South Africa and Zimbabwe: A Little Local Difficulty

South Africa is failing its first real foreign policy test – dealing with an increasingly ugly situation in Zimbabwe. The African National Congress government has shown itself to be a paper tiger and risks serious domestic difficulties because it has not dealt firmly with its northern neighbour.

The World Today
7 minute READ

James Hamill

Retired lecturer in politics and international relations, University of Leicester

In June 1999, Thabo Mbeki’s position in South African politics seemed unassailable. By guiding the African National Congress (ANC) to an election victory that surpassed even the landslide of the first fully democratic elections of 1994, he established his authority over the party. He also demonstrated his credibility with the wider electorate, and, most crucially of all, emerged from the shadow of his illustrious predecessor.

Yet, paradoxically, much of this political capital has subsequently been squandered and there is even official public talk of ‘plots’ against him by other ANC figures like Cyril Ramaphosa. The past two years have witnessed a steady erosion of the effectiveness of the Mbeki presidency coupled with a visible decline in the State President’s international standing.

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