~) Attention was thus to be focused on the Southern Afiican region and the issues that would need
to be addressed, such as the debt crisis and marginalisation.
In 1993, the South African Director-General ofF oreign Affairs, stressed the importance of the RSA' s moral
obligation to the Southern African region. It was already anticipated that South Africa would be expected
to play a dominant role in the regional context, especially as regards general economic and financial
considerations; security considerations;
migration and refugee problems; human rights; socio-economic
development; information technology; education; and job creation.
policy was supported
by the two complementary
At the time, South Africa's foreign
pillars of an internationally-acceptable
accommodation, and the revitalisation of the South African economy.36)
The continuing marginalisation of the Third World emphasised the requirement for these nations to group
together in a regional context in order to promote economic development and prosperity.
The formation
of regional economic blocs would lead to an improved ability to compete on international markets.
South Africa's internal policies had prevented regional co-operation in previolJs decades, but the time had
come for growing realism amongst African leaders and government initiatives to lead the way forward
towards progressive relations. President de Klerk expressed a desire for South Africa to join a Southern
African economic community, where the RSA could playa variety of constructive roles, especially in fields
such as business skills, health services and communications. He was, however, aware of the fact that such
an economic association would not be possible without financial assistance from the wealthier, industrialised
nations. Nonetheless, De Klerk urged the other nations of Southern Africa to join together with South
Africa in such a mutually-beneficial project.
South Africa was prepared to encourage growth and
development in Southern Africa, although the President emphasised that aspects such as migration should
be strictly controlled.37)
It was thus obvious, even at that early stage of co-operation,
that masses of
unemployed people could stream into South Africa in an attempt to find work and escape conditions in their
own countries.
According to De Klerk, South Afiica's international standing was as the economic, industrial and technical
engine of Southern Africa and this was not to be ignored in light of the RSA's vast resources and
industrial/commercial economic base. The President placed great emphasis on South Africa's impressive
infrastructure, especially as regards roads, railways, electricity, harbours, and telecommunications.
of these facilities were already in use in parts of the African continent and it was hoped that these same
countries would make some of their own resources and products available to South Africa. This was
evident from the following: "If the countries of Southern Africa, in particular, were to co-operate closely
and pool their resources, the region would have every potential of becoming a significant economic bloc in
the world. Not only would this be to the advantage of all the people of the region, but would rebound to
the benefit of the entire continent".
President De Klerk and Foreign Minister Botha, began to market the idea that if Africa was to survive in
the new era, the continent should be divided into regional economic power blocs modelled on the European
Community. The most powerful economy in each bloc would act as an "engine of development" for the
region. Regional self-interest would thus be the primary emphasis, although there would be efforts to coordinate the entire continent's economic growth. South Africa would act as the "locomotive" for economic
development in Southern Africa; while this role would fall to Kenya in East Africa, Nigeria in West Africa,
and Egypt in North Africa. The idea behind this concept was that Africa as a continent was too large and
diverse an area for economic transformation.39)
Minister Botha emphasised the opportunities for the Southern African region if it served as a single unit:
"We shall simply be part ofa natural group which can bargain with Europe and other blocs. If we succeed,
then in 15 to 20 years we will be able to help the rest of Africa. All we need is a big brother like Western
Europe to help us develop and to encourage countries in our area to maintain fundamental rights and
The South African Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs emphasised the difference between the African
continent as a whole and Africa South of the Sahara. The latter had been unable to organise itself into a true
regional grouping, as was evident by the fact that although the countries of Southern Africa traded with the
RSA, they did not trade amongst themselves as there were no common market areas. South Africa could
be the catalyst for this type of development.
Wessels referred to a possible partnership betwr;en Europe,
South and Southern Africa, with the RSA being the key to international trade in the region.
international aid and South African expertise, an economic revival was indeed a possibility. It was vital for
Africa to perform well both politically and economically if the continent wanted to retain international
interest, particularly considering the continent's dismal record in the past.
According to Wessels, South
Africa's most important long-term aim was the mobilisation of Southern Africa so that the region could
attain important common political and trade goals on the regional level. 41)
The South African Government thus realised at an early stage that ifit wanted to retain international interest
in South Africa, new elements of strategic significance would have to be emphasised. With the rest of the
world turning away from Africa as regards aid and other assistance, South Africa could re-establish herself
as a key international player, with a particularly important role on the continent.
There could be no denying the ties between the RSA and her neighbours in the early 1990s, even after the
years of international sanctions and isolation. It has been noted that many African countries openly criticised
South Africa, while secretly continuing to trade with the apartheid state. Trade figures thus continued to
increase at the beginning of the new decade, an example being trade with East Africa which increased by
26 percent in 1990 over the previous year's figures.
Trade with North, West and Central Africa also
increased. Yet it was noted that unless Africa had foreign exchange, this kind of trade would not be able to
continue. It was thus in South Africa's interest to boost the continent as a whole. It was anticipated that
the situation would improve if South Africa could act as a channel for the utilisation of international funds,
which had been logistically limited in the past. Southern Africa, however, remained the focus for South
Africa, as epitomised by South Africa's Deputy Director-General of Foreign Affairs: "It is essential for the
survival of the region that we share resources and present the world with a large, dynamic and stable market.
This would undoubtablyattract
investment from abroad, without which Southern Africa cannot survive". 42)
South Africa could thus not afford to become marginalised or for that matter,
allow extensive
on the continent, as international aid was required if the plans of the South African
Government (for the RSA to become actively involved in rejuvenating the African economy and continent
in general) were to come to fruition.
The South African State President stressed that the end of the Cold War had left a world in which human
development and economic performance were of the utmost importance.
It was now vital that the nations
of Africa stand together in order to survive the competitive climate that had resulted from the emergence
of regional economic power "blocs", such as the Pacific Rim and the European Community. Conflict should
thus be set aside and a process of regional organisation be initiated. This would motivate the developed
world to end African marginalisation and the continent would become a valued global player.431
It was clear that any future relationship between the RSA and the rest of Africa would be dictated by both
global events and socio-economic concerns in South Africa and the African continent. The South African
Government, like much of the developed world, would come under increasing pressure to address local
problems such as unemployment and poverty before seeking to address concerns outside the RSA' s borders.
Yet a great deal of co-operation
between South Africa and her neighbours had blossomed in the years
following the end of the Cold War and the country's remarkable political transformation.
Trade was taking
place with 48 Mrican countries by the early 1990s, and relations between South Africa and parts of the
continent had reached ambassadorial and diplomatic level. It was anticipated that South Africa's primary
potential as regards the region would be to attract potential investors. The RSA' s well-developed financial
infrastructure would also be utilised for the mobilisation of capital for economic development.
This would
allow the international community to contribute to the development of the region, except that there would
now be a solid framework in place for such assistance.
As regards security, Defence Minister Malan referred to the dramatic shift in Soviet foreign policy towards
Southern Africa. It had become apparent that the external powers were moving towards a strategy of
disengagement as regards the continent.
demanded new initiatives.
The new era of co-operation indicated new circumstances and
The South African Government thus decided to commit itself to growth
programmes in the political, economic and social sectors, although Malan stressed the continuing importance
of security.
He did, however, note the value of human development and emphasised that the SADF did
not have a threatening stance against its neighbours. In fact, states with internal security problems, such as
Angola, should resolve such problems themselves. Yet the SADF was prepared to assist the Frontline states
as regards training and facilities. 46)
Minister Malan warned of several problems in the new era, including excessive population growth and the
lack of economic growth throughout most of Africa. There was the fear that the perception of Africa as
a poor and disease-ridden continent would affect South Africa. Although an attack on South Africa by
forces outside of Africa or a combined regional force from inside Africa was not expected, the realities of
the continent could easily deteriorate into unrest and ultimately, armed violence. It was thus predicted that
the Africa of the nineties would be characterised by internal military and semi-military conflict, which could
spill over boundaries. This would result in a surge of refugees across national borders and an aggravation
of unrest.
Although regional co-operation and economic development remained the ideal in the early
1990s, the realities of possible collapse and violence could therefore neither be ignored nor forgotten.
was thus in South Africa's own interest to take a pro-active and constructive role on the continent.
The general perception in the post-apartheid, post-Cold War era, was that South Africa would continue as
a regional economic power, playing a dominant role in many aspects.
There was, however, the added
perception that the power would be a "gentle one" and would assist in the maintenance of order, as well as
the dispensing of aid across particularly the Southern African region. It was anticipated that the RSA would
ultimately join the SADCC and the DAU and playa valuable role in the region.48) South African dominance
in the region was, however, a concern, although the ANC had pledged that the New South Africa would
not become a military or economic threat to neighbouring states. 49)
ANC foreign affairs spokesman, Thabo Mebeki, had stated in 1991 that a "free" South Africa would
eventually join the DAU, the Non-Aligned Movement and the UN, and emphasised the RSA's strategic
significance as regards the country's position on the continent: "As part of the African continent, South
Africa would also actively promote the objectives of democracy, peace, stability, development, and mutually
beneficial co-operation among the people of Africa".
State President de Klerk noted the various trends in the international political realm in late 1991 and stressed
the significant changes taking place regarding disarmament.
There was also an increasing movement
towards both regional and global multilateral co-operation, and the President predicted that South Africa
would eventually become a constructive member of various African organisations and regional groupings.
President de Klerk also emphasised the need to participate in international organisations such as the IMF
and the UN. The relaxing ofinternational sanctions would have the effect of opening South African markets
to worldwide competition and trade; while aid from the IMF would promote a successful economy. The
State President emphasised the importance of environmental management and nature conservation,
expressed the intention of South Africa to submit a report in this regard to the UN Conference on
Environment and Development, which would be held the following year. Closer international co-operation
such aspects as crime prevention, agriculture and drug abuse would be in South Africa's
The RSA was thus attempting to create the perception of being a responsible member of the
international community by focussing on current issues of global concern.
Parliamentary consideration was given in 1993 to the future role that South Africa might be called on to play
in both regional and international forums and it was anticipated that in view of South Africa's position as
a major economic power on the African continent, the RSA would be called upon to playa leading role in
this regard. It was also mentioned that increasing multilateralism and regionalism had resulted in the fact
that no state could take unilateral action without international response.
South Africa would in turn,
however, have to adopt policy positions on important global issues. 53)
Ultimately, of all the potential and actual roles carved out by South Africa in the post-Cold War era, the one
of regional superpower and ally was considered the most important. This is partly evident in the numerous
references made in this regard by various South African politicians and others, and by the actual relations
between the RSA and her neighbours that followed.
If South Africa had an important
role to play in
previous decades as an anti-communist ally, this role had now taken on new meaning. There was a growing
gap between Africa and the rest of the modem world that the RSA was prepared and willing to fill. Ego
perceptions of South Africa's strategic significance thus continued in the post-Cold War period, but with
a different emphasis, namely the RSA's importance for the Southern African region.
Ego perceptions of strategic significance in the era under discussion in this chapter also emphasised South
Africa's importance as an economic partner for much of the international community. As the South African
economy was relatively dependent on foreign trade and was likely to remain so in the near future, it was
vital that South Africa not only retain the interest of the international community, but also remain
competitive in export markets.
As was the case with all South Africa's prospective and existing relationships, the catalyst for further
international co-operation and assistance would depend on the establishment of a stable democracy and the
elimination of the apartheid system. Developments were, however, "encouraging",
opening in Africa, Asia and Europe.
with new markets
South Africa would in turn face the challenge of transforming the
manufacturing sector, as the world was increasingly focusing on fewer raw materials and more manufactured
goods and services.
De Klerk later noted that the process of reform in South Africa had resulted in increasing foreign investment
and loans, as well as a boost in tourism. This would have positive repercussions for the country's economy.
He stressed that South Africa was experiencing the positive and immediate fruits of reform, such as a return
to international sport; the normalisation of international relations throughout the world; growing exports;
and new doors that had opened for the RSA in the scientific, academic, artistic and cultural fields. 56)
Various preferential trade agreements were concluded in the early 1990s and a representative of the South
African Foreign Trade Organisation
(SAFTO) was optimistic that two-way trade with most Eastern
European countries would reach in excess of$50 million annually. Major deals which can be noted at this
point include Telkom' s sale of public phones to Budapest in 1991, as well as similar arrangements with
Czechoslovakia and Romania a few years later. South African Breweries even purchased an 80 percent
share ofa Hungarian brewery.
