SOUTH AFRICA’S HUMAN RIGHTS DIPLOMACY IN AFRICA: 1994-2008

SOUTH AFRICA’S HUMAN RIGHTS DIPLOMACY IN AFRICA: 1994-2008
SOUTH AFRICA’S HUMAN RIGHTS DIPLOMACY IN AFRICA:
1994-2008
By
MBULELO SHADRACK BUNGANE
A mini-dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the
degree
MASTER OF DIPLOMATIC STUDIES
in the Department of Political Sciences at the
Faculty of Humanities, University of Pretoria
SUPERVISOR:
PROFESSOR A DU PLESSIS
September 2013
© University of Pretoria
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
My participation in this programme has been a wonderful and very fruitful learning
journey. Throughout my study, I continued to discover new knowledge and insights
on a wide range of issues relating to international relations, foreign policy, diplomacy,
human rights issues in Africa and South Africa‟s foreign engagements.
However, I did not walk this journey alone and I wish to acknowledge all those who
accompanied me. Firstly I wish to thank the Department of International Relations
and Cooperation, especially the former Director-General, Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba, for
introducing the programme and approving my participation in it as well as all the
Interviewees who gave their valuable time to share their knowledge and insights.
Secondly, I wish to thank the Co-ordinator of the Programme, Dr Yolanda Spies and
her support staff for making all the logistical and administrative arrangements that
made it possible for the programme to run smoothly. Thirdly, thanks to the lecturers,
especially my supervisor, Professor Anton Du Plessis, for his interest in my studies
and the guidance that he gave me.
I also wish to acknowledge the support that I received from my family, especially my
wife and children as well as my colleagues and friends. Without their support and
encouragement I would not have been able to complete the programme. Finally, I
acknowledge the Almighty God for the guidance and protection that He bestowed on
me during this wonderful journey.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS .................................................................................................................... i
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS AND ACRONYMS .............................................................................. ix
CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION .......................................................................................................... 1
1.
IDENTIFICATION OF THE RESEARCH THEME .............................................................. 1
2.
LITERATURE OVERVIEW..................................................................................................... 3
3.
FORMULATION AND DEMARCATION OF THE RESEARCH PROBLEM ................... 7
4.
METHODOLOGY..................................................................................................................... 8
5.
THE STRUCTURE OF THE RESEARCH ........................................................................... 9
CHAPTER 2: HUMAN RIGHTS DIPLOMACY IN RESPONSE TO HUMAN RIGHTS AS A
FOREIGN POLICY ISSUE: CONCEPTUAL AND THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK.... 12
1.
INTRODUCTION ................................................................................................................... 12
2.
HUMAN RIGHTS DIPLOMACY WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF INTERNATIONAL
RELATIONS AND FOREIGN POLICY ............................................................................... 12
2.1
Morality, human rights and international relations theories ............................................. 13
2.2
Foreign policy and human rights ......................................................................................... 15
3
DIPLOMACY AND NICHE DIPLOMACY ........................................................................... 18
3.1
Nature and evolution of diplomacy ...................................................................................... 18
3.2
Niche diplomacy ..................................................................................................................... 19
4
HUMAN RIGHTS THEORIES AND PRACTICES ............................................................ 20
4.1
The nature and scope of human rights ............................................................................... 21
4.2
Universalism and cultural relativism.................................................................................... 22
4.3
International human rights instruments and structures .................................................... 24
5
HUMAN RIGHTS DIPLOMACY ........................................................................................... 26
5.1
The nature and scope of human rights diplomacy............................................................ 26
5.2
Human rights diplomatic practice ........................................................................................ 28
5.2.1 Legislation and policy documents in support of diplomacy ............................................. 29
5.2.2 Institutional arrangements .................................................................................................... 30
5.2.3 Diplomatic actions and other measures ............................................................................. 31
6
CONCLUSION ....................................................................................................................... 33
CHAPTER 3: SOUTH AFRICA‟S FOREIGN POLICY FROM 1994 TO 2008 AND THE ROLE
OF HUMAN RIGHTS............................................................................................................. 35
1
INTRODUCTION ................................................................................................................... 35
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2
APARTHEID AND SOUTH AFRICA‟S PRE-1994 FOREIGN POLICY ......................... 36
3
THE ANTI-APARTHEID STRUGGLE ................................................................................. 37
3.1
The role of the African National Congress and the Pan Africanist Congress ............... 38
3.2
Multilateral organisations ...................................................................................................... 39
3.2.1 The United Nations ................................................................................................................ 40
3.2.2 The Organisation of African Unity ....................................................................................... 40
4
SOUTH AFRICA‟S FOREIGN POLICY DURING THE TERMS OF PRESIDENT
MANDELA AND PRESIDENT MBEKI ................................................................................ 41
4.1
The international and domestic environments .................................................................. 42
4.2
Middlepowership and South Africa‟s multilateralism ........................................................ 43
4.3
Foreign policy principles and national interests ................................................................ 44
4.4
Foreign policy priorities and strategic objectives .............................................................. 45
4.4.1 The African Agenda ............................................................................................................... 46
4.4.2 Promoting South-South co-operation ................................................................................. 49
5
THE PROMOTION AND PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN SOUTH AFRICA‟S
FOREIGN POLICY ................................................................................................................ 51
5.1
Inclusion of human rights in South Africa‟s foreign policy principles ............................. 51
5.2
Accession to international human rights treaties and other instruments and
participation in global human rights institutions ................................................................ 54
6
CONCLUSION ....................................................................................................................... 56
CHAPTER 4: SOUTH AFRICA‟S INSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORK FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
DIPLOMACY........................................................................................................................... 57
1
INTRODUCTION ................................................................................................................... 57
2
LEGISLATIVE AND POLICY FRAMEWORK ON HUMAN RIGHTS MATTERS IN
FOREIGN POLICY ................................................................................................................ 57
2.1
Constitutional imperatives .................................................................................................... 57
2.2
Foreign Policy Discussion Document, 1996 ...................................................................... 58
2.2.1 Relations with Southern Africa and Africa.......................................................................... 58
2.2.2 Foreign policy principles and the human rights aspect .................................................... 59
2.3
National Conventional Arms Control Act, 2002 ................................................................. 60
3.
SOUTH AFRICA‟S STATE INSTITUTIONS INVOLVED IN FOREIGN POLICY ......... 61
3.1
The Presidency ...................................................................................................................... 62
3.2
International Relations Peace and Security Cluster ......................................................... 62
3.3
Foreign Affairs Parliamentary Portfolio Committee .......................................................... 63
3.4
The Ministry and Department of Foreign Affairs ............................................................... 64
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4.
ORGANISATIONAL REPORTING MECHANISMS .......................................................... 66
4.1
Intradepartmental reporting .................................................................................................. 66
4.2
Reporting to Parliament ........................................................................................................ 67
4.2.1 Global human rights issues .................................................................................................. 67
4.2.2 Regional human rights issues .............................................................................................. 69
4.2.3 Individual country reporting .................................................................................................. 69
5.
THE INVOLVEMENT OF NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANISATIONS IN SOUTH
AFRICA‟S HUMAN RIGHTS DIPLOMACY ....................................................................... 71
6.
CONCLUSION ....................................................................................................................... 72
CHAPTER 5: SOUTH AFRICA‟S DIPLOMACY ON HUMAN RIGHTS IN SELECTED
AFRICAN STATES ................................................................................................................ 73
1
INTRODUCTION ................................................................................................................... 73
2
HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN SELECTED AFRICAN COUNTRIES BETWEEN
1994 AND 2008...................................................................................................................... 73
2.1
Human rights violations in Libya .......................................................................................... 73
2.2
Human rights violations in Nigeria....................................................................................... 76
2.3
Human rights violations in the Sudan ................................................................................. 78
2.4
Human rights violations in Zimbabwe ................................................................................. 80
3
SOUTH AFRICA‟S PROACTIVE HUMAN RIGHTS DIPLOMACY ................................ 83
4
THE USE OF DIPLOMATIC ACTION AND OTHER RELATED MEASURES ............. 84
4.1
Foreign policy principles ....................................................................................................... 85
4.2
Multilateral rather than unilateral action ............................................................................. 86
4.3
Transformation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) into the African Union (AU)
.................................................................................................................................................. 87
4.4
Conflict resolution, peace, development and human rights ............................................ 87
4.5
Quiet diplomacy ..................................................................................................................... 88
5
SOUTH AFRICA‟S DIPLOMATIC ENGAGEMENTS AND INTERVENTIONS IN THE
SELECTED STATES ............................................................................................................ 89
5.1
Libya ........................................................................................................................................ 89
5.2
Nigeria ..................................................................................................................................... 91
5.3
The Sudan .............................................................................................................................. 92
5.4
Zimbabwe ................................................................................................................................ 94
5.5
Diplomatic strategies and modes ........................................................................................ 96
6
CONCLUSION ....................................................................................................................... 96
CHAPTER 6: EVALUATION ............................................................................................................. 98
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1.
INTRODUCTION ................................................................................................................... 98
2.
SUMMARY OF KEY FINDINGS .......................................................................................... 99
2.1
The meaning and practice of human rights diplomacy .................................................... 99
2.2
South Africa‟s institutional and policy framework ............................................................ 100
2.2.1 The national policy framework ........................................................................................... 100
2.2.2 State institutions and departmental structures ................................................................ 101
2.2.3 Reporting ............................................................................................................................... 102
2.3
Responses to human rights violations .............................................................................. 103
2.3.1 Strategic plans...................................................................................................................... 103
2.3.2 General responses to evolving human rights situations ................................................ 103
2.3.3 Unilateral responses in individual countries .................................................................... 106
3.
RECOMMENDATIONS....................................................................................................... 107
4.
CONCLUSION ..................................................................................................................... 108
APPENDICES ................................................................................................................................... 110
APPENDIX 1: LIST OF INTERVIEWEES AND THEIR POSITIONS/PORTFOLIOS ............. 110
APPENDIX 2: INTERVIEW SCHEDULE ...................................................................................... 110
BIBLIOGRAPHY ............................................................................................................................... 112
SUMMARY ........................................................................................................................................ 133
KEY WORDS .................................................................................................................................... 134
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LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS AND ACRONYMS
AI
Amnesty International
AIPG
Amnesty International Parliamentary Group
ACHPR
African Commission on Human and Peoples‟ Rights
ANC
African National Congress
APRM
African Peer Review Mechanism
AU
African Union
CPA
Comprehensive Peace Agreement
COSATU
Congress of South African Trade Unions
DFA
Department of Foreign Affairs
DIRCO
Department of International Relations and Cooperation
DOS
Department of State
DRC
Democratic Republic of Congo
GEAR
Growth Employment and Redistribution
HSIC
Heads of State and Government Implementation Committee
HRW
Human Rights Watch
ICCPR
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
ICESCR
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
IGAD
Inter-Governmental Authority on Development
IGO
International Governmental Organisation
IRPS
International Relations Peace and Security
GNU
Government of National Unity
MDC
Movement for Democratic Change
NAM
Non-Aligned Movement
NEPAD
New Economic Partnership for Africa‟s Development
NGO
Non-Governmental Organisation
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NP
National Party
NUPENG
National Union of Petroleum and Gas Workers
PAC
Pan Africanist Congress
PAP
Pan African Parliament
PFMA
Public Finance Management Act
PMG
Parliamentary Monitoring Group
PRC
People‟s Republic of China
OAU
Organisation of African Unity
OHCHR
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
RDP
Reconstruction and Development Programme
SA
South Africa
UDHR
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
UK
United Kingdom
UN
United Nations
UNCTAD
United Nations Conference of Trade and Development
UNGA
United Nations General Assembly
UNCHR
United Nations Commission on Human Rights
UNHRC
United Nations Human Rights Council
UNSC
United Nations Security Council
UNITA
National Union for the Total Independence of Angola
USA
United States of America
WCAR
World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination,
Xenophobia and Related Intolerance
ZANU (PF)
Zimbabwe African National Union (Patriotic Front)
ZCTU
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions
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CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION
1.
IDENTIFICATION OF THE RESEARCH THEME
The South African (SA) government that came into power in 1994 committed itself to
a human rights oriented foreign policy (Mandela 1993: 87-88). This approach, as
former President Mandela explained, is premised on SA‟s struggle for democracy
and the experience of the anti-apartheid campaign which enjoyed broad international
support. At its height in the 1980s the international anti-apartheid movement, which
included states and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) across the world,
conducted one of the most comprehensive human rights campaigns in recent history.
The involvement of the international community in the struggle against apartheid had
a long history but was intensified following the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre. In 1973,
the practice of apartheid was declared a crime against humanity by the international
community through the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 3068
(XXVIII), 1973 (see also Dugard 2005: 161-162). The SA government‟s commitment
is also in line with SA‟s post-1994 democratic dispensation which is based on a
constitution that enshrines a Bill of Rights which incorporates amongst its founding
values the advancement of human rights and freedoms. SA‟s commitment to a
human rights based foreign policy can therefore be described as a reflection of the
country‟s history and values. It also conforms to international norms and standards
enshrined in instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948
(UDHR) that seek to promote and protect human rights.
This commitment of the SA government, initially headed by President Mandela and
subsequently by President Mbeki, was interpreted to mean that SA, as an extension
of its human rights driven foreign policy, would prioritise human rights issues in its
conduct of diplomacy at both bilateral and multilateral levels. With this approach, SA
joined other states, especially in the West, that include ethical or moral issues in the
conduct of their foreign policy and diplomacy. The theoretical foundations of this
approach are predominantly found in liberal and international society perspectives of
international relations. These ideas, premised on the liberal belief in a constitutional
state based on the rule of law and respect for the rights of individuals to life, liberty
and private property, emphasise individual liberties and freedom, co-operation and
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interdependence amongst states, and a commitment to international norms,
international law and the society of states. This contrasts, amongst others, with the
realist perspective which is more concerned with the politics of power and security, in
the process subordinating human rights to national interests.
The emphasis on and pursuit of human rights in foreign policy and diplomacy through
what can be termed human rights diplomacy is, however, one of the most
controversial and complex issues in international relations. Some of the contested
areas include the existence of human rights, their content and whether they apply to
all cultures or are particular or relative to location and time. The universality of human
rights is also contested and their purported origin in the West is a main cause of the
division. There are also divergent views between Western and developing countries
on which rights to prioritise. This controversy exists despite the fact that the majority
of states have ratified the main human rights treaties of the United Nations (UN),
amongst others, the UDHR and the two covenants of 1966, namely the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on
Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). At the regional level of Africa, the
predecessor of the African Union (AU), the Organisation for African Unity (OAU)
adopted a human rights instrument, the African Charter on Human and People’s
Rights, 1981. In addition, both the objectives and principles of the Constitutive Act of
the African Union, 2000 contain provisions that affirm the AU‟s commitment to human
rights. Through the New Partnership for Africa‟s Development (NEPAD), African
leaders have also committed themselves to promote and protect democracy and
human rights in their respective countries and regions.
In this context, SA has prioritised Africa in its foreign policy goals and emphasised
the promotion of human rights on the African continent. In the words of Mandela
(1993:89), “South Africa cannot escape its African destiny”. During his term, the
promotion of human rights, democracy, and good governance in Africa were
amongst the main foreign policy objectives (Venter 1997: 78-79). During the Mbeki
term, the African Renaissance and NEPAD became the centrepiece of SA‟s foreign
policy. The commitments of both Mandela and Mbeki to the promotion of human
rights in Africa must be understood against the backdrop of the continent‟s poor
human rights track record. Based on the Freedom House ratings which denote an
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assessment of the status of political rights and civil liberties in a number of countries
the majority of African countries are either “Partly Free” or ”Not Free” (Freedom
House 2010).
Recently though, in the media and amongst academics there has been widespread
speculation on whether or not SA has lived up to its promises as far as its
commitment to human rights is concerned and also criticism of SA‟s human rights
record in its foreign policy. This criticism heightened during SA‟s first tenure as nonpermanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) (2007-2008) with
some commentators accusing SA of abandoning its human rights principles or
applying double standards.
Against this background and in the context of its stated commitments, the study aims
to describe, analyse and assess the implementation of its human rights-driven
foreign policy through its human rights diplomacy in selected African states. The
study has relevance both at theoretical and practical levels. Theoretically, the study
will clarify human rights as a principle and objective of foreign policy, as well as the
concept of human rights diplomacy as a form of niche diplomacy. Practically, the
study will explore and provide an understanding of how, within the context of SA‟s
foreign policy towards Africa, the human rights issue has been perceived,
interpreted, pursued and dealt with by means of diplomacy. The aim of the study is
therefore to explore, analyse and evaluate the implementation of human rights as
one of the key principles and objectives of SA‟s foreign policy, and the use of
diplomacy in the pursuit thereof.
2. LITERATURE OVERVIEW
The role of human rights in international relations, foreign policy and diplomacy has
been the subject of debate amongst academics and practitioners for a long time. In
respect of these broader themes, the study is located within various international
relations theories, especially realism, idealism and the international society
approach. This being a diplomatic study, it is also apt to discuss diplomacy including
human rights diplomacy as a form of niche diplomacy.
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The overview of the literature in this study will be conducted with reference to the
following themes: human rights diplomacy within the context of diplomacy and niche
diplomacy; human rights as a moral concern and ethical issue in international
relations
and
foreign
policy;
human
rights
theory
and
its
contemporary
conceptualisation including various international instruments that have been adopted
by the UNGA and other international organisations for the promotion of human rights;
case studies on the application of human rights diplomacy by some states other than
SA; and South African academic literature and government reports relating to SA ‟s
human rights diplomacy.
Literature abounds on diplomacy, as a first theme, including its definition and
evolution from pre-modern times to current diplomatic practices. On this theme the
works of Nicolson (1969), Berridge (2005), Du Plessis (2006) and Barston (2006)
were consulted. Although these writings are mainly descriptive in nature, some of the
works such as Nicolson (1969:22-27) and Du Plessis (2006:124-125) deal with the
theoretical aspect of diplomacy. Human rights diplomacy is a form of niche diplomacy
and the latter concept was first used by Evans and Grant (1992). According to these
authors niche diplomacy “means concentrating resources in specific areas best able
to generate returns worth having, rather than trying to cover the field” (Evans & Grant
1992:323). It can be described as a form of specialist diplomacy in that a state
chooses to focus its diplomatic activities in worthy areas where it can have the
greatest impact (Cooper 1997:4-6; Henrikson 2005:67-68). Accordingly, as a form of
niche diplomacy, human rights diplomacy is defined as “the use of foreign policy
instruments to advance human rights as well as the use of human rights for the sake
of other foreign policy issues” (Müllerson 1997:2).
With regard to human rights as a moral and ethical issue in international relations
and foreign policy, as a second theme, there are differences amongst international
relations theorists, especially those who apply selected tenets of realism, idealism
and international society to the prominence that moral and ethical issues should be
accorded in foreign policy. Realists generally posit a more state-centric approach and
in the state‟s foreign policy, prioritise the pursuit of national interests such as national
security and the well-being of citizens over concern for moral and ethical issues such
as human rights. This, however, is an oversimplified view as there are more nuanced
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approaches within realist and neo-realist traditions. Idealists and international society
scholars however, tend to put individuals and individual rights, international
cooperation, and a concern for the common good of mankind at the centre of world
politics (Jackson & Sørensen 2007:98-99; Burchill 2009:68). Within the international
society approach, the idea of a good international citizen or what Mandela (1993:8889) calls “a responsible international citizen”, is propagated (Linklater 1992:28-29;
Dunne & Wheeler 2001:169-170). The general view however is that a more balanced
approach regarding the pursuit of national interests and ethical issues may be the
appropriate strategy for states to follow with the country‟s traditions, values, the
prevailing public sentiment and international norms and values playing a pivotal role
(Frost 1997:247; Brown 2001:21-22; Nel 2006:50-58).
The
third
theme
concerns
human
rights
theory
and
its
contemporary
conceptualisation, including international instruments that have been developed to
promote human rights. All human beings enjoy human rights by virtue of being
human or belonging to humankind. These rights are inherent, inalienable, universal
and apply to human beings at all times (Baehr 1996:3; Burchill 2009:69). Vincent
(1986:19-25) opines that human rights derive from natural law and natural rights as
expounded by the Stoics, Cicero, Locke, Grotius and Hobbes. These rules are of
universal application and unchanging. Despite these assertions and various
declarations and conventions on human rights, debates still abound about their
universality or particularity (Vincent 1986:37-39; Baehr 1996:13-15; Müllerson
1997:73-84). There are also differences of opinion on whether the human rights
focus should be placed more on political rights and civil liberties as opposed to socioeconomic rights. The initial divide on this issue was mainly between the East and
West but now it has shifted to different approaches adopted by developed and
developing states (Müllerson 1997:45-50).
The fourth theme deals with the human rights diplomacy of other states such as the
United States of America (USA), the Netherlands and Australia. This discussion is
based on the contribution of writers such as Baehr (1996), and Evans and Grant
(1992). According to these writers, these states apply various measures such as
legislation, institutional mechanisms including the deployment of dedicated human
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resources, and reporting and monitoring systems to manage human rights
diplomacy.
The final theme relates to the writings by South African academics and others such
as the contributions of Venter (2001:162-163), Barber and Vickers (2001:342-344),
Mbeki (2003) and Kasambala (2009:6-9) on SA‟s foreign policy and its human rights
diplomacy in bilateral relations and multilateral forums including the UN Security
Council. With the exception of comments on human rights in Nigeria, Zimbabwe and
Sudan, scant academic writing on SA‟s human rights diplomacy in Africa is found.
Generally, the literature was highly critical of SA‟s handling of human rights issues,
especially during its tenure at the UNSC and the positions it adopted in the United
Nations Commission of Human Rights (UNCHR) and later the United Nations Human
Rights Council (UNHRC). Some of the writers such as Dlamini (2002:66-67),
Schoeman (2002:81), Sparks (2003:326-328), Sidiropoulos and Hughes (2004:8083), Taylor (2005:124-126), Gumede (2005:178-179) and Gevisser (2007:439-443)
provide the rationale for Mbeki‟s stance of quiet diplomacy on Zimbabwe which was
vehemently criticised. With respect to government documents, annual reports
produced by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), now called the Department of
International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), between 2000 and 2008 contain
very little information on SA‟s human rights diplomacy in Africa. Most of the reports
pertain to the promotion of the African Renaissance and the New Economic
Partnership for Africa‟s Development (NEPAD) that have some relevance to human
rights issues, as well as to human rights rules and norm setting interventions at a
multilateral level, especially at the UN. The only exception to this trend is the
2000/2001 report which dealt with the visit of then Deputy President Zuma to
Swaziland during which issues relating to democracy, good governance, and human
rights were discussed.
From the literature surveyed, it is apparent that no detailed and comprehensive study
has been conducted that focuses on SA‟s human rights diplomacy in general and in
particular Africa. This study which is primarily undertaken from a diplomatic
perspective but within the context of foreign policy, contributes towards closing this
gap.
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3.
FORMULATION AND DEMARCATION OF THE RESEARCH PROBLEM
The key research question that this study will seek to answer is: What caused the
Mandela and Mbeki governments to be apparently selective in their application of a
human rights oriented foreign policy in Africa – both at bilateral and multilateral levels
– and how was diplomacy used in the implementation thereof? This main question is
subdivided into the following sub-questions:
a) What is human rights diplomacy and how does it relate to foreign policy and
diplomacy?
b) What were the human rights challenges that confronted the Mandela and Mbeki
governments in Africa and how were these issues interpreted?
c) What were South Africa‟s foreign policy objectives and strategies to pursue human
rights in Africa and to the extent that inconsistencies in its policies may have been
apparent, what were the rationale and explanation thereof?
d) What were the diplomatic strategies and instruments employed by SA to address
human rights issues and to advance human rights in Africa?
e) What were the human rights diplomacy successes and failures of the Mandela and
Mbeki governments in Africa?
As an exploratory proposition, the study will argue that although both governments
committed themselves to human rights oriented foreign policy, this approach was not
strongly pursued, sustained and/or consistently applied. It is contended that this may
have been caused by lack of support for human rights issues by other African
leaders and in part also by the perceived ineffectiveness of human rights diplomacy.
It is further assumed that both the Mandela and Mbeki governments in principle
subscribed to a human rights oriented foreign policy without indicating specific
objectives and without putting in place specific institutional machinery to manage and
implement a human rights diplomacy. It is also assumed that there were limited
successes on human rights diplomacy but that both governments faced numerous
constraints on the matter.
It is furthermore contented that although the South African foreign policy under both
the Mandela and Mbeki governments had very strong idealist leanings which
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emphasised international cooperation and interdependence in world politics, the
prevailing international relations environment remains conducive to the prioritisation
of national interests. As a result, it is contended that the prospects of effective human
rights diplomacy is limited unless supported by policy consistency and a
corresponding alignment of human rights oriented diplomatic strategies and
objectives.
The study is demarcated in conceptual terms, a specific time frame as well as
selected examples. Conceptually, the emphasis is on human rights diplomacy, within
the broader context of foreign policy and diplomacy as an instrument for
implementing foreign policy. With regard to time frame, it covers the period from
1994 to 2008, thus the terms of office of presidents Mandela and Mbeki. The study
further applies to Africa but focuses on selected but representative examples, namely
Libya, Nigeria, Sudan and Zimbabwe. These countries were selected on the basis of
their poor human rights records using the Freedom House country ratings (Freedom
House 2010). All the countries that have been selected have had consistently poor
ratings throughout the period of the study. Although Nigeria was rated poorly, its
ratings improved from 1998 onwards. Zimbabwe‟s ratings have moved in an opposite
direction with 1999 being the turning point. Lastly, given the complexities and other
issues related to socio-economic rights, the study focuses mainly on political rights
and civil liberties. This does not in any way denigrate the importance of socioeconomic rights and other rights.
4.
METHODOLOGY
Methodology in research refers to approaches, methods and techniques, and the
rationale for selecting particular approaches and methods that the researcher uses.
Given the exploratory and analytical nature of this study, a combined descriptiveanalytical and interpretative-critical approach is followed that considers the context in
which human rights diplomacy was practised by SA. The latter includes the
perspectives, explanations, experiences and motives of the decision-makers and
other actors as well as broader material and ideational structural factors. It will be
critical in the sense that the actions taken will be assessed against prevailing
