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Africa: Will Zuma crack the whip?

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Dr Sehlare Makgetlaneng is the coordinator of the Africa Institute of South Africa’s South African 2009 Election Observation and Monitoring Team. He writes in his personal capacity.

The Zuma administration’s foreign policy will be determined to a great extent by the struggle to satisfy national needs and demands.  These can best be understood if we take into account not only the country’s  increasing level of corruption and violent crime, but also high  level of  expectations  from the urban and rural unemployed, the poor and the working class expecting the qualitative improvement in their material conditions.
     
The Zuma administration will commit itself in practice to the value of continuity in South Africa’s foreign policy. Central to this tradition will be popular foreign policy objectives pursued by South Africa since the end of apartheid.
     
They include support for peaceful resolution of conflict on the African continent and beyond, support for the regional and continental organisations and integration as well as multilateralism. It will continue with the country’s practical and theoretical call for continental socio-political and economic renaissance or transformation.
     
South Africa under the leadership of Thabo Mbeki used the African Renaissance to contribute towards the resolution of conflicts in African countries conducive for the operations of its capital and the realisation of the objectives of its socio-economic policy objectives.
     
It regarded its active participation in conflict resolution as key to peace, security and stability in Africa. It viewed continental socio-economic transformation or renaissance as the process to be achieved through peace and stability creation and consolidation, actions against corruption and implementation of socio-economic policies conducive for the operations of foreign investment.
     
The Mbeki administration was reluctant to lead Africa in international relations. It called for a further integration of Africa into the global capitalist system and African solidarity and unity to fight what Mbeki refers to as global apartheid and to contribute towards an equitable world.
     
These two central aspects of South Africa’s foreign policy, focusing firstly on Africa and secondly on developed countries, raised high level of expectations within Africa and the rest of the world and placed its policy on grounds vulnerable to criticism from individuals with different positions and interests in its efforts to serve as a leader of Africa in its transformation and its relations with the rest of the world particularly developed countries.
     
These problems are a dilemma it faced in its attempts to serve as the representative of Africa to the developed countries and the representative of developed countries in Africa. This policy helped to explain why South Africa under Mbeki was unable to substantiate its declared theoretical position on African Renaissance in practice. It impelled it not to antagonise developed countries in its African Renaissance project and to seek support from weak African countries.
     
Under Mbeki, South Africa put itself on the level that Africa expected more than it could deliver in resolving Africa’s problems.
     
It pretended that it could meet requirements of this expectation. It did not substantiate Mbeki’s progressive position that its role in the resolution of the African conflicts should be guided by the struggle to achieve African transformation in the interests of the masses of the people. South Africa remained central to the consolidation of dominance of Africa by developed countries.
     
The Zuma administration will be a substantial and welcome addition to the struggle against Africa’s problems.
     
It will use the country as the regional and continental power to criticise African leaders who are enemies of their people and strive for free, independent exercise of foreign policy.
     
There will be a shift in the direction towards South Africa realising its potential as a centre of independent development on the African continent.
     
It will be under enormous internal progressive pressure to ensure that the country constitutes a strategic continental threat to the internal and external interests inimical to the interests of the continent and its people.

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