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The Super-diplomat: Thabo Mbeki's African Renaissance and South Africa FIFA World Cup 2010

Siphokazi Magadla
Rhodes University
South Africa

Abstract

In defining Thabo Mbeki as the super-diplomat, Olivier argues that “while the original pan-Africanists sought the ‘political kingdom’ for Africa,” Thabo Mbeki “casts himself as a neo-pan-Africanist, seeking the economic kingdom for the ailing continent.”[1] This paper argues that South Africa’s victory in hosting the 2010 Soccer World Cup was an extension of South Africa’s foreign policy agenda. In particular, the narratives used by South Africa in gaining support to host this mega-sporting event became an emblem of Thabo Mbeki’s continental and international agenda of constructing South Africa as a leader and voice of the African continent. South Africa’s potential to host the World Cup became part of Mbeki’s rhetoric and prophesy of an African rebirth. This contemporary conception of foreign policy and international standing based on the prestige of hosting an international event is echoed in the past by the 1995 Rugby World Cup, hosted and won by South Africa.  This gave the world the first imagery of South Africa’s potential to become the post-Apartheid ‘rainbow nation’. It also significantly contributed symbolically to Nelson Mandela’s domestic agenda of nation-building and reconciliation. South Africa’s slogan, “It’s Africa’s turn,” in the bidding for the World Cup symbolized a shift from domestic rhetoric to a more inclusive continental rhetoric under Mbeki.  This paper asks: How much of South Africa's ability to win the bid to host the World Cup was due to its foreign policy at the time? In particular, how did Thabo Mbeki's role as the main protagonist for an African Renaissance contribute to the world's imagination of seeing the World Cup as a contribution to the rebirth of Africa? What are the consequences and implications of this pan-Africanist construction of the World Cup? Lastly, how will South Africa's foreign policy and perceived place in the world change in the current leadership of Jacob Zuma? South Africa faces the challenge of combining the domestic vision of a ‘rainbow nation’ with that of a greater African kingdom. Mbeki’s fall from power was symbolic of this urgency to ‘save’ both Africa and South Africa simultaneously. 

Introduction
This is an African journey of hope - hope that, in time, we will arrive at a future when our continent will be free of wars, refugees and displaced people; free of tyranny, or racial, ethnic and religious divisions and conflicts; of hunger and the accumulated weight of centuries of the denial of our dignity…nothing could ever serve to energize our people to work for their and Africa's upliftment more than to integrate among tasks of our Second Decade of Democracy and the African Renaissance our successful hosting of the 2010 Soccer World Cup.[2]

For many South Africans and the world at large, 2010 is a historically remarkable year, one which not only marks 16 years since the end of the Apartheid government, but also almost two decades of a democratic regime under the African National Congress (ANC). It is 20 years since the February 11th 1990 release of the first Black South African President, Nelson Mandela, from prison. It also is the year that for the first time an African country has been selected to host the 2010 Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) soccer World Cup (henceforth called the World Cup) starting June 11, 2010, the biggest sporting mega-event in the world.  It is important to note that South Africa’s winning of the FIFA 2010 bid was second time luck, after losing the 2006 World Cup bid by only one vote to Germany. Germany won the rights to host the world cup in 2000, while South Africa was granted the rights for the 2010 tournament in 2004.  Both of these time periods were when former South African president Mbeki was in power, from 1999 until his resignation in September 2008.

The purpose of this paper is not only to trace Mbeki’s role in the bidding process for hosting the  World Cup, but also to argue persuasively that the World Cup became an extension of Mbeki’s foreign policy agenda.  In particular, the narratives used by South Africa in gaining support to host this mega-sporting event became an emblem of Thabo Mbeki’s continental and international agenda of constructing South Africa as a leader and voice of the African continent. The paper asserts that South Africa’s potential to host the World Cup became part of Mbeki’s rhetoric and prophesy of an African rebirth, the African Renaissance. In a larger context, South Africa’s hosting of the World Cup can be examined as an indication of its merit as one of the emerging global powers from the South such as China, Brazil and India. The countries like South Africa have taken seriously the successful hosting of sporting mega-events to signal their growing might in the international relations. The paper also argues that the World Cup is exemplary of South Africa’s reliance on liberal institutionalism to assert its power and ideas about the how the global order can be transformed to favor nations of the South.

