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South Africa’s Post-apartheid Foreign Policy Making and the Role of the President

Lesley Masters


Who makes South Africa’s foreign policy? This has been an area of continuous discussion following South Africa’s transition to democracy in 1994. In the foreign policy analysis discourse considerable attention has been given to the role of the head of state and government in shaping foreign policy, particularly in developed countries. With South Africa’s own President assuming a predominant role in foreign policy, there is a need for further reflection on the impact of this position in foreign policy decision making. Using existing theory and current analysis this article highlights the different approaches adopted by South Africa’s first four democratically elected presidents, from the international statesmanship of Mandela, to the micro-management of Mbeki, the stabiliser role of Motlanthe and the consensus-building to absent leader position of Jacob Zuma. Drawing on Joseph Nye’s discussion of the characterisation of transformational and transactional leadership, this analysis traces the approaches of the different Presidents in shaping South Africa’s foreign policy and international engagement.


foreign policy; Jacob Zuma; Kgalema Motlanthe; Nelson Mandela; Presidential leadership; South Africa; Thabo Mbeki

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