According to South Africa's ambassador to Moscow in 1992, Dr Gerrit
Olivier, even the Russians were eager to purchase South African products.
58) •
There was a similar focus on trade with Asia and an indication of the rapid transformation in South Afiican
international relations in the early 1990s was, in fact, reflected by the rapid increase in ties with these
countries. By 1990, Pretoria had missions in Taipei, Hong Kong, Japan, and Australia and the number of
missions increased substantially over the next few years. Trade increased as a result.59)
Four countries led trade exports to South Africa during the period under discussion, with German exports
heading the list. Switzerland imported the most South African goods and it can also be noted that trade with
Zimbabwe (one of the RSA's fiercest critics during the apartheid years) was also taking place. In fact, as
regards both imports and exports, Zimbabwe was South Africa's greatest trading partner in Afiica. Trade
with Africa in general in the early 1990s was an untapped market for the RSA60)
This market would
obviously have to be further developed if South Africa was to retain perceptions of strategic significance
as a valuable trading partner for the African continent.
As regards international markets, the continuing
improvement of trade relations between South Africa and much of the globe, can be considered evidence
of continuing perceptions of strategic significance.
A normalisation of South Africa's trade relations was thus taking place and this was emphasised during 1993
South African Parliamentary sessions. As noted above, this normalisation even applied to countries in parts
of Europe where there had been no real tradition of trade in the past. Trade relations with countries in the
Far East and Africa had also improved and economic representation in these countries was increasing61)
It was anticipated that offices would be opened in countries with which the RSA traded before the sanctions
era, such as Sweden and Australia.
Much work had also been completed in an attempt to eventually
normalise trade relations with countries such as India, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia; while exports to Africa
increased from R4 billion in 1990 to approximately R6 billion in 1992. These exports consisted primarily
of manufactured products and although the goods were exported mainly to countries in Southern Africa,
progress had been made as regards export markets in countries such as Kenya and Angola.62) Successes as
regards outward trade missions were also attained during three missions to Western Europe, the US and
Kenya, which were undertaken in the early 1990s.63)
It has been noted that relations with the international community can be considered to reflect a degree of
strategic significance. The South African Government thus emphasised the normalisation of relations that
was taking place between the RSA and much of the globe in the post-Cold War era.
In mid-1990, President de Klerk addressed the South African Parliament
as regards this aspect and
expressed confidence that substantial progress had been made, especially in light ofa recent trip to Europe.
It had become apparent to many that South Africa could not continue to live in isolation from the rest of
the world. Participation in the international community would result in economic and cultural benefits for
all South Africans: "We cannot stop the world and get off, as some people in South Africa would like us
to do; neither can we turn the clock back and take refuge in the past ...Whether we like it or not, we must
also wrestle with the international realities of the present and secure for our country its rightful place in the
community of nations.
This the Government
will continue to bring about"M)
The South African
Government was thus placing an emphasis on the importance of international relations; something which
had been underscored during the apartheid years.
International relations continued to be emphasised in 1992, with the previous year perceived as one in which
both Central Europe and Africa welcomed South Africa back into the "fold". In his Parliamentary address,
De Klerk expressed the wish that these positive relations continue to be strengthened.6S)
In general, the
Middle East and North African countries were eager to establish relations with the New South Mrica and
examples of countries with at least some form of diplomatic relations in the early 1990s include Morocco,
Algeria, Egypt, Sudan. Bahrain. and Tunisia.66) Relations with New Zealand and Australia also improved
and it was hoped that friendly relations would spread to such East Asian countries as India and Pakistan.67)
As regards Latin America during the early 1990s, numerous states in this section of the globe established
at least some form of diplomatic relations with South Africa, including Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile,
Paraguay, and Uruguay. F.W. de Klerk undertook an official tour of Latin America in 1993, where issues
such as bilateral trade and investment were discussed.68)
The general perception was one of re-acceptance
by the international community and South Mrican
Parliamentary sessions were dominated by the expansion of international relations. Global relations were
themselves undergoing
a metamorphosis
and the world was changing from a bipolar to a multipolar
structure, based more on economic needs than ideological and military strength.
The internal political
changes that had taken place since February 1990, had resulted in the RSA being welcomed back as a
respected member of the international community and it was obvious that South Africa was no longer
considered an international pariah: "Changing political realities, the recent drought and a growing awareness
of the value of regional harmony are helping to foster an environment that is more conducive to co-operative
relationships" .69)
Emphasis was also placed on the number of international agreements undertaken by South Africa: "Over
the past three years we have opened diplomatic and trade missions in Africa, in Central and Eastern Europe
and in Asia. We are now represented in 79 countries of the world. We have signed a record number of
international agreements ...We are participating in international sporting events. We have access to cultural
events" 70) "We have expanded our relations, we have normalised them, we have opened up a host of new
missions, both embassies and consulates-general.
We are in the process of norma Iising our relations with
the important countries of the Far East and lately, of course, we have been concentrating on Africa and the
Middle East".7I)
The South African Government eventually began to welcome direct foreign engagement as regards the
desire for a peaceful settlement. The result of this change in attitude was the arrival of observers from the
UN, the DAD, the Commonwealth,
the EC, and other interested groups.
Although many countries
considered it a "moral obligation" to assist in the development of a democratic order in the RSA, on a more
pragmatic level, the motivation was also likely to be sound economic relations in the futuren>
Considering that the previous chapter emphasised the RSA's military isolation, it is pertinent to discuss ego
perceptions regarding the importance of participation in international arms control measures; particularly
as South Africa had been considered a threat to world peace in previous years.
The "New World Order" demonstrated
an increasing emphasis on the importance
of multilateral
Eager to be a part of this interdependent world, South Africa intended to participate in
multilateral affairs and thus assume a role as a responsible player in the international community. The early
1990s witnessed a resurgence in the emphasis on arms control and this was particularly relevant for such
areas as the Third World, which had suffered a proliferation of weapons during decades of violence,
insurrection and warfare.
The South African Minister of Foreign Affairs, R.F. Botha, stated in March 1991 that the South African
Government supported the idea of a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Southern African region and indeed,
across the entire African continent.
A safeguards agreement would also be concluded with the IAEA as
regards South Africa's nuclear facilities. This was considered an attempt to demonstrate the Government's
commitment to non-proliferation
objectives and responsibilities. 73) Such moves would emphasise the
importance of the RSA as a peaceful, stabilising ally in a historically unstable region.
Although there was some concern as regards the South African Government's intention to later violate the
treaty, a former IAEA official stated that: "There is no point to joining a treaty to create confidence that you
are being responsible and then to do something which, if detected, destroys that confidenc~". 74)South Africa
officially acceded to the NPT on 10 July 1991 and two months later, concluded a comprehensive Safeguards
Agreement with the IAEA. 75)
In August 1991, the following appeared in the South African Government Gazette, under the heading
Armaments Development. Production, Import, Transit, Export and Marketing Control: "With effect from
the date of publication of this notice no nuclear weapons and nuclear explosive devices or spare parts which
can be used for nuclear weapons and nuclear explosive devices as purported in Article II of the Treaty on
the Non-proliferation
of Nuclear Weapons shall be developed or manufactured
in the Republic or
transported through the Republic from any place outside the Republic to any such other place or exported
from the Republic or marketed inside or out~ide the Republic, and no attempt shall be made to develop or
manufacture such goods inside the Republic or to transport such goods through the Republic or to export
such goods or to market such goods inside or outside the Republic" 76)The publication of this notice can
be perceived as a definite attempt by the South African Government to improve its standing in the
international community.
Ultimately, it was to the benefit of the entire country that normal international relations be resumed as soon
as possible and perceptions regarding South Africa's nuclear threat played a vital role in this regard.
President De Klerk stated the following: "In years to come, South Africa will be an important international
That is our destiny".77) De Klerk noted that disarmament had become an important trend of
international politics, especially as regards the Cold War threat of nuclear conflict78)
By 1992, South Africa had a Permanent Representative
at the United Nations, R. Eksteen, who also
confirmed the wish of South Africa to finalise a convention that would eliminate chemical weapons. He
stressed the importance of a nuclear weapons-free zone in Southern Africa. The very presence of South
Africa at the Conference was, in fact, an indication of South Africa's intention to fulfil important
international obligations. 79) Eksteen stated that: "For its part, South Africa is ready to accept its
international obligations ...As a direct result of the initiatives of President De Klerk to pursue a peaceful,
negotiated political settlement in South Africa, we have been part of the international trend in greatly
reducing our military expenditure.
That is a sign of my Government's
desire for peace and good
neighbourliness in our region and in the global context ...We want to demonstrate our willingness to be a
responsible and active member of the international community".
Ego perceptions of strategic significance
in this regard revolved around the belief that South Africa's importance to the international community
would be increased by the RSA's participation in arms control measures.
President De Klerk announced in March 1993, that South Africa had indeed produced six nuclear weapons,
although the programme had ended before the RSA signed the NPT in 1991. The weapons were dismantled
and a seventh weapon was apparently never completed.
De Klerk denied that South Africa conducted a
secret nuclear test and also insisted that the RSA did not acquire nuclear weapons technology from any
There were concerns about the highly enriched uranium (HEU) stockpile that would have remained, but the
assurance was given by the ABC that the HEU would not be sold during the transitional period. ANC
President, Nelson Mandela, had also indicated that South Mrica must never again allow her resources and
scientists to produce weapons of mass destruction.
Both President de KIerk and the ANC thus favoured
the establishment ofan African nuclear weapons-free zone. Non-proliferation legislation was also enacted
in 1993, which prohibited South African citizens from assisting in any programme involving the construction
of nuclear weapons.
In summary, by 1993, South Africa was a signatory to the following treaties and protocols as regards arms
control: the Chemical Weapons Convention (as well as the Geneva Protocol); the Biological Warfare
Convention; the Antarctic Treaty; the Partial Test Ban Treaty; the Seabed Treaty; the Outer Space Treaty;
as well the Non-Proliferation
Treaty.83) Although not a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime,
South Africa adhered to MTCR export control guidelines.84)
All of these actions provide an indication of
South Africa's desire to be perceived as a responsible member of the international community. As such, the
RSA would be more difficult to ignore. In addition to these factors, South Africa had also added another
factor to her strategic significance by formulating a role as a facilitator for a future nuclear weapons-free
zone in Africa, something that the rest of the developed world was interested in seeing accomplished.
South Africa's ego perceptions of strategic significance in the 1990-1993 period were thus centred around
the country's importance as a stabilising force in Africa and particularly the Southern African region, where
South Africa could serve as an "engine of development".
Additional emphasis was, however, also placed
on the value of the RSA's strategic minerals and the country's importance as a trading partner to the rest
of the international community. With the continuing normalisation of relations between South Africa and
the world, the South African Government also wanted to be perceived as a responsible ally and thus
undertook certain arms control measures.
Attention is now focused on alter perceptions of strategic significance in order to evaluate any differences
between ego and alter perceptions regarding South Africa's importance to the international community.
Alter perceptions of significance and the actual relations which follow, constitute the third element of
strategic significance covered in this study. The end of the post.Cold War era coincided with the gradual
ending of the international sanctions campaign against South Africa and the country's re-emergence as a
global player. It has been noted that throughout the apartheid era, many states continued to trade with the
RSA and maintain bi-Iateral relations, thus boosting both ego and alter perceptions of strategic significance.
The fact that much of this trade took place in an illicit fashion drew attention to the fact that although
nations were taking a stand against apartheid on the political front, the practical significance of South Africa
resulted in a different behaviour.
In the period under discussion in this chapter, the international community was eager to formally re-establish
relations with South Africa, especially considering that the opening of Eastern Europe had resulted in
increasing international competition for markets. Many states did not even wait for the formal lifting of
sanctions, even though regional and other organisations were insisting that the sanctions campaign continue
The result can be described as a relative normalisation of international relations for the RSA.
It can, however, be noted that many states, especially the larger, more powerful ones such as the US, were
carefully observing the international political environment in South Africa before investing large amounts.
