The aim of this dissertation is a comparative study of South Africa's strategic significance in two distinct periods, namely, from approximately the Second World War to 1989 and from 1990 to 1993. The research methodology followed was to firstly identify the theoretical framework to be utilised as regards the concept of strategic significance and then to highlight the relative variables to be compared. Particular emphasis is placed on the development of a new era following the end of the Cold War, which resulted in changes in the external environment and to the concept of strategic significance. In this study, this concept is based on three criteria, namely, a state's national capability; ego perceptions of strategic significance, based in part on the national capability noted above; and alter perceptions or perceptions of the external environment regarding a particular state's strategic significance. The study presents evidence of South Africa's relatively strong national capability in both periods under discussion, especially when compared to the rest of the African continent. The RSA's strategic significance was particularly strong during the pre-1990 period, primarily as a result of the Cold War conflict and the resultant superpower battle for the extension of influence. South Africa, with a wealth of vital strategic minerals, anti¬communist sentiment, relatively strong economy, and having possession of the Cape Sea Route, was thus awarded a certain degree of international importance. This was indicated by continuing international contacts and trade relations during a period when the RSA' s domestic apartheid policies were under constant international criticism. The end of the Cold War, however, resulted in a diminishing of strategic significance as regards the above¬mentioned aspects; while the value of South Africa's role on the African continent in general and in the Southern African region in particular, began to take precedence over previous concerns of communist expansionism in the Third World. This role was especially relevant in light of continuing marginalisation of Third World countries. As a result, both the developed North and the underdeveloped South began to perceive South Africa as a potential "saviour" and "engine of development" for the African continent. South Africa's role as an international economic partner and supplier of strategic minerals, however, continued. A comparative analysis is presented at the end of the study to assess similarities and differences in South Africa's strategic significance during the two periods, and it is concluded that the RSA was indeed considered to hold a certain degree of strategic importance throughout both periods under discussion, although the emphasis of such value was altered in response to changes in both the internal and external environments.
Dissertation (MA (International Politics))--University of Pretoria, 2007.