Continuity and change: an evaluation of the democracy-foreign policy nexus in post-apartheid South Africa

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 16
  • Abstract:

    If foreign policy is viewed as an “intermestic” arena where the external meets the internal, then it becomes possible to see how internal domestic factors drive foreign policy making. In this context the democracy-foreign policy nexus and the role of governmental and non-governmental foreign policy actors help to reconcile ideals and interests and put foreign policy contradictions into perspective. The desirability of democratic participation in foreign policy is taken as a given, but agency has to go beyond representation to include issues of participation and political dialogue. The focus of this article is the democratic deficit of the Mbeki foreign policy (1999-2008), with some reference to the Zuma administration. The way in which foreign policy was personalised under the presidency of Mbeki was instrumental in closing the space for meaningful participation in the foreign policy processes. The article concludes that democratic foreign policy making is impeded by an overall deterioration in the quality of democracy in post-apartheid South Africa. It further contends that there is more continuity than change across the Mbeki and Zuma administrations’ policy orientations (both domestic and foreign) and warns that the challenges which Mbeki faced in terms of democratic consolidation may be exacerbated in the Zuma period if certain demons are not tackled head on.