Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Written evidence submitted by Dr Jakkie Cilliers, Executive Director, Institute for Security Studies

  Key issues for the Committee's inquiry include South Africa's:

    —  role in the region, particularly with respect to Zimbabwe;

    —  engagement in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), the African Union (AU) and the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD);

    —  contribution to the war against terrorism.

  In the 10 year's since South Africa's transition to democracy, the country has emerged from political and economic isolation to become the dominant power in the region. After five years of domestic transformation at all levels of government and society, foreign policy was placed centre-stage after Thabo Mbeki's election to the presidency in 1999. The level of commitment, energy and resources dedicated to multilateral diplomacy, in Africa especially, has been substantial. How long the South African Government can sustain this policy focus, in the face of national crises of unemployment, crime and HIV/AIDS, is an important consideration for the ambitious plans of the African Union, SADC and NEPAD.

  NEPAD, with its secretariat based near Johannesburg, has been driven by President Mbeki behind the scenes, even as it is publicly presented as a continental initiative and a subordinate programme of the AU. The success of this grand vision for Africa's recovery has largely been as an external marketing strategy to keep Africa on the international agenda of organizations such as the EU, the G8 and the UN. In addition, by competing for "brand recognition" with the AU, NEPAD has given momentum to the institutional development of the AU.

  Under South Africa's leadership in 2002-03, the AU made progress towards the creation of a Peace and Security Council, drafting a Common African Defence and Security Policy and an African Standby Force for Peace Support Operations, a Pan-African Parliament and an Economic, Social and Cultural Council, amongst other changes. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Parliament, the Presidency and South African NGOs and think tanks have been closely engaged in this process.

  South Africa's involvement in conflict resolution, including troop commitment to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi, has made a significant difference to the security dilemma of Africa, where demand far outweighs the UN's capacity or will to supply peacekeeping. This influence is likely to move closer to home next year, as South Africa has been elected the incoming chair of the SADC Organ for Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation from August 2004. The potential security structure of SADC has not yet been fully realized or implemented, since it was paralyzed by divisions between President Mandela and President Mugabe in the late 1990s. The current leadership troika of Mozambique, Lesotho and South Africa could finally breathe life into this forum.

  The experience thus far has not been encouraging, however, in that under South Africa's influence the SADC has yet to take a principled position on the abuse of power in Zimbabwe and another crisis in the making, the impact of the monarchy in Swaziland on national and regional stability. The formal structures of intergovernmental organizations in Africa have provided little more than vehicles for building solidarity in defence of the abuse of power. Leaders within the AU have also taken their cue from President Mbeki on the issue of Zimbabwe.

  South Africa's kid glove handling of Zimbabwe's governing elite has served as a reality check for many of Africa's development partners, in terms of their expectations of NEPAD and prospects for the African Peer Review Mechanism. The ANC Government has repeatedly rallied to the cause of ZANU-PF, for example, when the EU tried to host a follow-up meeting in Lisbon to the 2002 Cairo meeting between African and European leaders, without inviting President Mugabe, or when Australia objected to President Mugabe's attendance of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to be held in Abuja, Nigeria in December 2003.

  Africa's weak states have been both a safe haven and a stage for terrorist activities long before the events of 11 September 2001. For example, thousands of African lives were lost in the bombing of American embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in 1998. The South African security services have successfully acted against a wave of terror attacks in Cape Town in the late 1990s, linked to radical Islamic elements within the vigilante organization, PAGAD, and against white right-wing extremists known as the Boeremag, responsible for the Soweto bombings of October 2002. South Africa's contribution to the global war against terrorism lies primarily in passing on this experience in intelligence-driven policing operations to their counterparts in Tanzania, Kenya and other neighbours, for example, through the Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Cooperation Organisation (SARPCCO) and Interpol Southern Africa.

  The South African Government has recently ratified the OAU Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism and has supported the AU's efforts to implement the Convention. National legislation has been drafted to comply with the requirements of UN Security Council Resolution 1373. The draft Anti-Terrorism Bill is currently before Parliament, and has elicited rigorous public debate on its potential to curtail freedoms of speech, association and the right to fair trial. Minutes of the public hearings and deliberations by the Safety and Security Committee are available on the website of the Parliamentary Monitoring Group:

  For further information, the following publications are available on the ISS website:

  Cilliers, J "From Durban to Maputo: A Review of the 2003 Summit of the African Union", ISS Occasional Paper 76, August 2003.

  Cilliers, J "Peace and Security through Good Governance: A guide to the NEPAD African Peer Review Mechanism", ISS Occasional Paper 70, April 2003.

  Kagoro, B, Makumbe, J, Robertson, J, Bond, P, Lahiff, E and Cornwall, R (ed) "Zimbabwe's Turmoil: Problems and Prospects", ISS Monograph 17, June 2003.

  Boshoff, H and Schonteich, M "`Volk', Faith and Fatherland: The Security Threat Posed by the White Right", ISS Monograph 81, March 2003.

  Cilliers, J and Sturman, K (eds) "Africa and Terrorism: Joining the Global Campaign", ISS Monograph 74, July 2002.

  Boshoff, H, Botha, A and Schonteich, M "Fear in the City: Urban Terrorism in South Africa", ISS Monograph 63, September 2001.

Institute for Security Studies

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