international norms and standards. The method of analysis will be qualitative,
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inductive and example (selected case studies) based. Since the emphasis is on SA‟s
human rights diplomacy, no comparison with other countries will be made. A desktop study will be undertaken using both primary and secondary sources available in
the public domain. The primary sources include official reports, policy and strategic
planning documents, official statements on human rights issues on the selected
states, bilateral reports and agreements, and official diplomatic correspondence. An
assessment of bilateral agreements to determine the inclusion of human rights
provisions as well as the verification of the number of official correspondence and
interactions on human rights issues with the selected nation states will also be made.
Secondary sources relate to the literature on the nature and scope of both the theory
and practice of human rights diplomacy and will be utilised to supplement the primary
sources. These sources include academic books, journal articles, reports from
human rights organisations, statements by opinion leaders both domestic and
international, and newspaper articles relating to human rights issues in the selected
states and SA‟s diplomatic interventions in those issues. In addition, unstructured
interviews were conducted with experts in the field, namely with selected officials
within the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (formerly DFA) that
were involved in developing and implementing the country‟s human rights diplomacy.
The selected officials (Interviewees) preferred to remain anonymous. The schedule
of unstructured questions as well as the list of the appointment positions of
interviewees are attached as Appendix 1 and 2 respectively.
5.
THE STRUCTURE OF THE RESEARCH
The research is structured as follows:
Chapter 1: Introduction
As an introduction, this chapter provides the rationale for the study, identifies the
research theme and formulates and demarcates the primary and secondary research
problems and assumptions. It also provides a literature survey, an indication of the
research methodology to be used and an outline of the structure of the research.
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Chapter 2: Human rights diplomacy in response to human rights as a foreign policy
issue: Conceptual and theoretical framework
This chapter discusses the concepts and theories related to diplomacy on human
rights. It includes a clarification of human rights theories and related concepts such
as universalism, cultural relativism, diplomacy and diplomatic practices with special
reference to human rights diplomacy as a form of niche diplomacy. This discussion
will take place within the context of relevant international relations and foreign policy
perspectives with specific reference to international morality and an ethics (human
rights) based foreign policy.
Chapter 3: An overview of South Africa‟s foreign policy and the role of human rights
The aim of this chapter is to provide an overview of SA‟s foreign policy during the
Mandela and Mbeki administrations with emphasis on its moral and human rights
dimensions. However, in order to fully understand this policy, a brief overview will be
presented of the foreign policies of the various National Party (NP) administrations
that preceded them, and of the role played by the African National Congress (ANC)
and the international community in combating apartheid within the foreign policy and
diplomatic arena. The international and domestic environments, the principles
underpinning contemporary policy, its priorities and strategic objectives will be
discussed. The last section will provide an overview of its human rights element.
Chapter 4: South Africa‟s institutional framework for human rights diplomacy in Africa
The discussion under this chapter focuses amongst others on human resources
deployed to implement SA‟s human rights diplomacy in Africa; the organisational
infrastructure including the reporting and monitoring system put in place; the
involvement of non-governmental structures and other stakeholders in SA‟s human
rights diplomacy; and general oversight mechanisms.
Chapter 5: South Africa‟s diplomacy on human rights in selected African states
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This chapter discusses proactive diplomatic strategies, plans and actions that the
Mandela and Mbeki governments employed to address human rights issues in
selected states. It will also consider reactive diplomatic actions that the two
governments took to emerging human rights issues in the selected states (see
Section 4) both at a bilateral level and in multilateral forums such as the UN Human
Rights Council (UNHRC) and its predecessor the UN Commission on Human Rights
(UNCHR), and the UNSC.
Chapter 6: Evaluation
This chapter provides a summary of the key findings, responds to the research
questions, provides a conclusion and makes recommendations on future human
rights diplomacy for SA, especially in Africa.
6. CONCLUSION
Although the inclusion of human rights as a foreign policy issue has been highly
contested by theorists and practitioners alike, its global acceptance in recent years
has increased. In this context, human rights is both an issue of SA‟s foreign policy
and diplomacy and the latter is in turn applied as a form of niche diplomacy to
promote and protect human rights. The study therefore aims to describe, analyse
and assess the implementation of SA‟s human rights-driven foreign policy through its
human rights diplomacy in selected African countries. The next chapter explores
these issues in greater detail both at theoretical and practical levels.
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CHAPTER 2: HUMAN RIGHTS DIPLOMACY IN RESPONSE TO HUMAN RIGHTS
AS A FOREIGN POLICY ISSUE: CONCEPTUAL AND THEORETICAL
FRAMEWORK
1.
INTRODUCTION
Human rights diplomacy is practised by statespersons, officials within foreign
ministries and other stakeholders as part of the foreign policies of their states in
pursuance of national and related interests. It is undertaken in the arena of
international relations that has entrenched and settled norms such as state
sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of other states. The issue of
human rights and human rights diplomacy have also been plagued by contestations
although some progress has been made in recent years. Currently most human
rights norms, having been accepted by the majority of states through international
instruments, have become part of international law.
The aim of this chapter is to discuss the concepts and theories related to diplomacy
on human rights with the inclusion of human rights theories, related concepts such as
universalism and diplomacy, and diplomatic practices. In this respect, reference is
made of human rights diplomacy as a form of niche diplomacy. This discussion will
take place within the context of relevant international relations and foreign policy
perspectives with reference to international morality and an ethics (human rights)
based foreign policy.
2. HUMAN RIGHTS DIPLOMACY WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF INTERNATIONAL
RELATIONS AND FOREIGN POLICY
Individual states operate within an international relations system with contrasting
norms and values. On the one hand, realists perceive the system as anarchical
requiring states to take care of their interests before considering issues affecting
other nationals. On the other hand, liberals tend to place the interests of individuals
and their rights at the centre of international politics. These views tend to affect
foreign policies and diplomatic actions that states pursue and implement. This
section explores these issues in greater detail.
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2.1
Morality, human rights and international relations theories
The concepts of morality and human rights have their strongest international
relations theoretical foundation in both Liberal and International Society theories.
This however, as will be argued below, does not suggest that realists completely
discard morality in international relations. Nel (2006:47), citing Amstutz, posits that
“morality refers to values and beliefs about what is right and wrong, good and bad,
just and unjust”. He further asserts that it is linked to ethics which is the “examination,
justification and critical analysis of morality”. This latter view is supported by Brown
(2001:19-20) who describes ethical behaviour as “behaving in accordance with some
kind of moral principle”. He however stresses that what constitute moral principles,
especially in international relations, is disputed.
Liberals believe in the potential for human progress in modern society and capitalist
economy where the right to individual liberty is guaranteed. They believe in a
constitutional state based on the rule of law, where the rights of individuals to life,
liberty and private property and political and civil liberties are respected (Jackson &
Sørensen 2007:98-99). Mandela‟s vision of a post-apartheid foreign policy for SA fits
in well with this liberal perspective (Mandela 1993:86).
The liberal perspective is contrasted with the realists‟ perspective which in its crudest
form perceives no role for states on issues of morality. According to realists, the
world is characterized as being in a state of anarchy with no supra-national authority.
Therefore, the primary duty of states and governments is to promote their national
interests. Issues of morality apply to individuals and not states. Subsequently, it may
be unrealistic or immoral for states to put the wellbeing of their citizens at risk in
pursuit of moral issues elsewhere, also considering that there are no generally
accepted international standards of moral behaviours (see for example: Keal 1992:23; Linklater 1992:27; Donnelly 2003:155-156; Nel 2006:50).
According to Jackson and Sørensen (2007:130-134) exponents of the International
Society theory do not view states as having a separate existence and identity which
exclude individuals who constitute them, nor do they see international relations as
„value-neutral science‟. They also believe that international relations can be properly
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perceived by considering the main theories of international relations. These theories
are concerned with fundamental values such as international order, justice, state
sovereignty and human rights. Generally, it appears that order takes precedent over
justice (Jackson & Sørensen 2007:146).
Nel (2006:51) citing Hedley Bull, one of the exponents of the International Society
school of thought, argues that states have over the past decades accepted some
minimum standards of values which guide relations amongst states, in terms of
which certain behaviour such as slavery; apartheid and crimes against humanity
have been declared unacceptable. Some of the accepted international values find
expression in documents such as the UN Charter and the UDHR.
The general view is that a more balanced approach regarding the pursuit of national
interests and ethical issues may be the appropriate strategy for states to follow.
According to Brown (2001:21-22), blatant self-interest is wrong and that behaving
morally involves being sensitive to the interests of others without denying own selfinterests. However Nel (2006:57-58), argues that realist perspectives which emphasize
issues of power, sovereignty and competition amongst states are still pertinent as they
balance idealist views.
In order to deal with tensions between values and some of the key elements of
international relations including national interest and state sovereignty, various
suggestions have been made by international relations scholars. These suggestions
include the concepts of humanitarian assistance and good global citizenship. The
doctrine of humanitarian intervention recognises the right of the international
community to intervene if a state conducts itself in a manner that affronts the
„conscience of mankind‟ such as genocide or crimes against humanity (Vincent
1986:125-128). Donnelly (2003:246-247), despite his support for the principle of nonintervention, asserts that in an environment where the international community has
adopted human rights values, such a principle cannot be sustainable in the face of
severe human rights violations. The establishment of the International Criminal Court
and the Tribunals on Yugoslavia and Rwanda are, however, significant initiatives by
the international community to intervene in situations of gross human rights violations
by individual states.
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Frost (1997:247-248) in recognising the tension in world politics between human rights
and state sovereignty, proposes that SA‟s foreign policy should be guided by the norms
of universal human rights and citizenship rights, the latter being rights that citizens enjoy
in a democratic state including the right of self-determination. In such a state, the
principle of non-interference should be respected. In autocratic states, interference
should be aimed at creating conditions for the establishment of democracy.
Good international citizenship is an extension of the domestic principles of citizenship
to an international level. Within a state, citizenship applies at three different levels
which entail the legal rights that citizens of a state enjoy and moral duties that
citizens have towards others. At an international level, these aspects of citizenship
can respectively be equated to state sovereignty, and the responsibilities that states
have towards the maintenance of international order and to promote the general
good. Aristotle recognised possible conflict between the rights and duties of men and
citizens. He argued that considerations of humanity had to be taken into account in
foreign policy matters and that unjust treatment of others was a sign of „moral
deficiency‟ (Linklater 1992:23-29). Evans and Grant (1992:34-35) argue that although
for a country to be a good international citizen is an act of altruism, there are benefits
in other areas of foreign policy objectives for a country to be perceived as a good
international citizen. The concept of good international citizenship is similar to what
Mandela (1993:86-87) refers to as a „responsible global citizen‟ in his elaboration of
the foreign policy of democratic SA.
Although the liberal perspective is more inclined to include ethical and moral issues
such as human rights in international relations, other theories including realism do
not discard them entirely. Concepts such as humanitarian assistance which
recognises the right of states to interfere in the affairs of other states under certain
conditions have also gained more favour amongst the international community.
2.2
Foreign policy and human rights
The inclusion of ethical and moral issues such as human rights in the foreign policies
of states has been practised for a long time. The practice is influenced by the views
that leaders and foreign policy practitioners hold on the nature of inter-state relations
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as discussed in the preceding section. There have also been norms that have been
negotiated in international treaties at the UN that impact on how states relate to each
other. These treaties authorise states to intervene in the internal affairs of other
states under certain circumstances. Before these issues are discussed in any depth,
a brief discussion of what constitutes foreign policy is necessary.
According to Hill (2003:3-5), “foreign policy is the sum of official external relations
conducted by an independent actor (usually a state) in international relations”. It
involves the coordination and prioritisation of international interests and goals, and
the projection of values that states hold to be universal in their relations with other
states. Hill (2003:23) further refers to foreign policy as being “at the hinge between
domestic and international relations”. Foreign policy has also been defined by Du
Plessis (2006:111-112) as “the sum total of all activities by which international actors
act, react and interact with the environment beyond their national borders”. He
contends that foreign policy is about official government activity on behalf of the
state; it is a reaction and action in relation to the environment; it is a set of activities
resulting in decisions and action; and its purpose is to create, control, adjust and alter
external conditions. To summarise, foreign policy is about the actions and decisions
that states and other actors undertake in the international arena against the backdrop
of their domestic needs, values and the international environment. Although some of
the foreign policy decisions are about planned interventions in terms of state plans,
several of these decisions are reactive to unfolding international events. There are
also limits on what states are able to achieve in the international arena because of
the limited leverage that most states possess.
The inclusion of human rights issues as a foreign policy concern is not without
difficulties. According to Donnelly (2003:155-158), those who reject the inclusion of
human rights in foreign policies base their arguments on national interests,
adherence to the principles of state sovereignty and non-interference in internal
affairs of other states, and assertions that the promotion of human rights is a form of
cultural imperialism. This view is challenged by liberals who believe that on foreign
policy and diplomacy, human rights provide a legal platform to deal with issues of
freedom and justice and that the violation of human rights by states affect all of
humankind (Burchill 2009:69).
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A precedent for states to interfere in the internal affairs of other states was set in
1898 when the British Prime Minister William Gladstone sent British troops to the
Ottoman Empire to protect Bulgarian Christians against persecution. In the same
year, the USA went to war against the Spanish Empire on the allegation that the
latter was ill-treating its subjects. The Americans defined the Spanish behaviour as
„shocking the conscience of mankind‟ (MacDonald & Patman 2007:3-4). In modern
times, Goff (2007:197) avers that Woodrow Wilson was the first leader to put ethics
and universal values at the heart of a nation‟s foreign policy.
The enthusiasm of world leaders on ethical foreign policies was dampened during
the Cold War. Realist ideas dominated the foreign policy outlook of the USA. The
USA allied itself with repressive regimes in Latin America, Asia and the Middle-East
and Africa. State interests took precedence over the need to promote and protect
human rights. Ironically, moral norms became institutionalised with the UN adopting
the two human rights covenants on civil and political rights, and economic, social and
cultural rights (MacDonald & Patman 2007:6-7).
Following the end of the Cold War, there was again a resurgence of idealism. Most of
the profound changes occurred at the UN where there was more cooperation
amongst states. The UN organised the World Congress on Human Rights in Vienna
in 1993 which mandated the establishment of the Office of the Human Rights
Commissioner. This decision helped to elevate human rights within the UN. The UN
sanctioned a number of humanitarian interventions in Iraq, Bosnia-Herzogovina and
others. Two international tribunals were established for the former Yugoslavia and
Rwanda to bring to trial those that had committed gross human rights violations in
these countries ( MacDonald & Patman 2007:11).
The issues of morality and values and especially human rights standards are firmly
entrenched in world politics. There may still be differences amongst scholars,
statesmen and diplomats on the emphasis to be put on these issues but no state can
afford to ignore them as they are part of contemporary international law. The
acceptance of the main international human rights instruments, which will forthwith
be discussed (see Section 4 below) bears testimony to this reality.
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3
DIPLOMACY AND NICHE DIPLOMACY
Diplomacy plays a critical role in the interstate system. It is therefore pertinent that
the concept is clarified by considering its definitions, its nature and its evolution.
Niche diplomacy as a particular form of diplomacy will also be discussed.
3.1
Nature and evolution of diplomacy
Nicolson (1969:4-5) defines diplomacy as, the management of international relations
by negotiation; the method by which these relations are adjusted and managed by
ambassadors and envoys. According to Satow (1979:3) “it is the application of
intelligence and tact to the conduct of official relations between the governments of
independent states”. For Berridge, Keens-Soper and Otte (2001:1), “diplomacy is the
term given to official channels of communication employed by the members of the
state system”. They further opine that it is essentially about negotiations. According
to Barston (2006:1) diplomacy is concerned with the management of relations
between states and between states and other actors. It is an important tool that
states use to implement their foreign policy objectives without resorting to the use of
violence. In the context of foreign relations, diplomacy has been defined as “the art of
advancing national interests through the sustained exchange of information among
nation states and peoples. Its purpose is to change attitudes and behaviour. It is the
practice of state-to-state persuasion” (Du Plessis 2006:124). According to LegueyFeilleux (2009:1) “at the core of the concept of diplomacy is the idea of
communicating, interacting, maintaining contact, and negotiating with states and
other international actors”. Kleiner (2010:5) provides a broader conceptualisation by
defining diplomacy “to be understood as the management of a country‟s or an IGO‟s
policy by official agents via communication with state and non-state actors of other
countries and with IGOs according to established rules and practices”.
From the foregoing definitions, a few observations can be made about the nature of
and trends in diplomacy. Firstly, that at the heart of diplomacy is the relationships
between states; secondly, it is conducted by a dedicated core of professional people,
the diplomats; thirdly, it is a purposive activity; fourthly the conduct of negotiations is
an essential element of diplomacy; fifthly, it is a management activity where the
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sharing of information and communication play an important part; and lastly, it is an
institution with its own rules and practices. Although some of the earlier users of
diplomacy were the Greek City states, emperors and kings, it later became an official
practice of states. In modern times, the number of actors has been broadened to
include International Governmental Organisations (IGOs) and NGOs. Diplomacy is
mainly conducted by trained and professional diplomats employed by ministries of
foreign affairs. These are joined by other government officials and non-career
diplomats. Diplomacy is conducted on the basis of well established rules and
procedures. These rules are now codified in two international conventions (the
Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961 and the Vienna Convention on
Consular Relations, 1963).
3.2
Niche diplomacy
Evans and Grant (1992:323) define niche diplomacy as “concentrating resources in
specific areas best able to generate returns worth having, rather than trying to cover
the field”. For this form of diplomacy to succeed, a number of criteria must be met.
There must be careful selection of opportunities where results are likely to ensue;
there must be adequate physical and intellectual resources to pursue the areas of
focus; and finally, the state applying niche diplomacy must have the requisite
credibility in the eyes of the international community in that specific niche. This
credibility is based on its independence; practicing what it preaches to others; and
consistency (Evans & Grant 1992:323-325). Whilst Cooper (1997:4-9) concurs with
these views, he argues that the concept is based on functionalism which was applied
by middle powers such as Australia and Canada during the post-Second World War
period. In terms of functionalism, responsibility that is assigned to states in selected
areas should be commensurate with the duties and obligations that are involved.
States should therefore participate on the basis of their specialized interests and
related experience. These middle powers therefore chose functional areas where
they had the requisite resources and reputation. He further contends that niche
diplomacy derives from the overall foreign policy behaviour displayed by middle
powers who have a strong normative basis and good international citizenship. Some
of the diplomatic activities that these middle powers engage in are mediation, as well
as bridge-building between major powers.
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Norway is another country that has established a niche for itself in world affairs in the
area of peace facilitation. Amongst Norway‟s notable peace initiatives is its facilitation
of the Middle East peace process in what became known as the Oslo Peace Accord.
Together with Canada it also played a key role in the Ottawa Process, the
international initiative to ban landmines and the culmination thereof in the Ottawa
Convention, 1997. Norway is also known for its involvement in the Nobel Peace
Prize, to the extent that the prize is awarded by the Norwegian Nobel Committee and
presented in the Norwegian capitol, Oslo (Henrikson 2005: 68).
It can also be argued that SA as an emerging middle power identified a niche for
itself during the Mandela presidency in the international marketing of diamonds. It
played a leading role through what is known as the Kimberly Process. The process
established mechanisms to certify that diamonds which were traded did not originate
from areas where either governments or other actors were engaged in gross human
rights abuses such as in Sierra Leone and Liberia during the late 1990s and early
2000s (Wheeler 2004:93).
Having considered the description of niche diplomacy, human rights as a form of
niche diplomacy will forthwith be discussed (see Section 5). In addition to defining
human rights diplomacy, its theory and practice have to be discussed as a point of
departure.
4
HUMAN RIGHTS THEORIES AND PRACTICES
Human rights have been the subject of a great deal of theorisation and contestations
since the twentieth century. Some of these differences on the interpretation of human
rights came to the fore during the Cold War. However, since the end of the Cold War,
there is greater convergence of views on their nature and application. This section
will explore these issues with specific reference to the nature and scope of human
rights, their universality and cultural relativism, applicable international instruments
and how some states have practised human rights diplomacy.
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4.1
The nature and scope of human rights
All human beings enjoy human rights by virtue of being human or belonging to
humankind. A right in this sense, according to Vincent (1986:8-11), is a moral
possession constituted by the right holder, the object or substance of the right, the
exercise of the right, the duty holder, and the justification of the right. The right holder
is mainly individuals but in some instances it can be groups or collectives such as
states. The subjects of rights are claims that are protected by the rights. Exercising a
right may take the form of asserting its existence, or simply enjoying the right such as
casting a vote in political elections. Rights are mostly held against states that have
certain obligations to perform in relation to the right holder. Shue (1996:13-17)
contends that because moral rights are rationally justified, their enjoyment must be
socially guaranteed against „standard threats‟. The social guarantees give rise to
correlative duties, especially for states, to avoid depriving citizens of their rights,
protecting those who have been deprived and providing aid when necessary to those
deprived of their rights.
According to Baehr (1996:3) and Donnelly (2003:10) human rights are inherent,
inalienable and universal. Baehr (1996:3), quoting Maurice Cranston, refers to
human rights as something applicable to all humans at all times. Human rights are
not bought, nor are they created by any contractual undertaking. They belong to a
man or woman simply because s/he is a woman or man. Donnelly (2003:10) agrees
with this view and asserts that human rights apply equally to all human beings. They
are also inalienable since a human being does not cease to be human. Finally, they
are universal in the sense that all members of the human species are holders of
human rights. From the above understandings of the concept of human rights, it is
apparent that human beings do not derive human rights from states or rulers. Human
rights are inherent in the nature of human beings. States can only institutionalise
their application within their jurisdictions but they do not create them.
The legal and political origins of human rights can be traced to the United Kingdom
(UK), France and the USA through the writing of philosophers and political figures
such as Locke, Montesquieu and Jefferson. They were legalised in these countries
through instruments such as the English Petition of Rights (1627). Based on these
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Western origins, claims of the universality of human rights are disputed and should
therefore be agreed to by other nations and adopted as international standards,
(Pollis & Schwab 1979:2-4). Vincent (1986:19-27) concurs with Pollis and Schwab on
the natural law and natural rights origins of human rights as expounded by the
Stoics, Cicero, Locke, Grotius and Hobbes. He however asserts their universality and
unchanging application.
The concept of human rights has not been without critics. Amongst them, Vincent
(1986:28-31) cites Burke, Hegel, Bentham and Marx. One of the criticisms of Burke
is the metaphysical abstraction of human rights. Hegel criticised the notions of
equality and freedom which he feared could lead to the destruction of society.
Although he accepted the rights of individuals to life, liberty and property, these rights
were enjoyed by individuals as part of a society and a community. Bentham rejected
the notion of equality and other propositions as false and dangerous. According to
Marx, natural rights as exemplified by the French Revolution were limited in terms of
place and time, and should be interpreted with due regard to the interests of the
property owners whom they served. Marx‟s sentiments are shared by Shivji
(1989:49-52) who contends that the human rights ideology has historically been used
as part of the class struggle and that human rights never applied to all human beings.
Although the nature of human rights has been challenged and contested over the
years, their acceptance by the international community is almost universal as will be
demonstrated in the following section. They have become a pre-eminent part of the
norms and standards of the international society.
4.2
Universalism and cultural relativism
One of the contentions about human rights is their universal application. As
previously indicated, (see Section 4.1), Polis and Schwab (1979:4-8) reject claims of
the universality of human rights, especially the UDHR. In their view, at the time of its
adoption, most of the developing countries were still under colonial rule and the UN
was dominated by the West. They further argue that the adoption of human rights by
regional organisations such as the erstwhile OAU was due to external pressure from
the West and former colonial powers. Shivji (1989:53) concurs with these views and
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further asserts that the concept of human rights was used as a tool of USA
imperialism and for the domination of developing countries.
However, Müllerson (1997:73) claims that “practically all the UN human rights
documents, directly and implicitly, proceed from the assumption of the universality of
human rights, their indivisibility and equal importance”. He further asserts that the
universality of human rights and freedoms contained in the UN documents was
confirmed at the World Conference on Human Rights which was held on 25 June
1993 in Vienna. He accepts though that not all human rights are universally accepted
or equally important in every society. Donnelly (2003:61-64) accepts the Western
origins of human rights, but argues that is in part a function of history. Some of the
injustices associated with modern economic and political systems were first
experienced in the West.
The divergence of views on the universality of human rights aroused interest in the
concept of cultural relativism. According to Vincent (1986:37), cultural relativism
entails an assertion that rules about morality vary in terms of place and time and they
must be understood in their cultural context. There is therefore, no moral universality
or universal values. Baehr (1996:14) adds that exponents of cultural relativism argue
that the existence and scope of civil and political rights in any society are determined
by the local and regional traditions. Despite the arguments in defence of the
universality of human rights, the existence of cultural differences amongst different
societies is generally acknowledged (Vincent 1986:39-44).
Another difference generally accepted is that outside the Western conceptualisation
of human rights, there are some elements of human rights such as individual versus
group rights and the emphasis on civil and political rights as opposed to economic,
social, and cultural rights that are contested. Pollis and Schwab (1979:8-14) note that
in traditional societies, individuals are not perceived as autonomous and possessed
of rights that take precedent over the rights and needs of society. The status and role
of individuals are defined in relation to their groups. They further assert that in
developing countries, economic rights including the right to development are given
preference to civil and political rights. This view, especially with regard to SubSaharan Africa, is rejected by Howard (1983:469). She argues that civil and political
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rights are needed in order to ensure economic growth and that proper economic and
development policies are put in place. They are also necessary to guarantee social
and cultural rights. Finally, civil and political rights are necessary in themselves.
Müllerson‟s (1997:73) assertion is acceptable in that the various human rights
instruments adopted by the UN are assumed to be universal. The 1993 Vienna
Declaration which was adopted by the international community following the UN
Conference is more emphatic in proclaiming that the universality of human rights is
beyond question. With regard to cultural sensitivities, the views of Vincent and
Donnelly are supported. The Africa Charter of Human and Peoples Rights, by
including the concept of people‟s rights and duties, demonstrated how the form of
rights can be used to take into account cultural and regional considerations.
4.3
International human rights instruments and structures
Since the end of the Second World War, a number of international human rights
norms and standards have been put in place by the international community through
the UN. Similarly, regional intergovernmental organisations have adopted a number
of human rights instruments. A number of structures such as the UNHRC and the
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) have also been put in
place within the UN system and through regional organisation to address human
rights issues. The UN Charter which is the foundational international human rights
document set in place a motion that resulted in the attainment of human rights as
one of the central programmes of the UN. In terms of Article 1 (3), the promotion and
encouragement of the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all
without distinction based on race, sex, language, or religion is one of the purposes of
the UN. It was the view of the founders of the UN that the attainment of human rights
was critical for the realization of international peace and security.
The principles enunciated in the UN Charter were elaborated in the UDHR which was
adopted by the UNGA on 10 December 1948. The UDHR is complemented by the
ICCPR of 1966, and the ICESCR of 16 December 1966. The UDHR and the two
covenants are generally regarded as the International Bill of Rights. There are
several other conventions which deal with specific rights and issues such as the
rights of children, racial discrimination and others (Baehr 1996:61-62).
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The United Nations Human Rights Council and the newly established OHCHR are
the main structures within the UN system which are charged with implementation of
human rights. Both these bodies are accountable to the UNGA. The UNHRC is
responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around
the globe. The UNHRC replaced the UNCHR in April 2006. The Universal Periodic
Review which was set up by the Human Rights Council is a detailed and unique
process which involves a review of the human rights records of all 192 UN member
states once every four years. The OHCHR offers expertise and support to the
different human rights monitoring mechanisms within the UN system.
At a regional level, several instruments are in place, which have the UDHR as their
foundation. To cite a few: the European Convention for the Protection of Human
Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the American Declaration of the Rights and
Duties of Man, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (the Banjul
