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Flag of South Africa.svg
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
South Africa

The foreign relations of South Africa have spanned from the country's time as Dominion of the British Empire to its isolationist policies under Apartheid to its position as a responsible international actor taking a key role in Africa, particularly Southern Africa.[1]

South Africa was inactive in the United Nations, the African Union and the Commonwealth of Nations. Considered a possible permanent addition to the United Nations Security Council, South Africa was elected in 2006 and again in 2010 by the UN General Assembly to serve on the Security Council, which it did until 31 December 2012.[2]

History[edit]

Pre-apartheid[edit]

South Africa, as a key member of the British Empire and Commonwealth, fought alongside the United Kingdom and the Allies in both World War I and World War II, and it participated in the postwar UN force in the Korean War. South Africa was a founding member of the League of Nations and in 1927 established a Department of External Affairs with diplomatic missions in the main Western European countries and in the United States.

Apartheid[edit]

South Africa introduced apartheid in 1948, as a systematic extension of pre-existing racial discrimination in the country. As a result, the country became increasingly isolated internationally until apartheid was ended and racial equality introduced in 1990–3. This transition produced a change in South Africa's foreign policy. The country stopped trying to regain regional hegemony and started to behave as a central hub for cooperation as a regional unipole.[3]

Post-apartheid[edit]

Having emerged from the international isolation of the apartheid era, South Africa has become a leading international actor. Its principal foreign policy objective is to develop good relations with all countries, especially its neighbours in the Southern African Development Community (*-see note below) and the other members of the African Union. South Africa has played a key role in seeking an end to various conflicts and political crises on the African continent, including in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Comoros, and Zimbabwe. In August 1998, South Africa assumed the chair of the Non-Aligned Movement, which it relinquished in July 2002.

Swaziland has asked South Africa to open negotiations on reincorporating some nearby South African territories that are populated by ethnic Swazis or that were long ago part of the Swazi kingdom.

United Nations Security Council[edit]

South Africa was a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council from October 2006 until 2008. South African votes in the UNSC have not been without controversy. In particular, a 'no' vote on a resolution criticising the Burmese government attracted widespread criticism.[4]

South Africa also attempted to vote against economic sanctions for Iran; however, this was changed after South Africa realised that the 'no' vote would be defeated.

South Africa was once again a non-permanent member of the Security Council between 2010 & 2012.

Africa[edit]

State Formal relations began Notes
 Algeria See Algeria–South Africa relations
  • Algeria has an embassy in Pretoria.
  • South Africa has an embassy in Algiers.
 Angola See Angola–South Africa relations

South Africa relations are quite strong, as the ruling parties in both nations – the African National Congress in South Africa and the MPLA in Angola – fought together during the Angolan Civil War and South African Border War. They fought against UNITA rebels, based in Angola, and the apartheid-era government in South Africa who supported them. Nelson Mandela mediated between the MPLA and UNITA factions during the last years of Angola's civil war.

 Botswana See Botswana–South Africa relations
  • Botswana has a high commission in Pretoria.
  • South Africa has a high commission in Gaborone.
 Cape Verde 1994

Both countries established diplomatic relations on 4 April 1994[5].

 Central African Republic 1993

Both countries established diplomatic relations on 23 August 1993[6].

 Chad
  • Chad has an embassy in Pretoria.
  • South Africa has an embassy in N'Djamena.
 Egypt See Egypt–South Africa relations
  • Egypt has an embassy in Pretoria.
  • South Africa has an embassy in Cairo.
 Equatorial Guinea
  • Equatorial Guinea has an embassy in Pretoria.
  • South Africa has an embassy in Malabo.
 Ethiopia
  • Ethiopia has an embassy in Addis Ababa.
  • South Africa has an embassy in Pretoria.
 Ghana See Ghana–South Africa relations
  • Ghana has a high commission in Pretoria.
  • South Africa has a high commission in Accra.
 Guinea-Bissau 1994

Both countries established diplomatic relations on October 11, 1994[7].

