Returning to the Fold

By Hamill, James | Contemporary Review, September 1995 | Go to article overview

Returning to the Fold


Hamill, James, Contemporary Review


The first part of this article in the July issue traced South Africa's problematic relationship with the Commonwealth from the country's de facto expulsion in March 1961 through to the political upheavals of the mid-1980s. It concluded with an assessment of the attempt by the Commonwealth's Eminent Person's Group (EPG) to promote a dialogue between the Pretoria government and its principal opponent -- the African National Congress (ANC) -- in the first half of 1986. Despite its constructive approach, and the initial optimism surrounding its work, that mediating initiative foundered in May-June 1986 when the Botha regime turned its back on diplomacy, launched bombing raids on three neighbouring Commonwealth states and declared a nationwide state of emergency. This second article will consider the stalemate which subsequently developed in the mid to late 1980s both in South Africa itself and within the Commonwealth as the British government steadfastly refused to yield to the international campaign for punitive sanctions. In his historic speech on 2 February 1990 -- now `Red Friday' in the country's folklore -- F. W. de Klerk broke the log-jam and launched an entirely new era in South African politics with his decision to unban the black opposition, release political prisoners, and commence multi-party negotiations on a new constitutional dispensation. The article will also explore the Commonwealth's role within the post-1990 transition before concluding with an appraisal of democratic South Africa's prospects now that it has finally been re-admitted to the Commonwealth family: what can it gain from membership and, perhaps of equal importance, what can it bring to the organisation?

1986: the post-EPG atmosphere

In retrospect, the failure of the EPG to broker an agreement should have surprised few serious observers of the South African political scene. Despite its impeccable diplomatic conduct, the Commonwealth mission was always labouring under the burden of history. A refusal to capitulate to international pressure had been an article of faith for every National Party (NP) government since 1948 and, consequently, the outlook was bleak for almost any external initiative. However, the Commonwealth was particularly ill-suited to the task of mediation and agreeing to terms dictated by this organisation would have been unthinkable for any Afrikaner politician of senior rank. This, after all, was the organisation which had made it impossible for South Africa to remain a member in 1961 before moving on to campaign vigorously for the country's economic, diplomatic, military, and sporting isolation. In short, the Commonwealth was firmly -- perhaps fatally -- identified with the agenda of the exiled ANC.

It was also clear that the South African government, and its white constituency, took serious exception to being lectured on human rights abuses by an organisation containing numerous military and one-party regimes of varying ideological complexion. This was the historical back-drop to the mission and, in the eyes of the Pretoria government, the EPG could never quite erase the Commonwealth's strong anti-South African (for which read white) image. Moreover, Botha baulked at the idea of a modus vivendi with the ANC when its military wing -- Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) -- was of such insignificance and when, internally, the state had barely deployed a fraction of its full strength against the insurrection in the townships. To have accepted the Commonwealth's `negotiating concept' in such circumstances risked demonstrating weakness and it would certainly have provided a propaganda windfall for the fundamentalists of the far-right Conservative Party (CP) who were ever vigilant against possible `sell outs'. It was a defining characteristic of Botha's, deeply unimaginative, leadership that he was acutely sensitive to the threat on his right flank and was prepared to regulate the tempo of reform in order to manage that threat. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Returning to the Fold
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.