Charter), which were adopted in 1953 by the European Union, 1969 by Organisation
of American States, and the OAU in 1981 respectively.
Although the Banjul Charter resembles other charters, it has some unique features.
Amongst the reasons for the adoption of the Banjul Charter was the need to include
African tradition and values rather than the wholesale assimilation of Western and
European norms. Most of the rights contained in other human rights instruments are
found in Chapter I of the Charter. Chapter II contains provisions that pertain to duties
of individuals to their families, society, the state, other legally recognized
communities and the international community. These duties include the duty of the
individual to work for the cohesion of the family and to respect parents and maintain
them; to serve the national community and not to compromise the security of the
state; and to contribute to the promotion and achievement of African unity. It is the
inclusion of these duties that has raised some debate on the Banjul Charter. One of
the criticisms, on this issue is the fact that the precise boundaries, content and the
conditions for their compliance cannot be ascertained. On the positive side, the
Banjul Charter recognises the indivisibility of human rights and peoples‟ rights and
rejects the argument that civil and political rights must be sacrificed in order to
achieve development (Okoth-Ogendo 1993:76-82). Ambrose (1995:81) notes that
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the inclusion of the concept of peoples‟ rights is an important distinguishing feature of
the Banjul Charter.
The African Commission on Human and Peoples‟ Rights (the Commission) which is
established in terms of Article 30 of the Banjul Charter has the responsibility for the
promotion and protection of rights in Africa. The Commission has no mandate to
interfere in the internal affairs of member states and cannot institute its own factfinding investigations. It cannot publish its reports and the results of its investigations
unless authorised by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the OAU
(Ambrose 1995:83).
Despite the earlier contestations around the concept of human rights, especially
during the Cold War era, there is now a convergence of world opinion on their
universality, interdependency and the importance of human rights. There is,
however, recognition that some regional differences need to be respected.
5
HUMAN RIGHTS DIPLOMACY
States that have concerns with human rights issues in other countries may employ
diplomacy to raise those concerns. However, diplomacy has also been used within a
broad range of measures including legislative or other policy frameworks, as
supported by institutional mechanisms.
5.1
The nature and scope of human rights diplomacy
There are widespread discussions of human rights diplomacy in literature but the
concept is hardly defined. According to Müllerson (1997:2), it is “the use of foreign
policy instruments to advance human rights as well as the use of human rights for
the sake of other foreign policy issues”. As such, it is the communication,
representations,
interactions
and
negotiations
amongst
diplomats,
foreign
representatives of states and non-state players on human rights issues which take
place at multilateral and bilateral levels. It concerns the implementation and
application of human rights policies by states in their relationship with other states.
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It is at this operational level where the challenges and contestations about human
rights are experienced despite the general acceptance of human rights standards
and norms by states as evidenced by the adoption by the UNGA of the UDHR and
the two related Covenants. Part of these challenges relate to nature of human rights
and their universality (see Section 4). There are also systemic issues which militate
against diplomats engaging in human rights diplomacy, the main one being the
doctrine of raison ďȇtre. These systemic problems manifest themselves with the
conduct of diplomats who regard the maintenance of good relations with the host
state as well as promotion of free trade as being of prime importance. This makes
raising contentious issues such as human rights abuses „uncomfortable‟. The other
issue is national security which at times is equated with national interests of states.
Even in countries such as the USA which has legislation dealing with human rights in
foreign relations, there are exceptions to the application of legislation based on
national interests. In most cases, human rights issues only get raised when it is in the
national interest to do so or when raising them would not endanger other interests
(Vincent 1986:133-136). Hill (1989:10) concurs with the view that raison ďȇtre
militates against diplomatic actions on human rights and notes that states put issues
of national security and the welfare of their citizens as their primary purpose.
In instances when states raise human rights issues, quiet diplomacy is the preferred
form of engagement. Other diplomatic actions that can be taken to show displeasure
is to shun National Day events of the host state, recalling an envoy for consultation
or eventually calling off relations (Vincent 1986:137-138). In addition to these actions,
Baehr (1996:31-40) includes making public statements, delaying or cancelling
ministerial visits, sanctions and denial or withdrawal of aid, as some of the human
rights diplomacy actions that may be used to influence other governments.
Vincent (1986:138-139) and Hill (1989:10) argue against the promotion of trade
relations taking precedent over human rights concerns in all instances. This was the
approach followed by some Western governments including the UK under the
Thatcher government (1979-1990) in relation to trade sanctions against SA. On
security concerns, Vincent (1986:139-141) and Hill (1989:10) argue for both security
and human rights issues to be taken into consideration and not to let security
concerns override the issue of human rights even when their validity has not been
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proven. Vincent (1986:141) calls for a more strategic and long term view in
developing policy and not to let short term benefits distract from the long term goals.
This is an important issue for the SA government as it needs to have a proactive
strategy to deal with human rights issues in order to prevent some of the criticism
that it has endured (see Chapter 3).
The human rights diplomacy discourse is plagued by allegations of inconsistency in
its application. Vincent (1986:142-144) and Baehr (1996:46) state that circumstances
in countries differ which calls for different measures to be taken. Vincent further
suggests that states should focus on worst cases of human rights abuses and where
interventions are likely to be effective. Baehr (1996:23-29) convincingly argues that
the issue of human rights in foreign policy presents states, especially those who
make this issue a foreign policy priority, with policy choices. They have to weigh the
importance of each issue against others and make choices. In some instances,
peace and security may be preferred over human rights. This appears to be the
stance taken by the AU in seeking the deferment of the indictment on President
Bashir of Sudan over allegations of gross human rights violations and genocide in
Darfur.
The practice of human rights diplomacy within an international relations environment
where states pursue many interests is not without challenges and controversies. A
balance needs to be found between taking diplomatic action in defence of human
rights and the pursuit of other interests. There are also a variety of options in terms of
diplomatic actions which may be deployed based on circumstances of each situation.
5.2
Human rights diplomatic practice
In the discussion that follows, the practices of the USA, Australia and the
Netherlands will be presented as examples of how states that profess to project
human rights values on foreign policy actually conduct their human rights diplomacy
and develop a policy framework and institutional arrangements to underpin their
diplomacy. The choice of these countries is mainly based on their standing in world
politics and their history of including human rights issues in their foreign policies. The
USA has been a major power since the turn of the twentieth century and as will be
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demonstrated below, has made moral issues a major factor in its international
relations. Both Australia and the Netherlands are middle powers who have
championed human rights issues including the fight to end racism in SA. The lessons
from these countries may be insightful in considering SA‟s role in the promotion and
protection of human rights.
5.2.1 Legislation and policy documents in support of diplomacy
Some states, notably the USA, passed legislation to support and base their human
rights diplomatic efforts. According to Baehr (1996:86-87) amongst these legislative
measures are section 116 (a) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended
and section 502b of the International Security Assistance and Arms Export Control
Act. In terms of this legislation, states that are reported to have consistently
committed gross violations of human rights are denied financial and military
assistance respectively. The President can however deviate from these measures
under extraordinary circumstances or to protect vital USA national interests.
With regard to the Netherlands, a Memorandum on Human Rights and Foreign
Policy was drawn up by the Government in 1979 which sets out the policy that has
guided its human rights diplomacy (Baehr 1996:152-153). In terms of this document,
human rights are regarded as an essential element of foreign policy. The following
criteria were set to guide human rights actions: a preference to joint action with likeminded states; economic sanctions and embargoes to be applied only if other
interventions have proved to be inadequate and such measures would not be
disproportionally prejudicial to national interests; actions should be taken in an
impartial and consistent manner; and that development assistance should not be
used to punish or reward states for their human rights records, although in cases of
gross and persistent violation of human rights, aid can be suspended.
Although no specific legislation relating to Australia exists, according to Evans and
Grant (1992:147-148) its human rights diplomacy at a bilateral level during the late
1980s and early 1990s was characterised by consistency and non-discriminatory
actions; factual accuracy on allegations of human rights violations; raising concerns
only on violations relating to universally recognised human rights; and allowing
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Australian domestic conduct on human rights to be subjected to scrutiny by the
international community.
5.2.2 Institutional arrangements
In terms of institutional arrangements, the Congress in the USA plays a pivotal role in
ensuring that the human rights feature prominently on foreign policy. This, especially,
was the case during the presidency of Jimmy Carter, by pushing through the
legislative changes (see Section 5.2.1) as well as increasing executive and
administrative capacity to deal with human rights issues. During the Carter
administration, more employees were appointed to work solely on human rights; a
Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs headed by an Assistant State
Secretary as well as an interdepartmental committee to coordinate human rights
policy with other policies were set up (Baehr 1996:90-91). In addition to the
establishment of institutions, legislation required all embassies to file reports with the
USA Department of State (USA DOS) on human rights conditions in all countries
where the USA had embassies. These reports are submitted annually to the
Congress. The reports include information on the number of political prisoners;
torture, arbitrary arrests and detentions; arbitrary restrictions of existing political
rights; and extra-legal executions and unfair trials (Baehr 1996:87-88). This
infrastructure has been maintained since the 1970s and only changed slightly during
the Clinton administration. In 1993, the Secretary of State, Warren Christopher,
instructed the USA embassies to establish human rights committees to strengthen
the gathering and corroboration of reports. In addition, the Bureau of Human Rights
and Humanitarian Affairs was reorganized, expanded and renamed the Bureau of
Democracy, Human Rights and Labour (DRL). Under Secretary of State, Magdalene
Albright, reporting on the rights of workers, women and people with disabilities was
improved (Shattuck 2000:283-284).
In terms of the organisational structure of the Dutch Foreign Ministry, an office of a
coordinator for human rights within the Directorate-General for International
Cooperation is in place with the overall responsibility of coordinating foreign policy on
human rights. There is also a division that deals with human rights organisations
including the UN. A coordination committee consisting of representatives from all
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policy units within the Ministry is also in place. Finally, an Advisory Committee
comprising of independent experts selected by the Minister of Foreign Affairs,
advisors from the Ministry and experts nominated by NGOs exists. The primary role
of the Committee is to provide advice to the Minister on issues relating to human
rights and foreign policy (Baehr 1996: 158-160).
According to Kent (1997:164-165), one of the institutions which was established in
Australia during the term of Prime Minister Whitlam in the 1970s to monitor human
rights issues in other countries was the Amnesty International Parliamentary Group
(AIPG) which was constituted of representatives from Amnesty International (AI) and
members of Senate and the House of Representatives. The relationship between the
Australian government and the AIPG was further strengthened in 1987 when
Australian government undertook to prioritise for urgent action all cases that AIPG
reported. In the 1990s, as a result of AIPG intervention and in order to create public
accountability, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and
Trade began to scrutinise the government‟s record on human rights and established
a separate bipartisan Human Rights Committee. Other arrangements were the
establishment of a separate human rights section within the Department of Foreign
Affairs and Trade and the allocation of specific funds to support human rights
organisations. In 1987, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade started keeping
a register of all human rights representations that the Australian government has
made on human rights concerns.
Legislative oversight, co-ordination structures, reporting and monitoring mechanisms
play critical roles in the three countries that have been surveyed. These institutional
arrangements serve to support their human rights diplomacy.
5.2.3 Diplomatic actions and other measures
Although the USA has always claimed to be influenced by moral values including
human rights norms, human rights diplomatic activities have varied in the USA
depending on the administration that was in power. To demonstrate this varied
response, human rights diplomacy during the Nixon and Ford eras are contrasted
with the Carter administration. According to Merritt (1986:44-45), the Nixon and Ford
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administrations did not believe in making public statements on human rights issues
and did not pursue quiet diplomacy with any enthusiasm. During the Ford
administration, Secretary of State, Kissinger is reported to have chided a USA
diplomat who had issued a demarche to the Chilean officials raising human rights
concerns in 1974. In contrast, President Carter made human rights a central foreign
policy issue. The administration preferred quiet diplomacy which was often
complemented with public statements to raise the profile of human rights issues.
Where these actions did not yield the desired outcomes, sanctions were imposed
and foreign aid was denied to the offending states. There was no mechanistic
formula that was followed and each case was assessed on its merits. Secretary of
State, Cyprus Vance (1986:208) advanced some criteria to inform the USA‟s
diplomatic actions. These included the nature and extent of human rights violations;
the role played by the affected government and its attitude towards the involvement
of external parties including the USA government; the prospect of success of the
contemplated actions; and the prospect of other states and non-state actors joining
actions. Salzberg (1986:62-64) opines that the Carter administration in contrast to
the two preceding administrations applied sanctions to advance human rights
objectives. Also significant was the administration‟s willingness to pursue human
rights diplomacy regardless of the ideological persuasion or the friendliness of the
states concerned.
The Netherlands practises human rights diplomacy more at a multilateral level,
especially at the UN and European Union, than in bilateral relations. In this regard, it
played a leading role along with Sweden in the preparation and adoption of the UN
Convention against Torture (Baehr 1996:160-161).
Australia, according to Evans and Grant (1992:147-151), focused its human rights
diplomatic efforts on the achievement of results. In each situation, decisions were
made on whether to make public condemnations against violations of human rights
or to follow the quiet diplomacy route. In their view, the latter was more effective than
grandstanding. They also viewed trade embargoes and other punitive measures as
ineffective in most cases but there were exceptions such the case of effective
economic and financial sanctions against apartheid SA or when punitive measures
were warranted such as the suspension of aid to China following the Tiananmen
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Square Massacre in 1989. Finally, they argue that the best way to handle human
rights diplomacy is not to lay down generic ground rules but to determine the
necessary interventions on an ad hoc basis informed by the circumstances of a given
situation.
Kent (1997: 171-177) argues that Australia‟s human rights diplomacy is influenced by
geopolitical and strategic considerations. As an example of this approach, he cites
the varying strategies that Australia pursued in relation to human rights violations in
China, Indonesia and Burma. With regard to the first two states and due to these
considerations, Australia adopted a more subdued approach that included quiet
diplomacy and engagement rather than tougher measures. On Burma, however,
Australia suspended bilateral aid in 1988 and reduced dialogue with that country‟s
government.
The examples of the human rights diplomacy of these three states demonstrate the
complexity of human rights as a foreign policy and diplomatic matter. There are no
fixed approaches or formulae that can be applied by all states. Each state pursues
policies and practices that are influenced by their own domestic environment
including the values that are held to be important by their key constituencies, and
their standing and power in world politics. Generally, quiet diplomacy is the preferred
approach but the USA, based on its stature in world politics, has applied other
measures including sanctions when results were not forthcoming. For others,
economic sanctions were applied in exceptional cases for example against apartheid
SA.
6
CONCLUSION
This chapter demonstrated that values and morality in international relations and the
foreign policies of states have confronted scholars and practitioners over the
centuries, even during ancient times of the Greek city states. Various theories have
been advanced to address these issues and their influence have waned and
increased based on the international political environment. Some of the theories,
notably liberal theory, placed greater emphasis on issues of morality whilst those with
a realist perspective were more inclined to downplay the significance of morality.
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These views affected the foreign policy that states adopted and inevitably, their
diplomatic initiatives.
In recent times, the issue of human rights has become a pre-eminent matter in world
politics. Although human rights have been part of the political and legal systems of
Western states since the seventeenth century and even earlier, the issue assumed
greater significance on an international scale following the First and Second World
Wars. With the establishment of the UN and human rights being identified as one of
the issues to be promoted and protected in order to secure world peace and security,
human rights gained further impetus. This led to the adoption of the UDHR in 1948
and the two conventions that were later adopted by the UNGA in 1966.
Against the backdrop of the Cold War, human rights became part of the political and
ideological battles between the West and the East, with the developing countries also
being drawn into these contests. Some of the arguments related to issues such as
universality and the influence of local cultures on human rights and the priority to be
accorded to civil and political rights in relation to economic, social and cultural rights.
With the end of the Cold War, as evidenced by the Human Rights Conference that
was held in Vienna during 1993, consensus emerged on some of these issues.
Despite the advances that have been made in entrenching human rights
internationally, especially at the norm setting level, state practices have continued to
impact negatively on human rights norms. This has led to some states pursuing
human rights diplomacy as part of their foreign policy objectives. As it has been
demonstrated in this chapter, diplomatic practices have varied amongst states and
even within the same states based on the ideological persuasions of the
governments in power. What is also evident is that this is a complex issue with no
easy solutions or fixed formulae. However certain states have managed to put in
place policies, institutions and infrastructure that actively manage human rights
issues amongst other foreign policy initiatives with varying degrees of success.
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CHAPTER 3: SOUTH AFRICA’S FOREIGN POLICY FROM 1994 TO 2008 AND
THE ROLE OF HUMAN RIGHTS
1
INTRODUCTION
The first democratic elections that were held in SA on 27 April 1994 marked the end
of a long struggle by Africans and other oppressed people to gain political freedom
and end their subjugation by successive White minority governments including British
colonial domination. It also marked the end of the last chapter of the anti-colonisation
campaign in Africa led by the OAU.
The Government of National Unity (GNU) that came to power in May 1994 under the
leadership of Dr Nelson Mandela was formed on the basis of an Interim Constitution
that was negotiated by most political parties including the main protagonists, namely
the NP and the ANC. The final constitution that was adopted by the National
Assembly in 1996 is widely acclaimed for the progressive provisions in its Bill of
Rights that does not only protect civil and political rights but also socio-economic
rights.
As will be discussed below, the post-1994 SA‟s foreign policy is in stark contrast to
the one that was pursued by earlier NP governments whose domestic policies were
based on racial discrimination. The international environment has vastly changed as
a result of the end of the Cold War that was characterized by super power rivalries.
There has also been heightened globalisation especially of the world economy which
affects policy making especially for the developing countries.
Against this background, the aim of this chapter is to provide an overview of SA‟s
foreign policy during the Mandela and Mbeki administrations with emphasis on its
moral and human rights dimensions. This contextualisation is important for the full
appreciation of SA‟s human rights diplomacy. As part of this background, a brief
overview will be presented on foreign policies of the various NP administrations, and
of the role played by the ANC and the international community in combating
apartheid within the foreign policy and diplomatic arena. The international and
domestic environments, the principles underpinning the policy, its priorities and
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strategic objectives will be discussed. The last section will provide an overview of its
human rights element.
2
APARTHEID AND SOUTH AFRICA’S PRE-1994 FOREIGN POLICY
South Africa‟s foreign policy prior to 1994 was mainly driven by the need to ensure
the survival of its domestic policy of racial exclusion and domination which became
more pronounced with the victory of the NP in 1948. The NP sought to racially
segregate all aspects of the South African society. In order to deal with dissent and
entrench racial segregation, it introduced repressive and discriminatory legislation
such as the Suppression of Communism Act of 1950, Terrorism Act of 1977,
Population Registration Act of 1930, Group Areas Act of 1950, and Bantu Homelands
Act of 1951.
Under the NP government, SA faced increased isolation from the international
community and this necessitated the need to defend its policies. Mills and Baynham
(1994:14-15) aver that apartheid was in part put in place as a measure to counteract
the movement for self determination that was gaining momentum in Africa. When
Ghana attained independence in 1957, the Government of Dr H. F. Verwoerd
attempted to adjust to this new development by further refining separate
development with the introduction of Bantu homelands. Verwoerd also envisioned
greater cooperation between SA, the homelands and other southern Africa states.
This vision did not gain any traction. In its relations with the West, SA sought to gain
support and assistance by projecting itself as an important ally. Verwoerd‟s
repressive policies and actions especially the Sharpeville Massacre and the banning
of the ANC, the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) and others in 1960 had a major
impact on its future foreign policy. The Government lost more international support
and calls for economic sanctions increased.
Mr B. J. Vorster who came into power in 1966, embarked on a policy of seeking
dialogue and the normalisation of relations with Africa. This approach found little
support amongst African states (Mills & Baynham 1994: 16-17; Ndlovu 2004: 564565). By the mid-1970s, this policy gave way to a more aggressive stance towards its
neighbours. SA committed more troops in what is now Namibia to maintain its rule
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and Angola in support of its allies such as the National Union for the Total
Independence of Angola (UNITA). The growing anti-apartheid resistance in SA
especially the June 1976 Soweto uprisings and the death of Steve Biko in police
detention in 1977 added more foreign policy challenges to Vorster. SA lost more
support internationally with the UN imposing an arms embargo in 1977 against it
(Mills & Baynham 1994:18-19; Barber 2004:19).
Mr P. W. Botha, who was the Minister of Defence in Vorster‟s government, was
renowned for his Total Strategy. During his tenure as Prime Minister, SA sought to
reduce its dependence on the West and improve its co-operation with southern
African states whilst at the same time defending itself against interference in its
internal policies. The strategy failed to gain support and instead, these Frontline
States (Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zambia)
eventually formed the Southern African Development Co-ordination Conference in
1980 (Mills & Baynham 1994:20-24).
Mr F. W. De Klerk took over from Botha in 1989 and one of his priorities was to
expand the diplomatic infrastructure to coincide with SA‟s acceptance by the
international community. He also prioritized the expansion of trade relations with
other states (Sole 1994). To achieve these objectives, De Klerk undertook several
visits to Western capitals to seek the lifting of sanctions but also to Africa to promote
SA as an African country (Barber 2004:62-64).
Successive NP administrations faced opposition both internally and externally. Their
foreign policy was therefore geared towards defending their domestic policies and
resisting international isolation. In the latter years, especially under the Botha
administration, a more aggressive stance towards neighbouring states was adopted
which served to escalate the conflict. This led to more isolation of the regime.
3
THE ANTI-APARTHEID STRUGGLE
The anti-apartheid struggle was waged both inside and outside SA mainly by the
ANC and to a lesser extent the PAC. They mobilised the support of the international
community through engaging individual states and multilateral organisations such as
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the UN, the OAU and the Commonwealth. The struggle was influenced by human
rights values and was also perceived as human rights struggle.
3.1
The role of the African National Congress and the Pan Africanist
Congress
The ANC was established in Bloemfontein on 8 January 1912 with its principal aim
being to unite Africans and advance their civil and political rights. It specifically strove
for the extension of the right to vote to all South Africans on a non-racial basis.
During its formative years, its leaders were influenced by Christian and liberal values.
Amongst its first campaigns was its opposition to the Natives Land Act of 1913. As
part of this campaign, it made unsuccessful representations to the King of the UK
against the segregationist policies of the new Union government (Dubow 2000:1-8).
As part of its diplomacy, in 1946 Dr Xuma who was the President of the ANC was
part of a delegation that travelled to the UN to support India in its protest against the
treatment of Indians by the SA government. It also sent a delegation to the first AfroAsian Solidarity Conference that was held in Indonesia in 1955 (Gurney 1999). This
participation demonstrated and laid the foundation for the ANC‟s orientation in world
politics. Since then, it perceived itself as being part of the progressive movement
representing people in the South.
One of the most important policy documents of the ANC and its allies is the Freedom
Charter which was adopted in 1955. The Freedom Charter contained its vision for a
new SA. Dubow (2000:51) asserts that most of the clauses in the Freedom Charter
such as the right of people to govern, to enjoy human rights and equality before the
law, espouse liberal-democratic values. Accordingly, the ANC has espoused human
rights as one of the pillars of its foreign policy.
On 21 March 1960, the PAC which had broken away from the ANC in 1959, led
protest marches against pass laws. In Sharpeville, police opened fire on protestors,
killing sixty nine people. Following the Sharpeville Massacre, the Government
outlawed the ANC and the PAC. Dubow (2000:64) opines that Sharpeville escalated
the international dimension of the liberation struggle. The ANC and the PAC
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intensified their diplomatic efforts resulting in more focused attention by the
international community on the situation in South Africa.
Following their banning by the Verwoerd administration, both the PAC and the ANC
resorted to armed struggle with the ANC launching Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK).
Mandela became its Commander-in-Chief and was later arrested in 1962. In 1964,
he was charged with high treason together with other leaders of the ANC. They were
sentenced to life imprisonment. One of the ANC leaders, Oliver Tambo who left SA in
the aftermath of Sharpeville, established the external mission of the ANC. He led the
ANC‟s international campaign for decades calling on the international community to
isolate SA, and to provide military and humanitarian support to the movement. He
mainly used multilateral organisations such as the UN, the OAU, and the NonAligned Movement (NAM) to advance the goals of the ANC. Tambo (1963) reiterated
the call that was first made by the ANC in 1958 for economic sanctions to be
imposed against SA. He asserted that it would be impossible for SA to continue with
apartheid if it was isolated. The diplomatic efforts by the ANC for the isolation of the
SA government were largely successful judged by the number of UN resolutions that
condemned SA. Tambo also forged strong links with other liberation movements. He
also addressed summits of the NAM whose objectives he regarded as similar to
those of the liberation movements (Tambo 1979).
Since it became the governing party, the ANC has maintained ties that it forged with
other like-minded organisations and pursued policies based on its foundational
documents such as the Freedom Charter.
3.2
Multilateral organisations
The international community, mainly as result of the diplomatic activities of the ANC,
made a significant contribution towards the eradication of apartheid and the
attainment of democracy in SA. This was achieved through efforts of multilateral
organisations such the UN, OAU, and the Commonwealth; civil society organisations
such as the Anti-Apartheid Movements (AAM); and unilateral actions by states. Due
to limitations of space and the continued importance of the UN and the OAU in the
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new SA‟s foreign policy, this section will only discuss the actions of these two
organisations.
3.2.1 The United Nations
The UN through its various structures played an important role in the anti-apartheid
struggle. The apartheid policies of the SA government were perceived by the
international community to be in violation of international standards and norms
(Shepherd 1991:7). One of the early complaints against the SA government at the
UN was brought by the Indian government in 1946 (Shepherd 1991:3). Since then, a
number of resolutions condemning SA were passed by the UNGA and the UNSC. In
1962, UNGA passed Resolution 1761 (XVII) which amongst others called on states
to sever diplomatic relations with SA, close their ports to SA ships, boycott all SA
goods and refrain from exporting to SA. Further, the Resolution established a special
committee against apartheid. Similar resolutions were passed in the form of
Resolution 1978 (XVIII) of 1963, and Resolution 2671 (XXV) of 1970. The latter
resolution declared apartheid to be a crime against humanity. In 1985, the UNSC
passed Resolution 569, which amongst others called on member states to stop new
investments in SA, ban nuclear contracts and end the sale of computer equipment to
South African security forces.
3.2.2 The Organisation of African Unity
Soon after attaining liberation, independent African states championed the cause for
the liberation of the rest of the African continent. At its first conference by Heads of
State and Government which was convened in Addis Ababa on 22-25 May 1963, the
conference pledged support to the victims of racial discrimination. The African
leaders further appealed to states that had friendly relations with SA to apply UNGA
Resolution 1761 (XVII). The summit also established a Co-ordinating Committee and
a Special Fund to provide practical assistance and financial aid to the liberation
movements.
Since its inception, the OAU supported the liberation struggle in SA in various forms.
At its First Ordinary Session of Heads of State on 17-21 June 1964, it passed a
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resolution on SA which inter alia called for the release of Nelson Mandela and other
political prisoners and detainees, a boycott of all SA goods and products and the
promotion of international efforts to impose sanctions against SA. In June 1971, the
OAU Council of Ministers at its Seventeenth Session adopted the Manifesto on
southern Africa (Lusaka Manifesto). The meeting further rejected dialogue with the
SA government. According to Ndlovu (2006:617), the Manifesto contained principles
affirming basic human rights and declared that peace and justice in the world could
not be attained without the acceptance of principles of human dignity and selfdetermination. It was, however, not well received by the ANC which felt that it
undermined its armed struggle and its position that the SA government was illegal.
Numerous other OAU sessions were held which condemned SA and its trading
partners and called for the imposition of the oil and arms embargo, the expulsion of
SA from the UN.
The anti-apartheid struggle played a critical role in shaping the foreign policy of the
ANC government. In particular, its human rights dimension is grounded on ANC
policy documents such as the Freedom Charter that were developed during this
period. The
support that
the
international community through
multilateral
organisations such as the UN and the OAU, provided to the two principal liberation
movements, the ANC and the PAC, also had a bearing on the policy direction of the
new government. On one hand, there were expectations that it would pursue an
ethical foreign policy that is influenced by human rights values but on the other hand,
it was anticipated that on issues pertaining to Africa, it will act in concert with other
African countries in the international arena. These tensions and other aspects of the
new government‟s foreign policy are discussed in the following section.
4
SOUTH
AFRICA’S
FOREIGN
POLICY
DURING
THE
TERMS
OF
PRESIDENT MANDELA AND PRESIDENT MBEKI
President N.R. Mandela became the first head of state for a democratic SA between
May 1994 and 1999. He was succeeded by Mr T. M. Mbeki in 1999 until 2008 who
was one of the Deputy Presidents together with Mr F W De Klerk since 1994.
Although there were changes in the foreign policy when Mbeki became president,
