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South Africa Table of Contents

South Africa


South African-Zambian relations until 1990 were shaped by Zambia's support for antiapartheid movements inside South Africa, by its agreement to allow anti-South African SWAPO guerrillas to operate from Zambia's territory, and by its anti-RENAMO assistance to government forces in Mozambique. As one of the leaders of the frontline states against South Africa, Zambia provided safe haven for the ANC, which had its headquarters in Lusaka, prompting military reprisals by South Africa in the late 1980s. Relations between the two countries improved as apartheid was being dismantled in the early 1990s, leading to several visits by the two countries' leaders. Then-president Kaunda visited South Africa for the first time in February 1992, and the two countries established diplomatic ties and began to normalize trade relations later that year. (Zambia was already South Africa's second largest African trading partner.) President de Klerk visited Lusaka in mid-1993, the first visit by a South African head of state. In 1994 South Africa continued to be the most important source of Zambian imports--mostly machinery and manufactured goods--and the two countries were exploring new avenues for trade during the rest of the 1990s.


South Africa has long-standing geographic, commercial, and political ties with Angola, which became independent from Portugal in November 1975. Until the early 1990s, relations between the two countries were strained, however, owing primarily to South Africa's extensive military support for the insurgent movement in Angola. The National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola--UNITA), led by Jonas Savimbi, had waged a sixteen-year war against the Marxist-led government in Luanda. Pretoria became Savimbi's patron principally because it feared the threat of Soviet and Cuban expansionism, but by the late 1980s, a new geostrategic environment was emerging in the region. The Cold War ended, accompanied by the collapse of Angola's superpower patron, the former Soviet Union; Cuban forces withdrew from Angola as part of the 1988 Angola-Namibia Accord, and the Angolan civil war ended tentatively, with a peace agreement in May 1991.

Angola's first democratic elections in September 1992 failed, after Savimbi refused to accept his electoral defeat and the war resumed. Pretoria then supported a negotiated outcome to the festering civil war, although a few South Africans (said to be operating outside Pretoria's control) continued their support to Savimbi.

Relations between South Africa and Angola deteriorated after Pretoria withdrew its diplomatic representation from Luanda in late 1992. Early in 1993, however, both governments again began working to normalize diplomatic ties, and Pretoria promised to crack down on private channels of assistance from South Africa to Savimbi. Although de Klerk announced that South Africa would grant recognition only after a fully representative government had been installed in Luanda, Pretoria reopened its offices in Luanda and upgraded diplomatic ties in mid-1993. The two countries established full diplomatic relations on May 27, 1994, and Luanda appointed an ambassador to South Africa later that year.

In June 1994, President Mandela agreed to requests by UN Special Envoy to Angola, Alioune Blondin Beye, to attend talks with Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos and Savimbi in an effort to end the fighting in Angola. Pretoria initially provided the venue for talks between dos Santos and President Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire, as dos Santos sought an end to Zairian assistance to UNITA. Finally, in November 1994, Mandela witnessed an agreement between dos Santos and Savimbi to end the fighting in Angola and to begin rebuilding the country, and the slow process of disarming rebel fighters began in 1995.

Data as of May 1996