Wednesday, August 08, 2007

South Africa's Betrayal

South African foreign policy has disturbed me for some time:

Last September, not long after the Israeli-Hezbollah war, South Africa's minister of intelligence, Ronnie Kasrils, praised the Islamist group committed to Israel's destruction. The Iran News Agency, albeit prone to exaggeration, reported that Mr. Kasrils "lauded [the] great victories of the Lebanese Hezbollah against the Zionist forces" and "stressed that the successful Lebanese resistance proved the vulnerability of the Israeli army." The comment received no attention in the South African media; nor, for that matter, did the international press seem particularly interested. And yet, the scandalous comment occurred immediately after the South African government had warmly received the visiting Iranian foreign minister and expressed support for Iran's campaign for uranium enrichment--in spite of the passing of a United Nations Security Council deadline that same week regarding the suspension of Iran's nuclear program.

This stance toward Iran is cause for concern on its own. Unfortunately, it is also illustrative of a much broader and more chilling trend in South Africa's postapartheid foreign policy: one that cozies up to tyrants, and is increasingly orientated against the West--even at the cost of its self-proclaimed principles of human rights and political freedom.

Postapartheid South Africa's easy relationship with dictatorships, it should be noted, is not a new development. Until very recently, however, it has largely been overlooked by the media. This oversight is likely due to the fact that, much like its out-of-control crime rate, any bad news about South Africa is viewed as a blemish on the popular and self-comforting narrative surrounding the country's emergence from apartheid. Indeed, that a country scarred by so many years of violent racial segregation could transform itself into a fully functioning democracy with a robust economy while simultaneously avoiding the wide-scale racial bloodbath feared by many is nothing short of miraculous. But judging by its international relations, South Africa--by far the most politically stable, economically productive and militarily powerful country in sub-Saharan Africa--appears to be moving into the camp of the anti-Western powers, a loose but increasingly worrisome consortium not unlike the Cold War-era Non-Aligned Movement. Drawing heavily upon its history as a liberation movement, the African National Congress cloaks itself in a shroud of moral absolutism that not so subtly implicates its critics as racists, Western stooges, or apologists for apartheid. Read the rest.

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