most of the policies and principles underpinning foreign policy remained the same
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although the emphasis and priorities differed. This should not be surprising given the
fact that both presidents were elected from the same ruling party.
This section will therefore focus on foreign policy issues and strategies that SA
pursued during this period. With the exception of the discussion on SA‟s involvement
in peace missions in Africa, the issues to be dealt with will be mainly in the
multilateral arena including international as well as regional organisations.
4.1
The international and domestic environments
The advent of democracy in SA coincided with the end of the Cold-War, increased
globalisation especially of the economy, and the ascendancy of the hegemony of
neo-liberalism or what Cox (1996:31) terms hyper-liberalism represented by the
USA. In the post-Cold War era, the South is disadvantaged by weakened state
capacity and their economic vulnerability. States can no longer determine their
policies freely due to constraints placed on them (Ajulu 1995:49; Taylor 2001:16;
Jacobs & Calland 2002:15). With regard to SA, Spence (2001:5) asserts that SA‟s
foreign policy had to demonstrate commitment to the neo-liberal agenda.
The constraints placed on states by the globalised economy appear to have been
appreciated by the new SA government. Both Presidents Mandela and Mbeki
advised the ANC in 1997 and 2000 respectively that in the light of globalization, SA
had to accept market-led economic policies and that there was no alternative to
globalization (Marais 2002:91; Bond 2002:57). According to Selebi (1999), SA
needed to fully understand the process so that it could influence it, mitigate its
negative impact, and to take advantage of its opportunities.
The new democratic order which was based on the interim constitution that entailed
a Bill of Rights was facilitated by multi-party negotiations that were held in Kempton
Park, mainly between 1992 and 1993. The new Government inherited a myriad of
challenges especially in the socio-economic arena. These included high levels of
poverty and unemployment and poor economic growth. In response to these
challenges, it implemented the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP).
The RDP was later replaced by the Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR)
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in June 1996. According to Ahwireng-Obeng and McGowan (2001:55), its overall aim
was to make SA an open and competitive trading economy. Central to its goals was
the annual growth of the non-gold exports to 10.2 per cent and manufacturing
exports to 12.8 per cent by 2000.
Marais (2002:86-87) concurs with the above view and adds that GEAR served to
signal the government‟s acceptance of the neo-liberal orthodoxy. Saul (2002:39)
opines that the acceptance of neo-liberalism was mainly an ideological decision
because in his view, the economic reasons for what he terms “the wholesale
capitulation to the market” were unconvincing. Whatever the reasons for the choice
of the domestic economic policy, this stance has played a key part in the country‟s
foreign policy and demonstrates the linkages between domestic and foreign policies.
The new SA pursued policies in the international arena that were geared towards
achieving its domestic goals.
4.2
Middlepowership and South Africa’s multilateralism
According to Cox (1996:524-525), for a country to be a middle power is not a matter
of its size but the role that it chooses to play in world politics. Middle powers perceive
it as their national interests to help create and maintain a world order with rules that
bind both large as well as small countries. This description is further elaborated by
Spence (2004:42-43) who contends that the concept of middle powers has
traditionally been used to describe states such as Canada, Norway and others which
are economically developed and stable democracies. These states do not seek to be
hegemons but aspire to be good global citizens. They have good reputations since
their domestic political systems respect human rights and they pursue ethic based
foreign policies. Taylor (2001:20) asserts that post-1994, SA has emerged as a
middle power. He bases his assertion on the relative size of its economy in Africa,
and on its preference to act as a conciliator and bridge builder in multilateral forums.
South Africa in line with its middle power or emerging middle power status, chose to
use multilateral institutions as the main platform to advance its foreign policy
objectives. In former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dlamini-Zuma‟s view, multilateralism
offers predictability in global governance but more importantly, it has a common
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system of rules that are shared by all (Dlamini-Zuma 2003). Taylor and Williams
(2006:5 and 9-10), argue that multilateral institutions can be used as arenas to
counteract the prevailing neo-liberal norms and because of Mandela and Mbeki‟s
desires to play leading roles in creating a just and equitable world order, that the SA
government sought leverage on multilateralism. They saw opportunities in the
multilateral environment to advance some of their goals including advancing the
interests of Africa and the South generally but also to promote reforms within these
institutions.
Whether SA is a middle power or an emerging middle power, there is no doubt about
its commitment to multilateralism and respect for international law and rules. This
commitment is enshrined and implied in the foreign policy principles which are
discussed below.
4.3
Foreign policy principles and national interests
The advent of a democratic South Africa marked the beginning of a new era in SA‟s
relations with the international community. President Mandela (Foreign Affairs:
1993:87) set the tone for SA‟s new foreign policy when he enunciated the following
principles that would guide its international relations:
 The centrality of all human rights (political, economic, social and environmental)
in international relations.
 The importance of democracy worldwide to achieve just and lasting solutions to
the problems of humankind.
 Considerations of justice and respect for international law should guide the
relations between nations.
 Peace is the goal for which all nations should strive, and where this breaks down,
internationally agreed and nonviolent mechanisms, including effective armscontrol regimes, must be employed.
 The concerns and interests of the continent of Africa should be reflected in our
foreign-policy choices.
 The importance of regional and international economic cooperation for the
realisation of economic development.
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These principles which were adopted by the GNU and subsequent ANC
administrations became the pillars of SA‟s foreign policy. They not only provided a
guide for the prioritization of SA foreign policy objectives but they also serve as
yardstick against which to evaluate the country‟s performance. According to RSA
DFA (1996), Minister Nzo stated in September 1995 that if these principles were
consistently applied, they would render SA‟s foreign policy predictable. The
emphasis on the moral and human rights dimension in the new foreign policy was not
surprising given the fact that the anti-apartheid struggle was also a struggle for
human rights (Barber & Vickers 2001:343). Coincidentally, it is the human rights
principle which has been inconsistently applied as will be discussed forthwith.
The issue of national interests in relation to SA‟s foreign policy is frequently raised
but hardly defined. Given the need to redefine and re-orientate SA‟s new foreign
policy, one would have expected that it would receive greater attention. One of the
earlier attempts at defining the new national interest was by McGowan (1995:80)
who asserted that it should be the consolidation of the non-racial and non-sexist
democracy. Van Aardt (1996) argues that SA has national interests and that national
values are part of its national interests and therefore includes both ethical and
practical aspects. On this formulation, there should be no dichotomy between
interests and values. Selebi (1999) settled for a more traditional formulation when he
asserted that SA‟s national interest is about creating wealth for the country and its
entire people, and ensuring its security and that of its people.
4.4
Foreign policy priorities and strategic objectives
The new SA government pursued a number of foreign policy priorities and objectives.
These centred on the promotion of the African Agenda, South-South cooperation, the
promotion and protection of human rights, international peace and security,
economic development, and reform of the global governance system. This section
will however focus only on the first three priorities due to their relevance to the
research topic.
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4.4.1 The African Agenda
The centrality of Africa in SA‟s foreign policy was articulated by a number of ANC
leaders before it came to power. In a speech that Mbeki made in 1991, he declared
that the fate of a democratic SA will be inextricably bound with what happens in the
rest of the African continent. He further emphasized democracy, peace, stability,
development, mutually beneficial relations and pan-African solidarity as some of the
objectives that democratic SA would pursue on the continent (Mbeki 1994:204-205).
This view was underscored by Mandela (1993:89-90) when he proclaimed that SA‟s
destiny was linked to the continent and the region. Consequently, both the Mandela
and Mbeki administrations prioritised Africa in their policies. Numerous reasons have
been advanced for the prioritization of Africa as a major foreign policy objective for
SA. SA‟s indebtedness to Africa is one of the main reasons that have been cited.
According to this view, African states provided sanctuary to the liberation movements
during the struggle years and those in the SADC region suffered huge losses as a
result of the destabilisation campaign of the apartheid state (see Daniel 1995:33;
Ajulu 1995:52; Barber & Vickers 2001:349; Sidiropoulos & Hughes 2004:61). Also
argued by Government leaders, was the view that SA cannot develop in isolation
from the rest of the sub-region. As Nzo (1995:116) put it: “We cannot be an island of
prosperity in a sea of poverty”. This stance, however, was not influenced by altruism
alone. The continent offered opportunities for economic development and benefits to
SA businesses (Sidiropoulos & Hughes 2004:61).
South Africa‟s policy in Africa which is often referred to as the African Agenda
focused on conflict resolution and peace maintenance, and the transformation of the
OAU including the establishment of NEPAD. Both Presidents Mandela and Mbeki
also contributed to the peaceful resolution of conflicts in Africa. The most notable
ones are Zaire/Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burundi, and the Sudan. The
conflict in Zaire which started in 1996 drew the active involvement of Rwanda,
Angola, Zimbabwe and others. Mandela attempted to broker a peace deal between
Mobutu Seseko and the rebel forces led by Laurent Kabila. Despite Mandela‟s
efforts, his intervention failed because Kabila believed that he could defeat the
Government forces. Kabila deposed Mobutu in May 1997 and installed himself as the
president (Barber 2004:176; Landsberg 2010:116). Barber (2004:177) avers that
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soon after the first conflict ended, a new war was started by rebels who were based
mainly in the east of the country. They gained regional support from Uganda and
Rwanda who were also disillusioned with Kabila. Kabila received support from,
amongst others, Zimbabwe. SA chose not to become involved militarily but preferred
diplomatic means to resolve the conflict, although its neutrality was challenged by
other regional powers such as Zimbabwe and Kabila (Landsberg 2010:116-117). SA
played a critical role in securing the Lusaka Agreement of 1999. Following protracted
negotiations with SA mediating, the Congolese parties reached a deal on 17
December 2002 that led to democratic elections (Landsberg 2010:161-162).
South Africa first became engaged in Burundi through the OAU in 1994/95 and
began to play a more central role in 1999 when former President Mandela took over
the role that the late President of Tanzania played as the main facilitator (RSA
DIRCO 2010:66). Deputy President Zuma involved several regional leaders including
President Museveni in his mediation. His efforts under the leadership of President
Mbeki were finally rewarded with a ceasefire in June 2004. When the ceasefire was
reached, SA‟s troops offered protection services to various leaders within the interim
government (Landsberg 2010:160-161).
After earlier interventions in Zaire/DRC, the Government‟s involvement in peace
missions was codified with the adoption of the White Paper on South African
Involvement in International Peace Missions, 1999. Amongst the proposals contained
in the White Paper was that its involvement should be informed by the national
interests, international co-operation based on respect for international law and
human rights, and that the underlying causes of conflict should be given greater
consideration than its symptoms (Barber 2004:175).
The transformation of the OAU to the AU is one of the pivotal foreign policy areas in
which SA, especially President Mbeki, made a major contribution. With SA‟s
influence, the AU adopted progressive principles in its Constitutive Act including
articles 4 (h), (l), (m), and (p). These articles provide for the right of the AU to
interfere in a member state if crimes against the local community are being
committed or in instances of gross human rights violations; the promotion of gender
equality; respect for democratic principles, human rights, the rule of law and good
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governance; and the condemnation and rejection of unconstitutional changes to
governments respectively. SA also played a key role in shaping the structure and
workings of the Pan African Parliament (PAP) and has since provided a venue for its
location. SA also chaired the inaugural AU Summit of Heads of State and
Governments (Sidiropoulos & Hughes 2004:75-76).
President Mbeki also played a key role in the conceptualization of NEPAD which is
regarded as a defining achievement of his presidency. The genesis of NEPAD is
linked to the Extraordinary OAU Summit that was held in Sirte, Libya in 1999.
NEPAD was adopted by the OAU in Abuja in October 2001. Its principles include
good governance as a basis for peace security and sustainable development; African
ownership and leadership; acceleration of regional and continental integration; and
building new partnerships between Africa and developed countries based on
equality. The programme has numerous sub-programmes such as peace, security,
democracy and political, economic and corporate governance; and bridging the
infrastructure gap. President Mbeki together with Presidents Bouteflika and Obasanjo
widely promoted NEPAD from its inception to the international community mainly the
G8 Heads of State and Government. The G8 adopted the Africa Action Plan in
Kananaskis (Sidiropoulos & Hughes 2004:67-71).
The African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) is one of the NEPAD subprogrammes. It was established on 18 June 2002 in Durban, by Heads of State and
Government of participating states through the Declaration on Democracy, Political,
Economic and Corporate Governance (the Declaration). Its mandate is to ensure that
the policies and practices of participating countries conform to the agreed values in
the following four focus areas: democracy and political governance, economic
governance,
corporate
governance
and
socio-economic
development.
The
Declaration identifies the promotion of human rights as one of the most important
and urgent priorities within the democracy and good governance focus area.
The New Partnership for Africa‟s Development and its main promoter, President
Mbeki, have not been without critics. Amongst the criticisms has been that NEPAD
ignores the nature and reality of power politics in Africa which is based on neopatrimonialism and clientilism. It is further argued that the NEPAD‟s prescriptions of
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democracy and good governance, is an antithesis of the behaviour of the ruling elite
in Africa (Taylor 2005:46-47). The credibility and commitment to NEPAD principles
by some of its promoters and members of the Heads of State and Government
Implementation Committee (HSIC) has also been questioned. These leaders include
Presidents Bongo of Gabon, Biya of Cameroon, as well as Abasanjo of Nigeria
(Taylor 2005:48 and 54-56; Sidiropoulos & Hughes 2004:71). Taylor (2005:64-68)
further criticizes President Mbeki for revising the original mandate of APRM by
seeking to exclude political governance from its mandate as well as for making it a
voluntary process. In his view, this compromise was made in order to make the
APRM acceptable to the bulk of African leaders but it rendered the review less
effective.
Some of above criticism was rather too hasty and was not borne out in practice. The
promotion and protection of human rights was one of the critical issues necessary for
the achievement of the NEPAD programme. Although progress has been slow in
realising the projects, a number of achievements including the implementation of the
APRM process were made. According to Mbeki (2011), the Pan-African
Infrastructure Investment Fund which was launched in 2007, was capitalised to an
amount of $600 million within one year of its launch. A number of countries including
SA have been peer reviewed. By 2008, a total of twenty six states had volunteered
to be peer reviewed (Adedeji 2008: 256).
4.4.2 Promoting South-South co-operation
When the ANC came to power, it honoured the relations it developed with countries
of the South during the years of the struggle and sought to build alliances with them.
In his major foreign policy speech of 1993, Mandela vowed to strengthen SouthSouth relations in order to prevent the economic marginalization of the South
(Mandela 1993:97). Before coming to power, the ANC declared that SA was a
country of the South. It was committed to developing and sustaining multilateral
forums which address the interests of the South (ANC 1994:235).
In line with this ANC policy, the SA government assumed leadership roles in forums
and organisations representing the South. The first such forum was the United
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Nations Conference of Trade and Development (UNCTAD) which SA hosted in 1996
and the NAM Summit which SA hosted in 1998. The UNCTAD was established in
1964 as a forum for the developing states to address trade and development policies
that were mainly developed by the West but were perceived as hindering
development in the South. In its earlier years, the organisation was confrontational
towards the developed countries. For their part, the latter hardened their attitudes
towards UNCTAD and the South. They began pressuring the South to adopt neoliberal policies. This was achieved in UNCTAD VIII in 1992 when the leadership of
the South decided to reposition it by abandoning confrontation and accepting neoliberal policies (Taylor 2001:123-127). Cornelissen (2006:30) avers that when SA
assumed chairmanship of UNCTAD, one of its goals was to contribute its
resuscitation and to simultaneously raise its own profile in international politics.
The NAM was established in Yugoslavia in 1961. It was established as a platform for
developing countries to influence major powers and to further their foreign policy
objectives on issues such as disarmament, decolonization, apartheid, Palestine and
economic development. Its principles included the peaceful settlement of disputes
and the right to self-determination. It was also one of the foremost multilateral
organisations that campaigned for the end of apartheid (Morphet 2006:79-80).
South Africa formally joined NAM in 1994. According to Taylor (2001:143) the main
reasons for this decision included an expression of gratitude for the NAM‟s support
during the anti-apartheid struggle, and to show solidarity with the South. Mbeki
(1995) asserted that the new SA would always remain loyal to the principles on
which the NAM was founded. SA assumed the chairmanship of the NAM in
September 1998 until 2003. Under its leadership, it aimed to realign the organisation
to be better placed at meeting the challenges of a transformed world order. Amongst
the global concerns it had to deal with were disarmament, reform of the UN and
increased South-South solidarity and cooperation (Nzo 1997). Landsberg (2010:168)
opines that these challenges included rationalization of the activities of the
organisation, and more equitable and mutually beneficial relations with countries of
the North.
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During his opening address of the Summit which was held on 2-3 September 1998,
President Mandela outlined NAM‟s vision under his leadership which entailed respect
for human rights and democracy, peace and stability, good governance, and
beneficial co-operation amongst all nations of the world. As the chair, SA achieved its
goals of improved co-operation amongst countries of the South and dialogue
between the South and the North (Morphet 2006:90). In addition to this achievement,
following the Summit, SA successfully facilitated severally ministerial meetings and
coordinated the NAM inputs at various platforms including at the UN. It also
maintained dialogue with the developed countries as part of its mandate.
Considering the aforesaid, the foreign policy issues and priorities which the Mandela
and Mbeki governments pursued marked a departure from the previous policies of
apartheid governments. Under these administrations, SA ceased to be an
international outcast but was admitted as an important member of the international
community and played a prominent role in multilateral organisations both regionally
and on a global level. One of the main priority issues for SA was the promotion of
human rights.
5
THE PROMOTION AND PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN SOUTH
AFRICA’S FOREIGN POLICY
The promotion and protection of human rights in SA‟s foreign policy has been a
subject of debate amongst analysts and the general public. This interest was
generated by pronouncements that ANC leaders, including President Mandela, made
before and on assuming office. There were also expectations of SA‟s global
leadership on this matter given the nature of the anti-apartheid struggle. A review of
how SA put its human rights commitments into practice will be presented below.
5.1
Inclusion of human rights in South Africa’s foreign policy principles
In 1993, Nelson Mandela as President of the ANC announced the future foreign
policy of SA. Amongst the pillars of this policy, the issue of human rights was on top
of that list. The belief was stated that human rights were central to international
relations. In further elaboration of this view, Mandela asserted that “human rights will
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be the light that guides our foreign relations”. He identified the link between human
rights and democracy by arguing that only true democracies can guarantee human
rights (Mandela 1993:87-88). These views were underscored by members of ANC
Working Group on International Relations who committed the new SA to play a
central role in world wide campaigns for human rights. SA would join multilateral
forums on human rights and accede to international conventions covering the full
spectrum of human rights as well as the African Charter on Human and Peoples
Rights. Human rights concerns would also influence the nature of bilateral relations
on a non-selective basis. The new Government would not shy away from raising
human rights issues even when the country‟s interests might be adversely affected
(ANC 1994:222-224). According to Manby (2000) these commitments are among the
most progressive in the world and they influenced how SA engaged debates in
international human rights forums.
This policy stance by Mandela and the ANC was not unexpected. After all, the antiapartheid struggle was one of the biggest international human rights campaign in
recent times. As previously pointed out, the anti-apartheid struggle was inspired by
values of human dignity and human rights and had won support from the
international community (Barber & Vickers 2001:343). Minister Nzo (1994:138)
confirmed soon after his appointment that human rights were the cornerstone of
Government policy and its message would be carried to all parts of the world. He
added that South Africans suffered too much not to do so. Landsberg and Masiza
(1995:28-32) confirm SA‟s human rights commitments, and argue that SA‟s status as
a symbol of human rights and morality gave the country a comparative advantage.
They further contend that putting economic and trade interests first may have short
term advantages. In their view, human rights concerns must be harmonized with
economic interests and that the two should not be perceived as an antithesis of the
other.
Despite the commitments by Mandela, Nzo and the ANC, the promotion and
protection of human rights within the context of SA‟s foreign policy hardly featured in
Minister Nzo‟s speeches to Parliament. For example, the Minister only provided
detailed reporting on SA‟s international commitments and interventions during his
1996 Budget Vote Speech. He reported that SA was not oblivious to human rights
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abuses in individual countries. SA raised concerns in its interactions with leaders of a
number of countries, and had urged these leaders to uphold universally acceptable
human rights principles. He added that human rights concerns also influenced
decisions concerning arms sales, and support which SA gives to other country's
candidacy for posts in international organisations. He did not provide Parliament with
specific interventions that he had made. He also reported that in its commitment to
Africa, the promotion of human rights and democracy, and conflict resolution and
peacekeeping were yardsticks against which foreign policy decisions can be
measured (Nzo 1996).
Some of the early test cases for SA‟s commitment to human rights in its foreign
policy were its relations with the People‟s Republic of China (PRC) and Indonesia.
For many years following its accession to power, the ANC Government was
undecided on which China to recognize. One of the pertinent issues in the
discussions relating to SA‟s policy towards the PRC was the latter‟s human rights
records compared to the Republic of China (Alden: 2001:124; Spence 2004:38;
Landsberg: 2010:110). Although the PRC is a totalitarian state, its international
stature has risen mainly because of the size of its population which offers a huge
consumer market as well as its economic performance. When President Mandela
visited Beijing in May 1999, he failed to raise human rights issues with the Chinese
government (Barber 2004:108; Landsberg: 2010:110).
With regard to Indonesia, the Mandela administration was criticized for awarding
President Suharto the Order of Good Hope which is SA‟s top honour for a non-SA
citizen. SA also abstained from voting during UNCHR condemning the use of
excessive force by Indonesian security forces in East Timor in 1997 and 1998.
Mandela did, however, receive credit for visiting an imprisoned human rights
campaigner, Xanana Gusmão. According to Manby (2000) financial assistance to the
ANC by Indonesia was suspected of playing a role in these relations.
Concerns were also raised by the ANC and Government on the performance of SA in
its promotion of human rights. According to the ANC, lessons were learned during
the first three years of government which necessitated a review of its application of
human rights principles. It was contended that SA should still have diplomatic and
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economic relations with countries with bad human rights records but when it engages
those states, it should raise human rights concerns (ANC 1997). Selebi (1999)
confirmed that the Government had learnt from past experiences and that whilst still
committed to human rights principles, different tactics and strategies would be
applied.
This new approach was evident in the manner that Minister Dlamini-Zuma, who
succeeded Nzo as Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1999, dealt with human rights issues.
Throughout her tenure, she did not raise any human rights concerns affecting
individual countries in her reports to Parliament. Only issues that were discussed in
the multilateral forums such as her reference to the Beijing Platform of Action in 2005
and her report in 2008 on the APRM were discussed in her budget speeches
(Dlamini-Zuma 2005; Dlamini-Zuma 2008). Under her leadership, SA adopted a
controversial position in the UNSC in 2007 regarding Myanmar. SA opposed a draft
resolution to impose sanctions against the military junta in Myanmar. SA‟s vote
created a perception that it was protecting the military junta despite the fact that in
October 2007, it did register its disapproval of the junta‟s practices when it
summoned the Myanmar Ambassador to the Union Buildings (Fritz 2009:17).
Although the new SA government remained committed in principle to the promotion
and protection of human rights, the practical implementation of this commitment
especially at a bilateral level, proved to be challenging to both the Mandela and
Mbeki administrations. During the Mbeki administration, the focus shifted almost
entirely to the use of multilateral organisations.
5.2
Accession to international human rights treaties and other instruments
and participation in global human rights institutions
According to APRM Country Review Report No.5,(2007) SA acceded and ratified the
following human rights instruments: The International Covenant on Economic, Social
and Cultural Rights (signed in 1994); the International covenant on Civil and Political
Rights (ratified in 1998); Convention on the Rights of the Child (ratified in 1995);
Optional Protocol to the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (acceded to in 2002);
African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ratified in 2000); International
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Convention on the elimination of All Forms of Racial discrimination (ratified in 1998);
Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhumane or Punishment (ratified in
1998); Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of discrimination Against Women
(ratified in 1995); Convention on the Political Rights of Women (signed 1998) and the
African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (acceded to in 1996); Protocol to the
African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Establishment of the African
Court on Human and Peoples Rights (adopted in 1998); and the Protocol to the
African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights of Women in Africa (ratified in 2004).
South Africa was elected to serve on the UNCHR in May 1996 (Nzo 1996). Based on
its commitment to the promotion of human rights, it was requested to host the World
Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related
Intolerance (WCAR) (Dlamini-Zuma 2000). It was involved in the establishment of the
UNHRC to which it was elected to serve in 2007. In the UNHRC, it committed to
serve the agenda of the poor, mainstream gender issues, advance the empowerment
of women and argue for the inextricability of economic, social and cultural rights, and
civil and political rights (Dlamini-Zuma 2007). Kasambala (2009:7) argues that SA
followed the Africa bloc in its voting patterns in the UNHRC. In support of her
arguments, she cites the examples of the DRC and Sudan where SA prevented the
work of international experts and a working group in Sudan.
As evident from this discussion, the results of SA‟s application of human rights
diplomacy are mixed. Although there was criticism of the Mandela administration
including its relations with dictators such as Suharto and some arms sales, the earlier
period of the Mandela administration showed greater involvement on international
human rights issues including accession to many human rights treaties and
protocols. There was also reporting to Parliament albeit without any specific
reference to human rights situations in individual countries. There was a marked
difference during the Mbeki administration. As the reference to Dlamini-Zuma‟s
reports to Parliament showed, the focus on human rights shifted almost completely
towards multilateral forums. Any bilateral representations on human rights violations
if any were made, followed the dictates of quiet diplomacy.
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6
CONCLUSION
South Africa‟s foreign policy changed dramatically when the ANC government came
to power in 1994. Its isolation by the international community ended and was
welcomed with great expectations especially with regard to its role in Africa and in
the human rights arena. Although some of the expectations were met, it is in the
latter area where debates about SA‟s performance and criticisms have endured.
Some of the criticism has been harsh, given the international environment that it
operated within. Given its size and history, including the support it received from the
developing world, it had to seek alliances with countries of the South and prioritise its
relations with Africa.
Although it acceded to most human rights instruments and was generally well
received within the international human rights community as demonstrated by its
selection to host the WCAR in 2001 and appointment to serve for unprecedented
terms in UN bodies such as the UNCHR and UNSC, these alliances and relations
influenced its stance on global human rights issues as demonstrated by the few
cases that have been discussed above.
Having analysed the foreign policy of SA, especially its human rights focus, it is
imperative to examine the infrastructure including legislation and other measures that
both the Mandela and Mbeki governments developed to implement this policy. The
discussion which follows, details these issues and related matters.
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CHAPTER 4: SOUTH AFRICA’S INSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORK FOR HUMAN
RIGHTS DIPLOMACY
1
INTRODUCTION
Foreign policy requires an infrastructure in the form of guiding policy documents, an
organisational structure with adequate human resources and oversight mechanisms
and reporting systems to monitor and evaluate its implementation. The discussion in
this chapter focuses on these issues as well as on the organisational infrastructure.
This includes the reporting and monitoring system put in place; the involvement of
non-governmental structures in SA‟s human rights diplomacy; and the general
oversight mechanisms to deal with human rights diplomacy in Africa. The chapter
therefore aims at analysing SA‟s institutional framework to deal with human rights
issues in the implementation of its foreign policy during the Mandela and Mbeki
administrations. Part of this enquiry considers the adequacy of the infrastructure in
relation to the stated objectives but also benchmark it against those of other
countries that base their foreign policy on human rights.
2
LEGISLATIVE AND POLICY FRAMEWORK ON HUMAN RIGHTS
MATTERS IN FOREIGN POLICY
Other than the Constitution, the National Conventional Arms Control Act, 2002 (Act
No.41 of 2002) and the 1996 Foreign Policy Discussion Document are amongst the
few written policy instruments in addition to policy pronouncements by political
principals that guided implementation of human rights diplomacy.
2.1
Constitutional imperatives
A constitution of a state sets the foundations upon which its policies and conduct are
based. It further confers powers of government to various institutions and persons.
The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, (Act 108 of 1996), declares
SA as a sovereign democratic state founded on the values of human dignity, the
achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms. Other
values include the supremacy of the constitution and the rule of law. These values
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are further elaborated upon in the Bill of Rights. The Constitution confers on the
President and Cabinet amongst others, authority to develop and implement national
policies. Being a constitutional democracy, these policies have to respect and
promote the Constitution and its values. In the context of foreign policy, SA‟s
diplomatic actions should therefore inter alia promote its values.
2.2
Foreign Policy Discussion Document, 1996
The Foreign Policy Discussion Document (the Document) was developed by the DFA
in 1996 following a number of initiatives including workshops and was aimed at
elaborating on SA‟s foreign policy (RSA DFA 1996). As a working document, its aim
was to provide a broad overview of the many aspects of international relations as
well as foreign objectives and priorities for consideration by the policy makers. The
Discussion Document is aligned with and represents a codification of the key tenets
and strategic objectives of the SA foreign policy that have been pronounced by
various SA statesmen including President Mandela, the then Deputy President Mbeki
and Foreign Minister Nzo. In this section, the aspects of the Document that relate to
Africa and human rights are discussed as part of the overall framework that
influenced and facilitated SA‟s engagement with human rights diplomacy on the
continent.
2.2.1 Relations with Southern Africa and Africa
The Document premised the discussion on SA‟s bilateral relations with other states