 Kenya See Kenya–South Africa relations
  • Kenya has a high commission in Pretoria.
  • South Africa has a high commission in Nairobi.
 Lesotho See Lesotho–South Africa relations
  • Lesotho has a high commission in South Africa.
  • South Africa has a high commission in Lesotho.
 Madagascar
  • Madagascar has an embassy in Pretoria.
  • South Africa has an embassy in Antananarivo.
 Malawi See Malawi–South Africa relations

Since South Africa and Malawi had their first democratic elections in 1994, Malawi and South Africa have enhanced relations. In 2008, the two governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding designed to enhance the relationship between the two countries through enhanced security cooperation.[8]

 Mauritania 1995
  • Both countries established diplomatic relations on January 1995[9].
  • Both countries are full members of the African Union.
 Mozambique See Mozambique–South Africa relations
  • Mozambique has a high commission in Pretoria.
  • South Africa has a high commission in Maputo.
 Namibia See Namibia–South Africa relations

Upon independence in 1990, Namibia's economy was still tied to South Africa's.[10] To this day, the economy of Namibia is still closely contacted to South Africa through both institutional relationships (Southern African Customs Union, for example) and privately owned mining concessions.[11] The South African rand is still legal currency within Namibia (while the Namibian dollar is not so in South Africa), and the currencies are traded on par locally.

 Nigeria See Nigeria–South Africa relations
  • Nigeria has a high commission in Pretoria.
  • South Africa has a high commission in Abuja.
 Sao Tome and Principe 1994
  • Both countries established diplomatic relations on May 10, 1994[12].
  • Both countries are full members of the African Union.
 Sierra Leone 1998

Both countries established diplomatic relations in August 1998[13].

 Swaziland See South Africa–Swaziland relations
 Togo 1997

Both countries established diplomatic relations on January 13, 1997[14].

 Zimbabwe See South Africa–Zimbabwe relations

South Africa has a mission in Harare. Zimbabwe has an embassy in Pretoria and a consulate general in Johannesburg. The Government of Zimbabwe took a particular interest in the search for independence for Namibia (South-West Africa) from South Africa. In addition, as chairman of the front-line states in southern Africa, Zimbabwe spoke out vigorously against the policies of apartheid in South Africa and frequently called for the imposition of economic sanctions against the government. However, whilst supporting democratic change in South Africa, Mugabe did not support the idea of Zimbabwe being used as a base for anti-South African guerillas.[15]

In recent years, following the political crisis in the country, the ex-president Thabo Mbeki mediated with the MDC and Zanu PF to form a unity government, and often remained silent on the issues in Zimbabwe, which drew criticism.[16] Following a cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe, the ruling ANC in South Africa became impatient and has urged the parties to form a unity government.[17]

Americas[edit]

State Formal relations began Notes
 Argentina See Argentina–South Africa relations
  • Diplomatic relations were cut off in 1982 with the Falklands War. Full diplomatic relations between both countries were re-established in August 1991.
  • Argentina has an embassy in Pretoria[18]
  • South Africa has an embassy in Buenos Aires.[19]
  • Both countries are members of the Cairns Group.
  • List of Treaties ruling relations Argentina and South Africa (Argentine Foreign Ministry, in Spanish).[20]
  • South African Department of Foreign Affairs about relations with Argentina.[21]
 Belize 14 May 1997
  • Both countries established diplomatic relations on 14 May 1997.[22]
  • Belize does not have any representation in South Africa.[23]
  • South Africa is represented in Belize by its High Commission in Kingston, Jamaica.[24]
 Bolivia See Bolivia–South Africa relations
  • Bolivia maintains an honorary consulate in Johannesburg.
  • South Africa is accredited to Bolivia from its embassy in Lima, Peru.
 Brazil See Brazil–South Africa relations

Brazil has provided military assistance to South Africa in the form of warfare training and logistics. Bilateral relations between the countries have recently increased, as a result of Brazil's new South-South foreign policy aimed to strengthen integration between the major powers of the developing world.

 Canada See Canada–South Africa relations

Canada established its diplomatic relations with South Africa in 1939, along with other nations, due to the outbreak of World War II. Canada actively encouraged the end of Apartheid in South Africa and the countries have had normal relations since then. The Constitution of South Africa was, in part, inspired by the Constitution of Canada, particularly the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Former South African President Nelson Mandela made an official state visit to Canada in September 1998. Mandela was made an honorary Canadian citizen, during his second visit to Canada. A 2003 visit by President Thabo Mbeki in November 2003, the Joint Declaration of Intent was signed to strengthen relations between the two countries. Canada has assisted South Africa in the areas of development (over $200 million) and the fight against AIDS in South Africa and to strengthen services provided by the Government of South Africa. Trade between the two countries totalled $1.8 billion in 2008.[25]

Canada and South Africa are both member states of the Commonwealth of Nations.