The 1995 Rugby World Cup, hosted and won by South Africa, was significant domestically as it indicated South Africa’s potential to become the post-Apartheid ‘rainbow nation,’ thereby contributing symbolically to Nelson Mandela’s domestic agenda of nation-building and reconciliation. The 1995 Rugby World Cup was also significant for South Africa’s place in the international order as it indicated that South Africa was not just another poor post-colonial African state; it was in fact transitioning from apartheid with “middle power” status.[3] Therefore, as Barber[4] argues, South Africa’s entry into Africa’s and the international system has not been whether or not it would play a role but rather what kind of role it would play and how other states would respond to it. Habib also asserts that South Africa’s “aggregate capabilities in terms of economic, diplomatic and military capacities, in relation to other African nations, automatically defined it, at least for now, as a regional power or hegemon. This status imparted to it a set of privileges, obligations and responsibilities that separate it from its African counterparts.”[5] South Africa’s ability to engage in the political economy of sporting mega-events should be read against South Africa’s unique position in Africa’s international relations and those of the countries of the South in general.

The paper asks: how much of South Africa's ability to win the bid to host the World Cup was due to its foreign policy at the time? In particular, how did Thabo Mbeki's role as the main protagonist for an African Renaissance contribute to the world's imagination of seeing the World Cup as a contribution to the rebirth of Africa? What are the consequences and implications of this pan-Africanist construction of the World Cup? Lastly, how will South Africa's foreign policy and representation in the world change with the current leadership of Jacob Zuma?

South Africa is no stranger to hosting international events. Since 1994, South Africa has hosted over 17 sporting mega-events including the A1 Grand Prix in 2006, Fina Swimming World Cup in 2003, the Red Bull Wave Africa in 1998, the 2006 Paralympics Swimming World Champs, the 2003 Cricket World Cup, 1995 Rugby World Cup, 1996 World Cup of Athletics, 2005 and 2008 Women’s World Cup of Golf, 1996 Africa Nations Cup, 1998 All Africa Games, and the 2009 Confederations Cup amongst others. Yet, without a doubt, the FIFA World Cup is the biggest sporting event in the world, outside of the Olympic Games, and is the mother of all sporting events - the crème de la crème! Indeed, South Africa has joined a growing group of developing countries who are keen competitors of the mega-sporting enterprise, for decades a privilege of the industrial Western world. Compared to other developing continents, such as Latin America and Asia, Africa has hosted fewer mega-events that both of these continents individually. Asia has hosted the Olympics in Japan 1940 and China 2008, and the soccer World Cup in South Korea in 2004. Brazil, having hosted a World Cup before, will play host to the 2016 Olympic Games; Chile and Uruguay have all hosted the soccer World Cup before.

David Black asserts that the underlying imperative for developing nations to compete for hosting these mega-events is to “…signal developmental advances or ‘arrival.’” In the case of South Africa, the arguments presented below will emphasize that the “signaling impulse” that is behind the 2010 World Cup is both an economic and political impulse that asserts South Africa as a leader and voice of the African cause.[6]
The ‘Gucci revolutionary’ and the African Renaissance
No typical revolutionary, that much is obvious… Mbeki dresses distinctively, favoring houndstooth sports jackets or Cuban shirts. His pipe and favorite Bay Rum tobacco are never far from hand, projecting an image of sophistication and contemplation – the English intellectual. In some circles, his designer suits have earned him the name of a ‘Gucci revolutionary.’[7]

Mbeki’s history goes beyond his credentials as the first Black deputy president of Nelson Mandela’s 1994 administration and as the second democratically elected president in 1999 under the ruling political party, the African National Congress (ANC). The son of Govern Mbeki, he was a member of the Communist Party of South Africa (SACP) who was arrested and sentenced in the Rivonia trial of 1963 to 1964 with Nelson Mandela.  Thabo Mbeki spent 28 years of his life working for the ANC in exile, as Oliver Tambo’s (Oliver Tambo was the president of the ANC for 30 years in exile) protégée and the Secretary of Presidential Affairs from 1985 until he became the Head of International Affairs in 1989. Mbeki has a Masters degree in Economics from Sussex University in the United Kingdom (UK).  In 1970 he received military training in the former Soviet Union. Indeed, Mbeki is an international relations man and it is no wonder that his foreign policy as president will likely remain one of the most ambitious for years to come.