South Africa was thus motivated to continue the transformation process and maintain favourable economic
conditions, as foreign assistance would be required to fulfil several of the roles that the South African
Government had highlighted. According to Evans, the actual pace of the normalisation of South Africa's
international relations was, in fact, determined by the perception of the international community that the
process of change was in motion and that this process was irreversible. It was clear that the RSA' s place
in the "New World Order" would depend as much on domestic developments as on the course of events in
the rest of the world.8S)
As the international sanctions campaign can be considered to reflect alter
perceptions of strategic significance, it is important to note its conclusion and the statements made by the
international community in this regard.
By early 1990, US President, George Bush, began to lean towards a distinctly negative stance as regards
the effectiveness of sanctions. This is evident in the following statement: "Well, I don't know that one can
attribute all the change in South Africa to sanctions ...Frankly, I think some are counterproductive.
I happen
to think American jobs there make good sense". 86)
The EC, however, remained determined to maintain sanctions due to the emergency situation in the RSA;
even though Margaret Thatcher was equally determined to "go it alone" and unilaterally lift at least some
sanctions so as to demonstrate the benefit of De Klerk's reforms and prevent a conservative backlash in
South Africa.87) The EC thus voted to support sanctions until apartheid was "irrevocably abolished" and an
"agreement to install a new constitutional order" was reached.88) Yet in possible recognition of the RSA's
strategic significance, the EC noted that the new South Africa should have access to extensive economic
resources and assistance.
It had, however, become apparent by late 1990, that the EC was seeking ways in which it could ease the
restrictions which had been placed on South Africa and at the Rome summit, it was decided to lift the ban
on new investments in the RSA. Although the ANC was dismayed at such an early move, the EC defended
its action by stating that it wished to "contribute to the speeding up of the process under way through
sending to all parties involved in negotiation a concrete sign of support for the establishment of a new South
Africa, united, non-racial, and democratic and capable of resuming the place which it deserves in the
international community" 90) There was thus recognition of the role that the RSA could playas part of the
international system of states.
When President De KIerk announced the repeal of all remaining apartheid legislation in early 1991, the
international response was swift and favourable. Although the EC acknowledged that sanctions could now
be eased, this would not be done until "legislative action was taken" in South Africa. In the US, a State
Department spokesman referred to De KIerk's "courageous statesmanship", but also called for the release
of all political prisoners before sanctions could be lifted. The ANC, however, threatened "mass actions"
should sanctions be lifted.9ll Yet oil companies across the globe eagerly awaited South Africa's "official"
return to the oil businessnl
It has been noted that the oil embargo had not been effectively implemented
during the sanctions era, thus increasing perceptions of strategic significance in spite of continuing political
Following a visit to Kenya by De KIerk (where regional trade was stressed), General Ibrahim Babangida,
President of Nigeria and Chairman of the OAU, applauded De KIerk's efforts to dismantle apartheid and
ZaIre began to establish diplomatic relations with South Africa.
As a further "coup" for international
relations, South African Airways was once again given overflight rights with Morocco, Mauritania, Mali,
and Cote d'Ivoire.
This had been denied for almost three decades93l Even the Commonwealth began to
head towards a phased relaxation of economic sanctions if Pretoria continued with the reform process and
met certain conditions, such as the release of all political prisoners.94)
President Bush lifted the Anti-Apartheid Act (CAAA) on 10 July 1991. The US also became the first
country to lift the oil embargo; while Israel lifted its own ban on "the sale and transfer to South Africa of
oil and its products" a few days later.~) Japan had earlier noted that other sanctions against South Africa
would be maintained as long as America continued a sanctions campaign.96) It was thus anticipated that
other countries would follow the US lead in this regard. President Bush made the following statement when
he lifted the CAAA: "During the past two years we've seen a profound transformation in the situation in
South Africa - I really firmly believe that this progress is irreversible".97)
The US would at the same time increase aid to Black South Africans. The ANC, however, disputed the
move on the grounds that the conditions stipulated in the CAAA had not been completely met. The month
of July, in fact, witnessed numerous favourable international moves to lift pressures on South Africa.
Finland resumed commercial relations with the RSA, as did Israel, although the ban on military contracts
The Soviet Chamber of Commerce and Industry signed an agreement on mining co-operation
with the South Mrican Chamber of Mines; and Japan was considering the lifting of economic sanctions.
Argentina was to resume relations with the RSA by the end of 1991; while Czechoslovakia and Hungary
agreed to establish embassy-level diplomatic ties with South Africa. Poland was likely to undertake similar
South Africa was also allowed to re-enter the international sporting arena with an invitation to
participate in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. 98) Even Denmark, one of apartheid's fiercest critics, was poised
to lift a veto in 1992 on imports into the EC of South African gold coins, iron and steel. 99)
Following the passing of a bill in the South Mrican Parliament in September 1993, which established the
TEC, ANC President, Nelson Mandela, called for the lifting of all economic sanctions against the RSA. The
TEC was a multiracial body which would work in conjunction with the South African Government in the
run-up to the country's first democratic elections, scheduled for April 1994. Mandela also urged the
international community to assist in the "regeneration" of the South African economy. The arms embargo
was, however, to remain until after the 1994 elections. The international response was again positive, with
the US lifting remaining sanctions and President Clinton stating that the US would launch "initiatives to help
restore economic growth", including supporting RSA access to the World Bank and the IMF. The US
Secretary of Commerce would lead a trade and investment mission to South Africa, indicating the perceived
importance of trade with the RSA. 100) Canada, Australia and New Zealand were also eager to lift sanctions
against South Africa following Mandela' s announcement.
The Commonwealth Secretary-General,
Emeka Anyaoku, responded to what was perceived as positive
change in South Africa, by announcing that the Commonwealth would lift all remaining sanctions and even
went so far as to express the hope that the RSA would eventually rejoin the Commonwealth.
The OAU also
announced the lifting of economic sanctions. Although the EC undertook what has been termed a "rolling
programme" for the normalisation of relations with South Africa, no new trade accords would be signed
until after democratic elections. China, India and Sweden all announced the resumption of relations and the
lifting of restrictions.
The Arab League lifted sanctions against South Africa in 1993.103)
There were also internal differences as regards the UN's treatment of South Mrica. This was evident by
the fact that by late 1990, the US, Japan and the EC had implied that they would not support any resolution
binding members to continued sanctions against the RSA.I04)
It later became evident that the UN was
proposing a more moderate stance against South Africa.IOS)
The UN was concerned with the level of political violence in South Africa and called on the international
community to observe the arms and oil embargoes.
The General Assembly did, however, urge the
resumption of academic, scientific, cultural and sporting links with certain bodies and individuals in South
Africa. This call was primarily the result of what was perceived as progress in the removal of obstacles to
multi-party negotiations.
Continuing political violence and delays in negotiations ultimately resulted in
the deployment of UN observers in an attempt to assist the peace process.
As noted earlier in this study, the UN General Assembly President announced the lifting ofthe oil embargo
against South Africa in December 1993. This can be considered a response to an earlier reminder by the
South African Foreign Minister, Pik Botha, that the UN itself had set the establishment of the TEC as the
condition for the lifting of the oil embargo.
The TEC was set to commence in early December 1993.
As already noted, these moves were a disappointment
to the ANC, as the organisation had urged the
maintenance of the embargo until after democratic elections had taken place.
The international community in general, was thus eager to lift sanctions against the RSA as a reward for
moves towards the establishment of a democratic South Afiican Government and there were ample
examples of international assistance as the country attempted to transform into a democratic society This
can be perceived as an indication of continuing strategic significance.
It would seem unlikely that the
international community would be interested in restoring order in a country which was not considered to
be of strategic importance.
As noted in the first part of this chapter, the South Afiican Government
wanted to be perceived as a
responsible member of the international community and efforts were made to emphasise international
relations. The perceived importance of relations with South Afiica will now be established, as such relations
provide an indication of strategic significance.
When communism collapsed, along with the Soviet Union, what was South Africa's and indeed much of the
Third World's, primary strategic significance to the West? As noted, amongst other things, the strategic
raw materials produced in these countries. There was also a change in other aspects of strategic importance
in that although the Cold War years had necessitated a struggle to resist communist expansionism, the postCold War era in turn necessitated the preservation of global order so as to ensure access to economic and
other resources.
Statements made by various US defence officials in the early 1990s supported this theory
and concentrated on such aspects as the fact that underdevelopment in Afiica promoted instability and posed
"significant threats to US vital interests worldwide".
According to a US Marine Corps Commandant,
insurgencies had the "potential to jeopardise regional stability and our access to vital economic and military
resources ...therefore, if the United States is to have stability in these regions, maintain our access to their
resources, protect our citizens abroad, defend our vital installations, and deter conflict. ..we must maintain
within our active force structure a credible military power projection capability with the flexibility to respond
to conflict across the spectrum of violence throughout the globe".
In fact, the situation was considered important enough for the US to establish a Special Forces Group in the
early 1990s for intervention in Africa, which along with Latin America and the Pacific Rim of Asia, was
considered one of the "three most likely areas for low intensity conflict". This was despite the fact that the
US, like many countries, was increasingly turning to domestic economic problems, as well as crises in other
parts of the globe, such as Eastern Europe.
George Bush emphasised the importance of economic progress in Africa in a March 1990 statement: "But
Africa's most fundamental challenge, I think, is on the economic development
side: harnessing the
continent's natural and human resources side to create better and richer lives for all the people there.
Governments clearly have a role to play"lIl)
This was an indication of the new attitude in the post-Cold
War era, where the international community tended to step back from Africa (generally for financial reasons)
and let internal problems be resolved by the government's concerned.
According to Noffke, the US was intent on playing a role in South Africa because the perception was that
the RSA was an important market, possessed valuable minerals, and was the country with the greatest
growth potential in Africa. There was also the use of the waters around the Cape Sea Route for trade
purposes and the continuing possibility that the nation which controlled South Africa, Mozambique, Angola,
and Namibia would have an important impact on the use of these waters for the delivery of strategic
provisions, such as oil, to the West. The West therefore had a particular interest in the stability of South
Africa and this was closely linked to the RSA's strategic significance. South Africa was the only country
in Africa with both a partial First World economy and a strong industrial sector.lI2)
Yet according to the US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in 1990: "We do not have any
significant national security interests in South Africa. Our main concern is the development of a viable
economy. We do not have any strategic interests in that part of the world ... Strategic minerals are important;
they're also available from the Soviet Union. We cannot conceive of any government - future government
in South Africa - which will not want to sell us those strategic minerals, regardless of their ideology".
The US could thus have been attempting to underplay the strategic significance of the RSA's strategic
minerals, even though the events of previous years had emphasised the value that the US attached to access
to this vital resource.
Several studies have been completed on the actual value of South Africa's strategic minerals and one such
study reported that there existed sufficient alternative world sources to the RSA for the provision of such
minerals as manganese, chromium, palladium, titanium, and vanadium. Yet the cost for a country such as
the US was considered a negative factor, in that an embargo of South Africa's strategic minerals would cost
in excess of$9 billion over a five-year period. This particular study was primarily aimed at potential damage
to the US automotive industry, where the platinum-group metals were utilised; GNP; and employment. It
was discerned that many jobs would be lost and automobile production would decrease as a result of such
an embargo.114)
Thus although efforts were made to find alternatives for many South African mineral
imports, by 1991, it did not appear as if any results in this regard had been implemented to the extent that,
at least US dependence on the RSA's minerals, had diminished.
Yet Africa remained a relatively low US priority and it was anticipated that the outcome of South Africa's
attempts at reform would ultimately affect the way the US acted towards the continent as a whole. In other
words, should South Africa successfully make the transition to a stable, prosperous democracy, US interests
in Africa could increase.
Presidential hopeful, Bill Clinton, delivered a speech in late 1991which highlighted several aspects as regards
future US security policy towards Africa. He stressed the importance of constant vigilance, even in a world
free of communism, against threats in a newly unstable world which could ultimately develop into threats
against essential US interests.
