South Africa's role in the world: A public opinion survey

Policy Brief

2013-12

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University of Cape Town

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Over the last fifteen years, South African foreign policy has been subject to tumultuous twists and turns, as the immediate post-1994 ‘honeymoon period’ with its remarkable enunciation of a human rights centred foreign policy increasingly gave way to processes reflecting greater complexity. South Africa emerged as a leading spokesperson for the global South and, at the same time, increasingly had to assert its African identity. These factors, as well as the usual rough-and-tumble of realpolitik in daily diplomacy, slowly eroded the premium placed on human rights under the vanguard of the Mandela presidency. In short, South African policymakers are often hard pressed and face trenchant critiques for failing to strike a balance between material demands and normative constraints. These material demands usually entail dealing with divergent constituencies clamouring for domestic expectations of redistribution on the one hand and market-led demands on the other; whilst normative constraints involve having to seek a compromise between cosmopolitanism and pan-Africanism on the other.
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