Since the turn of the 21st century, the world has witnessed a change in conflict towards a greater incidence of intra-state conflict, while efforts to end it have also improved in a number of ways, at least in relation to conceptual and policy tools for resolution and peacebuilding. This applies to the situation in Africa as well. In response, on 31 October 2000, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) adopted the Resolution 1325 that stressed the protection of women in conflict situations and called for and provided for a broad framework for empowering women to take part in the prevention and resolution of conflict including in peace building, post-conflict reconstruction and mediation. South Africa is considered one of the most progressive countries in the pursuit of empowerment of women evidenced in the large numbers of women in parliament, the passing of gender-sensitive policies that protect women from violence and prejudice, and the setting up of structures like SA Women in Dialogue to promote women involvement in peace-making. Whether the same progressive conduct can be found in relation to its implementation of the UNSCR 1325 on women, peace and security is uncertain. The literature is unclear about the implications of this failure to plan implementation as part of the discussion of the actual evidence of implementation of the resolution, if at all.
Of particular interest is that South Africa has also made a name for itself for championing peaceful resolution of conflict in line with the UN charter and the African Union’s Constitutive Act. Its mediation efforts in countries like Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lesotho and Zimbabwe have received a lot of attention from political dialogues and academic discussions alike. Yet, this literature is silence on the extent to which South Africa has included women in mediation and the reasons why this has not been a remarkable achievement in spite of South Africa’s proud record in gender empowerment generally. Given the country’s involvement in mediation efforts, this study analyses whether these efforts have complied with UNSCR 1325 requirements of equal opportunity for appointment and inclusion of women as lead mediators and Special Envoys. Employing a feminist conflict theory lens on available primary and secondary data, the study finds that, indeed South Africa has not done enough consciously to implement the terms of the resolution and has performed poorly on the involvement of women in its sizeable list of mediation efforts, thus undermining the moral standing of its interventions. A number of reasons are offered to explain this including historical, institutional and societal ones. A few recommendations are outlined at the end.