Yet in line with an almost global period of "introspection",
the future US
President was also convinced that the US could no longer act unilaterally, but should instead "reach a new
agreement with its allies for sharing the costs and risks of maintaining peace". This can be perceived as
indicative of a future peacekeeping role for South African forces, thus minimising costs for the US and other
international players. Clinton was more specific when he discussed the situation in South Africa, where he
stressed the importance of irreversible transformation, as well as the need to maintain remaining sanctions
until democracy was achieved.
In his annual report on the National Military Strategy of the United States, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff, General Colin Powell, stated in 1992 that: "The United States must maintain the strength necessary
to influence world events, deter would-be aggressors,
guarantee free access to global markets, and
encourage continued democratic and economic progress in an atmosphere of enhanced stability ...the threats
we expect to face are regional".II7) Like many nations in the international environment, the US was
predominantly interested in expanding economic relations and supporting a democratic and stable regime
in South Africa.
The opinion of one writer in the early 1990s was that although it was generally accepted that a growing
economy was a primary element in a democracy, the US was pursuing a contradictory policy as regards
South Africa. In other words, the sanctions it was using to force the RSA into a democracy, were actually
damaging the struggling economy and making the passage to democracy more difficult and less likely. As
has been noted, US financial aid was, in fact, decreasing in light of changes in Eastern Europe where much
aid was now being funnelled. The US was also decreasing international funding in general, partly as a result
of increasing pressure to concentrate on domestic concerns. Yet the idea of encouraging the establishment
of democracies across the world was perceived as fairly ingrained in US foreign policy. liS) The US was thus
unlikely to completely lose interest in developments in South Africa and because of the factors mentioned
above, the RSA would retain a certain degree of strategic significance.
Ultimately, with Africa relatively low on the international list of priorities in the immediate post-Cold War
era, the level of tension in other parts of the globe would determine the amount of US involvement in Africa.
Domestic events within the United States would also affect the amount of time and money available for such
Yet although the early 1990s witnessed what can be described as a general phase of
"immobility" as regards US security policy towards Africa, the US retained certain political, military and
economic interests on the African continent, which it would no doubt be forced to defend should they be
threatened in any way. President Clinton reiterated as much in his inaugural address on 20 January 1993,
when he referred to a free, but less stable world: "While America rebuilds at home, we will not shrink from
the challenge, nor fail to seize the opportunities
of the new world ...When our vital interests are
challenged ...we will act - with peaceful diplomacy wherever possible, with force when necessary"119)
There had been a distinct improvement
commencement of the reform process.
in relations between South Africa and the US since the
This was most clearly demonstrated by the 30 precent growth in
bilateral trade between 1990 and 1991, with the US becoming one of South Africa's largest trading partners.
It can also be noted that although Clinton had stated that the US should maintain pressure on the RSA until
there was anirreversible and full accommodation ofall citizens, the word he used was accommodation and
not a new constitution.
South Africa.
This could be indicative of the eagerness of the US to re-establish relations with
Naturally, much would depend on the continuing reform process, as well as local US
problems which could limit efforts directed at South Africa.
The US perception was that South Africa had the potential to become a major economic power and
successful democracy, and that what happened in the RSA would ultimately affect democracy and economic
prosperity throughout the continent. Evidence of the strategic significance awarded the RSA can be found
in the vast amounts of US aid distributed in South Africa in the early 1990s. The US was, in fact, the second
largest donor of financial aid to South Africa after the EC.121)
Yet according to an ex-US Department of
State consultant, Americans were far too ego-centric to be extremely concerned with the rest of the world,
including South Africa. It was thus doubtful that an excessive amount of US aid would be funnelled into
the RSA. 122) The battle against marginalisation was evident when the Clinton Administration admitted in
1993 that as a result of US domestic budget concerns, South Africa would probably not receive more than
the $80m in US aid it was receiving at that point. Political and moral support, however, would continue,
provided the reform process was successful. It was also noted that certain economic conditions would need
to be met prior to investment.
In other words, South Africa would be forced to increase her strategic
significance by ensuring economic growth and stability.
In late 1993, US Commerce Secretary, Ron Brown, referred to the "great potential" of the RSA economy
and noted that American companies were now "exhilarated" by commercial prospects in South Africa. 124)
Brown, indicated the eagerness of the US to become economically involved in South Africa: "Now is the
time to ensure that the expansion of US business involvement in SA is one of this administration's
priorities" .125)The US thus maintained a relative amount ofinterest in developments in the RSA, indicating
continuing perceptions of strategic significance. The US Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, George E.
Moose, also emphasised South Africa's strong economy and its importance as a base for international trade:
"Its location makes it a natural springboard for business opportunities in the region and the continent. Few
countries rival South Africa's mineral wealth". 126)
It was noted that South Africa's stability could lead to regional economic integration and ultimately,
economic growth. The RSA would thus serve as a catalyst for economic development in Southern African
and this was considered important for US interests in the region. The US therefore supported a successful
transition to democracy in South Africa.127) It is thus clear that US interests in South Africa in the period
under discussion were primarily centred around economic concerns.
Britain had throughout
the apartheid years followed a policy of so-called "constructive
(originally associated with the US) in relations with South Africa, with the premise that change should come
from within the South African establishment.
According to the British Foreign Minister, Douglas Hurd,
Britain's position as regards South Africa was that ofa "sympathetic, friendly observer, who was prepared
to listen if requested, and who from time to time might be able to use its good offices; but no more than that.
We must be chary sticking our noses into this kind of discussion uninvited".128)
There can be no denying the continuing historical and cultural links between the two countries, which would,
in fact, become reinforced with English likely to be the main official language in South Africa. There were,
however, numerous issues of concern for Britain regarding relations with the RSA.
The first was the
possible movement of British nationals living in South Africa or those with rights to British passports, to
Britain in light ofincreasing political tension and uncertainty in the RSA. To avoid a potential immigration
problem, it was therefore in the interests of Britain to promote a peaceful South Africa and in so doing,
encourage British passport holders to remain in the RSA. Another issue of concern was the maintenance
of a stable Southern African region, where Britain had provided financial assistance as part of the
programme of "constructive engagement".
Stability and prosperity in South Africa would, in turn, ensure
a similar situation in the region.129) This reflects the RSA's continuing importance for countries such as
Britain that had strategic interests in the region.
As was the case for many international countries attempting to re-establish ties with South Africa, one of
the primary issues of concern was that of economic interest.
Although certain British companies had
reduced their investments during the sanctions era, it had not been on the same scale as that of other
countries and in 1991, Britain remained one of the RSA's primary trading partners. Britain was eager to
lift sanctions and Douglas Hurd had stated that if sanctions were to remain in place until after the
achievement ofa one-person-one-vote
system, the result would be a "dearth of investment, where people
who are going to come in sharing that political inheritance would be coming into a South Africa which has
been impoverished by international action". Thus by the early 1990s, Britain informed the Commonwealth
that not only was it re-establishing trade missions with South Africa, but was also encouraging business
people to visit the country. Concern was, however, expressed as regards political violence, South Africa's
generally weakened
economy, and politicised industrial relations.
New investment would not be
forthcoming unless this situation improved. South Afiica thus faced an enormous challenge in the attempt
to improve the economy before it descended to Third World status.130)
Considering the increasing
marginalisation of the continent in general, South Africa would be hard-pressed to retain perceptions of
strategic significance if these problems were not rectified.
Britain's own economic experience in the past had also proved rather limiting, in that it was established that
only "interests" and not "responsibilities" could be attended to. Yet although many countries were adopting
a "wait and see" attitude as regards South Africa, Douglas Hurd noted in the early 1990s that his
government intended to "push on", thus indicating a continuing active role in the RSA and continuing
of strategic significance.l3l)
As in the case of the US, alter perceptions of South Africa's
importance were predominantly related to economic interests and the RSA's significance as a stabilising
force in the Southern African region; although the importance of historical ties between the two countries
could not be ignored.
In Europe, the end of the Cold War period coupled with the remarkable internal change in South Afiica, led
to the ultimate removal of sanctions against the RSA and the application of co-operative development and
trade policies. This process was, however, stretched over a period from late 1990 to the establishment of
the TEC in 1993. Britain had made a unilateral decision in early 1990, when it suspended its restriction on
new investments in South Africa. In fact, the inclusion of South Africa as the first and only topic not inside
the immediate geopolitical interests of the Union was one of the first five "joint actions" undertaken by the
European Union.
At the time, Germany was one of South Africa's top trading partners, although trade with many countries
had suffered a slight decline in previous years. Trade with the UK, however, increased and aUK/South
Africa Trade Association (Uksata) mission to the RSA was undertaken in the early 1990s. The group
reported on opportunities for further economic co-operation. 133)Yet the issue of marginalisation was reaffirmed in the early 1990s, when it became apparent that the EC was giving more aid per capita to Eastern
Europe than to the Third World. There was also little need for the so-called "conscience money" which had
been used in previous years to quieten critics of the West's South Africa policy. 134)
It can, however, be noted at this point that although EC ministers were aware of the need for international
supervision of the South African elections and indeed, of the entire security situation in the RSA, the precise
role for the EC in this regard was not yet decided. Mention was made of the fact that a decision would only
be made after a visit to South Africa by the Foreign Ministers of the UK, the Netherlands and Portugal.13S)
The EC "troika", consisting of Douglas Hurd and his Danish and Portuguese counterparts,
Mr Uffe
Elleman-Jensen and Mr Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, did indeed pay a visit to South Africa in September
1992, where discussions primarily revolved around ways in which the EC could assist in curbing the violence
in South Africa, as well as ways to restart constitutional negotiations.
As a result, 15 EC observers were
sent to the RSA. 136)
The Italian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Ivo Butini, emphasised the importance of relations with
South Africa in 1990, as evident by the visits of De Klerk and other cabinet ministers to Italy.137)Mr Durao
Barroso stated that during Portugal's period as chair of the EC, South Africa would be a focal point for
European interest. He emphasised that Southern Africa: "Should be regarded as an ensemble. The process
of opening up which is taking place in South Africa should be supported.
be one of the most important economic partners of the EC.
The future Southern Africa will
We think that we should show European
support for these countries" .138)Again the emphasis is here on the importance of the RSA as an international
trading partner.
According to a senior French industry spokesman, French investors were also eager to commence new
investment in South Africa, despite the government's ban on such investment. Mr Jean-Pierre Prouteau said
that French investors perceived South Africa as a stimulus for economic revival on the continent: "What
interests us most is the emergence ofa new South Africa, the prospect of peace and the role of the country
in the development of the Southern Africa region and in the revival of the economies of sub-Saharan Afiica".
He noted that many French firms had left Africa as a result of the continent's political and economic
problems. If South Africa was to assist in the resolution of such problems, the country would need access
to massive investment.139) The French thus attached considerable strategic significance to South Africa,
especially as regards the ability to act as a regional ally for economic and political stability.
The Netherlands believed it had a duty to assist South Africa in the country's return to the international
community and this would take place by means of an economic development programme.
This was the
sentiment of the leader of a Dutch trade mission to the RSA in 1991. Dr Engering emphasised that the visit
to South Africa was a sign that the Netherlands wanted the RSA to take an important economic and political
position in the global arena. As in the case of Britain, the Dutch felt a particular kinship with a country
where such historical and cultural links existed. If South Africa continued to reform, it was anticipated that
the country would become the most important economic "locomotive" in Southern Africa. 140)
The EC Council eventually decided to ease the set of measures adopted in 1986 against South Africa as soon
as certain apartheid legislation was repealed, as a sign of support for a New South Africa "capable of
resuming the place which it deserves in the international community". 141)Other. European nations also noted
the importance of South Africa, particularly for the Southern African region: "Without an economically
prosperous South Africa, the neighbouring countries have little prospect of economic development"142)
Alter perceptions of the RSA's strategic significance were thus focused on the importance of trade with
South Africa, with particular emphasis placed on South Africa's role in the Southern African region.