As Olivier puts it, Mbeki “paints his foreign policy with a broad brush and his vision for Africa is grandiloquent, setting himself an agenda which is simultaneously ambitious, missionary and somewhat romantic, but daunting in complexity and magnitude.”[8] Unlike his predecessor Mandela, who had an immediate domestic agenda of reconciliation between the former creators and maintainers of Apartheid and its victims into one "Rainbow nation," “…President Mbeki’s tenor had revealed a shift away from a focus on the ‘Rainbow Nation’ to that of ‘Africanism.’[9] This is not to suggest that, under Mandela, South Africa’s foreign policy was less ambitions. Mandela himself in “South Africa’s future foreign policy” in the journal Foreign Affairs underscored that South Africa’s foreign policy beyond 1994 would be committed to issues of human rights as a fundamental pillar of South Africa’s participation in international affairs, which would be premised in the promotion of democracy worldwide, the entrenchment of international law, African development amongst others.[10] Although it was under Mandela’s leadership that South Africa first participated in peacekeeping in Lesotho in 1998, the majority of South Africa’s role in peace and security in Africa and elsewhere took place under Mbeki’s leadership.  This is because during Mandela’s time the country was still in the human and ideological transformation of the apartheid foreign affairs department as well as the transformation of the South African Defence Force to the new South African National Defence Force in order to reflect the new image of the country.

Notably, Mbeki's term in office was a time when several African states were embroiled in civil conflict - such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burundi, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Angola, Sudan, and Cote d’Ivoire, among others.  Additionally, South Africa's neighbors, Namibia and Mozambique, were recovering from recent civil conflict.  Considering the various civil wars that ravished more than a few African countries in the 1990s and early 2000s and the bleak post-conflict situation they faced, one can argue that the continent was in need of a strong personality and vision, like Mbeki's image of the whole continent being born again or at the very least revived. South Africa is in the top 15 of military and police contribution to United Nations (UN) peace missions in line with White Paper on South African Participation in International Peace Missions approved by parliament in 1999. South Africa has taken part in 14 peace mission since 1999. South African troops have served in UN and African Union (AU) missions in Burundi, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Sudan, Comoros and Liberia among others. South Africa has also facilitated peace agreements in the DRC, Zimbabwe (with much criticism on Mbeki’s mediation), Ivory Coast and Sudan. In all these countries South Africa has tried to export its mechanism of a negotiated settlement. At times South Africa has been criticized of using negotiated settlement as the gospel of mediation which helps despots like Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe to cling to power.[11]
Within the United Nations (UN), South Africa is a vocal member of the Group of 77 countries (G77) composed of developing states mostly from Latin America, Africa and Asia who mobilize their vote within the UN system against the votes of Western industrial states. South Africa has twice won the vote to be a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2007-2008 and 2011-2012. Within the continent the transformation of the OAU into the AU in 2002 in Durban, South Africa, is regarded as Mbeki’s brainchild as it occurred under his chairmanship, with the close support of his counterparts such as Nigeria’s Olusegun Obasanjo and Senegal’s Abdoulaye Wade. The AU’s security mandate is decisively expanded giving the organization the power to intervene in internal affairs for purposes of human rights signified by the establishment of the African Standby Force and the operationalization of the  African Peer Review Mechanism which monitors that AU member states adhere to human rights and other democratic processes. It also is leading the discussion and foundation of New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) which seeks to provide a continental response to Africa’s persistent development challenges.[12] Together with Egypt, Nigeria, Libya, and Algeria, South Africa is one of the five countries within the AU that provide 75% of the AU budget. It was during this period of Mbeki’s presidential activism within the continent that we have seen an end to several of Africa’s civil wars such as Liberia (2003), Angola (2002), Burundi (2000), Cote d’Ivoire (2002), Central African Republic (2007), and Uganda (2006).

