"Zimbabwe is not a South African province" : historicising South Africa's Zimbabwe policy since the 1960s

Access full-text article here


Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 16
  • Abstract:

    This paper interrogates analyses of Thabo Mbeki's South Africa's Zimbabwe policy which compare his approach to that of John Vorster's government in the 1970s and decry Mbeki's inability or unwillingness to use its ostensibly considerable hegemonic power to force Robert Mugabe to practise good governance.1 It is argued that just as Vorster used South Africa's dominant influence over Rhodesia to "persuade" Ian Smith to negotiate with the country's African nationalist leaders, the Mbeki administration should have taken a similar line instead of pursuing "quiet diplomacy". The assumption is that little had changed in the relations between the two countries in the meantime and that South Africa continued to have the same level of hegemonic power over Zimbabwe. The paper argues that a more historicised approach shows that the relations between the two countries had changed so dramatically by the 1990s that South Africa no longer wielded compelling power and influence over its northern neighbour. The thirty-year liberation wars in the region and the "debt" that the ANC government owed the region for its support during the struggle, among other factors, meant that the dynamics governing South Africa-Zimbabwe relations were very different.