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South Africa Table of Contents

South Africa


South Africa's relations with the Kingdom of Swaziland, one of Africa's smallest nations--which South Africa surrounds on the north, west, and south--were shaped by the kingdom's complete dependence on its powerful neighbor for its economic and political well-being. During the 1970s and early 1980s, although Swaziland claimed to be neutral in the East-West conflict, it was actually pro-Western and maintained strong relations with South Africa, including clandestine cooperation in economic and security matters. South Africa invested heavily in Swaziland's economy, and Swaziland joined the Pretoria-dominated SACU. During the 1980s, some South African businesses also used Swazi territory as a transshipment point in order to circumvent international sanctions on South Africa. Relying on a secret security agreement with South Africa in 1982, Swazi officials harassed ANC representatives in the capital, Mbabane, and eventually expelled them from Swaziland. South African security forces, operating undercover, also carried out operations against the ANC on Swazi territory. Throughout this time, part of the Swazi royal family quietly sought the reintegration of Swazi-occupied territory in South Africa into their kingdom.

In June 1993, South Africa and Swaziland signed a judicial agreement providing for South African judges, magistrates, and prosecutors to serve in Swaziland's courts. South Africa also agreed to provide training for Swazi court personnel. In August 1995, the two countries signed an agreement to cooperate in anti-crime and anti-smuggling efforts along their common border.


Bilateral relations between South Africa and Zimbabwe improved substantially as apartheid legally ended. In December 1993, the foreign ministers of both countries met for the first time to discuss ways to improve bilateral ties. Tensions between the two countries had been high since 1965, when South Africa demonstrated tacit support for the unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) by white-dominated Rhodesia (Southern Rhodesia), a former British colony. South Africa also had assisted the new regime led by Prime Minister Ian Smith for almost fourteen years, until it was brought down by a combination of guerrilla war and international pressure.

After Rhodesia's independence as Zimbabwe, the government in Harare supported mandatory sanctions against South Africa and provided political, diplomatic, and military support to the ANC in its armed struggle. Zimbabwe also provided military assistance, including troops, for Maputo's struggle against South African-supported insurgents in the Mozambican National Resistance (Resistência Nacional Moçambicana--MNR or RENAMO). SADF troops retaliated against Harare, with two raids on alleged ANC bases in the capital in 1986 and 1987, and bomb explosions in Harare in October 1987 and in Bulawayo in January 1988.

Relations between the two countries began to stabilize in 1990, after Mandela was released from prison and South Africa moved toward constitutional reform. Even before international sanctions against South Africa were lifted, a number of unpublicized ministerial contacts took place to discuss matters of trade and transport. President de Klerk and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe met publicly for the first time on January 27, 1994, when de Klerk, Mandela, Mugabe, and Botswana's President Quett Masire joined together in urging a peaceful resolution to a military mutiny in Lesotho.

President Mandela visited Harare in early 1995. The two countries debated trade issues throughout the year, primarily centered around efforts to dismantle apartheid-era tariffs. In November 1995, a ceremony attended by presidents Mandela and Mugabe marked the opening of a new bridge linking the two countries, across the Limpopo River.

Data as of May 1996