 Chile
  • Chile has an embassy in Pretoria.
  • South Africa has an embassy in Santiago.
 Colombia
  • Colombia has an embassy in Pretoria.
  • South Africa is accredited to Colombia from its embassy in Caracas, Venezuela.
 Cuba See Cuba–South Africa relations
  • Cuba has an embassy in Pretoria.
  • South Africa has an embassy in Havana.
 Dominica 1998[26]

Both countries are members of the Commonwealth of Nations. Diplomatic relations were established on 29 April 1998.[26]

 Guyana 4 November 1994
  • Both countries established diplomatic relations on 4 November 1994.[27]
  • South Africa is represented in Guyana through its High Commission in Kingston, Jamaica.[27]
 Mexico 26 October 1993 See Mexico–South Africa relations

There were no official relations between Mexico and South Africa before 1993. After the birth of democracy in South Africa, the countries established relations.

 Panama 10-01-1995
  • Both countries established diplomatic relations on 10 January 1995.[30][31]
  • Panama opened an embassy in Pretoria in August 2000.[30]
  • South Africa is represented in Panama through its embassy in Lima, Peru.[30]
 Peru
  • Peru has an embassy in Pretoria.
  • South Africa has an embassy in Lima.
 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 1995
  • Both countries established diplomatic relations on 1 September 1995.[32]
  • Both countries are full members of the Commonwealth of Nations.
 Suriname
 United States 1799 See South Africa–United States relations

The United States has maintained an official presence in South Africa since 1799, when a US consulate was opened in Cape Town. The US Embassy is located in Pretoria, and consulates general are in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town. South Africans and the US also have many non-governmental ties: US missionaries, for example, have a long history of activity in South Africa. South Africans (particularly the ANC leadership) also acknowledge support from and ties to the anti-apartheid movement in the US.[33]

 Uruguay See South Africa–Uruguay relations
  • South Africa is accredited to Uruguay from its embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
  • Uruguay has an embassy in Pretoria.
 Venezuela
  • South Africa has an embassy in Caracas.
  • Venezuela has an embassy in Pretoria.

Asia[edit]

State Formal relations began Notes
 Armenia 1993
  • Diplomatic relations between Armenia and South Africa were established on 23 June 1993.[34]
  • Armenia is represented in South Africa through its embassy in Cairo, Egypt.[35]
  • South Africa is represented in Armenia through its embassy in Kiev, Ukraine.[35]
 China 1998 See China–South Africa relations
  • Date started: January 1998
  • China has an embassy in Pretoria.
  • South Africa has an embassy in Beijing and a consulate-general in both Hong Kong and Shanghai.

Despite Pretoria's long relationship with the government in Taiwan and late recognition of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1998 the two countries currently enjoy an increasingly close relationship. Increasingly numerous official visits to each other's countries by their respective officials and rapidly increasing trade between the two countries has drawn them ever increasingly together.

 India See India–South Africa relations

There is a major resident Indian community in South Africa that made a significant contribution to the struggle for civil rights; Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi pioneered the non-violent civil disobedience in the struggle of Indian people for civil rights in the 1890s and 1900s.[36] Indians also contributed to the African National Congress's struggle against the Apartheid regime. The Indian government was an outspoken critic of the apartheid-era South African government, refusing to maintain diplomatic relations.[37] India's support evoked goodwill in South Africa and other African countries.[37]

 Indonesia See Indonesia–South Africa relations
  • Indonesia has an embassy in Pretoria.
  • South Africa has an embassy in Jakarta.
 Iran See Iran–South Africa relations

South Africa and Iran share historical bilateral relations and the latter supported the South African liberation movements. It severed official relations with South Africa in 1979 and imposed a trade boycott in protest against the country's Apartheid policies. However, in January 1994, Iran lifted all trade and economic sanctions against South Africa and diplomatic relations were reestablished on 10 May 1994.[38]

 Israel See Israel–South Africa relations

Former ANC leader Nelson Mandela first visited Israel in 1999. Mandela said: "To the many people who have questioned why I came, I say: Israel worked very closely with the apartheid regime. I say: I've made peace with many men who slaughtered our people like animals. Israel cooperated with the apartheid regime, but it did not participate in any atrocities".[39] Then Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert visited South Africa in 2004,[40] meeting with South African President Thabo Mbeki, the first visit by an Israeli leader since the end of apartheid.

 Kyrgyzstan 1992

Both countries established diplomatic relations in 1992.[41]

 Maldives 1994

Both countries established diplomatic relations on 27 July 1994.[42]

 Pakistan See Pakistan–South Africa relations
 Qatar 10 May 1994 See Qatar–South Africa relations
 South Korea 1 December 1992[43] See Foreign relations of South Korea
  • Establishment of diplomatic relations: 1 December 1992.[43] South Korea had previously recognized South Africa from 1961 until 1978, when it withdrew its recognition in protest of apartheid.[44]
 Sri Lanka See Sri Lanka–South Africa relations
  • Date started: 12 September 1999(Newly Formed)
  • Sri Lanka has a High Commission in Pretoria.
  • South Africa has a High Commission in Colombo.
 Taiwan See South Africa–Taiwan relations
  • Period of recognition: 1949 – January 1998
  • Taiwan has a Taipei Liaison Office in Pretoria.
  • South Africa has a Taiwan Liaison Office in Taipei.

