Who are South Africa's allies

Africa - countries and regions

Gero Erdmann

To person

Dr. Gero Erdmann is a political scientist, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Africa Studies at GIGA, Hamburg and head of the GIGA office in Berlin. His research focuses on forms of political rule, democratization, parties and party systems in Africa.

E-mail: [email protected]

Stefan Mair

To person

Dr., is a Senior Fellow of the Science and Politics Foundation (SWP) in Berlin, member of the advisory board of the Federal President's "Partnership with Africa" ​​initiative and a member of the GIGA's scientific advisory board. His work focuses on: Africa south of the Sahara, German foreign and security policy, global governance.

E-mail: [email protected]

Apartheid, a late transition to independence and civil wars are historical characteristics of southern Africa. The region has good economic conditions, but in comparison to the rest of Africa it suffers most from the immune disease AIDS.

As the founding father of the "new South Africa", Nelson Mandela helped unite the nation. The current President Zuma uses the "Mandela Myth". (& copy AP)


From Stefan Mair

The southern African region usually includes Angola, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Swaziland and Lesotho as well as the island states of Madagascar and Mauritius. Most of southern Africa is highlands, some of which offer excellent conditions for arable farming and thus also for export-oriented agriculture, but mainly consists of scrubland, deserts and semi-deserts. In addition, southern Africa is one of the regions that will be hardest hit by climate change worldwide. In the past 20 years there have already been an increasing number of climate-related droughts, which have led to food crises in some countries in the region. Southern Africa is richly endowed with mineral raw materials, especially oil in Angola, copper in Zambia, various iron ores and heavy metals in Zimbabwe and South Africa as well as gold and diamonds.

Overview: Southern Africa
The older history of southern Africa is characterized by two major waves of immigration: the centuries-old immigration of the Bantu, which began around 500 BC. Began, and the immigration of Europeans since the middle of the 2nd millennium. This second immigration movement took place in several spurts and is still of great importance for social and political conflicts in the region today. As early as 1500 the Portuguese began to build supply stores for their ships, trading posts and slave forts in what is now Angola and Mozambique. Since the middle of the 17th century, it was mainly the Dutch who settled at the Cape of Good Hope, which were soon joined by numerous Germans, French Huguenots and other Europeans. British immigrants poured into South Africa during the 19th century. They displaced the so-called Boers, the successors of the originally Dutch, German and French immigrants, first to the north and then subjugated them in the Boer War of 1901/02. In the middle of the 20th century, many Portuguese finally immigrated to Angola and Mozambique.

The settlement and colonization by Europeans meant two things for the development of southern Africa: First, a social, economic and political dominance of the European settlers over the African ethnic groups, which was consolidated in apartheid systems in South Africa, Rhodesia (today's Zimbabwe) and Namibia. Second, the colonial powers - especially the Portuguese - held onto their property for a relatively long time, which resulted in bloody wars of liberation. Angola and Mozambique only became independent in 1975, Rhodesia in 1980 and Namibia in 1989. The apartheid conflicts that polarized southern Africa did not come to an end until 1994, when an African majority government took power in South Africa. Although the apartheid conflicts in Zimbabwe and Namibia were extremely bloody, the conflict in South Africa attracted by far the greatest public attention. This was not only due to the importance of South Africa, by far the most important country in the region in terms of population size and economic strength, but also to the spread of the disputes far beyond its own national borders. Since the opponents of the apartheid system had their retreats in Zambia, Angola, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, South Africa attacked these countries again and again. It was particularly involved in the civil wars in Angola and Mozambique, which broke out immediately after their independence. In both conflicts, South Africa supported the rebel groups, considered pro-Western, in the fight against their governments.

In addition to the apartheid conflict and the late decolonization, another historical characteristic of the region is mentioned: long-lasting civil wars. Angola suffered violent clashes for a full 27 years, from 1975 to 2002, with an estimated 500,000 deaths. The civil war in Mozambique that lasted from 1975 to 1992 was hardly inferior to these. In Rhodesia, the internal struggles ranged from 1971 to 1979. The apartheid conflicts in Namibia and South Africa also at times took on a civil war-like character. All of the wars mentioned here were closely interwoven with the East-West conflict. The socialist governments of Angola and Mozambique viewed their countries as part of the Soviet bloc. At times, up to 60,000 Cubans fought on the side of the Angolan army. Accordingly, the support South Africa gave to the Angolan and Mozambican rebels was seen as a defense of Western interests. This partly explains the long history of the West's very lenient treatment of the South African apartheid system.

