‘We Met the Enemy and He is Us’: Domestic Politics and South Africa’s Role in Promoting African Democracy

  • S Friedman


South Africa’s post-apartheid foreign policy has disappointed scholars and activists who expected the post-apartheid state to promote democracy and human rights in Africa and the world, and who complain that it has failed to fulfill that promise. This paper examines South Africa’s role in democracy promotion since 1994 and, in particular, the argument that it intended to promote rights and freedoms in Africa but was forced to change its approach by power realities on the continent. It finds this explanation wanting and argues that the core goal of foreign policy of the post-apartheid government was not to promote democracy, but rather, merely to prove white racism wrong. Since 1994, the African National Congress-led government has been aware that much of white opinion, at home and abroad, expects majority ruled African societies to fail. Its prime concern, therefore, has been to refute the prejudice that black Africans cannot run successful societies. It is this concern which has underpinned foreign policy: the aim has been to project Africa as a continent whose states are measuring up to the Northern model of a successful society. Hence, democracy promotion has been only a means to that end, and this is the major factor responsible for its uneven and sporadic application.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 0850-7902