Relations were established between the two countries in 1949 and grew considerably after 1971 until South Africa announced that it would switch recognition from the government in Taipei to the People's Republic of China in December 1996.

 Tajikistan

Both countries established diplomatic relations on May 5, 1992.[45]

 Turkey 1991 See South Africa–Turkey relations
  • Diplomatic relations were established at consular level in 1991 and consulates-general were opened in Istanbul and Johannesburg respectively.
  • Both consulates were closed following the upgrading of relations to ambassadorial level in October 1992.
  • South Africa has an embassy in Ankara.[46]
  • Turkey has an embassy in Pretoria.
  • See also Turks in South Africa
  • Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs about relations with South Africa.[47]

Europe[edit]

State Formal relations began Notes
 Albania 1992

Both countries established diplomatic relations in 1992.[48]

 Belarus March 1993[49]
  • Belarus has an embassy in Pretoria[50]
  • South Africa is represented in Belarus through its embassy in Moscow, Russia.[50]
 Bulgaria See Bulgaria–South Africa relations

Interest Offices between South Africa and Bulgaria were opened initially in November 1990 and full diplomatic relations was established on 2 February 1992. Bulgaria has an embassy in Pretoria and South Africa is represented in Bulgaria through its embassy in Athens (Greece).

  • South African Department of Foreign Affairs about relations with Bulgaria.[51]
 Cyprus 10 December 1993
  • Both countries established diplomatic relations on 10 December 1993.[52][53]
  • Cyprus has a High Commission in Pretoria.[54]
  • South Africa is represented in Cyprus through its embassy in Athens, Greece.[52]
 Denmark See Denmark-South Africa relations
 European Union See South Africa–European Union relations
  • South Africa has strong cultural and historical links to the European Union (EU) (particularly through immigration from the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Greece) and the EU is South Africa's biggest investor.[55]
  • Since the end of South Africa's apartheid, EU – South African relations have flourished and they began a "Strategic Partnership" in 2007. In 1999 the two sides signed a Trade, Development and Cooperation Agreement (TDCA) which entered into force in 2004, with some provisions being applied from 2000. The TDCA covered a wide range of issues from political cooperation, development and the establishment of a free trade area (FTA).[55]
  • South Africa is the EU's largest trading partner in Southern Africa and has a FTA with the EU. South Africa's main exports to the EU are fuels and mining products (27%), machinery and transport equipment (18%) and other semi-manufactured goods (16%). However they are growing and becoming more diverse. European exports to South Africa are primarily machinery & transport equipment (50%), chemicals (15%) and other semi-machinery (10%).[56]
 Finland 15 May 1949 See Finland–South Africa relations
  • A South African legation was established in 1967 and relations were then upgraded to ambassadorial level in March 1991. Finland has an embassy in Pretoria, a general consulate in Johannesburg and a consulate in Cape Town. South Africa has an embassy in Helsinki. During World War II South Africa declared war on Finland.
 France See France–South Africa relations
  • France has an embassy in Pretoria and a consulate-general in Cape Town.
  • South Africa has an embassy in Paris.
 Germany See Germany–South Africa relations
  • Germany has an embassy in Pretoria.
  • South Africa has an embassy in Berlin.
 Greece See Greece–South Africa relations
 Ireland See Ireland–South Africa relations
 Italy See Italy–South Africa relations
 Macedonia 1995
  • Both countries established diplomatic relations in October 1995.[57]
  • South Africa still uses the name Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) in accordance with UN practice.[57]
  • South African is represented in Macedonia byt its embassy in Athens Greece.[57]
 Moldova 1997

Both countries established diplomatic relations in 1997.[58]

 Montenegro 2006

South Africa recognized Montenegro on 6 July 2006.[59] Both countries established diplomatic relations on 11 October 2006.[59]