South Africa has done the same in consolidating the voice of the developing world by its role in other intergovental organizations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), in 2003 South Africa was one of the founding members of the Group of 20 countries (G20) with Brazil and India. A group of developing nations that seeks to pressure wealthy states in the WTO to reverse their protectionism in trade, especially with regards to agriculture. Also under Mbeki’s leadership in 2003, South Africa was a founding member of the India, Brazil, and South Africa Dialogue Forum (IBSA) which seeks to increase South to South trade cooperation. As well, South Africa has also been the chair between 1998-2001 of the Non-Aligned Movement, composed mostly of the G77 countries that seek to place the interest of the developing world at the top of the global agenda. 
Under Mbeki’s leadership, South Africa also became well known not only for hosting sporting mega-events, South Africa is also a well-known host of global conference that seek to foster collective agreements on various issues such as the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development  (UNCTAD) Summit in 1996, Non Aligned Movement Summit 19998, World Aids Summit in 2000, World Conference Against Racism in 2001, World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, and others.

This has led some, like Olivier, to call him the uber diplomat or the super-diplomat who unlike the "original pan-Africanists [who] sought the ‘political kingdom’ for Africa”, Thabo Mbeki “casts himself as a neo-pan-Africanist, seeking the economic kingdom for the ailing continent.” Olivier casts Mbeki as the ultimate prophet, who “believes in grand plans and total solutions for Africa, creating enormous expectations, and raising questions about risks and consequences of over-extension and failure to deliver.” Others like Vale and Maseko have accused Mbeki of becoming an uncritical advocate of Western style development in Africa.  Habib argues that Mbeki should be understood as a second generation African leader whose nationalist ambitions is “to overthrow the yoke of colonialism.” However, unlike the first generation such as Nkrumah or Nyerere, Mbeki’s generation is conscious of their “countries relative weakness and is aware that their anti-colonial agendas will not materialize outside the transformation of the balance of power in the global order.” In this next section the paper unravels how the 2010 World Cup become embedded in Mbeki’s agenda of transforming Africa’s place in the international order.[13]

Mbeki’s African Renaissance and the World Cup
The critical matter however is that we have a duty to define ourselves. We speak about the need for the African Renaissance in part so that we ourselves, and not the other, determine who we are, what we stand for, what our vision and hopes are, how we do things, what programmes we adopt to make our lives worth living, who we relate to and how.[14]

Cornelissen argues that the benefits of mega-events, such as the World Cup, are well documented.  The biggest benefits are mostly economic, and include the opportunity for the host to show their investment potential to tourism to a global audience, to the reality that these mega-events present an enormous flow of international capital. Van der Merwe states that “mega-events hosted in developing nations are often seen as a mixed blessing. Whilst they promise numerous opportunities to boost the nation in a variety of ways, they are often seen as being the source of much controversy and if not carefully planned can result in heavy financial losses.”[15]

The Mbeki administration promised that the World Cup would create 77,400 permanent jobs, a significant amount in a jobless economy with 24% unemployment and 2% increase of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per year. In addition, US$550 million additional income taxes were the tangible economic benefits of the tournaments which were projected to be higher than the cost of the tournament to the national budget.[16] The eventual taking place of the tournament revealed that the World Cup injected just 0.4% to the country’s GDP, while it created 130,000 jobs according to South African Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan.[17] This is while the government spent more than US$ 4 billion on infrastructure development, such as stadiums, transport, and telecommunications. A year later, the quantifiable benefits of the World Cup remain contested. The infrastructure development, however, such as the controversial Gautrain railway and others, is one development that reminds many South Africans on a daily basis of the legacy of the World Cup. The fate of the maintenance of stadiums outside well known busy metropoles such as Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban remains to be seen. South Africa’s hosting of the 123rd International Olympic Committee (IOC) meeting in Durban in July 2011 (the first for an African country) is an indication that South Africa will continue to use sporting mega-events to facilitate its development and foreign policy agenda despite its September, 2011 withdrawal to bid Durban as a the Olympics host city for the 2020 Olympics. 

