\Representatives attend the closing ceremony of the 32nd African Union (AU) summit of heads of state and government in Addis Ababa. File picture: Li Yan/Xinhua
More than ever before there seems to be a growing convergence between South Africa’s main political parties on key foreign policy issues. While there is no obvious foreign policy consensus between the ANC, DA and the EFF, there are more similarities than differences on key issues than perhaps at any other time in our post-apartheid history. 

This bodes well for South Africa moving forward and suggests that the Department of International Relations, particularly under the current administration, has been effective in communicating the rationale behind South Africa’s current foreign policy. 

Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has said that human rights are at the centre of South Africa’s foreign policy, and similarly, DA leader Musi Maimane has said that human rights should guide our foreign policy. It is clear in the positions of the EFF that it also prioritises a human rights-based foreign policy.

The African Union

The ANC solidly supports the AU’s Agenda 2063 which is a plan to work towards the economic development of the continent, regional integration, and free trade through the Continental Free Trade Agreement. The ANC would like to see the AU fully capacitated to intervene in conflicts on the continent in order to ensure peace and security. The ANC would like to see the African Peer Review Mechanism strengthened to improve good governance on the continent.

While the DA has called the African Union a toothless and pointless organisation, in reality, the party is supportive of much of what the AU is trying to achieve. In this sense, there does seem to be more convergence than one would expect with the ANC in terms of supporting the AU’s fundamental goals. The DA supports regional integration, the creation of a free trade area, and the development of regional infrastructure. It also would like to see the APRM strengthened. One of the biggest reasons why the DA considers the AU ineffective is the perception that it hasn’t dealt decisively with human rights abuses and poor governance in countries like Zimbabwe.

Like the ANC, the EFF supports the African Union, the process of regional integration, and would like to see greatly enhanced intra-African trade. However, the EFF would like to see the radical transformation of the AU so that it is strengthened and capacitated to effectively intervene in conflicts on the continent. The EFF would like to see a fully functioning African Court, and it would like the Pan-African Parliament to have legislative powers. The EFF has said in its manifesto that it will fight leaders who want to stay in power forever. The EFF believes that it is important to have political, social and economic solidarity among African states.

It would seem that all three parties would like to see the AU succeed in its stated goals and become more effective. 

The International Criminal Court

The ANC would like South Africa to withdraw from the ICC, which is a position held by the former Zuma administration. The ANC believes that the ICC has been manipulated by Western powers and is overly focused on human rights abuses in Africa without paying equal attention to such abuses in the rest of the world. The ANC would like to see a strengthening of the AU’s capacity to prosecute human rights abuses on the African continent and a fully functioning and effective African Court for Human and Peoples’ Rights. 

The EFF does not believe that it is in South Africa’s interest to withdraw from the ICC, and would rather like to see a full transformed ICC. It also does not accept the manipulation of the ICC by the big powers and believes that membership of the ICC should be compulsory for all states, and it should not be voluntary to sign the Rome Statute. It believes that the ICC should prosecute former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former US President George Bush for their military intervention in Iraq.

The DA believes that the ICC is a very important international institution to try human rights abuses and crimes against humanity, especially given that Africa currently does not have the capacity to do so. The DA recently wrote to the Office of the Chief Prosecutor of the ICC to refer the issue of human rights in Zimbabwe following the recent abuses by the military and police against civilian protesters and asked the Prosecutor to start a preliminary investigation.  

There is more divergence between the parties on the ICC given the ANC position that South Africa should withdraw from the body, but there is consensus for the need to try gross violations of human rights with urgency.

BRICS

The ANC is completely supportive of the partnership between Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. It believes that BRICS will increase trade and investment between the emerging economies which will directly benefit South Africa. The ANC is for greater South-South cooperation and development and believes that the BRICS New Development Bank will provide much-needed financing for development, particularly for infrastructure development. The ANC believes that the NDB provides an additional source of financing beyond the traditional international financial institutions such as the World Bank and IMF which often attach conditionalities to loans. 

The EFF is supportive of the BRICS formation as it would like South Africa to build relations with all progressive nations in Latin America, Asia and Africa. The EFF wants to work towards building a world order that is not dominated by the West, and it would like to see the end of the global imperialist dominance of the Western powers. 

The DA believes that the BRICS partnership is very useful to promote trade between the emerging economies, and is of the view that any investment into South Africa is beneficial as long as it is correctly used and that South African maintains high standards of good governance. The DA is currently uncertain about what benefits the New Development Bank provides for South Africa. While the DA supports strong relations with the BRICS countries, it also maintains that South Africa needs to strengthen ties with traditional partners such as the US and UK from where a significant amount of South Africa’s trade emanates. While the DA has acknowledged that China has overtaken the US as South Africa’s largest trading partner in volume, it believes that the US is important for South Africa’s future growth and development. 

