Kenneth Mokgatlhe

South Africa’s Look East Policy

The late South Africa’s unsung hero and philosopher, Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, said during the launch of his party, Pan Africanist Congress, in 1959 “I wish to make it clear again that we are anti-nobody. We are pro-Africa. We breathe, we dream, we live Africa because Africa and humanity are inseparable,” Sobukwe contended.

Sobukwe was a political strategist who was cognisant of the balance of power. While it is prevalent that he was inspired by the outcomes of the Bandung Conference in 1955 where 29 Asian and African countries resolved not to take either side of the East or the West, it is clear that Sobukwe acknowledged that African countries had a fundamental duty of building inclusive and effective state institutions, policies and systems to replace the foreign systems which were imposed by the colonialist.

Numerous African and Asian countries are still adhering to the principles of the Non-Aligned Movement in the current conflicts between Israel and Hamas as well as Russia and Ukraine. South Africa has recently made headlines when it took Israel to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the accusations of genocide by Israel against the people of Gaza.

Pretoria’s foreign policy has proven to be shifting from the West to the East political and economic bloc. In 2010, under the country’s controversial former leader, Jacob Zuma, South Africa joined BRIC to become BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and SA) a move that was seen as the adoption of the “Look East Policy”. South Africa has sought to strengthen its ties with East powers such as Russia, China, Turkey, Iran, and others in recent years.

It is quite paradoxical that the African National Congress (ANC), the governing party in SA since 1994, has been presiding over inconsistent foreign policy which turned them into hypocrites. They do not see anything wrong with supporting and associating with Russia’s Vladimir Putin whom they believe is a hero for invading and killing Ukranians.

The ANC is complacent about what the tyrant ZANU-PF is doing to the oppressed Zimbabweans. It is mind-blowing to imagine that the Zimbabweans have been oppressed in the backyard of the ANC for the past 24 years however they do not mind focusing on things taking place miles away while they are failing to improve the livelihoods of their people or look after human rights of the neighboring countries such as Zimbabwe.

I was neither flabbergasted nor irked when I read about the unholy meeting between Cyril Ramaphosa and Mohamed Hamden Dagalo who is chiefly implicated in the 2005 genocide in Darfur, Sudan. Well, we should all remember that the International Criminal Court ruled that South Africa was guilty for not having arrested former Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir who is accused of war crimes, genocide, and violations of human rights.

South Africa, under the ANC, is continuing to use every little chance they get to delegitimize the State of Israel. This obsession by the ANC has nothing to do with resolving the historical and political impasse between Israel and Palestine. It is now trivialized and politicized which is now used as an electioneering weapon to deflect and defocus the attention and sobriety of voters who are so disillusioned with the bad record of Nelson Mandela’s party.

If we are really to believe that our foreign policy is premised on the principles and values of human rights, does the same logic not apply to the Zimbabwean situation which has been persistent for over 24 years now?

According to the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law, more than 8, 000 Christians have been killed for their faiths by the Islamist radicals.

I am just worried by the ANC’s growing and increasing coziness with Hamas, a terrorist group that does not have regard for the people they claim to be waging the struggle for. Does the ANC know that Hamas has been diverting funds meant for the civil services of the people of Gaza since 2005 to build tunnels and buy armaments in a bid to eradicate the State of Israel, that is what they mean when they say “From the river to the sea” that they want a destruction of the Jewish State.

What happened to the ANC which condemned senseless attacks by the PAC against the innocent civilians because they were white people on the eve of democracy? It was the ANC that ridiculed those who were calling for white people to be driven off to the sea, instead, you encouraged dialogue which avoided more loss of lives. The compromise did not bring about social justice however more was achieved at the table. Negotiations are a prerequisite for any peace and stability attainment. When the armies fight, politicians should be seated around the table to reach a consensus, everyone will not what they want which becomes a compromise, the nature of negotiation.

About the Author
Independent reporter and columnist studying African Sustainable Communities (Master of Arts) at Ben Gurion University.