South Africa's Defence Diplomacy in Africa

Liebenberg, Ian ; Steenkamp-Fonseca, Raymond (2020)

CITATION: Liebenberg, I. & Steenkamp-Fonseca, R. 2020. South Africa's Defence Diplomacy in Africa, in Liebenberg, I., Kruijt, D. & Paranjpe, S. (eds) 2020. Defence diplomacy & national security strategy : views from the global south. Stellenbosch: SUN PReSS, doi:10.18820/9781928480556/06.

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South Africa’s defence posture in Africa changed radically between 1950 and 2018. From a garrison-minded state mired in diplomatic isolation, the country ‘returned to Africa’ following its negotiated transition to democracy. As South Africa’s relations on the continent evolve, so too does the country’s use of various instruments of foreign policy. This chapter primarily considers the military instrument in foreign policy, and in particular the country’s policy and practice of defence diplomacy. Shaped in part by the presidential styles of Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, and Jacob Zuma, the interplay between foreign policy and defence has required South Africa to ensure it is not perceived as a hegemon by its neighbours in Africa, but as a declared partner – albeit often as the dominant partner. Even so, expectations continue that South Africa should extend its role in the African Union (AU), and through the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) it helped to establish. As the chapter notes, significant gains have been made in advancing South African interests through defence diplomacy, but real limitations exist and these should be considered rationally before unrealistic demands or inflated expectations are uncritically accepted.

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