Beyond the economic benefit of sports mega-events, Cornelissen discusses the political nature of these competitions, indicating that sporting mega-events “are increasingly developing into a political commodity for countries.” He continues to argue that the political character of these events means that “domestically, elites must engage in legitimizing exercises to gain the necessary level of support to carry bids forward.” Internationally, “the bid processes are generally characterized by extensive state bargaining, leveraging and negotiating the draw from established political and economic ties or loyalties.” Identity informs a large part of both domestic and global legitimization of competing countries. [18]

Mbeki used the narrative of the African Renaissance to gain South African legitimacy onto the world stage. South Africa already had the upper economic muscle in comparison to Morocco, the other African country to make it to the final bidding stage of the 2010 World Cup.  Van der Merwe states that a close inspection of South Africa’s choice to host the 2006 Cricket World Cup with Kenya and Zimbabwe was a strategic move which sought to affirm the “country’s African identity…the overall ‘African Safari’ motif of the tournament, which became the strategic marketing approach of choice, sought to stamp a uniquely ‘Africanised’ version of a game bequeathed on former colonies by British imperialism and aimed to broaden the cultural base of the game.” Despite of the political controversy of co-hosting the Cricket World Cup with Zimbabwe, what can be deduced is that South Africa’s use of this event to dispel the myth that “Africa was not suited to hosting such events’ was successful as it strengthened their bid to host the soccer World Cup.[19]

Mbeki’s African Renaissance, defined as Africa’s ability to chart its own destiny, is embedded in a heavy postcolonial rhetoric which at once asserted Africa’s autonomy from former colonizers and simultaneously looked to the nations of the G8 for example for the funding of NEPAD programs. Most explicitly, Mbeki and his African counterparts argued that the international community had an obligation to support this African cause. This was evident in Mbeki’s strong reaction to South Africa’s loss of the 2006 World Cup bid in 2000 when he stated “when will some in Europe be ready to accept that Africa is part of the global human family and not irrelevant appendage whose marginalization is, to some in developed Europe, an acceptable outcome?”[20] This was also evidenced by Mbeki's and Obasanjo’s, constant sales pitches to the rich nations not only to support politically the vision of an African rebirth, but also to sustain it financially.

Cornelissen and Swart support this conception of mega-events as political constructs in their article arguing that “rhetorically, bid processes or events themselves have been used to communicate key messages to South African populace and the wider international community, partly with the purpose of shaping a new South African society, and partly with the aim of bolstering the so-called African Renaissance.” They further continue to assert that South Africa’s bidding for mega-events has two characteristics: the first is an appeal about the developmental nature of these mega-events for the national and regional economy. They argue that the second feature of South Africa’s bidding strategy has been the promotion of a particular conception of the African continent, and an overall tailoring of a bid campaigns or even hosted events around arguments of the need for Africa’s revival- and axiomatically the obligation on the international community to reward all efforts towards this end, including South Africa’s goals of furthering the so-called African Renaissance through political programmes.[21]

Several scholars, using similar arguments, argue that Mbeki’s use of the World Cup to accomplish South Africa’s foreign policy goals is analogous to Mandela’s use of the 1995 Rugby World Cup, hosted and won by South Africa, for the purposes of nation building, the reconciliation process, and the establishment of South Africa as a ‘rainbow nation.’ Van der Merwe states that, even though the Rugby World Cup of 1995 in no way created the rainbow nation, the coming together of Black and White South Africans united by a sport that is historically perceived as an Apartheid sport, as compared to soccer which is popular among the Black population, contributed symbolically to the imagery of the Rainbow Nation. He states that the mega-event “proved to be cathartic for South Africa at a time when the nation was galvanized through the ‘one team, one nation’ slogan…the slogan, which extended into the identity-building of the ‘Rainbow Nation’, was to become a cornerstone of Mandela’s presidency.” Van der Merwe continues by suggesting that the “event appeared to capture the imagination of the nation and provided a poignant focal point for the country’s multi-racial aspirations...the Rugby World Cup was one of those classic textbook cases suggestive of the liberating nature of sports events with a powerful symbolic appeal.”[22] Henceforth, this paper argues that, what the 1995 Rugby World Cup was for Mandela’s domestic agenda of reconciliation and nation-building, is what the 2010 World Cup was for Mbeki global emancipation agenda. 