on the fact that SA as a sovereign state established relations with other states on the
basis of its national interests. It further argued that to have trade and diplomatic
relations with any state did not imply that it approved that state‟s domestic policies.
Diplomatic relations could be used to communicate SA values including its
commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Like most policy documents and statements, it underscored the centrality of southern
Africa and Africa in SA‟s foreign policy. It made reference to statements that Deputy
President Mbeki and Foreign Affairs Minister Alfred Nzo made at the Heads of
Mission Conference in Pretoria in September 1995. Mbeki had stated that SA was
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expected to contribute positively to the development of the Southern Africa region as
a partner and an ally and not as a regional super power. With regard to Africa, SA
was expected to make a contribution towards peace and development. SA had
therefore to contribute in ensuring peace, democracy, respect for human rights and
sustainable development. Minister Nzo had stated that SA was committed to the
interests of Southern Africa and the African continent.
Based on these policy positions by political principals, in bilateral relations with
countries on the continent, the Document urged SA‟s missions abroad to regard the
countries of Southern Africa as highly important and that matters related to them had
to be prioritized. On what the Document referred as Equatorial Africa and the nonSADC Indian Ocean Islands, issues of economic development, trade and foreign
direct investment by the developed countries were regarded as important. SA was
therefore expected to play a substantial role in the prevention, management and
resolution of conflicts in order to enhance investor confidence in the region. It was
also expected to demonstrate through its moral leadership that good governance and
democracy were prerequisites for economic development. On North Africa, economic
relations between SA and the region as well as addressing issues in the region that
are of international concern were regarded as important issues.
The prioritization of Africa and Southern Africa as well as the identified issues are
appropriate for obvious reasons. SA is an African country and its regional
environment impacts on it in many respects and SA should therefore seek to
influence it. The issues of peace, democracy and human rights that it identified are
important for Africa‟s economic and social development.
2.2.2 Foreign policy principles and the human rights aspect
South Africa‟s foreign policy principles and their rationale were previously discussed
(see Chapter 3 (4.3)). The Document quoted Minister Nzo as having referred to
these principles as its aspirational tenets that can provide predictability to SA‟s
foreign policy when applied consistently. They also portrayed SA‟s perception of itself
and the kind of the world that it aspired for. They were a benchmark which could be
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used to assess the quality of the country‟s foreign policy decisions at an operational
level. Finally, Nzo referred to these principles as guidelines.
Without providing answers, the Document questioned whether the principles were
adequate, or whether they were achievable. It also asked how far government could
go in imposing them on others. The Document added further cornerstones and main
foreign policy preoccupations which included the following: SA should strive to be a
responsible global citizen; should adhere to a philosophy of non-alignment and
friendly, constructive relations with all nations (universality of relations); should deal
with African partners as equals; and should avoid all hegemonic ambitions and a
short term approach aimed at promoting self-interest.
These principles and cornerstones of SA‟s foreign policy are aligned to SA‟s values
as outlined in the Constitution. The case studies will examine the extent to which the
human rights principle has been applied in practice.
2.3
National Conventional Arms Control Act, 2002
The National Conventional Arms Control Act, 2002 (Act No.41 of 2002) (the Act) was
promulgated on 20 February 2003. The Act seeks inter alia to establish the National
Conventional Arms Control Committee; to ensure compliance with the policy of the
Government in respect of arms control; to provide for guidelines and criteria to be
used when assessing the applications for permits made in terms of this Act; and to
ensure adherence to international treaties and agreements.
In terms of the Act, the following principles and criteria must be considered in
assessing cases brought before it: assess each application on its own merits; avoid
the sale of conventional arms to governments that systematically violate or suppress
human rights and fundamental freedoms; avoid contributing to internal repression,
including the systematic violation or suppression of human rights and fundamental
freedoms in the recipient state; safeguard SA‟s national security interests and those
of its allies; avoid transfers of conventional arms that are likely to contribute to the
escalation of regional military conflicts, endanger regional peace or contribute to
regional instability; adhere to international law, norms and practices and the
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international obligations and commitments of the Republic, including UNSC arms
embargoes; take account of calls for reduced military expenditure in the interests of
development and human security; and avoid contributing to terrorism and crime.
According to Parliamentary Monitoring Group (PMG) (2004a),during a briefing to the
Foreign Affairs Portfolio Committee, the then Chairperson of the National
Conventional Arms Control Committee, Prof Asmal remarked that in considering
applications, it exercised some discretion and looked beyond the stipulated criteria.
In some instances, the criteria were in contrast to each other and other factors had to
be taken into account. This has contributed to some of the criticism of decisions of
the Committee. The Committee sanctioned the sale of arms to Rwanda, CongoBrazzaville, Algeria, Syria, Saudi Arabia, China, Turkey and Indonesia despite their
poor human rights records (Barber & Vickers 2001:345-346; Landsberg 2010:99 and
111-112). It should, however, be expected that in the complex arena of foreign
policy, decision making on any matter is fraught with difficulties and controversies
despite the existence of good intentions and policies. Despite the shortcomings that
accompanied the implementation of the Act, its very existence is a positive initiative.
In a country with high unemployment rates, constraining industry in terms of who it
does business with is commendable.
South Africa‟s legislative and policy framework including the Constitution, the Act and
the Discussion Document provide a basis for SA foreign policy which espouses
ethical values, especially human rights. However in the context of dynamic and
complex world politics, the applications of the principles pose challenges to SA
statesmen and practitioners.
3.
SOUTH AFRICA’S STATE INSTITUTIONS INVOLVED IN FOREIGN POLICY
Foreign policy is implemented through agencies and individuals such Heads of State
and Government, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, foreign ministries and career
diplomats. This section focuses on the main state institutions whose mandate and
function cover foreign relations. Without providing too much detail, it assesses the
extent of their involvement in human rights issues.
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3.1
The Presidency
Heads of state and government traditionally play a leading role in their countries‟
international relations. The Constitution (section 84 (2) (h)) assigns specific powers
to the President with regard to receiving and recognising diplomatic and consular
representatives of other states. Under section 84 (2) (i), the President is also
entrusted with the appointment of SA‟s ambassadors, plenipotentiaries, and
diplomatic and consular representatives.
In addition to fulfilling these constitutional responsibilities, as previously discussed
(see 4.4.1 and 4.4.2 in Chapter 3) both Presidents Mandela and Mbeki actively
engaged in foreign policy issues during their terms in office. In addition to
representing SA at international multilateral fora such as the UNGA, UNCTAD, and
NAM, President Mandela made contributions in resolving conflicts both continentally
and internationally. In some of these fora and in other statements and speeches that
he made such his address to the UNGA in 1998, President Mandela raised human
rights issues (Mandela 1998). His most notable conflict resolution initiatives were his
involvement in the first Zaire conflict, and the Burundi conflict. He was also involved
in resolving the Lockerbie saga involving Libya and some western governments.
President Mbeki was also engaged in conflict resolution on the continent but his
major contribution was his leadership role in the development and promotion of the
African agenda especially the NEPAD. The latter issues featured prominently
amongst foreign policy issues which he discussed in his Departmental budget
speeches, such as his 2002 Budget Vote Speech (Mbeki 2002).
3.2
International Relations Peace and Security Cluster
Following the Presidential Review Commission on the Reform and Transformation of
the Public Service in SA in 1998, new structures were put in place to amongst others,
ensure effective coordination in policy development and implementation, and to
strengthen the Presidency as the core and apex of the system of governance in SA
(RSA The Presidency 2001). The International Relations Peace and Security (IRPS)
Cluster is one of the six clusters which were introduced as part of this transformation.
It operates both at the political level headed by the President and the level of the
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Directors-General. It deals with all matters related to international relations, trade,
international investments, marketing of SA, peace and security. Within the
Presidency, the Policy Coordination and Advisory Services Branch is responsible for
providing advice to the President and other political leaders in the Presidency on all
matters relating to policy coordination and implementation. It has various Chief
Directorates including the Chief Directorate on International Relations, Peace and
Security. This Chief Directorate supports the work of the IRPS cluster both at the
officials‟ and Cabinet levels. The cluster contributed to the development of strategic
objectives as well as action plans on international relations which were cascaded to
the Foreign Affairs Department.
3.3
Foreign Affairs Parliamentary Portfolio Committee
The National Assembly has the responsibility in terms of section 55 (2) of the
Constitution to set up mechanism which ensures that the Executive is accountable to
it and maintains oversight over the exercise of executive authority. Based on the
provisions of section 57, it can also make rules and orders concerning its business.
These rules include the establishment, powers and functions of its committees,
including Portfolio Committees. The role of Portfolio Committees is to consider Bills,
deal with departmental budget votes, and oversee the work of the Government
departments
which
they
are
responsible
for,
and
enquire
and
make
recommendations about any aspect of the departments, including their structures,
functioning and policies.
The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs is therefore an important
mechanism to ensure oversight and accountability in the formulation and conduct of
SA‟s foreign policy and international relations. The Committee regularly interacts with
the Executive through the budget vote process, considers annual reports of the
Department, undertakes foreign trips and hosts delegations from other parliaments
as well as diplomatic representatives of other states that are based in SA. Members
of the Committee also regularly pose questions to the Ministers on foreign policy
matters.
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During the period covered by this study, Committee members engaged publicly and
during its Committee meetings on human rights issues in African countries, primarily
those on Swaziland and Zimbabwe. The Sudan occasionally featured but mainly
within the context of the peace process and the conflict that emerged in Darfur
around 2004. On Zimbabwe, the Committee received briefings on the situation.
Some of the briefings were done by Deputy Minister Pahad in February 2002 (PMG
2002). In June 2003, they were briefed by representatives from civil society (PMG
2003). Representatives of the Zimbabwean government also briefed the Committee,
for example on 3 November 2004 and 17 March 2008 (PMG 2004b; PMG 2008).
During the briefings, issues pertaining to the human rights situation were discussed.
Although the Committee maintained interest, concern and at times expressed
disquiet about the Executive‟s approach towards the Zimbabwean matter, no firm
proposals appear to have been presented to the Executive as an alternative. The
Committee seems to have generally been content with the strategy of the Executive.
3.4
The Ministry and Department of Foreign Affairs
The DFA is the prime government department charged with international relations
work. According to RSA DFA (2002a), the Minister of Foreign Affairs is responsible
for coordination and administration of all aspects of SA‟s foreign policy. The mandate
of the DFA is to work for the realization of SA‟s foreign policy objectives. More
specifically, the Department‟s primary mandate is to render assistance to the Minister
in carrying out Cabinet and Ministerial responsibilities. The Department carries out its
mandate by inter alia monitoring developments in the international environment;
communicating government‟s policy positions; developing and advising government
on policy options, mechanisms and avenues for achieving objectives; protecting SA‟s
sovereignty and territorial integrity; and by assisting other government departments
in their international relations work.
To fulfil its mandate, the Department is organised into geographic and functional
units termed Branches (RSA DFA 2005a). These Branches are further sub-divided
into Business Units and Directorates. The role of the two main Branches (Multilateral
and Africa Multilateral) that deal with human rights issues generally and with Africa in
particular are discussed below. However, in addition to these Branches, other
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management structures such as the Departmental Management Committee also deal
with human rights issues as part of their responsibilities. This includes the
responsibilities to receive and consider reports (see Section 4).
a) The Multilateral Branch: The Multilateral Branch within the DFA carries the main
responsibility for SA‟s human rights diplomacy. Within the Branch, the Chief
Directorate: Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs is entrusted with this
responsibility. The Chief Directorate is split into two Directorates that deal with
Civil and Political Rights, and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Chief
Directorate coordinates SA‟s involvement and participation in the various UN
human rights structures such as the Human Rights Committee and UNHRC. This
coordination includes the nomination and lobbying for SA‟s candidatures at these
bodies and others. In consultation with political principals including the
Presidency and the Ministry, SA‟s Missions in Geneva and New York and other
internal stakeholders, the Branch develops and disseminates information to all
SA‟s Missions abroad regarding its policy positions on various issues that are
discussed at these forums. It also coordinates the country‟s human rights
reporting obligations (RSA DFA 2001b; RSA DFA 2005a; RSA DIRCO 2013a).
South Africa‟s Missions in Geneva and New York, due to the location of key UN
institutions in these cities, play an important supportive role to the Multilateral
Branch. In addition to providing inputs on policy positions, they also represent SA
at some of the committees especially the Third Committee of the UNGA and the
various committees of the UNHRC in New York and Geneva respectively (RSA
DIRCO 2013b; RSA DIRCO 2013c).
b) Africa Multilateral Branch: This Branch was established in 2004 to signal the
importance attached to multilateral work in the continent. There are two
Directorates within this Branch that are relevant to issues of human rights in
Africa, namely the African Union Directorate as well as the NEPAD, APRM and
African Renaissance Fund Directorate. The former is responsible for politics,
governance and human rights issues. Amongst the issues that it deals with is the
PAP, unconstitutional changes of governments, democracy and elections and
good governance. The latter Directorate coordinates the work of the Department
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in relation to the implementation of APRM initiatives on the continent. It also
supports the President‟s participation in the NEPAD‟s Heads of State and
Government Implementation Committee (RSA DFA 2005a; RSA DIRCO 2013a).
In addition to the Units at Head Office, the SA Mission in Addis Ababa is
responsible for all matters pertaining to the AU. It leads and co-ordinates SA‟s
participation and inputs into the various structures and institutions at the AU and
its predecessor, the OAU.
Although various state institutions are involved in foreign policy issues, it is primarily
the Presidency, and the Ministry and DFA that are mandated to deal with both policy
and strategic matters. On human rights issues, two Branches within the DFA are
charged with this responsibility. In discharging this role, they are supported by SA
missions abroad in New York, Geneva and Addis Ababa.
The Foreign Affairs
Parliamentary Portfolio Committee has an important oversight responsibility but it has
little impact on human rights issues.
4.
ORGANISATIONAL REPORTING MECHANISMS
Reporting plays an important part in decision making. Without an accurate and up to
date system of keeping policy makers informed of relevant developments, the results
may show in the nature and quality of decisions that are taken. In the arena of
human rights diplomacy, this is even more important as the quality of reporting
largely determines how a state responds to evolving human rights issues. The
discussion that follows reviews the reporting system that is in place on human rights
issues.
4.1
Intradepartmental reporting
The Department does not have dedicated reporting on human rights issues. However
human rights issues are included in reports at various levels. South African Missions
abroad have amongst their functions reporting to Pretoria on political and social
developments in their countries of accreditation. Human rights issues would be
covered in these reports (Interviewee 11 28 August 2012). There is however no
standardization of the formats of the reports. Each Business Unit at Head Office
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determines the format of reporting by its Missions. Missions are however expected to
report regularly at least once a month.
At Head Office, all Branches and Business Units report quarterly on their
performance in terms of their business plans. This is further enhanced by six monthly
reviews which entailed detailed reporting over the preceding six months. In addition,
Branches and submit six weekly forecasts in which they report on amongst others a
high level political analysis of the situation in the various states falling within in each
Branch, critical events such as elections taking place in the various countries, as well
as incoming and out-going visits to SA by foreign heads of state and government and
SA President during the period under review. These reports are presented and
discussed at monthly management meetings, especially Departmental Management
Committee (RSA DFA 2006b).
4.2
Reporting to Parliament
Since the coming into effect of the Public Finance Management Act, 1999 (Act No. 1
of 1999) (the PFMA) in 2000, reporting to Parliament on an annual basis became
obligatory in terms of section 40 of the PFMA. The annual report presents the
activities of the Department in the preceding year as well as its performance in
relation to predetermined objectives as outlined in the strategic plan and the
business plan. Below is a summary of reports on African human rights related issues
pertaining global and regional issues as well as countries that are part of the study.
4.2.1 Global human rights issues
At a global level, reporting consisted of SA‟s participation and contributions within the
UN human rights system especially the UNCHR. The 2000/2001 report indicated that
SA participated in the discussions of the UNCHR even though it was not member
and was subsequently elected at the end of 2000, to serve for a three year period. It
offered to host the WCAR in 2001 and participated in several regional preparatory
conferences. It perceived the promotion and protection of human rights as key to the
stability and development of Africa (RSA DFA 2001b). According to the 2001/2002
report, SA sponsored resolutions at UNGA 56 on the right to development, rights of
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the girl-child, and causes of conflict and the promotion of durable peace and
sustainable development in Africa. It introduced the right to development at 57th
Session of UNCHR in March/April 2001 (RSA DFA 2002b).
In the 2002/03 report, it was reported that the 58 th Session of the UNCHR included
discussions on Zimbabwe which according to SA confirmed the Africa Group‟s view
that African countries were targeted by the West. It also discussed Sudan and
Equatorial Guinea (RSA DFA 2003b). According to the 2003/2004 report, Minister
Zuma addressed the 59th Session of the UNCHR during March 2003. She outlined
SA‟s foreign policy objectives on human rights. As the chair of the Africa Group, SA
introduced a no-action motion on Zimbabwe which was adopted with a narrow
majority vote. SA led the process for the adoption of the African Commission on
Human and Peoples‟ Rights (ACHPR) on the Rights of Women in Africa (RSA DFA
2004b).
According to the 2004/2005 report, SA actively engaged in the elaboration of the
Convention of the Rights and Dignity of People with Disabilities, and the Convention
on Involuntary Disappearances (RSA DFA 2005b). During the 2005/2006 reporting
period, the SA government actively engaged the processes of UN reform in the area
of human rights. SA was one of the two Co-Chairs and played a critical role in the
formation of the UNHRC on 15 March 2006. SA, in collaboration with other member
states of the AU, led a process to elaborate complementary standards to update and
strengthen the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial
Discrimination. It also participated in the UN process aimed at evolving international
human rights law within the sphere of economic social and cultural rights, the rights
of people with disabilities and the right to Development. In addition, it was involved in
the elaboration of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the Draft Integral International Convention
on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities
(RSA DFA 2006b).
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4.2.2 Regional human rights issues
Reporting on regional human rights issues featured SA‟s involvement and
participation in the APRM process. For example, the 2000/2001 report highlighted
that the Department assisted in the formulation of proposals to strengthen the
autonomy of the ACHPR (RSA DFA 2001b). The 2003/2004 report indicated that the
31st and 32nd ACHPR Sessions were held in Pretoria and Banjul respectively. The
Session in Pretoria discussed NEPAD, Human and People‟s Rights in Africa and
WCAR. The Session in Banjul discussed NEPAD, Good Governance and Human
Rights (RSA DFA 2004b). The 2005/2006 report noted that the African Court on
Human and People‟s Rights was operationalized. SA submitted inputs to the Draft
Instrument on the Merger of the African Court of Justice and African Court on Human
and Peoples‟ Rights. It was also reported that the review of SA within the APRM had
commenced (RSA DFA 2006b).
4.2.3 Individual country reporting
In this section, reporting on Libya, the Sudan and Zimbabwe is reviewed. The Nigeria
case is excluded because it covered the period before reporting to Parliament
became regulated and mandatory.
a) Libya: The first reporting on Libya commenced in the 2001/2002 report which
dealt with the appointment of SA‟s first resident ambassador (RSA DFA 2002b).
Subsequent reports dealt with general cooperation between SA and Libya
including issues relating to the launch of the Joint Bilateral Commission, the AU
and NEPAD, peace and security, and the resolution of conflicts (RSA DFA 2003b;
RSA DFA 2007). The resolution of the Lockerbie impasse which was facilitated by
SA led to the lifting of sanctions against Libya in 2003 and was reported in the
2003/2004 report (RSA DFA 2004b).
b) The Sudan: The initial report on the Sudan was in the 2001/2002 report (RSA
DFA 2002b). Other than general issues pertaining to the strengthening of bilateral
relations, all the reports featured SA‟s support for the peace process. Following
the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 9 February 2005, it advocated an
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inclusive constitution making process. It was further reported that SA deployed
military observers and civilian police members in Darfur through the African Union
Mission in Sudan to monitor the ceasefire which came into effect in 2005. Later,
as indicated in the 2004/2005 report, support for post-conflict reconstruction was
included, especially the capacity building project in South Sudan (RSA DFA
2005b).
c) Zimbabwe: The conflict in Zimbabwe featured consistently since reporting started
in 2000/2001. In the report, it was mentioned that SA engaged foreign
governments to ensure that sanctions were not imposed against Zimbabwe. This
position was based on the likely negative impact such a decision would have on
SA and the region. SA‟s efforts at keeping Zimbabweans engaged in finding
lasting solutions to the problems were supported by the West (USA, EU and UK)
(RSA DFA 2001b). In 2001/2002, SA‟s involvement in dialogue with the
Zimbabwe government and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was
reported. It was further noted that SA deployed the Observer Mission during the
Presidential elections that were held in February/March 2002 (RSA DFA 2002b).
The monitoring of elections and SA‟s involvement in promoting dialogue and
facilitating discussions between the warring parties featured in almost all the
reports. For example, the 2004/2005 report mentioned that SA as Chair of the
Organ of SADC coordinated the election Observer Mission in 2005, including in
Zimbabwe. The report further noted that the elections were held successfully. SA
sent a national Observer Mission to Zimbabwe for the 31 March 2005
parliamentary elections. The results were declared credible and reflective of the
will of the people of Zimbabwe (RSA DFA 2005b). In the 2007/2008 report, SA‟s
continued role as Facilitator to the SADC mandated mediation process was
highlighted. It was reported that the Presidential Task Team, supported by the
Department, met with ZANU-PF and the two MDC factions on a continuous basis
to resolve the challenges facing that country. The role players reached agreement
on a number of issues which culminated in the passing of Constitutional
Amendment No. 18. The Constitutional amendments dealt with security and
media legislation, inter alia, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy
Act, the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and the Broadcasting Services
Act. The mediation efforts resulted in the holding of peaceful, transparent and
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credible harmonised presidential, parliamentary, senatorial and council elections
on 29 March 2008 (RSA DFA 2008b).
An extensive reporting mechanism existed in the DFA for both intradepartmental and
external reporting to Parliament. However, the reporting was not standardised and
very little attention was given to human rights issues in the affected states with the
exception of Zimbabwe. Intense reporting on global human rights issues took place,
especially at multilateral fora.
5. THE INVOLVEMENT OF NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANISATIONS IN
SOUTH AFRICA’S HUMAN RIGHTS DIPLOMACY
Non-Governmental Organisations are increasingly engaged in diplomatic activity
including in the area of human rights. Amongst the NGOs, the Congress of South
African Trade Unions (COSATU) was the most engaged organisation, especially on
human rights and the lack of democracy in Nigeria, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.
COSATU issued many statements condemning human rights abuses in Nigeria
during the Abacha regime. It condemned the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa in 1995
and following the death of Mrs Abiola in June 1996, it called for an international
investigation into her death and reiterated its demands for the respect of human
rights in Nigeria (COSATU 1995; COSATU 1996). It sponsored and partnered with
the Swaziland Network to engage in a series of campaigns alongside the
SA/Swaziland borders to highlight human rights issues (COSATU 2006). On
Zimbabwe, it made a number of public statements deploring the situation there and
pledging solidarity with the civil society movement, especially the Zimbabwe
Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU). For example, on 17 November 2003, COSATU
issued a statement expressing support to the ZCTU protest action (COSATU 2003).
COSATU, however, plays a dual role in that it is both an NGO and also a prominent
alliance partner of the ANC. This diminishes its role as an independent civil society
organisation. Other NGOs such as the South African Institute of International Affairs,
and the Institute of Global Dialogue operated more like think tanks and occasionally
issued papers critical of SA‟s human rights diplomacy.
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During the period under consideration in this study, there was no formal structure for
dialogue or engagement between the SA government and the NGO sector. The
Discussion Document proposed the creation of a South African Council on Foreign
Relations that would have played an advisory function, but the proposal never
materialised.
6. CONCLUSION
The SA government has an extensive infrastructure that deal with all foreign affairs
matters including human rights diplomacy. This infrastructure, developed during the
Mandela era, was bolstered during the Mbeki presidency. In addition to setting up
extensive organisational machinery within the Presidency, legislation was passed
that compelled Government departments to develop strategic and operational plans
and to report to Parliament annually. Parliament in turn, mainly, through the Foreign
Affairs Portfolio Committee, engages the DFA on its mandate. The DFA has
adequate infrastructure to discharge its responsibilities including two Branches
whose main mandate focuses on human rights issues. A system of reporting is also
put in place.
Despite the existence of extensive infrastructure, some shortcomings prevail on how
human rights matters are handled. These stem mainly from the policy positions that
were taken, especially the lack of focus on human rights as well as the reporting
system. Human rights issues at individual state level do not appear to have been
given much prominence as demonstrated amongst others by the Parliamentary
Portfolio Committee only focusing on Swaziland and Zimbabwe. There was scant
reporting on human rights issues at all levels including reporting to Parliament. Only
multilateral human rights issues at global and regional levels featured consistently in
parliamentary reports. The reasons and the motives for the lack of focus on bilateral
human rights issues in both reporting and at policy level will be explored in detail in
the next chapter.
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CHAPTER 5: SOUTH AFRICA’S DIPLOMACY ON HUMAN RIGHTS IN
SELECTED AFRICAN STATES
1 INTRODUCTION
This chapter discusses the use of diplomacy as an instrument of foreign policy, i.e.
the proactive diplomatic strategies, plans and actions that the Mandela and Mbeki
governments employed to address human rights issues in the selected states. It will
also consider reactive diplomatic actions that the two administrations took to
emerging human rights issues. However, before SA‟s responses are discussed, an
overview of human rights violations in these states is presented as a context. The
aim of the chapter is to assess SA‟s strategies and actions given the country‟s stated
commitment to promote and protect human rights.
2 HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN SELECTED AFRICAN COUNTRIES
BETWEEN 1994 AND 2008
An overview is presented of the human rights situation, especially gross violations, in
the selected countries, namely Libya, Nigeria, the Sudan, and Zimbabwe. Reports
about these violations are sourced from various international human rights bodies
such as Human Rights Watch (HRW), AI, Freedom House, the UNCHR and the USA
DOS. Although the review will cover the entire period of the study, with regard to
Nigeria and Zimbabwe, the discussion only focuses on the periods between 1995 to
1999 and 2000 to 2008 respectively. In each case, the political background is
provided followed by an analysis of the violations of human rights. The aim is to show
the extent and nature of human rights abuses in these countries in order to assess
and evaluate the adequacy and effectiveness of SA‟s human rights diplomacy.
2.1
Human rights violations in Libya
Libya gained its independence in 1951 following colonial rule by Italy. On
independence, King Idris I became its ruler but he was disposed by Mu'ammar Abu
Minyar al-Qadhafi in 1969. The new Government abolished the monarchy and
declared Libya an Arabic Republic. Although Qadhafi held no official Government
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position, he was the leader of the country (Freedom House 2008). Another
development which impacted on Libya and later its relations with SA was its alleged
and later proven involvement in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. Following
this incident, the UN imposed sanctions against Libya in 1992.
The political system in Libya appeared democratic on paper but in practice it was a
totalitarian state. The regime dealt brutally with those who opposed it. Freedom of
expression was suppressed, the right to fair trial was denied, and Libyans could not
freely choose their government.
a) Respect for the integrity of the person: The Libyan criminal justice system
made provision for the imposition of the death sentence for a variety of crimes
including premeditated murder and treason. On 2 January 1997, eight men
including six military officers were executed following a rebellion in 1993. There
were also extra-judicial killings that were allegedly committed by the regime. At
least 24 escaped prisoners were reportedly killed by the security forces in March
1996. At the beginning of July 1996, dozens of political detainees were killed in
Abu Salim prison (AI 1997). On 16 February 2002, two academics were
sentenced to death on suspicion of supporting a banned organisation (AI 2002).
Hundreds of suspected Government opponents were subjected to arbitrary
arrests and detentions. Several people were kept in prison even though they were
acquitted by the courts. Some of the detainees were held without trial for more
than fifteen years (AI 1997). Several suspected opponents were also forcibly
returned to Libya by countries such as Jordan. On 13 February 2000, eight
Libyans were forcibly returned from Jordan (AI 2004).
Although Libyan legislation prohibited torture of detainees, its use was
widespread. Claims of torture were made by six Bulgarian nationals who were
arrested in January 1999 on allegations of deliberately infecting children with the
Human Immunodeficiency Virus. They alleged to have been tortured almost on a
daily basis for about two months. Despite Libya being a State Party to various UN
instruments prohibiting torture, Libyan law included floggings and amputations as
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forms of punishment. Four men who were convicted of robbery had their right
hands and left legs amputated on 3 July 2002 (AI 2004).
The right to a fair trial was violated. For example, four military officers who were
arrested on 12 October 1993 were given life imprisonment by a lower court but
were later tried under military law and sentenced to death after the authorities
complained that the initial sentences were lenient (AI 1997). Detainees were held
incommunicado for prolonged periods. One detainee who was arrested on 14
June 1997 was only allowed to see his father for the first time on 18 October
2001. He was only brought to trial on 3 April 2003 without a lawyer and was
subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment on 21 October 2003 by the People‟s
Court (AI 2004).
b) Respect for civil liberties: According to AI (2004) there were many laws that
restricted freedom of association and expression. Law 71 of 1972 banned any
form of group activity based on a political ideology that opposed the regime.
Article 173 and Article 206 of the Penal Code (Law 48 of 1956) provided for the
death penalty for those who established or supported any banned organisation or
who opposed the Revolution. As a result, movements such as the Libyan Islamic
Group and the Muslim Brothers met clandestinely in small groups.