Civil wars and apartheid conflicts brought liberation movements to power in many countries in the region, which, in their opinion, owed this political success largely to the armed struggle. This applies above all to Angola, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, and to a lesser extent also to Namibia and South Africa. Once liberation movements are in power, based on their historical achievements, they claim a special legitimacy that allows them to stand in opposition to democratic principles. A prominent example is Zimbabwe. There, President Robert Mugabe was considered one of the few democratically legitimized flagship politicians on the continent in the 1980s. A mixture of self-inflicted economic crisis, growing social resistance and increasing pressure from outside put him on the defensive in the second half of his term of office, from which he tried to free himself by expropriating land and using violence against opposition members. The country, which was once economically and politically promising, is now completely ruined. During the crisis, Mugabe and his immediate followers have repeatedly made it clear that, as representatives of the liberation movement, it would be completely unacceptable for them to surrender the power gained through high losses and renunciation as a result of an election defeat. It was almost a year before Mugabe in February 2009 - under internal and external political pressure - named the winner of the last election, Morgan Tsvangirai, Prime Minister by His Grace.

In contrast, in 1991 Zambia was one of the first countries, not just in the region but in the whole of Africa, to abandon the one-party system that had prevailed until then. Long-time President Kenneth Kaunda first allowed multiple parties and then held elections, which he promptly lost. Something similar happened in Malawi, Lesotho and Madagascar, where at the beginning of 2009 violent protests drove the elected president to flight. In Mozambique, the government succeeded in converting democratic pressure into its own electoral victories, in Angola a first election in 1992 failed, and it was not until 2008 that the majority of the Angolan ruling party was confirmed by an election. In Namibia, the apartheid system was transformed into a multi-party system immediately after independence, in which the former liberation movement controlled roughly three quarters of the parliamentary seats in the two decades after independence. The same was the case until the 2009 elections in South Africa. Botswana and Mauritius, on the other hand, are among the few long-standing and stable democracies in Africa. This relatively positive overall record of democratic progress in the region is not only clouded by the authoritarian outliers Zimbabwe and Swaziland, the only absolute monarchy in Africa. Rather, the majority of the democracies in southern Africa are of a very fragile nature and continue to suffer from structural deficits: corruption and clientelism, limited state capacity to act and weak institutions, the dominance of the executive over the legislature and judiciary, and poorly balanced party systems.

In addition to these predominantly political characteristics of southern Africa, there is a social and an economic one that clearly distinguishes the region from others in Africa. Southern Africa is the most severely affected by HIV / AIDS infections globally. Although the global epidemic arrived in the region relatively late, in 2005 20 percent of the adult population of Zimbabwe, 24 percent of Botswana, 17 percent of Zambia, 14 percent of Malawi and 18 percent of South Africa were infected. After the governments lacked determination in the fight against AIDS for a long time, however, in the last few years there have been significant successes in fighting the disease and treating infected people. Nevertheless, in Zimbabwe, for example, HIV / AIDS made a significant contribution to the fact that life expectancy fell from almost 60 years in 1990 in 2007 to well below 40 years and the annual population growth in 2006 was only one percent.

Source text

AIDS in Swaziland

[...] The second smallest country in Africa, a kingdom that can be crossed in an afternoon. [...] Swaziland has the highest HIV rate in the world, 39 percent carry the disease. [...] South of the Sahara, a total of eleven million children have been orphaned as a result of the epidemic [...].