South Africa, like most states in Southern Africa, faced little potential in the early 1990s for interstate
conflict. What was more likely to be a threat was mass economic migration to a country that was perceived
as having the most successful economy on the continent. As political tensions eased in the RSA, the dangers
of a massive influx of people became clear and this particular problem would need to be controlled
was also the issue ofan Aids epidemic, which threatened to overwhelm much of the region. In light of these
issues, the emphasis in Southern Africa at the time was slowly moving from conflict resolution to security
management, as the region began to realise that individual situations of security were very much linked to
those of neighbouring states. There was increasing emphasis on the advantages of a regional peacekeeping
force, even though the concept had not proved particularly effective in the past as the continent had lacked
the necessary resources to ensure successful operations. With South Africa now generally accepted as part
of the region, the RSA's considerable resources could be utilised in this regard. Ultimately, international
support would be needed and considering that a number of countries had an interest in the stability of
Southern Africa, it was anticipated that such assistance would not be too difficult to acquire. 143)
Most African states in the early 1990s, at least officially, did not want to lift sanctions at that stage against
South Africa; even though trade between the RSA and the rest ofthe continent was rapidly increasing. This
is yet another indication of the continuing difference between policy and action, as evident throughout much
of the apartheid era. A Harare economist described this hypocritical situation: "The self-righteousness over
sanctions still reigns ...but the reality is that it's a practical decade".
The SADCC, however, issued a
communique stating that it would be necessary for the "international community to maintain the measures
taken against apartheid until the system is completely dismantled". In fact, in response to suggestions that
the SADCC commence dialogue with non-liberation movements in South Africa, the organisation's
executive secretary stated that: "There is no basis for (the) SADCC to relate to any institutions of
apartheid". The OAU had also urged the maintenance of pressure against the South African Govemment.144)
Thus although South Africa was continuing to trade with her neighbours and other states on the continent,
politically, the pressure for change was strong and it was clear that a complete normalisation of relations
would only be possible once a democratic political system had been established.
Africa, however, had more pressing concerns than the democratic development of countries on the
continent, namely, little hope offoreign investment in the post-Cold War era. Contacts between the RSA
and the rest of the continent thus continued, some of which are noted below:
Madagascar invited President De Klerk on a state visit where a reciprocal air link agreement was
A preferential trade agreement was concluded with Mozambique, and relations between Angola
and South Africa improved dramatically.
President Houphouet-Boigny
not only granted SAA landing rights, but also permitted a South
African trade mission in Abidjan.
A South African trade mission was established in Lome, Toga and high-level contacts were made
with Cameroon and Gabon.
Kenya licensed South African Airways to commence weekly flights to Nairobi (although this was
temporarily suspended after Mandela protested the move).
Zambia lifted a ban on South African transport routes.14S)
President Ibrahim Babangida ofNigeria referred to various areas of possible co-operation between
South Africa and Nigeria. He also noted the possibility of a regional defence force for conflict
resolution on the continent.l46l
Zaire established diplomatic relations with South Africa at ambassadorial level in late 1993. Other countries
which had followed the move towards a normalisation of relations with South Africa included the Congo
and Equatorial Guinea.
Thus although ANC President Mandela had urged restraint in the re-establishment of relations with South
Africa prior to the establishment of an interim government, following the reinstatement of relations with
South Africa by such countries as Kenya and Zambia, the normalisation of relations between the RSA and
much of the African continent continued.I48)
Following a visit to South Africa by a group of African
financiers, the president of the Africa Development Bank (AFDB) stated in early 1992, that should the
CODESA negotiations be successful, South Africa would be welcomed as a member of the AFDB within
two years. 149)
In keeping with efforts at reconciliation, the South African Government eventually relinquished control of
Walvis Bay and 12 offshore islands, as well as an adjoining piece of desert. Although Namibia had been
granted independence in 1990, this section ofland had not been included.
Thus ended the protracted
battle regarding control over the former South West Africa. It would appear that the RSA was continuing
to promote the impression of being a responsible global player, an aspect that would be considered vital if
complete marginalisation was to be avoided.
It was noted at a SADCC summit that there would not be regional peace until South Africa had abolished
apartheid. Yet the importance of the RSA to the region was made clear when it was emphasised that a New
South Africa would be welcomed into the SADCC and would bring with it "a very strong economy"lSI)
It was anticipated that South Africa would play the roles of "financier" and "engine of growth" in the
Southern African region and replace increasingly-reluctant
foreign donors.IS2)
The SADC was established in 1992 at a summit of the SADCC, with the aim of creating an economic
community in the Southern African region. SADC leaders urged Pretoria to hasten the country's transition
to democracy, as this was set as a condition for the RSA's membership of the community.IS3) This can be
considered significant in that the foundation had been laid for South Africa's admittance to the SADC; while
the SADCC had been created to lessen dependence on South Africa in previous years. By 1993, the RSA' s
importance to the region was again made apparent when a request was made at a regional security
conference for the use of the South African arms industry to supply African armed forces.
The previous
year had also witnessed increasing co-operation between the RSA and the rest of the Southern African
region, as evidenced by discussions regarding joint co-ordination of grain imports for drought-stricken
states. Even the Frontline States moved to acknowledge South Africa by establishing a diplomatic mission
in Pretoria.ISS)
It would thus appear that, taking into account the relations and statements noted above, South Africa was
indeed considered to hold a certain degree of significance for the nations of the African continent. As the
OAU has been highlighted in the preceding chapter as playing a role in the anti-apartheid campaign, a brief
evaluation of OAU statements and relations regarding South Africa in the 1990-1993 period is provided
Although the OAU Secretary-General,
Salim Salim, insisted that there was no basis for the international
community to re-establish relations with the RSA while vestiges of apartheid remained; he held the belief
that it was the people of South Africa who would ultimately decide their own future. Salim emphasised that
the transformation in Eastern Europe could force Africans to realise the value of a combined effort as
regards economic integration: "We can only do so by pooling our resources.
I personally believe that
Africa's second and more fundamental, economic liberation, can come about only by a co-ordinated,
concerted inter-African action ...If countries in Europe feel the urge and necessity to unite in order to become
a force, the need for Africa to become more united is even more imperative". 1S6) This sentiment was in line
with statements made by South African leaders as regards the importance of African development and the
RSA's potential in the region.
Yet, as noted above, the early 1990s witnessed continued calls by the OAU for the maintenance of sanctions
against South Africa. 157)The Ahuja Declaration, however, acknowledged the "positive developments" in
South Africa and although the need to maintain pressure on the RSA was re-affirmed, a review of the
sanctions policy would be undertaken once South Afiica removed "all obstacles to genuine negotiations". 158)
This was a clear indication that South Africa's isolation, at least as regards much of the African continent,
was drawing to a close. There can be no denying that perceptions of strategic significance played a role in
this change of events.
The US decision to lift economic sanctions against South Africa in 1991 was,
however, condemned by Salim as "premature and unfortunate" .159)
Yet certain African nations decided to commence trade with South Africa in spite ofthe OAU sanctions
policy. Two examples in this regard are Kenya and Madagascar, who were determined to make use of early
trade opportunities in the Southern part of the continent. 160)The OAU found itself in a precarious position,
namely, the choice between lifting sanctions and being accused of betraying its cause against apartheid on
the one hand; and continuing with sanctions while many of its members disregarded the organisation in their
relations with the RSA, on the other. The primary concern for the "disobedient" members was making a
niche for themselves in the South African marketplace before the countries of Eastern Europe managed to
do SO.161)
By 1992, the racial problems and township violence in South Africa were of primary concem.162) The OAU
sent a fact-finding mission to South Africa, as well as a Mission of Experts, to establish the role that the
organisation could play in counteracting the violence in the country.163) The OAU was thus eager for a
peaceful resolution to South Africa's problems and the Frontline States endorsed moves as regards the
establishment of closer relations with the RSAI64) This provides an indication of the continuing interest of
the international community and particularly the African continent, in developments in South Africa. In
contrast to previous years when trade with the RSA was conducted secretly by OAU member states, there
was now little attempt to hide such relations and it was clear that political concerns were secondary to
economic interests.
As with the other nations discussed in this section, alter perceptions as regards South Africa's significance
were thus predominantly dictated by economic interests, as was the case for many African nations during
the Cold War era.
As already noted and in line with changes in the post-Cold War environment and Mikhail Gorbachev's
changed philosophy, Moscow eventually began to support negotiation as a means of regional conflict
resolution. This concurred with a reduction of commitments in Angola and Mozambique.
thus lost much of its apparent appeal for Moscow.
Revolution had
This included the situation in South Africa, where it
appeared that a negotiated settlement was now a primary objective.
In accordance with these changes,
the Soviet Foreign Minister, Eduard Shevardnadze, met with President De Klerk in March 1990.166)
According to the head of the African department of the Soviet Foreign Ministry, Yuri Yukalov, the Soviet
Union was eager to co-operate with South Africa as soon as it was possible to lift sanctions against the
RSA. He insisted that confrontation and ideological differences had made way for "mutual understanding
and co-operation".
The Soviet Union was convinced that a political solution should be found for certain
domestic conflicts and that the country was willing to assist in this regard: "We are prepared to develop all
kinds of mutually beneficial co-operation with a democratic and non-racist South Africa. We are hopeful
that this will become a real possibility in the near future and we are willing to promote this process".
Yukalov was convinced that a realistic date for the opening of a Soviet Embassy in Pretoria would only be
1995. This date would ultimately depend on the dismantling of apartheid, although the USSR would not
wait for the "total completion of this process". The only specification was that changes in South Africa have
what he termed an "irreversible character".
full recognition.
This can be considered a broad description of the terms for
The USSR like many global players, was thus eager to re-establish relations with South
As emphasised, there were not many official statements made regarding South Africa's strategic significance
to this particular part of the globe during the periods under discussion; although it was clear that, particularly
for economic reasons, the re-establishment of relations with South Africa was considered in a positive light.
Alter perceptions in this case are thus based on the extent of relations between the two countries.
Eleven of the former USSR Republics eventually became the Commonwealth ofIndependent
in 1991.
States (CIS)
It was anticipated in the early 1990s that Russia, as the generally-accepted legal successor to the
USSR, would seek to increase relations with South Africa as the RSA was the most developed country in
Africa and had been an ally of various CIS countries as regards markets for mining and raw materials. Yet
like many countries across the globe facing economic and political changes, CIS nations were turning
inwards instead of focusing on regional and international concerns.
This would ultimately restrict CIS
involvement in the Third World and it was anticipated that a neutral position would be maintained as regards
any future regional conflicts, at least in the short-to-medium term. 170)
By 1991, there was a real breakthrough in Soviet/RSA relations with the opening of respective interest
offices in both Pretoria and Moscow.
Yet, the sentiment was that international sanctions against South
Africa would have to remain until the complete dissolution of the apartheid system. This placed the Soviet
Union in an interesting predicament, as described by a Soviet Foreign Ministry official: "The Soviet Union
now has no specially acute, urgent need for establishing economic co-operation with South Africa ...At the
same time, however, in a modem interdependent
world, the absence of such ties, dictated purely by
ideological and political factors, becomes an absurd anachronism and hardly contributes to long-term
national interests. This is a contradictory situation".
The Soviet Ministry of External Economic Relations also expressed
interest in the early 1990s in the
development of co-operation with South Africa: "The Soviet Union should undertake brave steps to secure
its economic interests in South Africa." Possible fields of co-operation included mining, manufacturing, and
consumer goods. Prospects for economic co-operation between the two countries were, however, uncertain
in light of such factors as the South African Western-orientated
economy, and instability in both countries.
Eventually, the Soviet Union-South African Society was established to develop increasing contacts.
Former Soviet Foreign Minister, Eduard Shevardnadze, was convinced that extensive technological
industrial co-operation would be possible between the Soviet Union and South Africa.
Boris Asoyan, Soviet Ambassador to Botswana in 1991, admitted the inevitability of spontaneous contacts
between the two countries and noted that many countries were not waiting for the official repeal of
Tbe reason for this was economic interest: "Economic considerations are the basis; South
Africa ...has a lot to offer on preferential terms"
It was noted that Soviet policy in earlier years as regards South Africa had been influenced by two mutually
namely, the ideological-political
and the commercial-economic
approach. Priority to the latter approach gradually became clear. In conjunction with this renewed emphasis
on economic concerns was an emphasis on political means for the solution to the problem of apartheid: "We
do not place emphasis on support of the armed struggle". m) In 1991, there were considered to be three
main areas of potential co-operation between the RSA and the Soviet Union, namely, co-operation on the
market in gold, diamonds and rare metals; direct economic ties; and South African
contributions as regards managerial expertise and knowledge about doing business in sub-Saharan Africa. 176)
Throughout the period under discussion in this chapter, the Current Digest of the Soviet Press indicated
various statements regarding the importance of economic relations with South Africa, for example: "The
advantages of co-operation with a country of such economic potential as the RSA ...are unquestionable for
us, especially today, as we grapple with acute shortages offood and everything else". 177) Another example
involved a particular reference to the mining industry: "The potential for co-operation is enormous.