c) Respect for political rights: The right of the Libyans to freely choose their
political leaders was severely curtailed by the political system. Although Gadhafi
effectively ran Libya as an absolute ruler, he held no official political office. There
were elected committees from local to national levels but these structures served
the interests of Gadhafi and his elite because any political structure operating
contrary to the principles laid out in the Green Book were not permitted. Political
parties were banned when Gadhafi came into power (Freedom House 2008). As
reported in the preceding sections, those who joined banned political parties or
participated in any political activity outside system were dealt with severely.
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2.2
Human rights violations in Nigeria
Nigeria was colonized by the British in 1914. It gained independence in 1960 as a
federation and in 1963 it declared itself a federal republic. Since independence,
Nigeria experienced a number of coups d’état. Following the annulment of the June
1993 presidential elections which were believed to have been won by Chief Moshood
Abiola, President Babangida installed Ernest Shonekan to head a transitional
government. The latter was disposed by General Sani Abacha in November 1993.
The annulment of these elections precipitated the political crisis that engulfed Nigeria
for the remainder of the 1990s (USA DOS 2011). During the political crisis, human
rights violations were widespread and affected the rights of Nigerians to choose the
political leaders, as well as a variety of civil and political rights.
a) Respect for the integrity of the person: Several political activists and ordinary
Nigerians were killed through executions by security forces or suspected agents
of government. For example, on 21 April 1994, several villages in Ogoniland were
attacked by the military, killing more than forty civilians. In another incident, on 28
July 1995, five people were killed by security forces during a court appearance by
Abiola (HRW 1995). On 10 November 1995, Ken Saro-Wiwa who was a writer
and activist who campaigned for the rights of the people of Ogoniland and four
others who were charged with the murder of four pro-government leaders were
executed despite appeals by world leaders (HRW 1996).
Several allegations of torture and detention under inhuman conditions were made
against the Government. For example in September 1994, most detainees who
were arrested in Port Harcourt alleged that they were beaten during their arrests
and held in cells which were overcrowded and without adequate sanitary facilities
(AI 1994). On 3 October 1996, a detainee died as a result of torture at police
headquarters in Port Harcourt and on 4 January 1997, Chief S.K. Tigidam was
alleged to have died in prison as a result of his ill-treatment (AI 1997).
Many Nigerians were arbitrarily detained and faced unfair trials. One of the
prominent cases is that of Saro-Wiwa and others who were charged with him.
There were allegations of procedural irregularities during their trial (HRW 1996).
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In another famous case, on 23 June 1994, Chief Abiola was arrested and held
incommunicado. He was charged with various counts of treason. He was initially
refused bail for several months. Although he was granted bail on 4 November,
Government officials refused to free him. His health deteriorated and he later died
in detention in July 1998 (HRW 1999). In addition to these cases, various decrees
were promulgated which allowed detentions without trial and barring courts from
reviewing the legality of the detentions (HRW 1998).
b) Respect for civil liberties: Freedom of speech, the press, peaceful assembly
and association were amongst the civil rights violated by the Abacha regime.
Newspapers were shut down and reporters were arrested. For example, in June
1994, publications within the Concord Group as well as the Punch Group of
publications were shut down by the police; the editor-in-chief of the News Tempo
was arrested and detained for brief periods in August and September 1994; and
on 5 May 1995, the assistant editor of Tell magazine was arrested and detained
(HRW 1995).
Political parties were banned by the Abacha regime. The regime also hampered
trade unions in carrying out their activities through the arrests of their leaders and
at times disbanding their elected committees. For example, union leaders
including the President and General Secretary on the National Union of
Petroleum and Gas Workers (NUPENG) were arrested in August and September
1994 for their participation in a strike. The President of NUPENG‟s detention
continued until 1997 (HRW 1995 and HRW 1999). During the strike in 1994,
peaceful demonstrators were attacked with teargas and live ammunition by
security forces. The security forces routinely disrupted meetings organized by
opposition activists (HRW1995). In August 1996, the Academic Staff Union of
Universities and two other university unions were banned (HRW 1997).
c) Respect for political rights: In addition to banning political parties, and
dissolving the national and state legislatures, the regime arrested former senators
and members of the legislatures. Former President of the Senate was arrested on
2 June 1994 (HRW 1994); and the former Head of State, General Olusegun
Obasanjo together with fifty others were arrested in March 1995 for allegedly
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plotting a coup. Most of them were held incommunicado. They were tried by a
military tribunal and were denied the right to choose their legal representatives
(HRW 1996).
2.3
Human rights violations in the Sudan
The Sudan gained independence from British-Egyptian rule on 1 January 1956.
Since then, the country has been mostly under military rule. Following his coup in
November 1958, General Ibrahim Abbud supported the spread of Islam, but this was
resisted in the South. Subsequently, in 1963 an armed rebellion started in the South.
Another coup took place in May 1969 which was led by Colonel Gaafar Mohamed AlNimeiri who introduced a one-party socialist ideology. In February 1972, Nimeiri
signed an agreement with rebels from the South, which granted some autonomy to
the South. In 1983 he cancelled the autonomy of the South. Sharia law was also
introduced for the whole of the Sudan. These changes led to another outbreak of
rebellion in the South. In 1986, the Umma party won the elections but its government
was overthrown by General Omar Hassan El-Bashir through a coup in June 1989
(UN 2004).
Under President El-Bashir, a number of human rights violations were committed in
the Sudan. The war in the South provided the context but was also a consequence of
most of the violation of human rights in the Sudan.
a) Respect for the integrity of the person: A number of human rights violations
affecting the integrity of a person were committed including extrajudicial killings,
torture and other cruel or degrading treatment, and arbitrary arrests and
detention. Extrajudicial killings by Government forces were widespread in conflict
areas in the South. For example, in June 1994, seven men who refused to
cooperate with the Government were summarily executed in Loka, and on 3 May
1995 eleven men and a woman were shot dead by security forces for refusing to
convert to Islam. Extrajudicial killings also occurred in other parts of the country
such as the killing of five persons by security forces at Khartoum University during
a demonstration in September 1995 (UN 1996).
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There were also reports of torture of those arrested by security forces. On 28
February 1995, 28 female relatives of the officers who were executed in April
1990 were apprehended by security forces that beat them until some of their
clothes became soaked with blood (UN 1996). According to the UN (1999) in
September 1998, six men who were allegedly arrested by the security forces in
Adaryeil were reported to have died under torture.
Many opponents of the regime were arrested and held in detention for varying
periods without being charged. The 1994 National Security Forces Act
strengthened powers of law enforcement agents to operate without judicial
review. It also allowed incommunicado detention for periods of six to nine months
(UN 1995). The imposition of a state of emergency in December 1999 provided
the basis for the arbitrary implementation of more security measures (UN 2003).
b) Respect for civil liberties: The rights to freedom of religion, expression,
assembly and association were suppressed. Upon assuming power, President AlBashir embarked on a programme of Islamisation. Article 126 of the Criminal Act
of 1991 created the crime of Apostasy which was punishable by death (UN 1994).
Church buildings were demolished such as the destruction of the Catholic Centre
of Dorushab on 7 December 1996 without a court order (UN 1997). The
Government controlled the media and independent journalists were harassed.
Journalists were also compelled to register with a Government controlled agency
(UN 1996). Following the adoption of the new constitution, suppression of
freedom of expression did not cease. During August 2007 members of the secret
service carried out censorship raids at news agencies (UN 2008).
Opposition political parties were banned until 1999. The Criminal Code of 1991
banned any gathering of more than five persons. Following the constitutional
changes in 1998, the Political Association Act of 1998 lifted the ban on political
parties and allowed for their registration with some restrictions. Section 3
compelled parties to adhere to the ideology of the ruling party. These provisions
led to some opposition parties to refuse to register (UN 2000).
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c) Respect for political rights: The right of people of the Sudan to freely choose
political leaders was severely hampered by the various restrictions on their civil
rights. Presidential and legislative assembly elections that were held in March
1996 were boycotted by all the major opposition parties (HRW 1997). Despite the
constitutional amendments that were made in 1998, no real
political
improvements occurred. Political opponents of the regime continued to be
harassed. The 1998 elections were again boycotted by the main opposition
parties (UN 2004).
d) Slavery, the slave trade, and similar practices: There were several reports
throughout most of the period covered by the study regarding abductions of
women and children. In most instances, the perpetrators were members of the
army and the Mujahedin. Those abducted were sold to people from northern
Sudan and other places. During 1998, about 800 women and 1,500 children were
abducted (UN 1999).
2.4
Human rights violations in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) was formerly annexed to the UK in 1923. On 11
November 1965, Ian Smith‟s Rhodesian Front party announced the Unilateral
Declaration of Independence from the UK. Following the political settlement at
Lancaster House in December 1979, elections were held in April 1980, which were
won by Robert Mugabe‟s Zimbabwe African National Union (Patriotic Front) (ZANU
(PF)). Mugabe became its first Prime Minister and later President. ZANU-PF
dominated the political scene until the formation of MDC. In 2000, proposed changes
to the Zimbabwean constitution were rejected by the electorate during a referendum.
In the aftermath of the rejection of the constitutional amendments, the human rights
situation worsened. Amongst the human rights violations were extrajudicial killings,
abductions, torture and other cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, arbitrary
arrests, unfair trials, and arbitrary interference with privacy of the family and home.
a) Respect for the integrity of the person: Amongst the cases of extrajudicial
killings is that of David Stevens, an MDC activist who was reportedly abducted
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from his farm on 15 April 2000 and shot dead by „war veterans‟ (AI 2001). In
another case, on 4 May 2008, six people were tortured and gruesomely beaten to
death by ZANU-PF officials and war veterans at a „re-education‟ meeting (HRW
2008). Opposition party supporters were reportedly tortured and subjected to
degrading treatment. On 11 March 2006, security forces arrested about 50
opposition members and tortured many of them including the MDC leader. He
was beaten until unconscious (USA DOS 2008). In February 2006, some of the
female opposition activists who were detained were ordered to strip naked, had
their underwear confiscated and denied sanitary pads (HRW 2006).
Many opposition activists were subjected to arbitrary arrests and the right to fair
trial was hampered by political interference and intimidation of the judiciary. In
most instances they were released after a few days without being charged. HRW
(2003) reported that police used the POSA for the arrests. On 30 June 2001,
Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay was forced to retire after Government failed to
provide him with protection after war veterans and others threatened his life. War
veterans had raided the Supreme Court building to protest the Court's rulings
(USA DOS 2002).
Government opponents were at times denied the right to the privacy of their
homes through arbitrary raids by the police, or Government supporters. For
example, on 4 August 2001 policemen raided the MDC President's home.
Although they did not find any unlawful items, they confiscated a car that
belonged to someone else (USA DOS 2002). During May 2003, 30 MDC
supporters were forced to flee from their homes following attacks by ZANU-PF
activists (USA DOS 2005). In May 2005, the Government embarked upon
Operation Murambatsvina which entailed the demolition of informal settlements in
Harare and other areas without prior notice. Approximately 700 000 people were
adversely affected (Freedom House 2006).
Another gross human rights violation committed by the Government was the
seizure of land belonging to Whites. The Supreme Court initially ruled that the
Government programme was unconstitutional but this decision was reversed in
November 2001 (HRW 2002). Attempts by evicted farmers to seek redress
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through the SADC Tribunal were unsuccessful after the Government refused to
implement its ruling (USA DOS 2009).
b) Respect for civil liberties: Freedom of speech and the press were curtailed
through various means. The Law and Order Maintenance Act (LOMA) and
subsequently POSA were applied to restrict freedom of speech (AI 2001). The
Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) also adversely
affected the media. In terms of AIPPA, journalists are obliged to register with a
state agency. It also criminalised, amongst others, the publication of false
information (USA DOS 2005).
Since 2000, many prominent opposition figures were arrested and their meetings
prohibited under the provisions of POSA. Violent attacks against MDC members
were intensified around elections. For example, on 22 July 2001, a group of
ZANU-PF youth allegedly attacked the vehicle convoy of the MDC President (AI
2001). In another case, on 18 February 2008, police in Harare stopped the MDC
from holding a rally in contravention of a High Court order (AI 2008).
c) Denial of political rights: Zimbabweans could not freely choose political
representatives. According to the USA DOS (2002), the process leading to the
2000 elections was neither free nor fair. Government implemented a systematic
campaign of intimidation and physical violence against the opposition. The LOMA
was invoked to restrict public gatherings.
In addition to the above, the institutional and legal framework for elections
favoured the ruling party especially before the 2008 elections. According to HRW
(2008), these included the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Act, the Electoral
Act, POSA, AIPPA, and the Miscellaneous Act.
The other feature which militated against free and fair elections was the partisan
nature of the armed forces. Before the 2002 and 2008 elections, the commanders
of the armed forces declared that they would never support or salute elected
opposition party leaders (AI 2002; HRW 2008). Another profound indication of the
commitment of the regime to deny people their right to freely choose political
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leaders, is a comment allegedly made by Mugabe on 21 June 2008 that they will
never allow an election to reverse Zimbabwe‟s independence or sovereignty
(USA DOS 2009).
As evident from the preceding discussion, gross violations of civil and political rights
ranging from extra-judicial killings of political opponents to slavery in the case of
Sudan were committed in the selected states.
These violations should have
affronted all governments especially in countries such as SA that have committed
themselves to promote and protect human rights in their foreign policies.
3 SOUTH AFRICA’S PROACTIVE HUMAN RIGHTS DIPLOMACY
Against the backdrop of human rights violations (see Section 2), planned diplomatic
initiatives were developed by the SA government to address these violations in the
affected states. Human rights issues featured prominently in the plans of the
Department since 2001. In 2001 human rights issues were included in the
Cooperation Calabash of the Strategic Plan of the Department (RSA DFA 2001a).
They were retained in the 2002-2005 Strategic Plan. Participation in the follow up
activities of the WCAR; and supporting the ratification and implementation of human
rights instruments were amongst the priorities (RSA DFA 2002a). The 2003-2005
Strategic Plan included promoting the implementation of NEPAD and human rights,
assisting the Chairperson of the AU with regard to his interventions in Zimbabwe and
the Lockerbie issue, contributing to the formulation and implementation of
international law, and deepening democracy especially in Zimbabwe, and the Sudan
(RSA DFA 2003a).
The 2004 Strategic Plan featured the implementation of the Durban Declaration and
Programme of Action (DDPA) arising from the WCAR, (RSA DFA 2004a). The 2005
Operational Plan included a focus on the implementation of the AU Gender
Declaration; supporting the African Parliament; and operationalizing the African Court
of Justice and the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights; engaging the
Government of Swaziland towards the resolution of constitutional and democracy
issues; facilitating SA‟s role as the AU Convener of the Sudan‟s Post Conflict
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Reconstruction Committee; and strengthening democracy in Africa using the SADC
and the AU guidelines on elections (RSA DFA 2005a).
New issues in the 2006/2007 Operational Plan were: contributing to the development
and implementation of human rights and humanitarian law through norm and
standard setting; and promoting and strengthening economic, social and cultural
rights to place them on par with all other human rights (RSA DFA 2006a). The
targets for 2008-2009 Plan included ratification of the AU Charter on Democracy,
Elections and Governance; support for the finalisation of the merger instrument for
African Court of Justice and the African Court on Human and People‟s Rights; and
mainstreaming gender issues (RSA DFA 2008a).
From the review of the strategic plans of the DFA since 2000, it is apparent that SA
did not develop specific and targeted strategic plans to address human rights issues
in the countries covered by the study. The only exception to this proposition is the
occasional inclusion of Zimbabwe and the Sudan in the context of the peace
process. At bilateral level, the idea was to improve relations with all states in the
continent without prioritising human rights issues in any of the countries. The main
focus was norm setting globally, especially on socio-economic rights, the following up
of already agreed to standards, the operationalization of the African human rights
infrastructure, and supporting the implementation of the APRM.
4 THE USE OF DIPLOMATIC ACTION AND OTHER RELATED MEASURES
In addition to planned human rights diplomacy actions (see Section 3), SA‟s
response to evolving human rights situations in the selected states are discussed.
For this purpose, unstructured interviews were conducted with eleven officials who
were involved in these responses to gain their insights and views on SA‟s diplomatic
intervention in response to human rights violations in the selected states. The
Interviewees were selected based on their role in the DFA. Some of the Interviewees
held positions that entailed oversight over the Africa Branch or affected Business
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Units and others were former diplomats in the selected states1. Official documents
such as media releases and statements were also reviewed.
From the interviews conducted with the Interviewees as well as the review of public
statements made by Government leaders, it is argued that in addition to SA‟s
response to the issues pertinent to the selected states, the context within which SA
conducted its human rights diplomacy needs to be understood. The starting point
was to determine the understanding of the foreign policy principles especially the
human rights aspect amongst the Interviewees. Other important themes regarding
the general approach are the preference for multilaterism; the transformation of the
OAU; conflict resolution and development and their impact on human rights; and
quiet diplomacy.
4.1 Foreign policy principles
Dealing with contending priorities or principles is one of the complexities of managing
the implementation of foreign policy. As previously indicated, SA identified a number
of principles to guide its foreign policy. Hence, it is not inconceivable that there could
be a clash of these guiding principles. However the Interviewees contended that
there was no inherent conflict amongst these principles. The Interviewees also had a
full appreciation of the relevance of these principles. Interviewee 3 (4 June 2012),
Interviewee 6 (6 June 2012), Interviewee 7 (5 June 2012), Interviewee 10 (23 August
2012) and Interviewee 11 (28 August 2012) traced their origins to the anti-apartheid
struggle which was essentially a human rights struggle. According to these
Interviewees, it was natural that when the ANC assumed power, the promotion of
human rights became one of the principles. Interviewee 8 (3 July 2012) and
Interviewee 10 (2012) went further and averred that based on the suffering that
apartheid caused on the Black majority, a conscious decision was taken that SA
should never be indifferent to others facing similar suffering.
1
To protect the identity of the Interviewees, based on the anonymity principle, they are assigned numbers
from 1 to 11 in the text (see Appendix 1). There is no correspondence between the Interviewee numbers in the
text and their sequence on the interview list. Also see the schedule of questions posed to these Interviewees
(see Appendix 2).
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On the possible conflict of principles, Interviewee 1(6 June 2012) opined, that these
principles dovetail with international law. Interviewee 2(1 June 2012) perceived them
as mutually reinforcing. Interviewee 4 (6 June 2012) asserted that public perception
might have been created that because human rights issues were not raised in public,
SA was inconsistent in its application of the principle. Whilst not arguing that SA was
inconsistent, Interviewee 11 argued that following the Nigeria experience, a more
nuanced approach was followed by the Mbeki administration.
4.2 Multilateral rather than unilateral action
Multilateral action entails the use of multilateral institutions as a diplomatic platform to
pursue foreign policy objectives. The relevant multilateral institutions in this instance
were primarily the OAU and later the AU and its various organs and institutions as
well as SADC. According to Interviewees 1, 3, 7, and 8, multilateralism was followed
by SA in its human rights diplomacy. Interviewee 1 stated that SA did not interfere in
the internal affairs of other states unless sanctioned by an appropriate multilateral
structure. It believed in multilateralism, and the sovereign equality of all states. This
meant that it had to work together with neighbours and regional structures.
Interviewee 7 expressing similar views, stating that “(SA) exercised diplomacy
through multilateral forums such as the OAU and AU and others. SA believed in a
rule based approach in its international relations and the rule of law, and
constitutionalism. SA in a unilateral way cannot interfere in the internal affairs of
another country”. The Interviewee further argued that SA could not be prescriptive to
others and that unilateralism was distasteful.
Although multilateralism was the preferred choice, it was not an exclusive strategy.
Interviewee 8 argued that where the need arose, bilateral engagements with the
affected states were pursued. Further elaborating on the rationale for multilateralism,
Interviewee 3 opined that, “the Nigeria experience taught SA that on its own, it does
not have the power engage unilaterally. On its own, it has limited influence”.
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4.3 Transformation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) into the African
Union (AU)
According to Interviewees and some Government leaders such as Deputy Minister
Aziz Pahad, the transformation of the OAU to the AU was a key priority for SA. Part
of the rationale for this strategy was the entrenchment of a human rights culture in
the continent. Speaking before the inaugural summit of the AU in July 2002, Deputy
Minister Aziz Pahad (2002b) posited that the AU would be fundamentally different
from its predecessor. Its focus would include working for peace, security and stability,
and the protection of human rights. It would also limit the application of the principle
of state sovereignty. As the inaugural chair, Pahad committed SA to set this
direction. These views were shared by some Interviewees. According to Interviewee
3, SA adopted a broad strategic approach which entailed, amongst others, the
transformation of the OAU into AU as human rights issues are caused by socioeconomic factors. Interviewee 1 added that the inauguration of the AU marked the
emergence of new leaders that were inspired by Thabo Mbeki and others who
believed in accountability and democracy. New principles including the promotion of
human rights and the non-recognition of unconstitutional changes of government
were adopted. On the latter issue, Interviewee 8 pointed out that it was also aimed at
addressing human rights. Interviewee 7 further stated that SA argued that there were
certain standards in the conduct of international relations that need to be obeyed and
that when they were not adhered to, interference by other states was warranted.
South Africa‟s contribution in building African institutions to deal with human rights
issues such as NEPAD and the APRM was also cited by Interviewee 8 and
Interviewee 6. These opinions echoed those made by Deputy Minister Pahad (2004)
in October 2004. He argued that by adopting NEPAD, Africa demonstrated its
commitment to respect human rights and the rule of law.
4.4 Conflict resolution, peace, development and human rights
One of the most vexing questions in human rights diplomacy is the relationship
between conflict resolution, peace, development and human rights, especially if an
attempt is made to prioritise one of these issues over the others. According to
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Interviewee 4, Interviewee 5 (9 June 2012), Interviewees 6 and 10, there is a
dynamic and mutually reinforcing relationship amongst these concepts. Conflict
resolution and securing peace more than any other consideration justified SA‟s
involvement in countries as far afield as Burundi. As Interviewee 10 put it: “SA cannot
sit by and watch people being slaughtered simply because you do not benefit by
becoming involved or it is not in our interests”. The Interviewee further contended
that without peace, there could be no development and that peace is the foundation
upon which human rights can be realised. These views resonated with those
expressed by Deputy Minister Pahad (2002a) who argued that peace, stability and
security are preconditions for sustainable development and the success of NEPAD.
Interviewee 4 further argued that SA‟s intervention in Congo and Burundi ensured
that elections were held which enabled people to elect their leaders. The view of the
Interviewee was that these interventions also averted human rights violations. For
example, SA played a major role in helping the DRC to develop a constitution which
included a bill of rights. Interviewee 8 added that the prevention of human rights
violations was central to SA‟s conflict resolution strategy.
From the foregoing, it is apparent that SA invested a lot of its resources in pursuit of
peace on the continent. As pointed out by the Interviewees and Deputy Minster
Pahad, there is a dynamic relationship between peace, development and human
rights. They are mutually reinforcing. Pursuit of one without the other may be futile.
4.5 Quiet diplomacy
States as well as leaders choose different ways of expressing their displeasure about
human rights violations in other countries. For some states, the most preferred way is
using public platforms to express their views. Some other states may prefer to rather
raise issues in private (quiet diplomacy). According to almost all Interviewees, with
the exception of the Nigerian situation, quiet diplomacy was the preferred approach
for SA. According to Interviewee 11, although quiet diplomacy might be slow in
yielding results, it works especially if applied as part of a collective approach. Its
preference has partially to do with power dynamics within the continent which the
leaders have to be sensitive towards. Interviewee 11 asserted that “the quiet way is
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the best approach. Once you shout, scream and point fingers, you put people in a
corner and once in a corner, it is very difficult to get them out of that corner”.
The quiet diplomacy approach, especially with respect to Zimbabwe, received a lot of
criticism from various quarters both in SA and abroad. But as argued by the
Interviewees, it has some value and place in diplomatic interactions between states.
It allowed SA to engage fruitfully and be accepted by the affected parties.
5 SOUTH AFRICA’S DIPLOMATIC ENGAGEMENTS AND INTERVENTIONS IN
THE SELECTED STATES
As pointed out in the preceding section, SA‟s human rights diplomacy in the selected
countries has to be viewed within the context of a general approach. In the
discussion that follows, a brief overview of the diplomatic relations between SA and
the affected states is presented before dealing with specific human rights
interventions.
5.1
Libya
Full diplomatic relations between SA and Libya were established in 1995 with Libya
and SA signing a Declaration of Intent. However, SA only placed a resident
Ambassador in the country in 2001. President Mandela paid several visits to Libya
between 1997 and 1999. Other high level visits were made by President Mbeki and
Deputy President Zuma in June 2002 and 2005 respectively.
From official reports and interviews with some of the Interviewees conflict resolution,
especially the resolution of the Lockerbie impasse and geopolitical issues, appear to
have driven diplomatic relations between SA and Libya. The support that Libya
provided to the ANC also appears to have played a part. Consideration of civil and
political rights of the Libyans appeared to play little or no part in these relations.
On SA‟s involvement with the Lockerbie issue, Interviewee 8 stated that Gaddafi
approached Mandela for assistance on the matter. Following Mandela‟s intervention,
a breakthrough was announced during Mandela‟s visit to Libya in March 1999 in
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terms of which Libya would surrender the two Libyan suspects. During his address,
Mandela (1999) acknowledged Libya's support for the liberation struggle which
inspired SA to be involved in the Lockerbie issue. SA also regarded Libya as an
important role player in the OAU and in the affairs of the continent. Similar
sentiments were shared by Mbeki three years later. During his visit in June 2002,
President Mbeki also expressed SA's appreciation for the support offered by Libya
during the struggle against apartheid. Mbeki and Gaddafi stressed the need to work
together to end the on-going conflicts on the continent as a necessary step towards
sustainable development, peace and security (RSA DFA 2002c).
The above approach was supported as follows by Interviewee 7: “When we came
into government, we did not adopt a prescriptive form of diplomacy. The ANC also
came to government with a bit of history as a liberation movement. During the
struggle, Africa was the main place of refuge for the ANC. Africa gave support to the
liberation movement. President Mandela more than anybody else was mindful of the
support that we received”. Interviewee 7 further opined that SA was aware of the
political system in Libya. According to the Interviewee, Libyans had to change their
circumstances. Although SA espoused the values of democracy, non-sexism and
others, they could not prescribe these values on others. SA always believed that
there were no outside solutions to internal problems of a country. It believed that it
was through the involvement of the people of a particular country that there could be
a sustainable future.
With regard to individual cases of human rights violations in Libya, Interviewee 8
commented as follows, “We cannot appear to be nit-picking on every detail such (as)
the approach followed in compiling human rights country reports and make
pronouncements on countries based on these reports. Some of these countries do
not themselves observe these rights but want to punish these countries through
sanctions for the same violations”. The Interviewee further explained the complexities
of human rights diplomacy which included double standards by some nations who
raise human rights issues in small states but ignored Israel‟s violations of the rights
of Palestinians.
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5.2
Nigeria
South Africa established diplomatic relations with Nigeria in 1994 at the level of a
resident Ambassador. At that time, Nigeria was under the dictatorship of Sani
Abacha. SA under the leadership of Mandela took an assertive and public stance on
issues pertaining to the suppression of civil and political rights, especially following
the arrests and execution of Ken Saro Wiwa and others.
According to Interviewee 2, SA had to build relations with Nigeria based on the
latter‟s previous support for the liberation struggle. As a diplomat, the Interviewee
was expected to accept the status quo as diplomats are not supposed to meddle in
internal affairs of another country. Diplomats have to represent SA‟s national
interests and to inform Head Office when standards were not observed. However, as
a diplomat, the Interviewee could not, “close eyes to gross injustices”. When the
situation of Ken Saro Wiwa surfaced, President Mandela took up the matter. The
Deputy President recalled the SA Ambassador for consultation. Interviewee 10
provided a detailed account of the situation. President Mandela sent delegations to
talk to the regime which made undertakings to him such as not executing the Ogoni
activists and releasing some political prisoners. Interviewee 10 added: “When he
became aware that the regime had gone against their word and commitments made
to him, he was disgusted. He did not want to be associated with that regime and
started the condemnations and calling for Nigeria to be expelled from the
Commonwealth”. Interviewee 6 justified Mandela‟s actions as follows: “SA reacted in
the manner that it did because bilateral diplomacy did not work. Before the execution
of Ken Saro Wiwa, Deputy President Mbeki was sent to Nigeria and his pleas fell on
deaf ears”. The Interviewee added: "Diplomacy is not infinitive”. Interviewee 2
supported the stance that SA adopted. According to the Interviewee, SA could not be
oblivious to such a situation and fold its arms when people were jailed, exiled and
murdered.
South Africa‟s diplomatic actions however, had long term consequences on relations
between SA and Nigeria and also determined how it handled other human rights
violations on the continent. As Interviewee 10 averred that “these actions put us in a
bad relationship with Nigeria since that time. The negativity in the relationship
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between SA and Nigeria started at that time. SA was accused of not be African and
being an agent of the West and the US”. The Interviewee further contended that
since this incident, a slightly different approach in engaging other parties was
followed. According to the Interviewee a blanket approach towards human rights
could not be followed but instead, each situation had to be assessed on its own and
based on that assessment, a course of action developed.
The fallout with Nigeria was confirmed by other Interviewees. Interviewee 11
summed it up as follows: “It created residual suspicion about SA‟s intentions. That
incident created a nuanced shift when Mandela handed power to Mbeki”. According
to the Interviewee, following the incident, SA had to evaluate whether it followed a
blanket approach towards human rights or do deal with each situation on its own
merits and what was important for SA at that particular juncture. It also brought
contradictions in terms of later situations. As the Interviewee put: “On one hand we
have the principles of human rights based on our own history and constitution but the
world out there is a nasty one and not a clean one and the way you respond to crises
