Between scylla and charybdis : South Africa's foreign policy dilemma in Southern Africa.
Africa is at the cross roads as it redefines itself within a new framework of political and economic linkages. The terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 in the United States illustrate both the dangers of reckless foreign policy choices as well as the need for cooperation with regard to transnational threats. From the exclusive policies of ‘total onslaught’ to the inclusive policies of the African Renaissance, South Africa has tried almost everything but remains unable to find an acceptable niche for herself in Southern Africa. Deep suspicions about South African intentions and commitment persist despite the reality of shared fears of further marginalisation, and aspirations of more propitious integration, within a rapidly globalising international environment. In understanding these dynamics, this study traces the evolution of South Africa’s contemporary relationship with the Southern African region and rationalizes this relationship within a broader theoretical framework based on development, discourse and hegemonic stability theories as well as the middle-power and pivot-state paradigms. In addition, the study assesses South Africa’s foreign policy options in light of both domestic constraints and the perceptions of other countries within the region. In essence, South Africa’s regional foreign policy dilemma is a product of the country’s inability to adjust timeously its strategic compass in the mercurial world of foreign policy where a country seeking to advance an ambitious foreign policy agenda will always be confronted with powers arrayed against it, forces that it cannot manage and battles that it cannot win. As this thesis argues, South Africa’s inability to convince other states that her vision is complimentary to their needs has inhibited her ability to engineer a process of transformation and development in the region. The challenge for the South African government is to shift the power dynamic against which projections of South African dominance trigger fierce rejection or reluctant cooperation by regional governments. This foreign policy drive has to be underpinned by a clearly defined developmental strategy that is able to compromise between high ideals and stark realities, between a preference for paternalistically reshaping regional relations and realising that given internal challenges and international expectations, South Africa needs the region perhaps even more than the region needs South Africa. In order to restore some balance to this trend, regional relations grounded in transformative development must be seen as a critical component of South Africa’s national interests.