It has
been said and written many times that by pooling their efforts and co-ordinating their policies, South Africa
and Russia could set world prices for diamonds and, to a significant extent, for gold". 171) As an example of
economic co-operation in the minerals industry, there was an agreement by a Swiss-based subsidiary of De
Beers in 1990, to market Soviet uncut diamonds, although this was later suspended as a result of internal
Soviet politics.
The potential for trade and economic relations was considered to be "rather good".
South Africa was also referred to as "the most powerful state on the Dark Continent".
It was noted that
even though the UN sanctions campaign against South Africa had been supported in the past, the Soviet
Union would "certainly not be the last to abandon" policy guidelines stipulated by the UN. 182)
Consular relations with the Kremlin were established in September 1991 and were upgraded to full embassy
status by early 1992. President De Klerk even paid an official visit to Moscow in June 1992. South Africa
continued to establish full diplomatic relations with other states ofthe CIS during the years under discussion
in this chapter, although often without resident ambassadors.
The Russian Government did, however, close
the ANC office in Moscow and this can be considered another sign of the Russian Government's
commitment to a peaceful transition to democracy in South Africa. The official two-way trade figure in
1993 between South Africa and Russia was estimated at $200 million.183) Yet there were concerns that
Russian interest in the African continent was diminishing. This was contested in 1993 by the Director of
the Russian Foreign Ministry's Africa Department: "Shifting our co-operation with Africa ...will in fact allow
Russia to strengthen its positions there and to put them on a basis that serves Russia's interests first of
all" .184)
Eventually the Soviet Union came out against sanctions, stating that they were counterproductive
merely reinforced "the psychology of the laager", which referred to the isolating of the target state and
ultimately, increased resistance to change. As has been noted, although there was an insistence on the
establishment of a democracy in South Africa, the sentiment was that it was to be achieved by negotiation
and not the armed struggle.18S)
This radical change in behaviour as regards relations with the RSA can be
considered a complete reversal of attitudes to those during the Cold War era, when the perception was that
the US and the USSR were attempting to use Africa and particularly the Southern part of the continent, as
a strategic "pawn" in the battle to extend or resist communist expansionism.
In the aftermath of global
change, it would appear that South Africa continued to retain perceptions of strategic significance, although
these perceptions were now primarily focused on economic interests.
The end of the Cold War thus had repercussions for states far beyond the US and the former USSR. For
South Africa, the element of strategic significance related to the control of communism in the Third World
had been lost; although the importance of economic concerns remained strong. In the pre-1990 period,
there had been a continual emphasis on the value of South Africa as regards the Cape Sea Route; the RSA's
strategic minerals; and the importance ofa pro-Western ally in an unstable part of the globe, prone to Soviet
This was apparent in both ego and alter perceptions of strategic significance.
The strategic
importance of South Africa, particularly in the Southern African region, could therefore not be avoided, as
indicated by the economic transactions between the RSA and the international community which continued
in spite of criticism regarding South Africa's domestic apartheid policies.
The end of the Cold War, however, removed the need for an anti-communist stalwart at the tip of the
African continent. Facing increasing marginalisation in favour of Eastern Europe, African nations began to
turn inwards and it was clear that South Africa would playa valuable role in this regard. This was evident
in the vast number of statements made by South African politicians as regards South Africa's important role
in the Southern African region. Attention was paid to such aspects as the RSA's stabilising effect, strong
economy and management skills. It was hoped that this would be recognised by the international community
and would afford South Africa a certain degree of strategic significance. As international relations also
indicate the degree of recognition which the international community bestows on a state, emphasis was
placed on the normalisation of these relations. This could be little denying that these relations were based
on economic concerns, as indicated by alter perceptions in this regard. South Africa's strategic minerals
were still considered important and although it was possible to procure alternative sources, costs were
As economic issues were vital in the post-Cold War era, it was unlikely that states would
consider political concerns to be the primary influencing factor as regards international relations.
The international community, in general, thus established relations with South Africa, particularly in the area
of trade, and often prior to the official ending of the sanctions campaign. South Africa's role in the Southern
African region was indeed recognised and the RSA was described as an "engine of growth" in this regard.
Considering Africa's dismal record of the past, it was clear that the international community welcomed the
opportunity to relinquish responsibility for much of the Third World's future economic development and
security to South Africa. This provided the RSA with a relative degree of strategic significance.
What is thus apparent in the period under discussion in this chapter, is that although South Africa's strategic
significance had indeed undergone a certain amount of change, the country retained elements of importance
for the international community.
As communism was no longer an issue of concern, the South African
Government realised the need to retain international support and thus emphasised the RSA's importance
for both the Southern African region and the entire African continent.
These ego perceptions were
recognised as being valid by much of the world, thus securing South Africa's strategic significance in this
regard. Other ego perceptions which were validated included the importance of South Africa for global
trade and the value of the RSA's strategic minerals. It is thus clear that South Africa managed to retain a
degree of strategic significance in the post-Cold War era.
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It has been established that the term strategic significance has evolved to include aspects other than pure military
strategy. It is now a more total concept, including both tangible and non-tangible aspects of national capability,
such as political leadership and economic capability. Strategic significance is influenced by both ego and alter
perceptions, with the former referring to local perceptions and opinions; and the latter focused on the perceptions
of states in the external environment.
Yet it should be noted, that although certain aspects of strategic
significance remain unaltered, the concept itselfis a dynamic one and change is thus to be anticipated. A nation's
strategic value is thus likely to alter with time.
The first aspect of strategic significance, namely, national capability, forms the basis ofa state's level of power
and influence in the international community. Yet, as noted, national capability is a relative concept a'1d is thus
linked to certain situations.
The implication is thus that a state may possess a strong capability and level of
power in a certain situation only. The tangible and intangible determinants of national capability need to be
utilised and formed into a cohesive unit if they are to be translated into power. It is therefore insufficient to
merely possess, for example, an abundance of natural resources, as these need to be effectively incorporated into
objectives. Examples of tangible or physical elements include geography, natural resources, population, and
economic capability. Military capability is also included as it continues to form a vital part of national capability.
The intangible determinants of national capability are more difficult to measure and include such aspects as
national morale, national character, political organisation, and political leadership. These aspects are, however,
no less important than the more tangible aspects and should thus also to be taken into account.
Ego perceptions of strategic significance can be linked to national roles in that a government, taking into account
the country's national capability, will pursue various orientations in accordance with both domestic and external
conditions and requirements. It is clear that the stronger a state, the more roles it will play and the more power
it will possess in the external environment.
It is, however, possible for states to assume completely different
roles in different situations and as in the case of national capability, roles will thus vary according to local and
foreign influences. As indicated in this study, South Africa's strategic significance and related role perceptions
were affected by the end of the Cold War and the resultant changes in the external environment. No one state
can claim to exist independently from other states in the international system and it is therefore inevitable that
changes in this system will have an impact on individual members. The perceptions of strategic significance held
by these member states (alter perceptions)
should thus also be considered in an assessment
of strategic
As the Cold War drew to an end in the late 1980s, it became clear that there would be repercussions in many
parts of the globe. It has been established that South Africa's strategic significance was emphasised during the
Cold War era as a result of the country's geo-strategic position and national capability, particularly as regards
vast reserves of strategic minerals. The end of this era, however, witnessed a decline in US-Soviet conflict and
the need for an anti-communist ally at the tip of the African continent diminished as a result. In fact, nations
became less interested in the external environment in general and instead turned to previously-neglected domestic
concerns. This resulted in the marginalisation of many Third World countries, including those in Africa. The
new democratic states of Eastern Europe also began to draw international investment away from Africa, in part
because of the latter's poor financial and human rights record.
Strategic significance thus began to include other aspects of importance, including what has been termed a state's
record of "good governance", the presence of market-based economies, arms controL and a lack of human rights
violations. States that did not develop these characteristics would lose an element of strategic significance as
a result. Ideological concerns in the new era were thus secondary to economic and humanitarian issues
African continent did not fare well in many of the aspects noted above and thus the tendency of the developed
world to turn to Eastern Europe in an attempt to ensure the successful transition of these states to full
democracy. In order to survive, African nations would have to turn to regional co-operation and development;
and it was here that South Africa would find a primary focus in the post-Cold War era. The RSA possessed,
amongst other things, a strong economy, a solid military capability, and experience of African problems. The
perception was thus that South Africa would become a stabilising and developmental "force" not only in the
Southern African region, but across the entire continent. This would ensure a degree of strategic significance
for South Africa, while at the same time releasing the international community of much of the responsibility for
development in this part of the globe.
In order to assess the ability of South Africa to fulfill this role, as well as related perceptions of strategic
significance during both periods discussed, a comparative analysis of the previous chapters is provided below.
This will include a brief, tabulated comparison.
In the introduction to this study, the concept of comparative analysis was defined as the presentation of
information, either as facts or figures, for the purpose of comparison.
It provides an opportunity to identify
uniformities and/or differences, and the process requires systematically-selected
Variables are thus
identified and compared. The preceding six chapters have provided information regarding the theory of strategic
significance, South Africa's national capability, and ego and alter perceptions of the country's
significance. This information covered two distinct periods, namely, from approximately 1945 to 1989 and from
1990 to 1993. Although a brief comparison of the two periods is available at the end of certain chapters, a more
in-depth comparison is now provided. This section has been sub-divided not only into the three elements which
constitute the concept of strategic significance, but for ease of reference, has also been separated into the pre1990 and 1990-1993 periods.
The national capability of the RSA has assured South Africa of a relative degree of strategic significance.
Although not a particularly strong state when compared with such world powers as the US, on the African
continent at least, South Africa's national capability was considered extensive.
South Africa's geo-strategic position at the tip of Africa, controlling the Cape Sea Route, cannot be disputed.
This can be considered the most important aspect of South Africa's strategic significance, as the country was
automatically awarded a degree of importance as a result of this vital positioning.
Although generally considered a dry country with little arable land, South Africa is relatively well-endowed with
natural resources, particularly strategic mineral and energy reserves. Gold, coal, diamonds, and the platinumgroup metals are examples in this regard and all contributed to South Africa's strategic significance. It has, in
fact, been noted that such was the value of certain minerals to the West, that they were not included in the
CAAA. The one aspect lacking in South Africa's national capability was oil and although this can be considered
a vulnerability, the South African Government displayed a remarkable ability to obtain oil reserves from external
sources. The fact that this took place during a supposed oil embargo against the RSA indicates that trade with
South Africa was considered valuable enough to override political concerns as regards domestic apartheid
policies. Yet South Africa's economy did weaken at a certain point and this was linked to both domestic and
external circumstances, including the effects of the international sanctions campaign against the RSA.
As regards population, South African citizens constituted various population groups, with different skill and
educational levels. These differences had a negative impact on the overall level of population skill. On the
technological level, few could doubt the resourcefulness of the South African nation as regards self-sufficiency
in the face of increasing international isolation. This is especially relevant in the military sector, where South
Africa not only developed a military industry for own use, but eventually began to export military technology.
Overall, South Africa maintained a relatively strong military capability, particularly after the concept of "Total
Strategy" was developed to deal with the perceived communist onslaught. South Africa also possessed a modern
transport system on which many states in the Southern African region were dependent.
This had an important
effect on the country's level of strategic significance in that few countries in the region could afford to be
isolated from the RSA.
As noted above, non-tangible determinants of national capability are as important as their tangible counterparts
In the case of South Africa, national character and morale were negatively affected by domestic crime, political
violence and high unemployment levels. As regards political organisation, there was a definite decrease in
support for the concept of apartheid and a resultant diminishing of apartheid legislation. Political leadership and
support revolved around the National Party, whose leaders managed to obtain support for a change in domestic
policies. In summary, although facing various socio-economic problems and low morale, South Africa possessed
a relatively strong national capability and this was linked to both the national roles selected, as well as
perceptions of significance.