cannot be as clean as you would like to be in terms of the kind of idealism and the
vision you have for the world. That was the impact of the Nigeria issue. It was a key
point”.
5.3
The Sudan
South Africa and the Sudan established diplomatic relations in 1994 but its diplomatic
mission in Khartoum was only opened in January 2004. SA‟s main diplomatic efforts
in the Sudan have been its support of the peace initiative based on the belief that the
root causes of the conflict had to be addressed. This role became more prominent
since 2004 when SA was appointed by the AU to be the Chairperson of the AU PostConflict and Reconstruction Committee.
With exception of an instant in 1999 when human rights issues were publicly raised,
when Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad visited Khartoum in November 1999, SA‟s human
rights diplomacy must be viewed within its peace and conflict resolution efforts.
During the visit and in addition to the peace process, the human rights challenges
and the efforts by the Sudan to address them were discussed (RSA DFA 1999).
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According to Interviewee 11, the Sudan has been a key test case for SA‟s approach.
The Interviewee asserted that the conflict in the country revolved on human rights
issues caused by the country‟s diversity in terms of culture, ethnicity and religion.
Interviewee 11 also opined that SA‟s approach was that the Sudan had to address all
the root causes of the conflict by instituting a dispensation that accommodates the
diversity of its people. This characterisation of the situation in the Sudan is in line
with the views expressed by President Mbeki (2005) during his address to the
Sudanese National Assembly on 1 January 2005. He spoke about the tensions within
the Sudanese society arising from its diversity based on race, colour, culture and
religion. He was of the opinion that the new Sudanese constitution provided a
solution to the conflict and the divisions.
On the peace process, Interviewee 11 stated that SA was regularly consulted during
peace leading to the CPA. Key SA individuals were attached to the IGAD initiative.
The result was that the CPA largely borrowed from the model that SA pursued to
resolve its own conflict by adopting a constitution that entrenched human rights.
Regarding the situation in Darfur and the indictment of President Al Bashir,
Interviewee 10 opined: “In Sudan, we did not support the arrest of President Al
Bashir who is accused of violating human rights. SA is not protecting him but argue
that he is key to negotiating peace and finding a solution. He may have committed
human rights violations but if he is pulled out of the situation now, you are not
resolving the problem”. This view affirms the position that was taken by President
Mbeki during his visit to Sudan in September 2008. He agreed with President Al
Bashir that the latter‟s indictment by the International Criminal Court could seriously
undermine on-going efforts aimed at facilitating the resolution of the conflict in Darfur
and the promotion of peace in the Sudan as a whole (RSA DFA 2008c).
With regard to SA‟s approach to individual cases of human rights abuses,
Interviewee 11 stated: “We did not deal with individual cases per se but addressed
the principles relating to the individual cases”. The Interviewee also referred to
meetings with former Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma where the human
rights situation was discussed. SA also supported interventions against Sudan for
violations such extra-judicial killings at the UN. Interviewee 6 added that the
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engagement with Sudan took place at the Joint Commission which covered a wide
range of issues including the internal political situation.
5.4
Zimbabwe
South Africa had diplomatic relations with Zimbabwe before 1994. Since the
inception of the crisis in 2000, SA was engaged with the situation albeit with varying
degrees of intensity. Although the approach followed by President Mbeki was
generally criticised in the media, the Interviewees supported the approach and its
rationale.
According to most of the Interviewees, although human rights issues pertaining to the
crisis were acknowledged, it was largely perceived as a political problem. As
Interviewee 3 asserted: “The situation was strategically viewed more as political
challenge than a human rights issue”. Interviewee 4, stated that classifying the
situation as a human rights matter would have impacted adversely on Zimbabwe. It
would have implications such as intervention by the UN and imposition of sanctions.
Interviewee 8 and Interviewee 3 argued that historical ties between the ANC and
ZANU (PF) influenced the approach. President Mbeki was alert to these ties when he
thanked President Mugabe and the people of Zimbabwe for their support during SA‟s
liberation struggle in his address in Zimbabwe in 2000. He stated: “As neighbours
and peoples who have shared the same trenches in the common struggle for
freedom, it is natural that we must now work together to build on the victory of the
anti-colonial and anti-racist struggle” (Mbeki 2000).
Sensitivity to the principle of non-interference and anxiety on the part of SA not to be
seen as siding with the West were additional reasons. SA also did not want to
antagonize ZANU (PF) and the Zimbabwean government to an extent that if it was
asked to intervene, Zimbabwe would object to SA‟s involvement (Interviewee 3).
Similar views were expressed by Interviewee 10. In the Interviewee‟s opinion: “In
Zimbabwe if SA would join everybody and shout on top of mountains against
Mugabe and he turns around and say go to hell, what do you then do in such
situation. It would not be helpful that was the argument of the SA government”.
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Interviewee 10 further argued that SA had to intervene in a smart way. In
underscoring the importance of a correct approach, the Interviewee cited the
approach of the USA towards Cuba. Cubans based on nationalism perceived the
Americans as an enemy and united against them. The same could befall SA if it
adopted a „big brother‟ approach towards other countries in Africa including
Zimbabwe.
Interviewee 4 stated that although the Government did not condemn Zimbabwe
publicly, privately certain actions that were putting the region in a bad light were
condemned. Engagement in private diplomacy was collaborated by Interviewee 6
who stated that President Mbeki sent envoys to make representations to the
Government. He also established a team made of eminent individuals to raise
specific human rights issues. Interviewee 9 (22 August 2012) added that
representations were made to authorities on farm seizures by war veterans. In
addition concerns were expressed with the arrests and assaults of opposition
leaders. The then Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sue van der Merwe, urged the
authorities to respect the human rights (Van der Merwe 2007). According to Deputy
Minister Pahad (2008), representations were made on the arrests of Mr Biti and the
MDC President.
South Africa‟s approach was to assist Zimbabweans to find solutions. Interviewee 10
indicated that the solution was for Zimbabweans to adopt a new constitution and hold
credible elections. During a debate in the National Assembly on 28 March 2007,
Deputy Minister Sue van Der Merwe (2007) presented the same argument. She
argued that it was the responsibility of Zimbabweans to resolve their problems. SA‟s
role was to encourage and assist them.
South Africa also consistently participated in monitoring elections in Zimbabwe.
Interviewee 9 (2012) reported that in some instances election observers brought
incidents of abuse of human rights to the attention of the authorities. This view
confirms the statement made by Deputy Minister Pahad (2008) that election observer
teams were expected not only to observe and monitor elections but to intervene in
instances of human rights violations.
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South Africa‟s engagement with the crisis in Zimbabwe intensified in 2007 following
its appointment by SADC to act as a facilitator. Its quiet diplomacy was criticised but
in the end, some positive results were achieved. The hallmark of this diplomacy was
assisting Zimbabweans to derive their own solutions. Following violence that marred
the Presidential run-off elections and the withdrawal of the MDC candidate, SA
facilitated further talks amongst the parties resulting in an agreement that was
reached on 21 July 2008 to establish an Inclusive Government that took effect in
September 2008.
5.5
Diplomatic strategies and modes
The SA government maintained and established diplomatic relations with all the
selected states. With the exception of Nigeria where the SA High Commissioner was
recalled to Pretoria for a brief period for consultation, no similar diplomatic action was
taken on the other states. In addition to this action, President Mandela also publicly
condemned the Nigerian government and led international efforts to isolate it. These
actions were the highest form of public diplomatic displeasure that was ever
demonstrated by SA during the presidency of both Mandela and Mbeki. The Nigerian
experience was also a turning point in SA‟s human rights diplomacy. Following this
episode, SA‟s diplomatic efforts were more towards supporting political dialogue
amongst the contending parties to resolve the causal factors of the conflicts and
human rights violations in the affected states. This form of diplomacy was aptly
demonstrated through its intervention in Zimbabwe. A similar approach was also
pursued in the Sudan. Public condemnations by Government leaders of the offending
states also gave way to quiet diplomacy through which representations were made in
private meetings and by dispatching envoys for private engagements with the
affected states.
6 CONCLUSION
Gross human rights violations were committed against the citizens of the four
countries covered by the study. The abuses included extrajudicial killings, and
torture, cruel, inhumane treatment and degrading treatment of opponents of the
governments which affected their right to life and physical integrity. In some of the
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countries such as Libya and the Sudan, the death penalty was imposed as
punishment against those who opposed the government. The failure to apply the rule
of law and absence of independent judicial services, most notably in Libya, resulted
in citizens being arbitrarily detained and subjected to unfair trials. In all these
countries, rights and freedoms to peaceful assembly, association, expression and
freedom of the press were violated. There were also gross incidents of torture which
at times resulted in the deaths of the victims. Under the cover of the civil war, in the
Sudan extrajudicial killings and bombardments of civilian populations were carried
out in the South and women and children from South Sudan were subjected to
servitude and slavery in the North and other parts of the Sudan.
In line with its commitment to protect and promote human rights and freedoms, SA
should have taken a stance against these practices. Generally, the actions that it
took were not commensurate with the violations and did not achieve immediate
results. These actions were mainly focused at setting up a continental infrastructure.
Interventions aimed at addressing individual cases of human violations regardless of
the gravity of those violations were far less and isolated. They were also limited to
some countries such as Nigeria during the Mandela presidency and Zimbabwe under
the Mbeki government. No diplomatic interventions were made in the other cases
including Libya, under both governments.
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CHAPTER 6: EVALUATION
1.
INTRODUCTION
This study addressed the research question of what caused the Mandela and Mbeki
governments to be selective in their application of a human rights oriented foreign
policy in Africa, both at bilateral and multilateral levels, and what diplomatic tools
were used to pursue such a policy. In addressing this question, five sub-questions
were posed namely: What is human rights diplomacy and how does it relate to
foreign policy and diplomacy? What were the human rights challenges that
confronted the Mandela and Mbeki governments in Africa and how were these issues
interpreted? What were South African foreign policy objectives and strategies to
pursue human rights in Africa and to the extent that inconsistencies in its policies
may have been apparent, what was the rationale and explanation thereof? What
were the diplomatic strategies and instruments employed by SA to address human
rights issues and to advance human rights in Africa? What were the human rights
diplomacy successes and failures of the Mandela and Mbeki governments in Africa?
The study argued that although both governments committed themselves to a human
rights oriented foreign policy, this approach was not strongly pursued, sustained
and/or consistently applied for a number of reasons. The latter included the lack of
support for human rights issues by other African leaders and in part also by the
perceived ineffectiveness of human rights diplomacy. It further assumed that both the
Mandela and Mbeki governments in principle subscribed to a human rights oriented
foreign policy without indicating specific objectives and without putting in place
specific institutional machinery to manage and implement a human rights diplomacy.
It also assumed that there were limited successes on human rights diplomacy but
that both governments faced numerous constraints on the matter.
To answer the research questions, a study was undertaken first to determine the
meaning of human rights diplomacy as a form of niche diplomacy within the context
of foreign policy. In order to contextualise SA‟s human rights diplomacy, a literature
study of SA‟s foreign policy and its human rights element was conducted. A
combination of a descriptive-analytical and critical approach was adopted in order to
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fully appreciate how SA conducted its human rights diplomacy including the
infrastructure that was put in place for this endeavour. This entailed conducting a
desktop study of the reports, plans and public statements made by foreign policy
practitioners and leaders. Interviews were also conducted with eleven practising
diplomats who held different positions within the DFA and its foreign Missions during
the period of the study.
2.
SUMMARY OF KEY FINDINGS
The key findings are presented under three main headings dealing with the meaning
and practice of human rights diplomacy, SA‟s institutional framework for human
rights diplomacy and its proactive and reactive responses to the human rights
situations. The latter includes general approaches and strategies that SA pursued in
addressing human rights challenges in Africa and the four countries that were
selected for the study.
2.1
The meaning and practice of human rights diplomacy
Following years of theorisation and contestation amongst contending ideologues and
international relations scholars, the proposition that human rights are universal,
indivisible and interdependent was accepted by the international community. This
was achieved mainly through the adoption of the United Nations Vienna Declaration
in 1993. A wide range of international treaties and protocols across the full spectrum
of issues ranging from social, cultural, political, and economic issues have been put
in place to protect human rights. There are also treaties dealing with specific sectors
of society such as children, women, workers, refugees and others.
The only point of difference which cuts across the ideological divide is how to
approach human rights issues using foreign policies of states. Some states proclaim
to base their foreign policy on, amongst others, the respect, promotion and protection
of human rights. For others, considerations of human rights issues play no part in
their foreign policy decisions and activities. The former category of states will engage
in human rights diplomacy which is the pursuit of human rights issues utilising the
normal tools of diplomacy. They seek to influence and intercede on behalf of human
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rights victims in their interactions and relations with other states, especially the
offending states. These states will utilise a full range of diplomatic tools including
making written and personal representations both in private and public on behalf of
the victims. They will also participate and champion the development, elaboration
and refinement of existing protocols to advance and protect human rights at
multilateral institutions.
South Africa, through the pronouncements of its leaders and in its policy and official
documents, placed itself squarely within the category of states that have made
human rights concerns in other countries a legitimate and integral part of its
international relations engagements and foreign policy. It finds itself amongst
countries such as the USA, the Netherlands, Australia and many others who have a
long and at times controversial history of human rights diplomacy. These states have
well developed and mature policies and institutions that deal with human rights
issues in their diplomacy.
2.2
South Africa’s institutional and policy framework
The findings under this heading deal with the policy environment as well as the state
infrastructure
including
institutions,
Departmental
structures
and
reporting
mechanism on human rights issues generally and in the selected countries.
2.2.1 The national policy framework
The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 which espouses values such
as the advancement of human rights and freedoms defines the nature of the South
African state and provides the foundation on which government policies including
foreign policy should be based. In addition to the Constitution, another main
legislative instrument relevant to human rights diplomacy is the National
Conventional Arms Control Act, 2002. As pointed out in Chapter 4 by the former
chairperson of the National Conventional Arms Control Committee, Professor Asmal,
in considering applications under the Act, the Committee exercised some discretion
and looked beyond the stipulated criteria. In some instances, the criteria were in
contrast to each other and other contextual factors were taken into account. There
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was criticism on the arms sales that were sanctioned by the Committee to countries
with bad human rights records during the period of the study. Despite the
shortcomings that accompanied the implementation of the Act, its very existence is a
positive initiative. In a country with high unemployment rates, constraining industry in
terms of who it does business with demonstrates a commitment to the protection of
human rights. Even in countries such as the USA which have legislation pertaining to
human rights, such legislation is not rigidly applied. The Executive always has some
level of discretion in its application (see Section 5.2.1 in Chapter 2).
The Discussion Document which was developed by the DFA in 1996 was aimed at
providing a broad overview of the many aspects of international relations as well as
foreign policy objectives and priorities for consideration by the policy makers.
Although sharing light on some key foreign policy issues, it also left some questions
such as those relating to the foreign policy principles unanswered. The initial idea
was that the Document would be followed by the development of a White Paper but
this only happened in 2012. Practitioners therefore had to rely more on public
pronouncements made by political principals for guidance in the absence of a
comprehensive Departmental policy document detailing SA‟s human rights
diplomacy. In the arena of human rights diplomacy which is fraught with
controversies and allegations of inconsistency, this has been a serious flaw. This
contrasts with the approach that other countries such as the Netherlands adopted in
the 1970s when it developed a Memorandum on Human Rights and Foreign Policy
that set out the policy that guided its human rights diplomacy for many decades and
is still currently used as the base document.
2.2.2 State institutions and departmental structures
There was a well-developed infrastructure of state institutions, especially during the
Mbeki Presidency to guide and coordinate foreign policy issues including human
rights. There was, however, no dedicated structure within the Presidency which dealt
with human rights issues in the international relations context. In the DFA, the two
multilateral Branches (Multilateral and Africa Multilateral) dealt with human rights
issues. The National Conventional Arms Control Committee also addressed human
rights issues within the context of the arms trade. The Parliamentary Portfolio
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Committee is an oversight structure that should lead to better foreign policy
implementation based on the stated policy objectives. During the entire period
covered by the study, the Portfolio Committee focused almost exclusively only on
human rights issues in Swaziland and later Zimbabwe. The situation in the Sudan
within the context of the peace process was also occasionally addressed. However
even in the discussions relating to Zimbabwe, it hardly questioned executive
decisions and policy positions or offered alternative proposals to address areas of
concern.
2.2.3 Reporting
A multi-layered system of reporting was in place within Government and in the DFA.
At the apex of this system was annual reporting to Parliament following legislative
imperatives that came into effect in 2000. However, across all the spheres, there was
no consistent reporting on human rights issues both in terms of frequency and the
issues covered by the reports. The only consistent reporting to Parliament was on
multilateral issues. These reports focused on SA‟s role in standards setting and the
championing new protocols. None of the reports dealt with human rights violations
within specific African states. On rare occasions such as in the 2002/2003 and
2003/2004 reports, when some countries (Zimbabwe, the Sudan and Equatorial
Guinea) were cited, the positions that SA took in respect of these countries did not
necessarily advance human rights.
However, according to some Interviewees, some South African Missions in their
reporting to Head Office included human rights issues and these were in turn
included in briefing documents to political principals. The level and depth in reporting,
especially to Parliament, was therefore inadequate to focus the attention of policy
makers to the critical issues of human rights violations in Africa. Although criticized
by one of the Interviewees as „nit picking‟, the USA DOS reporting system provides
Congress with adequate details to inform policy making and for holding the Executive
accountable for its decisions.
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2.3
Responses to human rights violations
Both SA‟s proactive and reactive responses to the human rights situation generally
and in the selected African states will be considered. This latter section covers its
responses to reported human rights violations and offers some explanations for the
approaches that were chosen.
2.3.1 Strategic plans
From 2000, SA introduced a system of strategic planning which covered three year
rolling plans. These plans formed the basis for annual operational plans. Human
rights issues featured consistently in the plans of the DFA since that time. The plans
however, did not include targeted strategies and actions to address specific human
rights issues in Africa or in the selected countries. The only exception is the
occasional inclusion of Zimbabwe, Swaziland and the Sudan in the context of the
peace process. The main focus was on norm setting globally, especially on socioeconomic rights, and the operationalization of the various structures of the AU such
as the African Court of Justice and the African Court on Human and Peoples‟ Rights,
as well as supporting the implementation of the APRM.
The intentions of the authorities appear to have been to put in place continental
infrastructure to address human rights issues. However, unaccompanied by bilateral
actions, these efforts were unlikely to impact on the immediate situation. At bilateral
level, the focus was to improve relations broadly with all states without prioritising
human rights issues in any of the states. Most bilateral plans covered the
establishment of Joint Bilateral Commission to address issues of mutual interest.
2.3.2 General responses to evolving human rights situations
This section focuses the strategies and approaches that SA followed to address
human rights violations in the continent including the selected countries.
a)
Application of the human rights principle: In all the official documents that
were reviewed, SA throughout the years of the study reaffirmed its commitment to
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promote and protect human rights. This commitment resonates with its liberation
struggle that was in part influenced by the global human rights movement. Although
almost all Interviewees averred that SA remained committed to the ideal of promoting
and protecting human rights and that it was consistent in its application, in reality its
commitment to human rights had to be considered against other principles and
priorities such as economic development, multilateralism and its commitment to
Africa. The other considerations appear to have trumped human rights concerns in
most instances. This became more evident after the Nigerian experience. Very few
public or high profile actions were taken to promote or protect human rights in any
country.
b)
Multilateralism: Multilateralism was SA‟s preferred approach to dealing with
human rights diplomacy in Africa. This fitted its general foreign policy approach and
was one of the enduring lessons from its intervention in the Nigerian saga in the
1990s. The multilateral approach was utilised in Zimbabwe where SA obtained a
mandate from SADC to intervene. Its primary engagement was to facilitate dialogue
between the parties to enable them to find solutions to their social, economic and
political challenges. This process led to an agreement to establish an Inclusive
Government that was reached on 21 July 2008.
As articulated by many Interviewees and political leaders, the approach has merit.
However, there appears to have been an overreliance on this strategy which mainly
focused on standard and norm setting. Hardly any high profile actions were initiated
by SA to intercede in instances of gross human rights violations in any of the
selected countries or Africa generally except in the context of conflict and war
situations. There were also no reported initiatives to deal with specific human rights
issues in the multilateral fora in Africa. SA did, however, adopt a progressive
approach by supporting most of the resolutions in defence of human rights in the UN
Commission on Human Rights and later the Human Rights Council.
c)
Building a
regional
institutional
and normative
framework: The
transformation of the OAU to the AU and the resultant adoption of new norms and
standards and the establishment of new continental institutions was one of the
greatest achievements of SA human rights diplomacy on the continent. Of these, the
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shift from strict adherence to the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of
another country and the establishment of the APRM within NEPAD warrant being
singled out. However, without the requisite commitment by individual states and their
leaders to implement and abide by the set standards, the normative framework
accomplishes very little. In addition, the APRM mechanism was voluntary and
applied only to the states that had acceded to be peer reviewed. Most of countries
covered by the study had not signed up to the system during the period of the study.
d)
Conflict resolution: From interviews that were conducted with Interviewees
as well as the review of statements made by SA‟s political leaders, it is evident that
SA invested a lot of its resources in pursuit of peace in the continent by engaging in
conflict resolution, and post-conflict reconstruction and development initiatives in
many countries including the Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Libya in
its conflict with the West arising from the Lockerbie incident. The argument in support
of SA‟s involvement was that there is a dynamic relationship between peace,
development and human rights. Each of these issues is dependent on the other and
are mutually reinforcing. Pursuit of one without the other may be futile. By supporting
peace and conflict resolution initiatives, SA averted and stopped human rights
violations in these countries.
As discussed in respect of the Sudan case study, there is a complex relationship
between human rights and peace. African leaders including President Mbeki, as well
as some of the Interviewees argued against the indictment of President Bashir of the
Sudan for human rights violations, especially in Darfur. In their view, such a move
would endanger the peace efforts. The counter argument to this position is that by
adopting this approach, SA and others could unwittingly encourage impunity. A more
balanced approach is to make issues of justice to be part of the peace process so
that ultimately, there is a form of accountability.
e)
Quiet diplomacy: States have a choice of the means and methods they use
to raise their displeasure of human rights violations in other countries. Others prefer
making public statements denouncing the offending regimes whereas for others,
raising issues privately and through diplomatic channels is the preferred choice. With
the exception of the Nigerian situation, quiet diplomacy was the selected approach
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for SA in addressing human rights concerns. The perceived effectiveness of quiet
diplomacy is the reason often cited for its preference. As one of the Interviewees
argued, although quiet diplomacy might be slow in yielding results, it works especially
if applied within a multilateral approach. The agreement that was reached between
the Zimbabwean government and the opposition parties has been cited as an
example of the effectiveness of quiet diplomacy.
Experiences elsewhere in other parts of the world support the use of quiet diplomacy
but not as an exclusive strategy. Where results are not forthcoming, other
approaches need to be pursued. It must also not be used as an excuse for inaction
which undermines SA‟s commitment to promote and protect human rights and its
own liberation struggle which was largely founded on human rights values.
2.3.3 Unilateral responses in individual countries
South Africa hardly took any diplomatic actions to intercede on behalf of citizens
whose civil and political rights were violated in the four states except in Nigeria. The
Nigerian experience whereby SA took a high profile position on its own and also
lobbied the international community to support its position, marked a turning point in
its human rights diplomacy. Following this experience, its focus shifted to multilateral
actions, conflict resolution, and building of a continental human rights infrastructure.
In Zimbabwe where it had a mandate from SADC to intervene, its primary
engagement was to facilitate dialogue between the parties to enable them to find
solutions to their challenges. This process led to an agreement that was reached on
21 July 2008. In the Sudan, the focus was on supporting the peace process and post
conflict reconstruction and development. SA helped Libya to resolve its conflict with
the West arising from the Lockerbie incident.
The relationship, including funding, and other support that the ANC received from
some of the states such as Libya played part in influencing the SA government‟s
position on unilateral actions. There was also a belief amongst some of the
Interviewees and the leaders that the citizens of the affected countries had to bring
about the changes that they desired. This may have been an unfair expectation given
the repressive nature of some of these governments. Geopolitical considerations
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such as gaining the support of these governments for some of the interests and
causes that SA was championing in the continent such as NEPAD and peaceful
resolution of disputes played a part.
3.
RECOMMENDATIONS
The current administration of President Zuma has also maintained a similar stance
as the Mandela and Mbeki administrations on human rights diplomacy albeit with
some shifts in emphasis. However, in order to avoid similar pitfalls that affected the
previous administrations, the following recommendations are made for consideration
by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation.
a) Enhanced policy framework: There is a need for a more elaborate document
that details SA‟s policy on human rights diplomacy. The current documents and
policy positions do not provide sufficient information to guide implementation.
Without being too prescriptive, guidelines should be developed on the nature and
extent of human rights violations that SA regards as egregious to warrant
intervention, the range of interventions that should be considered as well as the
overall circumstances and contextual factors that should be taken into account in
the decision making. The guidelines should also be informed and inform the
administration‟s Ubuntu philosophy which underpins its diplomacy.
b) State institutions: To maintain and enhance SA‟s human rights heritage in
international relations, human rights promotion and protection should permeate all
of SA‟s work in the international arena from its Missions abroad to state
departments. In order to ensure adherence to this commitment by all state
institutions, consideration should be given to the establishment of a dedicated
Office in the Presidency that will be charged with coordinating SA‟s engagements
in this regard. Such an Office will naturally work in conjunction with the
Department of International Relations and rely on it for technical support.
c) Reporting: Accurate and relevant reporting on human rights violations, especially
with regard to civil and political rights is critical for effective human rights
diplomacy. Current reporting at all levels within the Department of International
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Relations and Cooperation needs to be improved. As a starting point, a standard
reporting format for SA‟s Missions abroad should be developed. The format in
terms of the issues that the reports should cover will be based on the policy
document that has been recommended above. Current reporting to Parliament
should also be revised to include reporting on individual countries.
4. CONCLUSION
The study aimed at evaluating the implementation of human rights as one of the
principles of SA‟s foreign policy and its use of diplomacy to pursue such a policy. It
also considered what caused the Mandela and Mbeki governments to be selective in
their application of human rights diplomacy.
The main conclusion of the study is that, although both the Mandela and Mbeki
governments committed themselves to human rights based foreign policy, human
rights issues were not consistently and in concerted manner pursued by these
governments. Other foreign policy objectives and priorities, especially its commitment
to the African solidarity impacted on how human rights diplomacy was approached.
SA‟s experience in intervening to promote and protect human rights in Nigeria in
1995 had a major influence on how it dealt with similar situations in subsequent
years. Following this experience, its focus shifted almost entirely towards multilateral
actions and the building of a continental infrastructure including setting of norms and
standards as well as building institutions. The multilateral approach was more
pronounced in addressing the Zimbabwean crisis. Although the approaches have
much credit, the manner in which the new strategy was implemented portrayed a
negative impression on SA‟s commitment to a human rights oriented foreign policy.
The result of this shift is that SA did very little on its own to intercede on behalf of
victims of violations of civil and political rights in the selected countries. Efforts to
build the normative framework and infrastructure also did not have an immediate
impact on those suffering from human rights abuses because the results may only be
realised in the medium to long term. On a positive note, SA‟s interventions in conflict
resolution and post-conflict reconstruction and development efforts yielded some
positive results in the affected countries.
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Although SA‟s institutional and policy infrastructure was in place some refining and
enhancement may be helpful. The key areas for improvement are the state
institutions involved in human rights diplomacy, the policy framework, and reporting
mechanisms including reporting to Parliament. These issues are elaborated as
recommendations from the study.
The study achieved its aims by answering the main question as well as the subquestions but it also confirmed its general assumptions. The study further provided
the context as well as the rationale for the new strategy that was adopted. The study
also confirmed the complexities of human rights diplomacy, especially for a young
state such as the post-1994 SA within the context of Africa.
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APPENDICES
APPENDIX 1: LIST OF INTERVIEWEES AND THEIR POSITIONS/PORTFOLIOS
List of Interviewees and their Positions/Portfolios2
 Serving SA Ambassador and Top Manager responsible for one of the regions covered by
the study.