Punching above their weight? Making true of the African promise
There is a contested evaluation of South Africa’s impact in Africa. Some scholars have even suggested that South Africa might be punching above its middle status as its domestic challenges of poverty, HIV/AIDS, crime, and others indicate that South Africa might not be in a good position to proclaim to be the leader of Africa’s development, despite its hegemonic status in Africa.[23] Others have also suggested that South Africa’s proclamation of leading the continent is a self-interested strategy which ensures that South Africa has a monopoly of the economic opportunities in the continent[24] Habib asserts that there has been “much concern expressed about the consequences of the unregulated march of South African corporate on the continent.” Desai and Vahed have also been critical of Mbeki indicating that it has not been helpful to Africa, but instead has only helped the country in consistently “showcasing of South Africa as Africa’s powerhouse [and] is serving to reinforce the country’s exceptionalism and national chauvinism.” They argue that South Africa has failed to deliver on its domestic economic and developmental promises to South Africans.[25] Additionally, the use of the African Renaissance rhetoric, appealing to South Africa’s championing of Africa’s interests, is in reality flawed as South Africa’s policies towards the continent reveal a neo-colonial agenda which sees the country exploiting its economic superiority to force other African nations into obedience.
Sahra Ryklief, in Desai and Vahed, states that “Mbeki’s African Renaissance is the best thing that has ever happened to South Africa’s (still overwhelmingly white) capital in a long time.”[26] The author further argues that the South African government’s delayed and lukewarm reaction to the xenophobic attacks that rocked the country in May 2008 when South Africans attacked African foreign nationals resulting in 62 deaths, hundreds injured, and thousands African foreign nationals displaced is yet another example of South Africa’s contradictory foreign policy stance. It is worth noting that the xenophobic attacks of 2008 occurred under Mbeki’s term of office.

As Cornelissen and Swart also state “as effective as political and other rhetoric may be in certain instances, however, it could also rebound dangerously and jeopardize the campaigns driven by developing countries.” Thabo Mbeki’s involvement in the South African bid, and to a larger extent his personal imprint in South Africa’s foreign policy, garnered him a lot of international respect (despite criticism of Mbeki policy towards Zimbabwe) and undoubtedly South Africa’s ability to win the bid is seen as progressive, and a practical contribution and support to the “African cause” championed by Mbeki.[27] However, this paper also argues that Mbeki’s expansive foreign policy objectives contributed to his domestic unpopularity as the public began seeing him as more interested in continental affairs than domestic affairs. Even the 2008 xenophobic attacks that embarrassed Mbeki as the champion of African solidarity can be examined as resulting from slow government delivery in these promises on alleviating poverty, crime, and other issues that erupted in aggressive responses from ordinary South Africans. This is in part demonstrated by the increasing militancy of labour protests and the growth of shack dweller movements (slum movements) in the country. Other policy issues outside of poverty, crime, and housing have included the government’s policy on HIV/AIDS. Many accused the Mbeki administration of not taking HIV/AIDS as an urgent threat, while South Africa has one of the world’s largest HIV/AIDS affected populations.[28]

Overall, Mbeki’s time in power represented the constant tension that tends to be heavier for developing nations’ agendas. Mbeki faced the challenge of addressing South Africa’s international objectives while managing to deliver on the urgent needs of the poor majority of South Africans. Mbeki’s fall from power was due to tensions within his own party (the ruling ANC), in particular Mbeki’s firing of then Deputy President Jacob Zuma in 2005 leading to Mbeki’s resignation from office in 2008. Some scholars, such as Gumede, argue that Mbeki’s administration were out of touch elites who did not fully comprehend the problems faced by ordinary men and women of South Africa.[29] Indeed, Mbeki faced the challenge of combining the domestic vision of a ‘rainbow nation’ with that of a greater African kingdom. Mbeki’s fall from power was symbolic of this urgency to ‘save’ both Africa and South Africa simultaneously. His growing domestic unpopularity, combined with international criticism of his policy on Zimbabwe, ultimately made it impossible for Mbeki to win either of his missions - domestic and continental.

