Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Fifth Report


1. On 27 April this year, South Africa celebrated the tenth anniversary of its first fully democratic, non-racial, elections. On that date in 1994 the vile apartheid regime formally ended, and Nelson Mandela, after spending twenty-seven years of his life as a political prisoner, took his hard-won place as President of the Republic. Since that time, South Africa has grown in a way that was inconceivable during the dark days of the previous regime. The country has become an example of good governance and respect for human rights in Africa; it has sought to heal divisions caused by past injustices without recourse to the blood-letting or interminable detentions and trials seen in so many similar situations; it has assumed a leading role in the United Nations, the Commonwealth and many other international fora; it has injected new vigour and resources into the resolution of long-running conflicts in Africa, and has achieved many other positive changes.

2. Given the significance of this landmark in South Africa's history, we felt that it was an opportune time to review the strength and vitality of the United Kingdom's very important relationship with South Africa, a key strategic partner in both regional and international affairs. The breadth of this relationship is considerable, including significant two-way flows of trade, investment, tourism and migration. The two governments also work closely together on a range of issues and share a significant number of mutual global concerns and ambitions. We felt it important, therefore, to assess how these ties could be strengthened and improved as South Africa celebrates its achievement. We also noted that neither we nor our predecessor committees had reported on South Africa in detail since 1991.[1]

3. On 24 July last year, therefore, the Committee officially launched its inquiry into 'South Africa', with the following terms of reference: "to inquire into the role of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in relation to South Africa, in the light of the strong historical connections that link the United Kingdom and South Africa, and its important role in the Commonwealth, in the region and in Africa as a whole."[2] In particular, we agreed, the inquiry would examine:

  • the UK's diplomatic and political relations with South Africa, both bilaterally and as a member of the EU;
  • South Africa's role in the region of Southern Africa, including Zimbabwe, and the continent more widely;
  • South Africa's role within relevant regional and international bodies, most notably the African Union, the Commonwealth and the United Nations;
  • the impact of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NePAD) and the G8 African Action Plan on South Africa;
  • South Africa's contribution to the war against terrorism; and
  • the effectiveness of the Foreign Office's work in South Africa, including the entry clearance operation, the work of UK Trade International, the British Council and the BBC World Service.[3]

In this Report we set out our findings of our inquiry into these six main areas, and the conclusions and recommendations we have reached as a result of our deliberations.

4. In the course of our inquiry, the Committee received a large number of useful memoranda from a range of individuals and organisations.[4] We took oral evidence on three occasions, from five sets of witnesses: on 9 December from Professor James Barber, University of Cambridge, Professor David Simon, University of London, Mr Jesmond Blumenfeld, Brunel University, and Mr Alastair Fraser, Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA—the successor to the Anti-Apartheid Movement in the UK);[5] on 27 January from Mr Richard Dowden, Royal African Society, Dr Steve Kibble, Catholic Institute for International Relations (CIIR), Mr Christopher Paterson, Macmillan Publishers Ltd., and Mr Ashley Roe, Severn Trent Water International Ltd.;[6] and on 2 March from Mr Chris Mullin MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Mr Andrew Lloyd, Head of Africa Department, Southern, and Mr Andy Sparkes, former United Kingdom Deputy High Commissioner, Foreign and Commonwealth Office.[7] All the evidence we received is printed in full at the end of this volume.

5. As part of our inquiry, we also visited South Africa from 8 to 13 February. While there we met a number of key interlocutors from across a wide spectrum of society and gained a great deal of very valuable information for our final report. A copy of our programme is annexed to this Report. We should like to thank all those who have assisted us during our inquiry, both here and in South Africa.

6. We extend our especial gratitude to our Specialist Adviser for this inquiry, Professor Jack Spence OBE, King's College, London, whose assistance throughout our proceedings has been invaluable.

1   Foreign Affairs Committee, First Report of Session 1990-91, United Kingdom Policy towards South Africa and the other states of the region, HC 53-I. Also relevant is: First Report of Session 1995-96, The Future Role of the Commonwealth, HC 45-I.  Back

2   "Announcement of a new inquiry: South Africa", Foreign Affairs Committee press release 2002-03/37, 24 July 2003. All post-1997 Committee publications and press releases are available at the Committee's home page, which can be accessed via: Back

3   IbidBack

4   p 77, List of Written Evidence Back

5   Ev 7, Ev 34 Back

6   Ev 51, Ev 60 Back

7   Ev 82 Back

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