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South Africa


South Africa's relations with Namibia (formerly South-West Africa) were normalized following the 1988 agreement that paved the way for the solution to the interlinked conflicts in Namibia and Angola. Prior to this agreement, Namibia had been under South Africa's control since 1919, when Pretoria received the League of Nations mandate over the territory then known as South-West Africa. In 1946 the UN refused South Africa's request to annex the territory. In 1964 South Africa introduced apartheid in South-West Africa (Pretoria had granted Europeans living there limited self-governing privileges since 1925).

The United Nations General Assembly in 1966 voted to revoke South Africa's mandate and to place the territory under direct UN administration. South Africa refused to recognize this UN resolution until 1985, when President Botha ceded administrative control to the territory's interim government. South Africa allowed a UN peacekeeping force and an administrator to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 435 (1978), establishing the United Nations Transitional Assistance Group (UNTAG) in Namibia. Finally, on December 22, 1988, South Africa signed an agreement linking its withdrawal from the disputed territory to an end to Soviet and Cuban involvement in the long civil war in neighboring Angola. Namibia's new government, led by the South-West Africa People's Organisation (SWAPO), was elected in a landslide victory in November 1989.

After Namibia's independence in March 1990, South Africa and Namibia established diplomatic ties, but relations between the two countries were uneasy, in part because many of Namibia's senior government officials had been leaders in the guerrilla war to oust South Africa from their country. Namibia nonetheless joined the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) and continued to be almost totally dependent on South Africa in trade and investment. In 1992, for example, 90 percent of Namibia's imports came from South Africa, and South Africa purchased 30 percent of Namibia's exports. Relations improved as apartheid was dismantled.

The two countries established a Joint Administrative Authority to manage the port facilities at Walvis Bay, Namibia's only deep-water port, which had remained under South African control after Namibian independence. Under pressure from the ANC, South Africa then agreed to transfer control over the port enclave to Windhoek before the 1994 elections. Namibia finally assumed control over Walvis Bay on March 1, 1994.

The prospects for multiracial democracy in South Africa prompted Namibia to sign a series of bilateral agreements with Pretoria in anticipation of the close ties they hoped to maintain through the rest of the 1990s. One of these, signed in 1992, pledged cooperation in supplying water to arid regions of both countries along their common border. In December 1994, President Mandela announced his government's decision to write off Namibia's debt, an estimated US$190 million owed to South Africa. He also transferred most South African state property in Namibia to Namibian government ownership.


After Mozambique's independence from Portugal in 1975, relations between South Africa and Mozambique were shaped by the rise to power of the revolutionary Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frente de Libertação de Moçambique--FRELIMO) government, and in particular, by FRELIMO's commitment to support regional liberation movements. South Africa provided covert military assistance to the anti-FRELIMO insurgency, RENAMO. In an attempt to curtail South Africa's intervention, Maputo entered into negotiations with Pretoria in late 1983, resulting in a non-aggression pact, the Nkomati Accord, in 1984. This accord committed both countries to end their assistance to each other's opposition movements, and to establish a joint security commission to monitor implementation of the pact. South Africa continued to assist RENAMO, however, and relations between the two countries worsened.

After unsubstantiated allegations of South African involvement in the death (in a plane crash) of Mozambican president Samora Machel in October 1986, demonstrators attacked the South African trade mission in Maputo. Pretoria threatened to retaliate by banning Mozambican migrant laborers from South Africa's mines, but this plan was not implemented. Even after South African security forces raided ANC bases around Maputo in 1987, presidents Botha and Joaquim Chissano met to try to revive the Nkomati Accord. They agreed to establish a joint commission on cooperation and development, whereby South Africa would protect Mozambique's Cahora Bassa power lines, which had been targets of RENAMO sabotage, and would assist in improving Maputo's harbor as well as road and rail links with South Africa.

Relations continued to improve in 1989 following a South African initiative to help resolve Mozambique's civil war. Although both Chissano and RENAMO leader Afonso Dhlakama rejected Pretoria's proposal of United States mediation in Mozambique, Pretoria nonetheless played an important role in persuading the two men to pursue a negotiated peace. South African president de Klerk, Zimbabwe's president Mugabe, and other regional leaders urged Mozambique's warring parties to sign a peace agreement and, after they did so in October 1992, to prepare for democratic elections. In December 1992, the UN began deploying 7,500 troops for the UN Operation in Mozambique (UNOMOZ), and the date for Mozambique's first multiparty elections was finally set for October 1994.

In 1993 South Africa and Mozambique agreed to formalize their trade missions in each other's capitals and to upgrade diplomatic ties. Late that year, the two countries agreed to cooperate in repatriating more than 350,000 Mozambicans who had sought refuge in South Africa--some of the more than 800,000 Mozambican refugees scattered throughout the region. The UNHCR reported that refugees continued returning to Mozambique throughout 1994 as the elections approached.

After South Africa's April 1994 elections, Deputy President Mbeki opened communication channels with RENAMO leaders, including Dhlakama, in an effort to help preserve the fragile peace in Mozambique. President Mandela made his first official state visit to the country on July 20, 1994, and he emphasized the challenges both countries faced in strengthening democratic institutions. The two governments signed agreements establishing a joint cooperation commission to pursue shared development goals in agriculture, security, transportation, and medicine.

In 1996 the two countries began to implement a South African proposal for a small group of South African farmers to settle and farm land in Mozambique. The proposal had originated in the desire of a few Afrikaner farmers to leave South Africa, and both governments viewed it as a possible means of improving the agricultural infrastructure in Mozambique and of providing jobs for farm laborers there. For Pretoria, the proposal held some promise of reducing the influx of farm workers into South Africa.

Data as of May 1996

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