This tension regarding the expectations of South Africa’s role as a continental powerhouse and the need for South Africa to address the persistent domestic challenges is discernable in South Africa’s new White Paper on foreign policy under the Zuma administration.[30] Although the paper is a clear continuation of Mbeki’s policy on the African agenda, South to South cooperation, multilateralism, and the South African model of negotiated settlements, the paper frequently expresses an unclear need for South Africa to always link its foreign policy agenda to its domestic interests. As Cillier and Handy note, “despite the rhetoric about links between foreign policy and national interests the Zuma administration failed clearly to define what these national interest are and how their realization would alter conduct of external affairs.”[31] Another concern regarding the new White Paper is the ill-defined use of the term of Ubuntu diplomacy based on the premise of “putting people first,” whether South Africa’s use of this contested pan-Africanist concept is a revision of Mbeki’s African Renaissance.  It is unclear how South Africa’s adoption of this concept as directing its actions internationally will be implemented. Some are positing that the underscoring of the need for South Africa to look inward is an indication that South Africa will no longer be at the forefront of settling peace and the security issues in the continent. The recent delay by the Zuma administration in reacting to recent crisis cases such as Ivory Coast and Libya are indications that South Africa’s dominance in the continent’s affairs might well be declining.

Nevertheless, this paper concludes, in line with Cornelissen and Swart[32] but now with the ability to reflect on the legacy of the World Cup, that the country should continue using sporting mega-events to channel both its domestic and international objectives, but needs to ensure that South Africa is not “punching above their weight.” South Africa is in a better position to continue using sporting mega-events to propel its development as Africa is more peaceful today than during Mbeki’s era, and has a visible rapid growth in several African states such as neighboring Mozambique, Ethiopia, Ghana, Tanzania, and Nigeria. It appears that, although South Africa emerged post 1994 as the lonely hegemon in an unstable continent, this new millennium will see the emergence of other powers within the continent shifting from a unipolar to a multipolar continent. This multipolar phenomenon is reflective of the global phenomenon where the United States is no longer the lonely hegemon, but balances its power with others such as Germany, China, and Japan for instance. Consequently, South Africa should expect that its future bidding for mega sports events will be highly contested as other African states like Nigeria and Ethiopia will seek to use these events to signal their own arrival in the world stage. Therefore, South Africa’s ability to compete internationally under the African banner will have to contest with other African states who will themselves be claiming to underscore an emancipatory agenda for Africa.


[1] Olivier, G. (2003), Is Thabo Mbeki Africa's saviour? International Affairs, 79(4), p. 815 (815–828).

[2] Mbeki, T. (2004), Presentation to the FIFA Executive Committee on South Africa's bid for the 2010 Soccer World Cup, African National Congress, Pretoria, South Africa, retrieved March 12, 2010 from http://www.anc.org.za/ancdocs/history/mbeki/2004/tm0514.html

[3] Schoeman, M. (2000), South Africa as an emerging middle power, African Security Review 9(3): 47–58.

[4] Barber, J. (2004), Mandela’s world: The international dimension of South African’s political revolution 1990–99, Cape Town, South Africa: David Philip.

[5] Habib, A. (2008), South Africa’s foreign policy: Hegemonic aspirations, neoliberal orientations and global transformations, a paper presented at the Regional Powers Network conference at the German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Hamburg, Germany, Sept. 15–16 2008, quote from p. 3

[6] Black, D. (2007), The symbolic politics of sport mega-events: 2010 in comparative perspective, Politikon 34(3), first quote from p. 263, second quote from p. 262 (261–276).

