South Africa’s regional oblivion

South Africa and Pretoria’s foreign policy priorities should focus on its own backyard, argues Peter Fabricius, in an article for the Institute for Security Studies:

Since Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma stepped down as AU Commission chairperson in January this year, South Africa had been retreating from the continent, Louw-Vaudran wrote in an ISS Today article. And as the country retreated, she said, it ceded power to other players on the continent, such as Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame and President Alpha Condé of Guinea.


It would seem South Africa is ready to pursue peace across the globe – but not in its own backyard.

The political violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) draws ever closer to boiling point and new mass graves are being discovered in the Kasais every week. The still-unresolved succession battle in neighbouring Zimbabwe continues to portend chaos if 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe should suddenly prove to be mortal after all. Zambia is sliding down the slippery slope to autocracy. Swaziland’s absolute monarchy remains a regional embarrassment – and Mozambique’s civil war just goes on.

All these thorny problems, the DRC at most, are likely to be on the agenda when SADC holds its annual summit in August, and South Africa takes over chairmanship of the organisation for the next year. But judging by the recent summit in Pretoria between DRC President Joseph Kabila and South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma, SADC will probably just ask Kabila a few polite questions about when he envisages elections will be held.


This apparent denial of the urgency of such burning issues within the regional body [SADC] is disappointing and even alarming to some outsiders, who see it as an abdication by South Africa of what they regard as its regional responsibility.

As South Africa turns a blind eye at regional political and security issues, are other regional countries poised, or at least marginally interested, to fill the gap, other than Rwanda?

Sobre Gustavo Plácido

An independent political and security risk analyst focused on Lusophone Sub-Saharan Africa. He covers Angola and Mozambique for Horizon Client Access.
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