Cry sovereignty: South Africa and the UN Security Council in a hegemonic world, 2007–20081
MetadataShow full item record
This article examines South Africa's role in the United Nations Security Council in 2007–2008. This issue is highlighted as a highpoint in post-apartheid South Africa's diplomacy, which developed from its role of peacemaking and institution building in Africa, as part of the continent's renewal. Faced with the constraints of a hegemonic world and declined global multilateralism, especially after 9/11, South Africa used its moral power to leverage its own sovereignty and that of weaker states. In doing so, it pushed hard for regionalism, devoting its presidential terms in the council in March 2007 and April 2008 to strengthening the linkages between the United Nations (UN) and African Union (AU) structures. However, from the outset South Africa's voting patterns in the council – from Myanmar to Zimbabwe – revealed the palpable tension between the politics of solidarity and sovereignty on the one hand, and human rights on the other. The article traces South Africa's quest for sovereignty to the struggle against apartheid in the UN and regional structures of the erstwhile Organisation of African Unity (OAU). It further examines South Africa's efforts to implement its vision of the world emerging from this legacy after 1994, culminating in the battle for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Although Pretoria failed to secure a permanent seat, its election to the council as a non-permanent member provided it with the opportunity to implement its vision. While the principled approach to UN diplomacy has expanded the space for its own sovereignty and that of Africa, it has at the same time increased tension with the world's superpower, particularly over the war on terror and Zimbabwe. Recent xenophobic attacks on African migrants in South Africa have, on the other hand, cast some dark clouds on President Thabo Mbeki's acknowledged leading advocacy for the African Renaissance project.