South Africa’s foreign policy since 1994

The human rights became one of the pillars of South Africa’s foreign policy since the country’s advent to democracy in 1994. According to Nelson Mandela, ‘issues of human rights are central to international relations’ and ‘human rights must be the light that guides South Africa’s foreign affairs’. This is evidence by the South African policy position on the situation of Israel/Palestine in which the government took a strong position and consistently supported the Palestine cause whilst increasingly putting pressure on Israel at a bilateral and multilateral level with a view of finding a just and lasting solution. Nelson Mandela Address at The International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People , 4 December 1997 mentioned that ‘the UN took a strong stand against apartheid; and over the years, an international consensus was built, which helped to bring an end to this iniquitous system. But we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians’. Recently South Africa’s International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane reiterated that, “The struggle of the people of Palestine is our struggle” and South Africa has decided to “slow down” and “curtail senior leadership contact” with the Israeli “regime.”

However, South African foreign policy has been myriad with inconsistencies and controversy for the past few years especially with the government’s recent reluctance to grant the Dalai Lama a visa. Desmond Tutu has invited the Tibetan spiritual leader to give a lecture as part of his birthday celebrations in Cape Town on 8 October 2011.This has been viewed as South Africa’s human rights inconsistency. South Africa succumbed to pressure from China’s aggressive foreign policy which Beijing insists on respect for its one-China doctrine, under which its foreign partners cannot recognize Taiwan and Tibet, both of which China regards as part of its territory. South Africa's foreign affairs department denied there had been any pressure from China, and mentioned that a complete visa application had only been received on 20 September given the a limited time to process the visa.

• Ebrahim, P., (2012). Statement by Deputy Minister Ebrahim on the Palestinian/Israeli Situation,  from Department of International Relations and Cooperation, 17 August [online], Available at [Accessed 19 November 2013
• The Times of Israel,(2013). ‘South African minister: ‘The Palestinian struggle is our struggle’ from timesofisrael, 2 November [online] Available at  [Accessed 14 November 2013]
South African History Online. Mandela Quotes and Interesting information.[online] Available at [Accessed 15 November 2013]

Last updated : 06-May-2014

This article was produced by South African History Online on 06-May-2014

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