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International relations & co-operation minister Naledi Pandor. Picture: DIRCO
International relations & co-operation minister Naledi Pandor. Picture: DIRCO

In an unprecedented move that has reverberated across the Atlantic, the US Congress’ house committee on foreign affairs recently passed the US-SA Bilateral Relations Review Bill by a significant margin of 36 votes to 13.

This remarkable legislative action, seldom seen in the annals of US foreign policy, underscores growing concern within US political corridors over SA’s drastic pivot in its foreign policy under the guidance of international relations and co-operation minister Naledi Pandor.

The overwhelming bipartisan support for the bill reflects a unified stance against what is perceived as SA’s departure from democratic ideals and its unsettling alignment with authoritarian regimes.

This legislative scrutiny not only marks a critical juncture in US-SA relations but signals a potential recalibration of international diplomatic engagements with Pretoria. The implications for SA are profound, placing its international standing and diplomatic leverage at a precarious crossroad.

As the global community watches, Pandor’s actions and the direction of SA’s foreign policy are under an intensifying microscope, questioning the nation's allegiance to the principles of democracy and human rights that once defined its post-apartheid renaissance.

The audacity of SA’s foreign policy under Pandor stands as stark defiance of the tapestry of democratic values that once guided the nation’s international relations. The recent passage of the US-SA Bilateral Relations Review Bill demands rigorous scrutiny of Pretoria’s contentious diplomatic manoeuvres.

Critique of SA’s foreign policy shift

The post-apartheid era heralded SA as a beacon of democratic values and human rights. Yet under Pandor’s stewardship a disconcerting pivot is observable. This transition, marked by a gradual abandonment of the West, signifies a profound ideological realignment, placing expedient alliances over principled diplomacy. The alignment with nations that conspicuously challenge the democratic ethos reveals a troubling metamorphosis in Pretoria’s global stance.

SA’s burgeoning alliances with China, Russia and Iran exemplify a deliberate strategy, veering away from long-established democratic partners. These relationships, fortified through economic agreements, military collaborations and diplomatic gestures, signal a concerning geopolitical realignment. The implications are manifold, affecting not only SA’s international standing but also the broader fabric of global democratic solidarity.

Central to this foreign policy debacle is SA’s engagement with Hamas. By maintaining relations with an entity identified as a terrorist organisation by myriad nations, SA risks its diplomatic credibility and strains its relations with longstanding allies. This stance not only undermines global counter-terrorism efforts but also raises serious questions about Pretoria’s commitment to peace and security.

In this complex narrative, figures such as Pandor and department director-general Zane Dangor emerge as architects of a foreign policy that seems to contravene the very ethos upon which democratic SA was rebuilt. Their decisions resonate far beyond diplomatic circles, potentially jeopardising the nation’s moral and ethical standing on the world stage.

A recalibration of SA’s foreign policy is imperative; one that realigns its course with the democratic values and human rights principles that once defined its global identity.

In a move that further complicates SA’s international position, the country’s recent actions in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) underscore its contentious foreign policy trajectory.

By aligning itself with cases that challenge Western legal norms and principles, SA under Pandor’s guidance appears to be leveraging the ICJ as a platform to assert its newfound allegiances and geopolitical stance.

This manoeuvre not only amplifies the rift with traditional allies but raises questions about the consistency of SA’s commitment to international law and order.

The nation’s contentious participation in high-profile ICJ cases reflects a broader strategy to fortify its relationships with authoritarian regimes, simultaneously distancing itself from the democratic and judicial standards upheld by the international community.

• Hyman is founder and director of Citizens for Integrity.

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