The foreign policy of the Zuma government: Pursuing the 'national interest'?

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21 Citations (Scopus)


It was after much anticipation that members of the new Jacob Zuma foreign policy executive announced that, for the duration of their term, South Africa's foreign policy would be based on the doctrine of advancing 'the national interest', conceptualised simply as the 'most vital needs' of the country. However, almost two years since taking control of the levers of policy and political power, the South African government has yet to spell out in detail what constituted the national interest or how such interest would be pursued. In spite of this lacuna, senior members of the new foreign policy inner-elite continue to proclaim the national interest, and proceed to spell out grander foreign policy goals that they would pursue under the banner of a 'new' developmental agenda. These include consolidating the African agenda; deepening South-South cooperation; expanding South-North relations; strengthening foreign political and economic ties generally; and participating in a global system of governance. To date, this proclamation that the national interest will be the beam that will guide foreign policy has remained little more than a statement of intent and much conjecture. The challenge is to move beyond rhetoric and intentions and to define the national interest and to articulate a coherent foreign policy going forward. This will require concrete proposals on the basis of thorough-going domestic-foreign policy linkages.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-293
Number of pages21
JournalSouth African Journal of International Affairs
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010


  • Developmental agenda
  • Jacob zuma foreign policy executive
  • National interest
  • National interest-driven foreign policy
  • South African foreign policy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations


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