Although the aspect of the RSA' s strategic mineral reserves remained important for the international community,
the opening of more markets and alternative sources in the era following the end of the Cold War, resulted in
increasing competition. This situation made the effective functioning of the South African economy even more
important and it was clear that negative factors such as high inflation rates and ineffective trade policies would
have to be addressed in order to bring the RSA in line with global standards.
educational standards across all population groups would also have to attained.
Appropriate technical and
South Africa's military
capability, however, was relegated to a lesser position of importance as a result of increasing domestic social
concerns that demanded a decrease in defence budgeting.
The end of the Cold War thus resulted in the
diminishing importance of the defence establishment as social and economic concerns began to predominate.
As in the preceding period under discussion, non-tangible aspects of national capability were increasingly
negative. High inflation, unemployment, continuing political violence and high crime levels, as well as a lack of
adequate housing, were just a few of the problems troubling South African citizens. Many were uncertain about
a peaceful future in the RSA and personal safety was a primary concern.
The level of political violence and
general crime was, in fact, so extensive that it was anticipated that the internal situation could become
uncontrollable. This had a negative effect on the economy as investors became increasingly hesitant. The aspect
of crime can be considered the issue that had the most impact on national morale in the 1990-1993 period. As
the reform process of South Africa's domestic political dispensation continued, other concerns, such as minority
group rights and land redistribution, also had a negative effect on national morale. Yet most citizens remained
in favour of negotiating a new constitution.
Despite the negative factors noted above, South Africa's national capability in the immediate post-Cold War
period displayed a certain increase over the preceding period, as indicated by the statistics contained in this study.
Factors such as the importance of the Cape Sea Route for international trade and the availability of South
Africa's strategic mineral reserves, even taking increasing international competition into account, remained
important elements of national capability. There was also the added aspect of the RSA's infrastructure, which
played a vital role in the economies of neighbouring states; as well as the increasing importance of South Africa's
role in the Southern African region and the African continent in general.
Both ego and alter perceptions of
strategic significance emphasised these aspects.
Based on the RSA's established national capability, South Mrican politicians were eager to emphasise the
importance of the RSA to the international community, particularly when the international sanctions campaign
threatened to isolate the country from much of the globe.
Although the RSA had played an important role for the Allied powers during the Second World War, this was
apparently insufficient to deter international opposition to South Africa's apartheid policies. In order to counter
this situation, South African politicians emphasised the RSA's value to the African continent and the West in
general, particularly as a result of Soviet aims in the Third World. Soviet control of the Cape Sea Route and
South Africa's strategic mineral reserves would have had negative consequences for the West and world trade
South Africa's perceived importance was thus directly linked to the country's position as an anti-
communist ally in the Third World. Much of NATO's oil and mineral requirements were shipped around the
Cape, increasing the importance of Cape Route to the international community and it was established that except
for Soviet sources, South Africa was the only major source of certain strategic minerals.
Although these
minerals could be substituted or stockpiled, the costs associated with such moves were considered prohibitive.
There was also the issue of South Africa's strong military capability and the use of the Simonstown Naval Base
by Western allies. It has already been noted that several states continued to provide South Africa with oil
supplies in spite of the oil embargo and a similar situation evolved as regards the armaments embargo. Although
South Africa was forced to develop a local military industry as a result, certain foreign sources were still
Local industry was, however, sufficient to provide the RSA with an added degree of strategic
South Africa's value to the Southern African region during the periods under discussion cannot be denied,
particularly as many of the states in the region were geographically dependent on the RSA as regards such
aspects as trade, infrastructure and employment. The application of extensive economic sanctions against South
Afiica would thus have had negative consequences for the economies of these states. This was something that
was continually emphasised by the South African Government, who attempted to establish a "Commonwealth"
in the region as a result. Although the states of the Southern Mrican region attempted to liberate themselves
economically from South Africa by the establishment of the SADCC and eventually the SADC, they did not
manage to loosen the economic ties which bound them to the RSA. Trade between South Africa and the other
states in the region actually increased.
It was thus clear that economic concerns and not political criticism,
dictated relations in this regard and the perception was that by implementing a higher degree of economic
integration, it would become increasingly difficult for the international community to isolate the RSA without
endangering the economies of other states in the region. It was anticipated that this would also eventually award
South Africa with recognition as a strong regional power that could assist in the economic development and
security of the Southern African region. It thus become customary for many states to vehemently criticise South
Africa's racial policies, while at the same time secretly conduct trade relations with the RSA. Many African
states, in fact, relied on the international community to apply sanctions on their behalf,
This is not to deny the impact of the international sanctions campaign, as this played a predominant role in the
first era under discussion.
It has, however, been established that sanctions were not the only factor which
ultimately led to the abandonment of the country's apartheid policies. When change eventually did occur, it was
as a result of various aspects, including domestic factors. The sanctions campaign, in fact, hardened the attitudes
of many South Africans who became increasingly determined to resist their effect. This has been termed the
"laager effect".
Yet the international community persisted in the sanctions campaign, partly in an effort to convince the more
radical African nations not to resort to violence in an attempt to enforce change in South Africa. International
condemnation of the RSA's policies first appeared on the agenda of the UN General Assembly in the early
1950s. Sanctions were eventually implemented by many nations across the globe and covered a wide spectrum
of aspects, including landing rights, and the sale of Krugerrands and military equipment. The extent of these
sanctions, as well as differences in international application, conveyed an indication of the strategic importance
that the international community attached to South Africa. The US refusal to include certain strategic minerals
in the CAAA, as noted above, is an example; as is the dispute between the Commonwealth and Britain regarding
sanctions. In the years under discussion, it is clear that most of South Africa's support, even during the sanctions
campaign, came from the US and especially Britain. This support can be considered to have been the result of
perceptions of South Africa's strategic significance as an anti-communist stalwart alongside the Cape Sea Route;
as an economic trading partner; and as a stabilising force in a notoriously unstable section of the globe. Britain
had the added complication of strong historical ties with South Africa which were difficult to ignore. Although
many EC nations did impose certain sanctions against South Africa, trade continued and it has been established
that the failure of the sanctions campaign to achieve its ultimate aim can be considered a result of such ineffective
In the pre-1990 period, much attention was thus paid to communist aspirations on the African continent, even
though the Soviets released few official statements in this regard. It has been argued that the communist threat
to South Africa had been over-estimated, although there is sufficient information available to counteract this
There can be little denying that Soviet control of South Africa's strategic mineral reserves, in
conjunction with Soviet reserves, as well as control of the Cape Sea Route, would ultimately have led to an
extremely difficult situation for the Western World. It has even been suggested that an economic recession
would have resulted in such a case.
South Africa's ego perceptions during the Cold War era were thus dominated by geo-strategic, ideological and
economic interests.
The end of the Cold War resulted in various changes in the external environment, such as a diminishing of the
Soviet threat. Further reform in South Africa and the relaxation of international sanctions against the RSA, as
well as the relative normalisation of South Africa's international relations, were also characteristic of the 19901993 era. Considering
that South Africa could no longer count on a certain degree of automatic strategic
significance as an anti-communist ally, the emphasis of ego perceptions was bound to be altered. The question
was in what direction South African politicians would place the country's strategic importance?
elements, for example, the importance of the Cape Sea Route and the value of the RSA's strategic minerals,
continued in the post-Cold War era; but there was a definite change in their actual significance in that both
elements were previously directly linked to Cold War perceptions of communist expansionism.
In the second
era under discussion, the Cape Route and the minerals issue took on a purely economic slant and it was clear
that South Africa's strategic significance would need to be augmented.
By 1990, South Africa's national capability began to assume increasing importance for the Southern African
region. As the marginalisation of Africa began to exact a financial toll on the over-burdened continent, the
assumption was that South Africa's national capability could assist neighbouring states. As the world entered
a new era, it became clear that economic interest would be of primary concern. In order to regain the degree
of strategic significance lost as a result of diminishing Soviet expansionist aims, attention was instead focused
on regional concerns and South Africa's national capability, particularly the country's infrastructure and strong
This is not to neglect the importance of South Africa's military establishment for the purpose of
regional security and possible peacekeeping missions, especially as the developed world began to withdraw in
this regard.
The country's continuing strategic importance for the African continent in general and the Southern African
region in particular, was thus continually emphasised. In this era of improved relations, African nations were
more open to these suggestions and the value of the RSA' s national capability was increasingly welcomed. The
need for regional development was stressed and it was clear that the aim was the re-establishment of South
Africa as a key international player, with a particularly important role on the continent. There was also another
side to this argument, namely, the realisation that South Africa's survival was linked to that of her neighbours.
In other words, political instability and economic despair in neighbouring states would have unavoidable
repercussions for the RSA.
The importance of South Africa as an international economic partner was also emphasised. The apartheid years
of the previous era had proved the significance of the RSA in this regard, as evidenced by continuing trade in
spite of the international sanctions campaign. The normalisation of relations between South Africa and the rest
of the world resulted in the formal re-establishment of trade relations with many countries, in some cases even
prior to the formal ending of sanctions. These relations were noted by the South African Government as a sign
of the country's significance to the international community and thus formed an import part of ego perceptions.
Ultimately, an analysis of the two periods under discussion highlights the strategic importance awarded South
Africa during the Cold War as a result of the country's geo-strategic position and strategic mineral reserves.
Although these two elements remained in the post-Cold War era, the threat of communist expansionism was
replaced by ego perceptions of South Africa's significance as both an international economic partner and
particularly, an important regional ally.
The final aspect to be summarised in this concluding chapter is the strategic significance of the RSA as noted
by the external environment. As previously established, the concept of strategic significance involves both ego
and alter perceptions, and the latter aspect is thus discussed below.
In response to the South African Government's emphasis on the RSA' s strategic importance to the international
community, many states inadvertently reinforced these perceptions by criticising South Africa's apartheid policies
on the one hand, but secretly trading with the RSA on the other.
The international sanctions campaign against South Africa dominated much of the pre-1990 era and as already
noted, the failure of this campaign can be considered to provide an indication of strategic importance in that it
was not universally applied. Fears of communist expansionism dominated Western perceptions of South Africa's
strategic significance, especially as regards the US and Britain.
Both Administrations thus resisted the
application of sanctions as long as possible, although the US eventually succumbed to pressure and drafted the
CAAA. These two countries were, however, eager to lift sanctions once the South African Government met
certain requirements.
This was despite the request by many African nations and the DAU in particular, for the
continuation of the sanctions campaign until the establishment of a true democracy in South Africa.
South Africa's importance to the US and Britain during the Cold War era was thus clearly as an anti-communist
ally, which permitted use of the Cape Sea Route and allowed access to the country's strategic minerals. This
latter aspect was especially important for the US as these minerals were vital for the manufacture of certain
products, including automobiles
and military equipment.
The US had undeniable strategic and economic
interests in South Africa and the Southern African region which would be threatened in the event of a communist
takeover in the RSA. This scenario would become increasingly likely in the event of continuing political and
economic instability in South Afiica. The US was thus intent on assisting the RSA in the transition process, but
was forced as a result of pressure from particularly the African states, to apply sanctions as a form of criticism
of apartheid policies. Yet the importance of South Africa's geo-strategic position, mineral reserves, and anticommunist ideology was continually emphasised by various US politicians and Presidents.
regard have, in fact, been labelled "obsessive" as regards the pre-occupation
US policies in this
with the countering of Soviet
influence in the Southern African region.
British perceptions of South Africa's strategic significance were influenced by both the factors mentioned above,
as well as the historical ties between the two countries; while for the other members of the EC, South Africa's
importance was primarily as an economic ally. This perception was reinforced by continuing trade between many
EC member states and South Africa throughout much of the sanctions campaign, although certain sanctions were
eventually introduced by individual states. For many nations, the sanctions campaign was, in fact, a means to
satisfy the demands of African states so that "a call to arms" would not be considered.
Although the African
continent in general was vehement in its criticism of South Africa's apartheid policies, as has been noted above,
trade with the RSA was a matter of survival and thus continued. The RSA's strategic importance to the African
continent during and prior to the Cold War era, was thus as an economic trading partner.