[7] Gumede, W. M. (2005), Thabo Mbeki and the battle for the soul of the ANC, Cape Town, South Africa: Zebra Press, p. 33.

[8] Olivier (2003), op. cit., p. 815.

[9] Van der Merwe, J. (2007), Political analysis of South Africa's hosting of the rugby and cricket World Cups: Lessons for the 2010 football World Cup and beyond? Politikon: South African Journal of Political Studies 34(1), p. 75 (67–81).

[10] Mandela, N. (1993), South Africa’s future foreign policy, Foreign Affairs 72(5).

[11] Department of Foreign Affairs South Africa, white paper on South African participation in international peace missions, approved by the Cabinet on Oct. 21, 1998, tabled to the Parliament on Feb. 24, 1999; Barber (2004), op. cit.; Nathan, L. (March, 2005), Consistency and inconsistencies in South African foreign policy, International Affairs 81(2): 361–372, doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2346.2005.00455.x; Bischoff, P. (2006), Towards a foreign peacekeeping commitment: South Africa approach to conflict resolution in Africa, chapter ten in W. Carlsnaes & P. Nel (Eds.), In full flight: South African foreign policy after Apartheid, Pretoria, South Africa: Institute for Global Dialogue.

[12] Nathan (2005), op. cit.; Olivier (2003), op. cit.

[13] Ibid., pp. 815–816; Vale, P., & Maseko, S. (2002), South Africa and the African renaissance, International Affairs 74(2): 271–287, doi: 10.1111/1468-2346.00016; Habib (2008), op. cit., quote from p. 4.

[14] Mbeki, T. (2002), Africa, define yourself. Cape Town, South Africa: Mafube, p. 72.

[15] Cornelissen, S. (2004), It's Africa's Turn! The narratives and legitimations surrounding the Moroccan and South African bids for the 2006 and 2010 FIFA finals, Third World Quarterly 25(7): 1293–1309; Van der Merwe (2007), op. cit., quote from p. 2

[16] Cornelissen (2004), op. cit.

[17] Gordhan (2010), author add publication data

[18] Cornelissen (2004), op. cit., first quote from p. 1294, second from 113.

[19] Van der Merwe , J. (2010), The road to Africa: South Africa’s hosting of the “African” World Cup, in Perspectives: Political analysis and commentary from Southern Africa, Cape Town, South Africa: Heinrich Böll Stiftung, quotes from p. 6.

[20] Cornelissen (2004), op. cit., quote from p. 1303.

[21] Cornelissen, S., & Swart, K. (2006), The 2010 football World Cup as a political construct: The challenge of making good on an African promise, Sociological Review 3, p. 109 (108–123).

[22] Van der Merwe (2007), op. cit., quotes from p. 72.

[23] Shoeman (2000), op. cit.

[24] Miller (2008; Bond (2004),

[25] Habib (2008), op. cit., quote from p. 8; Desai, A., & Vahed, G. (2010), World Cup 2010: Africa's turn or the turn on Africa? Soccer & Society 11(1&2), p. 162 (154–167).

[26] Ibid., p. 160.

[27] Cornelissen & Swart (2006), quotes from p. 111 and then p. 116.

[28] Gumede (2005), op. cit.; Bond, P. (2005), U.S. empire and South African subimperialism, in L. Panitch & C. Leys (Eds.), The empire reloaded: Socialist register, New York: Monthly Review Press, 218–238.

[29] Gumede (2005), op. cit.

[30] White paper on South Africa’s foreign policy (2011), Building a better world: The diplomacy of Ubuntu, Department of International Relations and Cooperation, http://www.info.gov.za/view/DownloadFileAction?id=149749

[31] Cillier, J., & Handy, P. (2011), South Africa as a regional power: Multiple audiences, one foreign policy? Milan, Italy: Istituto per gli Studi di Politica Internazionale (ISPI), Quadeni di Relazion Internatiozionale, EGEA, pp. 56–68, quote on p. 63 in http://www.ispionline.it/it/documents/QRI14_cilliers_handy.pdf

[32] Cornelissen & Swart (2006), op. cit.

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