Term Paper: Ethics in International Relations

Pages: 10 (2688 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Literature - African  ·  Buy This Paper

South Africa: The Struggle for a New Order

The world is changing around us at a rapid pace. We are moving towards a world community, and as we move in that direction, we will resolve the political, social, and economic issues that divide us and prevent us from living in peaceful co-existence. Living in peaceful co-existence within a world community is the first step towards an open world society wherein our cultural and ethnic diversities are celebrated rather than tolerated. This path towards a world community is one that will be paved through conflict resolution (CR) at an international level. Even after we bring about peaceful co-existence, we will need to manage the conflict that can be anticipated because of our diversities. In this endeavor, we must utilize the many disciplines upon which CR is premised, and utilize the historical tool of bringing lessons learned forward in conflict resolution. South Africa is a case in point where we can do this.

South Africa offers us a unique insight into the CR process. South Africa, like other African and Asian nations, and other places, including America, was colonized by Europeans. Colonization was a process whereby a more powerful European nation would establish colonies within amid an indigenous culture or cultures, and establish infrastructures, legal systems, and develop economies that were often founded on exploiting the colonized land's natural resources such as diamonds, gold, copper, and other minerals. One of the main problems with colonization was that the immigrant Europeans believed themselves to be socially superior to the indigenous peoples whose lands they occupied. The infrastructures that were created had little place or purpose for the indigenous people, except in subservient roles or to the extent that the colonizers needed them to serve as liaisons to bridge the language gaps labor or to enforce European laws. All of this was in stark contrast to the cultural identity and traditions of the indigenous peoples.

Then, during the post World War II era, the people of the world began experiencing an awakening of social conscience, and it followed that the plight of the colonized countries and people began coming into focus within the world conscience. The struggle for independence from European nations that controlled countries around the world began, and people who lead these movements, like Mehatma Gandhi, whose work actually began in South Africa some twenty years before he returned to his homeland of India, became symbols of the movement to decolonize third world nations and return political control to the indigenous people.

Decolonizing nations was no small task, and would mean bringing together the descendants of European immigrants and the indigenous people, both of whom had distinctly different cultural traditions and heritages, but now shared a common infrastructure. The features of the situation and the relationship between the parties (Pruitt and Kim 2004) were complicated by the new social hierarchy created within the indigenous groups, and the highest social order of European descendants who were now second, third, and even fourth generation descendants and who saw the colonized country as their own homeland. Also, the various segments of the indigenous society had been treated as a single identity, but during decolonization distinguished themselves in and throughout the process of decolonization along the lines of their distinct and multiple cultural identities within the society as a whole.

These complex political, social, and economic conditions and elements are found in the case of South Africa. Using Marina Ottaway's (1993) book, South Africa: the Struggle for a New Order, we have an opportunity to use South Africa as a case study as we go forward with conflict resolution. South Africa is now more than twenty years into its process of conflict resolution, and we can take Ottaway's assessments of the events and processes, and look at them with the value-added hindsight of history vs. time in place, now.

The Case of South Africa

In February 1990, South Africa embarked upon a historical path, a path the countries white Afrikaner leaders had been steered to by world opinion. Under pressure by world leaders, who were in turn under pressure by their constituents, South Africa took the first steps towards the inclusion of its black majority in the country's political, social, and economic processes from which blacks had long been excluded from. The first steps, though largely symbolic in nature, were nonetheless a reflection of the white minority rule's willingness to finally create a role for the country's black majority, which would inevitably lead to the black majority's control over the country, but with protections for the white minority Afrikaners. Each group, having long standing fears and concerns about the changes that beginning to take place, needed to find a balance that would best serve the country as a whole.

Symbolic of the change in direction, was the release from prison of the black political leader, Nelson Mandela (Ottaway 1993). Nelson Mandela had been imprisoned for twenty-seven years, and his African National Congress party (ANC) had been banned. South Africa banned any black freedom or opposition group, but Mandela became an international symbol of the country's disenfranchised indigenous people and the struggle against apartheid.

In the same way that Mandela symbolized the struggle for South African independence, so, too, did State President Frederik W. de Klerk come to represent apartheid, and the white minority government as the architects of apartheid. The white minority government were villains in the eyes of the free world, yet their worst fears were about to manifest in reality.

Immediately upon his release from prison, Mandela, no doubt feeling empowered by the support of the world, began to make statements that demonstrated he lacked the experience and political skills to be a facilitator of peace between the white minority and black majority. Mandela commented that the "it might be necessary to nationalize major economic assets for the good of the entire society (132)." Understandably, this sent up a red flag throughout the South African business community, Communism was crumbling in the Soviet Union. It was a failed system, and Russia and the Eastern bloc countries, as well as East Germany were the proof that while capitalism might not be perfect, a free market system had proven sustainable, while Communism had not. Mandela's comment was off-handed, lacked the forethought of research, and a lack of awareness of what was happening in the world around him.

South Africa's white minority government leaders, more sophisticated and experienced than Mandela, and who probably understood that the inevitable outcome of what was unfolding was that there would in the near future be a black majority government leadership. De Klerk met with Mandela at the first session of the first phase of change for South Africa. Coming together at the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA), de Klerk and Mandela appeared together in a photo-op, but Mandela once again demonstrated is lack of political finesse when he used the occasion as a platform to launch a scathing redress of de Klerk, alleging de Klerk had behaved despicably (1). Mandela's remarks cast a dark cloud over an event which would have otherwise stood symbolic of the coming together of the minority and majority leaderships.

The white minority, because they held the reigns of power in the country, and Mandela with the ANC, were perhaps the major players in the transitioning change, but certainly not the only players. There were other organizations that already existed, including the Zulus (164), which was a large segment of the black population. Yet the CODESA, and indeed, the ensuing negotiations, would be dominated by de Klerk, Mandela, and their respective supporters. The unspoken agenda of the white minority was in some ways obvious, and in lieu of Mandela's comments, even more so as they concerned the goals of the ANC. These dynamics created the ideal situation to employ conflict resolution theory and techniques.

Resolving Conflict in South Africa's Transition from Apartheid

If we used Mitchell's conflict pyramid (Pruitt and Kim, 28-29) for the problems with which to focus CR on in South Africa, then we would have to use as the top point from which all other problems emanate as goal incompatibility, because the goals of the white Afrikaners, the Zulu population, which is a distinctly different cultural tradition than the black population represented by the African National Congress (ANC), and the ANC were distinctly different. So the top of the pyramid will be goal incompatibility, the second point would be the primary power bases, the white National Party, and Mandela's ANC, and the third point would be all others whose power bases were less strong than the first two, but whose goals must nonetheless be considered in order to arrive at peace.

We can also look at the pyramid from the instrumental approach, because it quickly becomes clear that the main underlying issue, which serves as the commonality between all the parties, and which would merge their goals, are resource oriented. That is, the allocation of economic wealth and opportunity to acquire wealth… [END OF PREVIEW]

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