Southern Africa

The major thrust of the Chief Directorate: Southern Africa's activities is to actively promote and obtain support for the African Renaissance and the Millenium Africa Plan as the main framework of South Africa's foreign policy.

Linked to this are efforts to develop understanding and support for South Africa's position in respect of democracy, good governance and respect for human rights. Although national governments remain the principal guarantors of the security and well-being of Africa's people, South Africa is of the firm view that governments must hold each other accountable for good conduct in both domestic and foreign affairs.

To this end the South African government is engaged in constant bilateral political dialogue and has developed several economic partnerships in the region. These initiatives complement and reinforce the government’s lobbying efforts in various regional and continental fora. Concerted bilateral efforts are therefore being made to assist the process of regional integration and co-operation.

The high number of Presidential and Ministerial visits in the region underscores the soundness of bilateral relations and the seriousness with which South Africa views the region. Similarly, the establishment of Joint Permanent Commissions, and the signing of numerous agreements in nearly all spheres, with countries of the region, are also indicative of the strength of our bilateral relations. These are the mechanisms through which diplomacy is conducted and operationalised to practical effect to achieve a whole range of mutual goals and objectives. Some of the most important goals include the following:

The promotion of peace and security is one of South Africa’s most important objectives in the region. This includes the strengthening of conflict prevention and resolution capabilities of the region and rendering assistance in monitoring and addressing domestic issues that affect regional stability.

The promotion of intra-regional trade and investment also ranks as one of the government’s key priorities within Southern Africa. Together with partner departments such as the Departments of Trade and Industry, and Finance, this is an area of bilateral activity that has so far yielded considerable success. Although trade with Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries has increased dramatically over the last few years, the Government is aware of the trade imbalances that exist and actively seeks to promote two-way trade. The focus on outward investment to SADC countries is also bearing fruit, with a large and growing number of South African companies taking advantage of opportunities in neighbouring countries, often making investments through joint venture partnerships.

Closely allied to the promotion of trade and investment, is the promotion of regional tourism. Opportunities are frequently identified and discussed at bilateral level, before they become regional joint venture projects, such as transfrontier parks.

Poverty alleviation is crucial if the region is to prosper and create the conditions for peace and security to endure. This objective is facilitated through protocols designed to promote trade and investment and the promotion of debt relief.

The high incidence of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases in the region, and the catastrophic effects they are likely to have in the long-term, makes the promotion of health within SADC of paramount importance. South Africa and its regional partners are closely monitoring HIV/AIDS and the effect it has on the region. The signing of bilateral agreements in the health sector is aimed at the combating of communicable diseases, the sharing of medical expertise and the improvement of the health infrastructure in the region.

The promotion of all people to people contacts between South Africa and its neighbours, is a sphere where South Africa is very active. This is, inter alia, taking place through co-ordination by the Department of Foreign Affairs, in order to strengthen cultural, gender and youth ties within the region. However, this also includes South Africa's co-ordination of humanitarian assistance to countries within the region, such as to flood victims in Mozambique.

Human Resource Development is fundamental to the achievement of many other regional objectives, such as poverty alleviation, health and education. Bilateral endeavours in this field include the establishment of technical exchange programmes with a number of countries in the region on a bilateral basis.

The promotion of human rights remains high on South Africa’s list of priorities in the region. Endeavours in the field of human rights include the monitoring of elections within the region and the rendering of assistance in this regard upon request. The promotion of a culture of human rights is one of the pillars of South Africa's foreign policy.

The combating of crime is another area that affects bilateral relations. Inter-regional co-operation aimed at combating crime is promoted by means of, among others, the Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Co-ordinating Organisation (SARPCCO) and Interpol. Joint operations regularly occur such as for e.g. in respect of stock theft, the search for and destruction of small arms, combating drug trafficking and also the sharing of expertise e.g. in DNA forensics training. South Africa was also part of the driving committee that successfully initiated a process that culminated in a protocol on the proliferation of small arms that was adopted by the Extra-ordinary SADC Summit this year.

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2003 Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of South Africa