There is, therefore, a general consensus among the three main political parties of the utility of the BRICS partnership for South Africa. 

Zimbabwe

The ANC is strongly in favour of the sanctions currently imposed on Zimbabwe being lifted in order to provide relief to the Zimbabwean economy. The ANC is also in favour of South Africa providing financial assistance to Zimbabwe to assist its development within the realms of what South Africa can afford. The ANC would like South Africa to assist wherever it may be asked to in promoting a national dialogue between Zimbabweans on the way forward. The ANC has also expressed concern about human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, particularly following the latest repression by the security forces against civilian protestors.

The EFF has a very similar position to Zimbabwe as that of the ANC, advocating for the lifting of sanctions, the need to assist Zimbabwe financially and providing conditional grants to Zimbabwean development programs. The EFF has been the most vocal against the human rights abuses committed by the Zimbabwean military and police forces against civilians and has said that the military has no place in dealing with civilian protesters. The EFF has also condemned President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s shutdown of the internet. The EFF has been pushing South Africa to intervene in Zimbabwe, and had wanted to call for a three-day shutdown in solidarity with the Zimbabwean people. Last year the EFF had warned Zanu-PF against intimidating voters or engaging in vote rigging. 

The DA has also pushed South Africa to intervene in the situation in Zimbabwe and has referred Zimbabwe’s human rights abuses to the ICC. The DA would also like to see the UN Human Rights Council investigating human rights abuses in Zimbabwe. The DA strongly condemned the human rights abuses committed by the Zimbabwe authorities against its people, and the DA leader was intent on carrying out a fact-finding mission to Zimbabwe in order to meet with President Mnangagwa, opposition leaders and civil society. To date, the Zimbabwean authorities have not responded positively to the DA leader’s request.

On Zimbabwe, all three political parties are concerned about the political, social and economic situation on the ground in Zimbabwe and how it impacts on South Africa. All are advocating measures to ensure a stronger economy so that Zimbabwe can again become an economic powerhouse which would strengthen SADC.

Venezuela

The ANC is strongly against any attempts at regime change in Venezuela through unconstitutional means as it will create a more dangerous world order and bring further chaos. The ANC believes that only Venezuelans can determine their own destiny and that there can only be a political solution to the situation that involves dialogue and negotiation. While the ANC recognises that there is a humanitarian crisis in the country, it believes that the Maduro government is a victim of a concerted regime change agenda orchestrated by certain Western governments, and backed by Western media houses.

The EFF strongly supports the government of Nicolas Maduro and believes that the campaign against him is an imperialist one championed by the Western powers. The EFF leader had taken a group of youths to Venezuela in 2010 to study Venezuela’s economic model and returned saying that Venezuela was a “successful model of nationalisation.” At the time Venezuela had expropriated businesses and investments, and imposed stringent price controls and subsidized the prices of basic commodities. With the subsequent dramatic fall in oil prices, the government was no longer able to subsidize prices, pay its debt, and it led to severe shortages in the country. 

On Venezuela, the DA claims that it is not in favour of regime change through unconstitutional means and is only in favour of military intervention when it is authorised by the UN through Chapter VII. The DA believes that the dire economic situation in the country is what happens when a populist regime takes over and implements expropriation without compensation. 

None of the three political parties is in favour of regime change in Venezuela through unconstitutional means, including military intervention that is not sanctioned by the UN.

Israel-Palestine

The ANC believes in a two-state solution along the 1967 borders and has strongly criticised Israel’s continued illegal settlement building in the Occupied Territories, its apartheid policies, and its ongoing human rights abuses and repression of the Palestinians. The ANC at its 51st National General Conference called for the downgrading of relations with Israel, with the South African embassy in Tel Aviv being downgraded from an embassy to a representative office as a sign of protest against the current situation. 

The EFF does not believe that a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine is still possible given the extent of land expropriation by Israel in the Occupied Territories. The EFF believes that Israel wants to wipe Palestinians off the map, and it wants Israel to give the Palestinians back their land and allow them to exercise the right to self-determination. The EFF is calling for the boycott of Israeli products and does not believe there should be an Israeli embassy in South Africa, nor a South African embassy in Israel.

The DA supports a two-state solution along the 1967 borders and advocates peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. The DA believes that the downgrading of the South African embassy in Israel is a mistake as it is important for South Africa to play a role in conflict resolution and mediate between the stakeholders. The DA says it will not tell  South Africans what they can and cannot buy. The DA has said that given its support for the two-state solution, it cannot agree with the continued illegal Israeli settlement building in the Occupied Territories. DA Musi Maimane has condemned the violations of Israel against the Palestinians on his twitter account.

While there is significant divergence between the political parties on the way to approach the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there is general agreement on the right of the Palestinians to self-determination and a viable independent state. 

Shannon Ebrahim is Independent Media's Group Foreign Editor