For decades, the Soviets supported "liberation fighters", including the ANC, in their battle against South Africa's
apartheid regime, leading to what was termed the "Total Onslaught".
There was also Soviet support for the
sanctions campaign, although it has been determined that economic relations, predominantly as regards the
diamond industry, continued.
As mention has already been made of fears of communist expansionism in the
Southern African region, it is not necessary to reiterate this information.
Yet there can be little denying that
access to South Africa's minerals and the Cape Sea Route, as well as denying these aspects to the West, would
have provided the Soviets with an added advantage during the Cold War.
Once it was deemed that change in South Africa had taken on an irreversible character, the end of the sanctions
campaign followed. It was clear that nations were eager to re-establish relations with the RSA, particularly in
the economic sphere. There was thus a definite shift to a normalisation of relations between South Africa and
the international community, and the former's role on the African continent and particularly in the Southern
African region, began to assume increasing significance as a result of marginalisation of the Third World in the
post-Cold War era.
As noted above, the end of the Cold War and the South African Government's attempts at reform resulted in
a normalisation of relations between the RSA and much of the international community.
Alter perceptions
regarding South Africa's strategic significance in the 1990-1993 era were predominantly centered around the
importance of South Africa as an economic partner and stabilising power in the Southern African region.
Although few official pronouncements
in this regard were made, expanding relations can be considered to
provide an indication of strategic importance, and the ending of the international sanctions campaign against
South Africa played an important role in this normalisation of relations. The US continued to emphasise the
importance of stability in the Southern African region in order to safeguard US interests in this part of the globe,
and stability in South Africa played an important role in this regard.
It was anticipated that the successful
transition of South Africa to a democracy with a strong economy would have positive effects throughout the
region and would result in increasing international interest in the African continent. As has been noted, the Third
World was suffering increasing marginalisation and South Africa was perceived as playing a valuable role in reawakening international interest in Africa and especially the Southern African region.
Britain and the rest of the EC were also eager to end the sanctions campaign against South Africa and trade
between the RSA and these countries increased in the post-Cold War era. South Africa was again perceived as
vital to the economic prosperity of the Southern African region. Although many African states in the early 1990s
did not want to lift sanctions, trade between these states and South Africa continued to increase in response to
the situation of dependence noted above. It was emphasised that the RSA would be welcomed into regional
organisations should the process of reform be continued and that South Africa would bring a strong economic
capability into these organisations. Alter perceptions of South Africa's strategic significance were thus directly
linked to the RSA's economic capability, and relations between South Africa and the rest of the continent
continued to improve during the second period under discussion as a result.
Soviet involvement in South Africa in the post-Cold War era displayed a remarkable change from previous years
in that the emphasis was on negotiation and political solutions. The USSR (later Russia) was also eager to reestablish relations with the RSA. Mention has been made of Soviet economic interests in South Africa and as
was the case for many states in the new era, alter perceptions of strategic significance were centred around
economic concerns. This was admitted by various Soviet politicia,ns and academics. Considering that the new
era witnessed an increasing introspection by nations across the globe as they attempted to solve domestic
economic and social problems, the importance of stable economic relations could not be ignored.
perceptions in the 1990-1993 period thus focused almost exclusively on South Africa's strategic value in the
Southern African region and as an international economic partner.
A tabulated comparison of relevant aspects of the RSA's strategic significance in the pre- and immediate postCold War period is provided below. The tables will highlight and compare aspects of importance as regards
South Afiica's national capability, as wel1 as ego and alter perceptions of strategic significance in both periods
under discussion in this study.
Sim ilarities/DifTerences
1. Physical
detenninants form the basis of
initial strategic
Important geographical
Value of extensive resources
Increase in local and
climate and
position alongside the Cape
continues to increase; four oil
international sales of minerals
natural resources
Sea Route; warm climate;
refineries built to process
and energy; but a degree of
vast natural resources,
imported crude oil.
strategic significance lost in
particularly mineral and
this regard in the post-Cold
energy; RSA possesses
War era as a result of
minimal local oil supplies.
increased international
Population and
Various population groups
High unemployment levels
Population remains unskil1ed,
with various skill and
remain a concern;
although some improvement
educational levels; extensive
requirement for improved
in standard of education;
educational levels across all
unemployment levels
employment, and
population groups; South
continue to rise and have a
technical and
Afiican population continues
negative influence on overall
to grow.
national capability and
strategic significance.
Economic recession during
High inflation considered
Continuing high inflation
the 1980s, partly as a result
problematic; GDP declines in
levels, although a slight
of the international
the early 1990s, although
economic improvement is
sanctions campaign; relative
there is a slight increase by
noted; increasing dependence
self-sufficiency attained as
1993; foreign trade increases
on foreign trade considered a
regards technological
dramatically; less emphasis
problem; attempts to increase
capability, and
capability; deterioration in
on the need for self-
growth performance from
sufficiency, particularly as
regards non-military
the late 1960s; well-
regards military technology.
products; RSA's
. technological capability as
developed communications
infrastructure continues to
increase and improve, to the
extent that Southern Africa
cannot avoid dependence; all
of the above have a positive
impact on South Africa's
strategic significance.
Relatively strong military
End of the Cold War reduces
Although military capability
capability, based on self-
requirement for a strong
remains strong when
sufficiency as a result of the
military capability; defence
compared with the rest of the
arms embargo.
budget shrinks.
African continent,
deterioration to a certain
extent did occur as a result of
budgetary cuts in order to
finance socio-economic
concerns; yet the RSA's
military capability could
possibly be utilised in
peacekeeping operations on
the African continent, thus
increasing South Africa's
strategic significance.
2. Non-tangible
determinants difficult to
measure, but
vital to an
assessment of
Low level of national morale
Social concerns a priority;
General despondency as
character and
as a result of such factors as
extensive unemployment,
regards the crime situation,
unemployment, political
political violence, crime, and
although less concern about
violence and minority group
poverty continue to have a
external threats to the RSA;
fears; support for a
negative effect on morale.
morale low among all sectors
of the population during both
negotiated settlement.
periods under discussion,
with a resultant negative
influence on overall national
capability and strategic
Apartheid policies practised,
The process towards
Movement towards a more
resulting in local and
establishment of a democracy
acceptable political
international condemnation;
continues; majority support
dispensation; considered vital
but process of
incorporation of Black
as regards formal re-
leaders into government;
establishment of international
realisation that power of the
relations and increased
state will be increased by
strategic significance.
changes to apartheid policies.
National Party displays
F.W. de Klerk (NP) and
Continuing strong leadership
strong leadership skill by
Nelson Mandela (ANC) both
during both periods under
gathering enough support to
skilled leaders in that each
discussion; as evidenced by
continue the reform process.
manages to convince their
the relatively peaceful
respective electorates of the
negotiating process that
importance of peaceful
followed; success in this
regard has a positive impact
on strategic significance.
Economic policy
Decrease in economic
Principles of free-market
Increasing efforts made
perfonnance as a result of
economy, private enterprise
towards the establishment of
various factors, including
and ownership supported;
sound economic policies in
ineffective government
attempts made to improve
an attempt to increase overall
monetary policies; presence
economic perfonnance.
national capability and
of monopolies and
ultimately, strategic
interventionist policies
considered to have a
negative impact on the
Change in degree of
strate~ic significance
emphasised by
the South
Government as
adding to the
RSA's strategic
Importance of the Cape Sea
Cape Sea Route still
Continuing importance of
Route; threat of Soviet
important, but no emphasis
geo-strategic location,
control and imposition of a
on possible communist
particularly for the purposes
expansionism; importance of
of world trade and as a
South Africa as a stable,
strong ally for the rest of the
economically strong ally on a
continent; but an element of
generally unstable continent.
strategic significance lost as a
result of the end of the Cold
Role of South Africa in the
battle against communist
expansionism in the Third
No longer relevant.
Definite loss of strategic
significance in this regard.
Role played during both
Possible peacekeeping role in
Decrease in strategic
World Wars; particular
Africa and particularly the
significance as regards RSA's
importance of Simonstown
Southern Mrican region.
role as a military ally for the
Naval Base.
West; but this coincides with
the above-mentioned increase
in strategic significance as a
result of South Africa's
importance for regional
peacekeeping operations.
Strategic mineral
Possibility of Soviet control
Continuing importance of
Loss of a degree of strategic
of South Africa's strategic
strategic minerals, although
significance in this regard,
minerals and their denial to
with increasing international
although RSA minerals still
the West.
Importance to
Region economically
Emphasis on South Africa's
Increased strategic
the Southern
dependent on South Africa;
role in the region in light of
significance of South Africa
African region
emphasis on "outward"
increasing marginalisation of
to the Southern African
policy; relatively extensive
the Third World; possibility
region; can be considered
trade relations.
of a regional economic bloc.
particularly important in a
marginalised Third World.
Not emphasised as much as
Value of South Africa as an
RSA's increased national
the above aspects during
economic trading partner;
capability results in increased
this period.
trade and other relations
ego perceptions of strategic
increase as sanctions are
significance, not only as an
eased; arms control
international economic
emphasised in an attempt to
partner, but the RSA also
create perception of
likely to play an increasingly
international responsibility.
important role in the
international community as a
responsible global player.
Change in degree of
strate2ic si2nificance
The countries
noted below held
perceptions of
the RSA's
during the years
under discussion
in this study.
South Africa's value as a
A stable RSA would secure
RSA retains a degree of
strategic minerals supplier
US interests in the Southern
strategic significance as a
along the Cape Sea Route
African region and African
stabilising power on the
and as an anti-communist
continent in general;
African continent and
ally in an unstable region;
continuing value of South
supplier of strategic minerals;
CAAA eventually
Africa's strategic minerals;
but no longer important as an
implemented after initial
sanctions campaign ends
anti-communist ally.
resistance to sanctions
following positive change in
against South Africa.
South Africa.
RSA's significance as an
Importance of South Africa
Continuing strategic
anti-communist ally;
for stability in Southern
significance as a stabilising
importance of the Cape Sea
Africa, which would in turn
power on the continent; but
Route and historical ties;
protect British interests in the
the end of the Cold War
initial resistance to sanctions
region; importance of
results in a relative decrease
against South Africa.
bilateral economic ties.
in strategic significance as the
RSA is no longer important
in the battle against
communist expansionism.
Importance of South Africa
Trade with South Africa
RSA continues to be
as an economic trading
increases as sanctions
strategically significant as a
partner; although the EC
campaign draws to a close;
trading partner.
applies economic sanctions
emphasis on importance of
against the RSA, application
trade with the RSA and the
is not uniform.
Southern African region in
The African
Economically dependent on
Resistance to formal ending
Unavoidable economic
South Africa; SADCC
of the sanctions campaign,
dependence on South Africa
attempts to diminish this
but trade with South Africa
becomes more acceptable
dependence, but fails in its
continues; SADCC prepared
following internal RSA
objective; sanctions against
to accept a democratic South
political reform; South Africa
South African have a
Africa into the organisation,
thus retains and increases
negative effect on the
partly due to the RSA's
strategic significance.
economies of these states
strong economy; bi-lateral
and bilateral trade with the
relations with South Africa
RSA therefore continues;
politically opposed to the
apartheid regime, but trade
with South Africa
practically unavoidable.
Soviet Union
Interest in access to the
Emphasis on negotiated
Certain loss of strategic
RSA's strategic minerals;
settlement of South Africa's
significance at the end of the
value of South Africa as a
problems; importance of
Cold War, but continuing
potential communist ally in
economic relations with the
focus on the importance of
the Third Wodd, although
economic relations.
this theory has been
contested; support for
sanctions against South
Africa, although trade in
diamonds and gold believed
to have taken place.
In conclusion, South Africa's strategic significance in the pre- and immediate post-Cold War period was
undeniable and there is ample evidence to this effect. The emphasis of strategic importance did, however, change
in accordance with changes in the external environment.
The determinants of strategic significance identified
in Chapter 1 form the basis of a comparative analysis of South Africa's strategic significance and it has been
established that with increasing national capability and the ability to perform effectively in both a regional and
an international role, South Africa's strategic significance in the post-Cold War era was assured, albeit with a
different emphasis.
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