Courtesy Reuters

Southern Africa: A South African View

South Africa's external relations since World War II have developed on the basis of an interaction between external and internal factors. The external factors have included the heightened consciousness, particularly in the Western world (and reflected in the United Nations Charter), of human rights as an issue affecting international relations; the anticolonial movement, particularly as expressed in the achievement of independence throughout Africa; and the cold war conflict between the Western and Communist powers. The inability of South Africa's internal political system to adapt adequately to these far-reaching changes in the postwar world caused a progressive deterioration in its external relations, resulting in increasing international isolation on a political level (though not economically).

The intimate link in South Africa's case between external relations and internal domestic policies is obvious, but what is not always appreciated is the important role of external factors in a rapidly changing world in bringing the internal racial situation into the international arena. The basic internal racial features of the country, including discrimination in policy and social custom, denial of political rights to blacks, and economic exploitation, date back to colonial times. Even the political, economic and social discrimination embodied in legislation (which provides the ground for the most serious criticism of the South African system) did not begin with the advent to power of the National Party government in 1948, although it has been greatly deepened since then. Rather, the basic internal political problems, as well as the moral issues involved, have existed since the South African Union was founded in 1910, but external factors have increasingly impinged in recent decades, affecting the attitudes and policies of other countries toward South Africa, as well as the attitudes of blacks and whites within the country.

In recent years, the South African government has attempted to cope with the changing external environment through its "outward" policy, which was aimed at breaking out of the threatening isolation and establishing new links for South Africa, not only in Africa, but in other

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