Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Fifth Report

Conclusion: a special relationship?

182. It is clear that the United Kingdom's relationship with South Africa is an extremely important one, as we have described in detail in the paragraphs above. A question that has often arisen during our inquiry, though, is whether this is a 'special relationship.' South Africa, for many good reasons, enjoys excellent relations with nearly every country in the world. It is the 'partner of choice' for most non-African nations working in the continent and is much sought after as a key regional player, both on a continental and international basis. The United Kingdom is not alone, therefore, in seeking South Africa's friendship. Moreover, there exists an 'ambivalence' in some quarters of South African society towards Britain, owing to such factors as the history of colonialism and to arguments over the commitment of the United Kingdom to combating apartheid in the past.

183. However, given what we have seen and heard during this inquiry, we feel confident to conclude that the relationship is indeed a special one. The co-operation that we witnessed at all levels of government; the very significant flows of trade, investment and tourism between the two nations; the shared values and aspirations, on both a continental and global scale; the large diasporas of expatriates in both countries; and perhaps even the shared admiration for the talents of sporting heroes such as David Beckham. All of these point to a mature, honest and many-layered understanding, with both nations able to work together in a spirit of equality and mutual trust, and a relationship that is well able to weather the 'turbulence' of occasional disagreements.

184. As we have noted in our Report, South Africa faces a number of major challenges and opportunities in the years ahead. Challenges such as the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic; opportunities such as the chance of securing long-term peace and prosperity for Africa through NePAD. It is our sincere hope that the United Kingdom can work in genuine partnership with South Africa to help it tackle both, and that this relationship will continue to flourish and grow for many years to come.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2004
Prepared 18 May 2004