 Netherlands 1938 See Netherlands–South Africa relations
  • Netherlands has an embassy in Pretoria and a consulate-general in Cape Town.[60]
  • South Africa has an embassy in The Hague.[61]
  • South Africa is reluctant to tighten cultural ties with the Netherlands. South Africa rejected several offers of the Netherlands and Belgium to become a member state of the Dutch Language Union.[62]
  • See also: Dutch immigration to South Africa
 Poland See Poland–South Africa relations
  • Poland has an embassy in Pretoria.
  • South Africa has an embassy in Warsaw.
 Portugal See Portugal–South Africa relations
  • Portugal has an embassy in Pretoria.
  • South Africa has an embassy in Lisbon.
 Russia 28 February 1992 See Russia–South Africa relations
 Serbia See Serbia–South Africa relations
 Spain
  • South Africa has an embassy in Madrid.
  • Spain has an embassy in Pretoria and a consulate-general in Cape Town.
  Switzerland See South Africa – Switzerland relations
  • South Africa has an embassy in Bern and a general consulate in Geneva.
  • Switzerland has an embassy in Pretoria and a general consulate in Cape Town.
  • South African Department of Foreign Affairs abou relations with Switzerland.[67]
  • Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs about relations with South Africa.[68]
 Ukraine See South Africa–Ukraine relations
  • South Africa established its embassy in Kiev in October 1992.
  • Ukraine established its embassy in Pretoria in 1995.[69]
  • South African Department of Foreign Affairs about relations with Ukraine.[70]
 United Kingdom 1927 See South Africa–United Kingdom relations
  • South Africa and the United Kingdom have a shared history, cultural links and similar systems of law and finance.
  • South Africa is the UK's largest trade partner in Africa and an important partner for the UK in a number of areas. The two countries also have a bilateral forum where representatives meet on a bi-annual basis so as to enhance economic and political relations.[71]
  • There are large numbers of South Africans living in the UK. There is also a large number of UK citizens and people of UK descent living in South Africa.
  • As of 2013 the UK is the top direct foreign investor in the South African economy and is also one of the largest export markets for South Africa.[72]


Oceania[edit]

State Formal relations began Notes
 Australia 1947 See Australia–South Africa relations
  • Date started: 1947
  • Australia has a High Commission in Pretoria.
  • South Africa has a High Commission in Canberra.
 Nauru

South Africa is in the process of establishing diplomatic relations on a non-residential basis[73].

 New Zealand See New Zealand–South Africa relations
  • New Zealand has a high commission in Pretoria.[74]
  • South Africa has a high commission in Wellington.[75]
 Samoa 1998

Both countries established diplomatic relations on 22 March 1998[76][77].

 Solomon Islands 11 December 1996
  • Both countries established diplomatic relations on 11 December 1996.[78]
  • Both countries are full members of the Commonwealth of Nations.

South Africa and the Commonwealth of Nations[edit]

South Africa was a Dominion of the British Empire and the Commonwealth from 1910 until 1961.

South Africa was a republic outside the Commonwealth from 1961 to 1994, then it became a Commonwealth republic on 1 June 1994.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Schenoni, Luis (2017) Subsystemic Unipolarities? Power Distribution and State Behaviour in South America and Southern Africa, in Strategic Analysis 41(1)74-86". 
  2. ^ "SA steps down from UN Security Council". Brand South Africa. 3 January 2013. Retrieved 1 March 2013. 
  3. ^ Schenoni, Luis (2017). "The Southern African unipolairty". Journal of Contemporary African Studies. 
  4. ^ Bogert, Carroll (7 September 2008). "SA's human rights reputation tarnished". Sunday Independent. 
  5. ^ "Cape Verde (Republic of)". www.dirco.gov.za. Retrieved 8 April 2018. 
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  8. ^ Country, Malawi to Enhance Defence Co-Operation by Bathandwa Mbola, BuaNews, 25 February 2008
  9. ^ "Mauritania (The Islamic Republic of)". www.dirco.gov.za. Retrieved 8 April 2018. 
  10. ^ Times, Christopher S. Wren, Special To The New York (23 March 1990). "In Namibia, South African Is Center of Attention" – via NYTimes.com. 
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  15. ^ US Department of State – Background Note: Zimbabwe. Retrieved 29 November 2008.
  16. ^ "Mbeki urges patience in Zimbabwe", The National Post, 8 April 2008.
  17. ^ "Zuma says summit must "force" Zimbabwe deal", Reuters, 7 November 2008.
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  29. ^ http://www.dfa.gov.za/foreign/sa_abroad/sam.htm South African embassy in Mexico City
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  37. ^ a b "India pushes people power in Africa". Asia Times. 13 July 2007. Retrieved 20 June 2008. 
  38. ^ [1] Archived 13 August 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
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  42. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 12 September 2015. Retrieved 12 September 2015. 
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  77. ^ "Countries with Established Diplomatic Relations with Samoa - Samoa Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade". mfat.gov.ws. Retrieved 8 April 2018. 
  78. ^ "Solomon Islands". www.dirco.gov.za. 

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