What is the relationship between Namibia and South Africa?

In 1994, apartheid ended in South Africa and Nelson Mandela was elected President of the country. Since then, relations between Namibia and South Africa have remained close. There have been numerous visits between leaders of both nations and several agreements have been signedSouth Africa occupied Namibia for 75 years. After that occupation ended in 1990, numerous ties between the two countries continued to exist and their economies are still intertwined more than 25 years later. In both countries the liberation movements that fought apartheid and then came to power are still in power. This might suggest that the relationship between the two countries would be a particularly close one. When the leaders of the two countries meet, as they regularly do, they speak of fraternal relations and point to ways in which the two countries are working together to enhance co-operation and regional integration. However, the relationship is a very unequal one, and the small state of Namibia retains suspicions of the regional hegemon, suspicions that have a long history. Areas of tension between the two states therefore remain. This paper considers aspects of their bilateral relations, within the multilateral contexts of the Southern African Customs Union and the Southern African Development Community.The Nujoma government in Namibia
has now been in power for four years.
During this period, the new government in Windhoek has sought not
only to consolidate its sovereignty but
to expand its network of external relations. In determining foreign policy,
Namibia has been, above all, preoccupied with creating conditions suitable
for promoting economic growth andensuring political stability. In addition,
the country has worked to promote a
stable security environment with its
neighbours. For this reason Namibia’s
relations with South Africa remain of
paramount importance.
After the general election of midNovember 1989 confirming the South
West African People’s Organization
(Swapo) as the victorious party, both
President de Klerk and Minister of
Foreign Affairs Pik Botha accepted
the election results – certified by the
United Nations Special Representative
Martti Ahtisaari.l South Africa’s new
and benign approach was illustrated
by Botha’s statement that South Africa
had entered upon a new period in
which the focus would be more on
economic cooperation than on ideological differences. 2
By extending this hand of friendship to Namibia, the South African
government was laying the foundations for a modus vivendi. In a reciprocal gesture, the Nujoma government adopted a less hostile stance,
indicating a desire to see a peaceful
and meaningful transition towards
democracy in South Africa. In this
somewhat grandiose diplomatic interaction, de Klerk and his “new men”
were portrayed as pragmatic, sensi72
ble, well-intentioned and honourable.
These exchanges led the way towards
a strengthening of diplomatic and
economic relations.
The improvement in relations can
be traced back to the period before
the elections. During the late 1980s,
contact between (Swapo) and the
South African government followed in
the wake of the series of multilateral
talks held to pave the way for the
eventual implementation of UN
Resolution 435 and Namibia’s independence. (Under the tutelage of the
Western contact group – the United
States, Canada, Britain, France and
West Germany – and the support of
the former Soviet Union, a working
relationship was cultivated.) The
superpowers – the United States and
the Soviet Union – were both at this
time making consistent efforts to
resolve regional conflicts in Southern
Africa and elsewhere, and this background and policy environment served
as a catalyst for conflict resolution.
Separate bilateral talks were also
held by the two parties. In May 1989,
a Swapo delegation led by central
committee member Daniel Tjongarero
met with Democratic Turnhalle Alliance
leader Dirk Mudge and South African
administrators in Pretoria. 3 At this
meeting, both parties reiterated their
commitment to the implementation of
Resolution 435. In the few months preceding the general election, it had
become clear that South Africa had
resigned itself to the inevitability of a
Swapo government in independent
Namibia, although it still regarded the
mobilization of an anti-Swapo alliance
led by the DT A as essential. (The rationale here was that the establishment of
a one-party socialist government in
Namibia would be to the detriment of
South Africa, thus the need to strengthen the future oppOSition.)
The final breakthrough came when,
on the eve of the election, Minister Pik
Botha and Swapo leader Sam Nujoma
agreed “to let bygones to be bygones”. Nujoma said Swapo policy
was “to leave the sad history behind
and to try to adopt a much more flexible policy towards our neighbours,
including South Africa … we must
start afresh.,,4
The regional environment
In Southern Africa several events in
recent years have significantly influenced the options available to the
players concerned for improving
intraregional relations. The Cuban
withdrawal from Angola and the
demise of the Soviet empire removed
what South Africa perceived as major
threats to the republic and its allies.
On the other hand, the collapse of
the Soviet Union meant that Angola
and Mozambique lost an important
ally. After a series of negotiations, a
UN-monitored general election took
place in Angola in 1992. Unita vehemently disputed the outcome of the
election (which put the MPLA government in power) and has since continued its military confrontation. South
Africa seized the opportunity to
expand its influence in the region by
attempting to mediate in Angola.
The crisis in Mozambique has persistently defied solution, to the detriment of peace, stability and development. In the past twenty months,

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