Learning to lead: South Africa's role in Africa - Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) case studies (1994-2008)

Monyae, Merthold Macfallen (David)
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This thesis explores the post-apartheid South Africa's Africa policy through the lens of Kalevi Holsti's 'national role conceptions' conceptual framework. One of the most significant preoccupations of the post-apartheid South Africa's foreign policymakers in the Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki administrations (1994-2008) was defining the country's new identity. This was indeed not a simple task by any measure. In assigning national roles to their country, the Mandela and Mbeki administrations struggled to divorce South Africa and themselves from an apartheid-inspired foreign policy deeply rooted in the Global North. The new foreign policy that emerged was largely couched in morality, Africa, and the Global South. There were two distinctive features of this foreign policy, however. While Mandela emphasised the promotion of human rights in Africa as South Africa's major national role, Mbeki preoccupied his administration in the task of renewing Africa. South Africa played a leadership role through walking a tight rope in constructing partnerships with both African countries and the developed countries, anchored in ending conflicts and supporting economic development. However, this thesis argues that Pretoria, seat of South Africa's government, realised that national role conceptions as defined by Holsti do not operate in a global vacuum. Case studies are examined to argue that, given its global ranking as a 'middle power', South Africa's national roles were more successful in areas of its African interventions where its national interest converged with those of powerful countries in the Global North. Pretoria's interventions in Lesotho, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, although often faced with operational hiccups, were by and large fairly successful. This was precisely because Pretoria's national roles, in the above-mentioned countries in which it intervened to resolve conflicts, converged with bigger powers within the global arena. In the case of South Africa's intervention in Zimbabwe, this thesis argues that it was difficult to enforce its national roles as they came in direct conflict with those of the developed countries in the West, led by Britain and the United States of America. Therefore, South Africa failed to register foreign policy successes because of the stalemate between its own national role conceptions and those of external powers.