The collapse of apartheid and the advent of democracy in South Africa was regionally supported by a group of southern African states called the Frontline States. These were Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and, from 1980, Zimbabwe. The Frontline States were formed in 1970 to co-ordinate their responses to apartheid and formulate a uniform policy towards apartheid government and the liberation movement. For the liberation movement in South Africa, the formation of the Frontline States was a welcomed development and a new front in the fight against apartheid. However, these states still found it difficult to pursue their goals of ending apartheid. The president of Botswana, Sir Seretse Khama, explained his country position and others by stating that:

[A]s a consequence of Botswana's geographical situation, we face unusual and onerous handicaps.... Whilst Botswana accepts that we are part of the Southern African economic complex and that the harsh fact of history and geography cannot be obliterated, for obvious reasons, we have to maintain normal friendly with South Africa (Niemann 1993).

Therefore, it remained difficult for these countries to enforce sanctions and isolate South Africa. Their economies were closely dependent on South Africa. For example, the majority of Frontline Sates citizen were working in South Africa. Their government economies were also directly tied to South Africa by the Southern African Custom Union, which was responsible for the collection and distribution of revenues generated from tariffs. Moreover, the collective efforts of these countries could not match South Africa's military might, which was used on more than one occasion to coerce these countries to submit to the will of South Africa. As a result, fearing South African Defence Force raids, Frontline States covertly supported the ANC military wing and continuously discouraged the ANC from using their territories as bases to launch attacks against South Africa.

However, these countries did succeed into forcing South Africa to open dialogue with Liberation leaders. Their pressure against South Africa increased in the 1980s after the formation of the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC), which was formed to promote their own development and free themselves from South Africa's economic hegemony. The formation of SADCC added to the isolation of South Africa from the international community when more European countries, including the United States increased their support for the SADCC. SADCC efforts bore fruits when South Africa held its first non-racial democratic election in 1994.

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