When approaching, the crisis area presents itself as an indifferent idyll. Coming from Johannesburg, the small fan gun roams over a postcard landscape, an African Bernese Oberland with terraced fields. [...] In Mbabane, the small capital, there is a lot of shopping. [...] What did you expect? Emaciated figures, corpses on the side of the road? [...]
Swaziland is an absolute monarchy. [...] For a long time the little potentate ignored the looming catastrophe in his country. The irresponsibility at the top was paired with fearful, taboo-laden silence on the part of the subjects. The great death began in 1999, but precious years passed again until finally, in 2005, enlightenment began on a large scale.
Now the government set up a National Emergency Council, [...] its modest office next to a petrol station became a point of reference for the minority of the competent, committed in the country, also for the foreign helpers. [...] Your vision: to defeat the epidemic by 2015. A traditional Swazi spear is the symbol of the campaign, its slogan: "One nation at war against AIDS!"
But where is the front in this war? Where are the sick, the dead? And where is the grief?
The search leads out of the city. Who dies, dies in the country. If the disease can no longer be concealed when it reaches its final stage, then city dwellers also go where they once came from. Return to their homesteads between the green hills, where the grass grows quickly over the fresh graves. [...] So it is not cemeteries, the extent of which shows the Swasis what is happening to them - it is the children, hungry, neglected, vulnerable children. [...] Thembi Tsabedze stirs the corn porridge with a stick. [...]. There is a black kettle on the fire; the porridge has to boil for two or three hours. There are 39 servings, 39 orphans from the area eat here every day. [...] The black pot on the smoking fire is a symbol of poor hope. A trace of these pots runs through the whole of Swaziland, they are all identical, big, black and heavy, Unicef ​​supplied them. It should be more than 400 pots - the simplest food stations for 33,000 orphans.
Thembi Tsabedze has been coming for three years now, making the same thing every day, this porridge on a voluntary basis; there is nothing else there. [...] Thembi Tsabedze gets up at 4.30 am with the sun, then she cooks for her own family, [...]. From nine o'clock she will be at the mud hut, and with a few other women she will first bring in 25 liters of water, the water point is two kilometers away. [...]
Nobody thanks these women. They don't get a cent from the state, and most of the time they don't even get recognition from their husbands; some even get a new wife - because the guardian of the orphans neglects them. And sometimes the community is jealous because sacks of donated cornmeal come from the World Food Program for the black pots. [...]
Neighborhood Care Point, Unicef ​​gave this glamorous name to the black pot, the fireplace and the donated sack of cornmeal - in other words, the idea of ​​caring for the orphans where they live, in the community, in the neighborhood. [...] Only it is mostly not the neighborhood, not the whole community that feels responsible, it is exclusively women.
[...] The small kingdom is by no means one of the poorest countries in Africa - although two thirds of Swasis are actually very poor and live on less than a dollar a day. And the haves are not just a tiny clique, but around ten percent of the citizens: the urban middle and upper class as well as the cream of the branched royal family. [...]
King Mswati III is still above the law. He and his ruling clan knew how to wrap their hold on power in the cloak of culture and tradition - and abroad it has long been accepted that any change should only come slowly. Today government policy is addressing the AIDS crisis, but the king's lavish lifestyle remains sacrosanct.
And it's not the king alone. The entire caste of the affluent has not even developed a culture of charity in this fervently Christian land. Although everyone who can read knows the high rate of infection, a kind of collective blindness protects them from the perception of reality.
[...] The core of the crisis can be defined more precisely: patriarchy, king, church - a fatal, fatal triple alliance. The polygamous king exemplifies an ideal of masculinity: many women! Virgins! But the traditional multiple marriage can hardly be afforded by a Swazi: A single wife already costs 15 cattle bride price. Following the royal example of virility means cheating, casual sex, rape if necessary. The churches have come to terms with polygamy - although women are just as outnumbered in church services as they are in HIV events. But criticism is gradually germinating. [...]

Charlotte Wiedemann, "The Land of Orphans", in: DIE ZEIT No. 31 of July 26, 2007



In addition, southern Africa is by far the economically strongest region on the continent. This is mainly due to South Africa, which with its diversified industrial structure, with its highly developed agriculture, but especially with its flourishing mining sector, accounts for around a third of the continental gross domestic product. Namibia and Botswana have relatively high average incomes for African countries, which are mainly based on the export of raw materials. In recent years, Mozambique and Zambia have also made significant progress in terms of economic development. Angola is now the most important oil producer in Africa, ahead of Nigeria.

The region could be the most attractive and dynamic market and production location in Africa under positive global economic conditions and if it were to integrate more economically. Accordingly, regional integration is at least rhetorically very important in southern Africa. The most important organ of this integration since 1992 has been the South African Development Community (SADC). When South Africa acceded in 1994, they saw themselves a decisive step closer to the goal of creating an economic and political union in southern Africa. Since then, the balance sheet has been rather disappointing. In reforming its institutions and creating a single economic space, SADC is lagging far behind its own schedule. This is due, on the one hand, to the economic gap between South Africa and the rest of the SADC members, and, on the other hand, to the fear of being politically dominated by South Africa.

Successful regional integration would greatly increase the international weight of southern Africa. So far it has been based almost exclusively on the prominent role that South Africa plays in international organizations and forums as one of the few weighty states in Africa with a democratically legitimized government.This positive image of South Africa and the predominantly positive perception of the region as a whole, which is negatively clouded by the events in Zimbabwe alone, harbors the risk that the complexity of the challenges in southern Africa is ignored.