Former SA Ambassador to a selected country and top manager in DIRCO

Former Ambassador of SA and Top Manager responsible for one of the regions covered
by the study.

Serving SA Ambassador and former Ambassador to one of the selected country.

Serving SA Ambassador and former Top Manager responsible for the regions covered by
the study.

Serving SA Ambassador and Senior Manager responsible for one of the regions covered
by the study.

Senior Manager holding a human rights portfolio.

Former Ambassador of South Africa to selected country and Top Manager in DIRCO.

Senior Manager responsible for one of the regions covered by the study.

Serving SA representative abroad and senior manager responsible for one of the regions
covered by the study.

Serving SA Ambassador and former Ambassador to one of the countries covered by the
study.
APPENDIX 2: INTERVIEW SCHEDULE
Interview schedule (the interviews were conducted between 1 June 2012 and 28
August 2012)
The broad research themes and questions that were explored in the interviews are
listed below. This was not an exhaustive list of questions since new issues and
questions were raised during the interviews, due to the unstructured nature of the
interviews. Some of the questions were also not posed to some Interviewees due to
the positions which they held in the DFA.

Can you briefly describe your involvement in the development and formulation of
South Africa‟ foreign policy between 1994 and 2008?
2
To protect the identity of the Interviewees, based on the anonymity principle, they are assigned numbers
from 1 to 11 in the text. There is no correspondence between the Interviewee numbers in the text and their
sequence on the interview list. Also see the schedule of questions posed to these Interviewees ( see Appendix
2).
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
Can you briefly discuss the principles underpinning South Africa‟s foreign policy
with specific reference to the one relating to human rights? What do these
principles mean, is there a hierarchy amongst them and what happens if there is
a conflict between some of them?

Can you briefly discuss the foreign policy objectives and strategies to pursue
human rights in Africa by the governments of President Mandela and Mbeki?

What in your view were the human rights challenges in Africa generally and with
respect to the selected states (Libya; Nigeria (1994-1999); the Sudan; and
Zimbabwe (2000-2008)) that confronted both the Mandela and Mbeki
governments and how were they addressed?

What were the diplomatic strategies and instruments employed by South Africa to
address human rights issues and to advance human rights in Africa generally and
in the selected states?

What were in you view the human rights diplomacy success and failures for the
Mandela and Mbeki governments in these states?

How in your view should South Africa handle the issue of human rights in its
foreign policy in the future?
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SUMMARY
SOUTH AFRICA’S HUMAN RIGHTS DIPLOMACY IN AFRICA: 1994-2008
BY
MBULELO SHADRACK BUNGANE
SUPERVISOR:
PROF A DU PLESSIS
DEPARTMENT:
DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL SCIENCE
DEGREE:
MASTER OF DIPLOMATIC STUDIES
The study examines SA‟s human rights diplomacy in Africa and the selected
countries, namely Libya, Nigeria, the Sudan and Zimbabwe during the presidencies
of Presidents Mandela and Mbeki. When SA decided to follow an ethics based
foreign policy, especially in the area of human rights, it joined a number of countries
who had adopted a similar approach such the United States of America, the
Netherlands and Australia. These countries have an established history of human
rights diplomacy which is supported by institutional and policy frameworks.
The study argues that although both presidents were committed to a human rights
oriented foreign policy, due to constraints that they faced in the continent human
rights issues were not consistently and concertedly pursued by them, especially
following SA‟s 1995 engagement with Nigeria during the term of the Sani Abacha
government. These constraints led to a major shift in SA‟s human rights diplomacy.
This shift entailed a move away from unilateral action to reliance on multilateral
forums to deal with human rights challenges; the development of continental norms
and standards, as well as strengthening continental structures; and conflict resolution
and post-conflict reconstruction and development in Africa. This shift became evident
in the content of Departmental strategic plans, and reporting both internally and
externally to oversight structures such as Parliament. Hardly any proactive plans
were developed to address human rights issues in any of the individual countries.
Reporting to Parliament also focused on developments at a multilateral level both at
the UN and AU with little coverage of human rights issues in individual countries.
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The use of multilateral bodies such as the SADC to address human rights issues
became more pronounced, the Zimbabwean crisis being the case in point. Despite
the merits of the collective approach, its value is diminished if it is undertaken to the
exclusion of bilateral engagements by South African diplomats in specific countries
or if gross human rights violations are not raised in multilateral bodies. Similarly, the
significance of the normative framework and requisite structures cannot be doubted,
but because the results of these initiatives are only realisable in the medium to long
term, this approach needs to be buttressed by bilateral diplomatic engagements.
During the period from 1994 to 2008, SA also engaged in a number of conflict
resolution and post-conflict reconstruction and development initiatives. These
interventions averted human rights violations by securing peace as well as facilitating
the development of constitutional and related frameworks to ensure the protection of
human rights in the affected states.
In conclusion, with the exception of Nigeria, SA hardly intervened on its own to
intercede on behalf of victims of civil and political rights violations in any of the four
states covered by the study. Its approach undermined its commitment to promote
and protect human rights in the African continent.
KEY WORDS
Diplomacy
Ethics and morality
Foreign policy
Human rights
Human rights diplomacy
Human rights violations
International relations
Niche diplomacy
State sovereignty
Universality and cultural relativism
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