The Presidential Years

In this pan-African context, Southern Africa was the principal focus of democratic South Africa’s foreign policy and its contribution to promoting the OAU’s objectives of peace and democracy. A common interest in regional stability, and awareness that South Africa could not survive alone, cemented the bonds of shared history of struggle for freedom from colonial and minority rule, cultural affinities and economic interdependence.617

But, as South Africa attained democracy, the situation in the region remained fraught. Angola was still in the grip of a destructive civil war. Mozambique was in a fragile transition to peace with the rebel movement, Renamo , still armed to the teeth and not entirely satisfied with the settlement and the outcome of the October 1994 elections. Contestation among opposing political forces in Lesotho was threatening to explode into violence. In Swaziland, forces opposed to the absolute monarchy were becoming more vocal and expected newly-liberated South Africa to support them. Added to this, was the fact that the apartheid networks of destabilisation within South Africa and the rest of the region were essentially still intact.

To his intensive engagement with the region Mandela brought the same emphasis on peace and stability that he did in South Africa, and with it the conviction that conflict could be resolved by negotiation and wise leadership on the part of those in conflict. Developments over the five years tested that conviction to its limits and led the region to a more robust approach to conflict resolution.

The bonds between liberation movements and a generation of leaders whose mission had been the achievement of independence and democracy, underpinned a network of relationships across Southern Africa. That legacy proved vital in building the framework for integrated development, peace and security in the new circumstances. Southern Africa, in particular the Frontline States, had played an important role in conceptualising South Africa’s negotiations roadmap. With stronger signals of the possibility of the release of Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners, and negotiations, ANC president, Oliver Tambo, crisscrossed the region in Zambian President Kaunda’s presidential plane, seeking a common approach to the issue. It was out of this that the Harare Declaration was born, to be adopted first by these states, then the Organisation of Africa Unity and finally the United Nations. During the negotiations in South Africa, Mandela continually briefed the Southern African leaders and they in turn always provided wise counsel. In some instances, they differed with him, as was the case when (as noted in Chapter 1) Nyerere helped convince Mandela that the ANC should return to the negotiations it had suspended after the Boipatong massacre.