South Africa Sources Of, Developments Term Paper

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South Africa

Sources of, Developments in, and Responses to National and Transnational Threats in Modern South Africa

The second half of the twentieth century was a period of major development and progress for the African continent and many of the individual nations located on that continent. As colonial rule came to an end with World War II or shortly thereafter and the countries and peoples of Africa gained independence and struggled with the problems and responsibilities of modern statehood, new economic and political models were developed, experimented with, implemented, and either allowed to evolve or eradicated and replaced with other experimental forms. Alternatively, power vacuums in many nations have simply led to traditional though highly harmful and despotic military regimes that essentially practice violence to retain full dictatorial power in the countries or regions that they control.

South Africa, on the other hand, has had a very different twentieth century experience than much of the rest of the continent, largely due to its rather unique history to that point. South Africa had been more visited than the vast majority of Africa's interior and even more than much of its coastal regions throughout the navigational exploits of the modern age, and thus had already been colonized by German and Dutch settlers before the rampant and widespread colonization of Africa took place in its entirety. The English arrived with this later wave of colonization, however, setting up their own government in the country, and this led to the unique political structure and history of the country in the twentieth century.

Not only was the native black population in South Africa subjugated by the first wave of white settlers -- the people that would come to be known as the Afrikaners -- but the descendants of these original settlers would themselves become subjugated by the British imperialist authorities established in the nation, leading to even worse conditions for the black natives and a complete eradication of any access to power. This changed in the 1990s, as the system of segregation and overtly racially divided and biased government known as apartheid came to an end and the country elected its first black leaders. This does not mean that the threats facing the nation or the factors contributing to its instability have been done away with, however, and in fact the country now has many problems both old and new that it must contend with. An overview of these problems and threats as well as the internal and external responses to these threats that have been attempted are discussed below.

Current Threats: An Overview

Though there are many different threats facing South Africa and many avenues for addressing them, all of the issues that the country and its government must contend with have two ultimate sources (really one source with two faces, in some perspectives): political and economic influences. All of the other problems that South Africa must contend with, and they are legion, stem directly from political and economic instabilities and power differences, or are at the very least exacerbated by these forces (Frost 2009; Coovadia et al. 2009; Baker 2010). These forces have created threats aimed at many levels and areas of South African society.

Healthcare problems and the general well-being of the populous remains a large threat to the internal security of South Africa, as continuing destitute conditions have led to frequent and violent regime changes throughout Africa and indeed throughout the world on an historical basis (Marais 2001; Chigwedere et al. 2008; Coovadia et al. 2009). There is also ongoing racial tension from the country's rather checkered track record in this area and the fact that a more equal and representative government is still barely a generation old in the country (Goldberg 2009). In addition, regional instabilities present various levels of threat to South Africa's sovereignty and stability, and though these threats have lessened considerably over the past several decades they still must be considered and contended with by the South African government (Schoeman 2007; Frost 2009; Baker 2010). Various international organizations, non-profits, and foreign powers have attempted to work with or in spite of the South African government on many of these threats, with results that can best be described as mixed.

African Institutions

Large-scale pan-continental organizations such as the African Union have made some attempts to help South Africa counter the various threats it is facing, but these organizations have not met with a great deal of success. There are several reasons that such organizations have met with such a minimal amount of success in the country. These include both the lack of real clout that these organizations have as well as the level of independence asserted and maintained by the South African government (Marais 2001; Baker 2010).

This independence does not simply come in the form of traditional political sovereignty, but has also reared its head in some unusual and highly controversial ways. One of the major concerns of the African Union is the AIDS epidemic that exists in many regions on the continent, including in South Africa, yet the South African government has issued its own controversial and medically refuted stance on the causes of AIDS and the best ways to handle it, confounding AIDS limitation efforts by the African Union and a variety of other organizations and entities (Chingwedere et al. 2008; Coovadia et al. 2009). The African Union has been successful to some degree in easing international tensions throughout he continent, however, which reduces both direct risks to South Africa that were perceived to exist as well as indirect risks arising from general regional destabilization (Frost 2009; Baker 2010; Schoeman 2007). As these organizations grow stronger, such risks may be reduced still further, but it is unclear exactly what the future holds for the African Union.

Non-Governmental Organizations

A variety of organizations not affiliated with any government body have also worked to alleviate certain internal as well as external threats to South Africa. Again, the AIDS epidemic has been the focus of many organizations such as the Red Cross and other similar organizations, but the same resistance and differing opinions of the South African government has limited efforts in these areas (Chingwedere et al. 2008; Coovadia et al. 2009). This has not been the only area in which non-governmental organizations have attempted to assist South Africa, however.

Other health-related charities exist in South Africa, and these private charities generally focus on the impoverishment that AIDS and other diseases have contributed to (to the point than an estimated four percent of South Africa's population faces disease-caused or -- related impoverishment) (Goldberg 2009). COSATU is another example of an effective non-governmental organization operating to address certain threats within South Africa's borders, though it is not a typical NGO in that it is a trade union, and not a purely charitable organization. Still, this group has been shown to have substantial clout in addressing certain economic grievances and imbalances, and while some see the trade union as contributing to certain instabilities other see it as a powerful tool to establish greater equality and access to political power as well as economic prosperity, thus ultimately decreasing stability and assuaging many of the social ills and weaknesses that threaten South Africa internally (Marais 2001).

International Organizations

Organizations like the united Nations and other governmental or quasi-governmental entities have been very involved in South Africa's development since the decades of apartheid preceding the modern era. Currently, there are a variety of ways in which such entities -- the United Nations in particular -- are working to address the various threats that are facing South Africa from a variety of sources in with many different parameters. Again, these threats exist both internally and externally and are largely influences by overtly political and economical forces, making responses difficult and complex.

Regardless of the exact nature or governance of the international organizations concerned and involved with establishing a more stable and prosperous South Africa, it seems, the AIDS epidemic ranks high on the list of specific areas of assistance provided. The economic detriments of this disease are even more far reaching than the devastating health effects, and the United Nations, the World Bank, and many other political and economic international bodies have attempted to address this illness directly and to mitigate the negative effects it has on productivity, political legitimacy, and overall stability in the country (Coovadia et al. 2009; Baker 2010). These international organizations are also working with South Africa in the same capacity as with other nations, in attempts to codify human rights laws, build generally more democratic government and equal societies, and take many other actions that will make south Africa stronger internally while also reducing external threats through increased stability (Baker 2010).

Foreign Powers

Foreign national entities such as the United States and other powerful countries represent one of the more complex areas of South African involvement in recent decades. Economic sanctions and other foreign influences played a major role in South Africa during the latter years of apartheid, and… [END OF PREVIEW]

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