The quiet diplomacy of liberation by Christopher Landsberg
A new book on South Africa's political transition reveals that far from it being a home-grown strategy, foreign diplomats and organisations were intensely involved in making South Africa's "miracle" a reality. It takes the reader behind the scenes to witness how heads of state, politicians, diplomats and others worked tirelessly to help bring about our peaceful settlement. His focus on the process of changing South Africa's government from one of white-minority rule to a democracy, casts a new light on the diplomatic styles of former President Nelson Mandela and President Thabo Mbeki. Landsberg's insights, provide important links between particularly President Mbeki's brand of foreign policy and the diplomacy that made possible the new South Africa. "Having been on the receiving end of diplomatic efforts to help end apartheid, the post-apartheid government became a proponent and exporter of diplomatic efforts to help resolve conflict situations, especially in Africa," he writes. Most importantly, this book shows that the manner in which the Mbeki government has chosen to deal with the crisis in Zimbabwe, is not altogether different from the process of persuation which foreign actors used to convince the apartheid government to agree to relinquish power. "While Pretoria would not utter its concerns in public, certainly not while it engaged Mugabe, in private it did harbour very serious concerns about the nature and causes of the problem. For example, Pretoria was privately of the view that the violence and intimidation, and the handling of the land reform, appeared to be the main reasons for the loss of revenue, foreign direct investment and donor support," Landsberg writes. While not confining himself to the issue of Zimbabwe, Landsberg work does offer valuable clues as to "quiet diplomatic' persuasion towards our neighbour which seems, at last, to be showing results. In addition to looking at the post-apartheid governments' foreign policies The Quiet Diplomacy of Liberation considers the extend to which compromises made during South Africa's own transition focused more on appeasing whites at the expense of ensuring that black South Africans have the opportunity to express and fulfil their own aspirations.