The old American saying, “different strokes for different folks”, is an apt way of summing up South African foreign policy, especially when it comes to calling out injustice or violations of human rights in other parts of the world.
While the government moved with alacrity last year to remove SA’s ambassador to Israel over concerns about violations of the human rights of Palestinians, it goes all coy when it comes to similar behaviour – or actions we view as unconstitutional in our own country – when it occurs in Africa.
Deputy President David Mabuza refused to criticise the government of Uganda for its proposed antigay laws, justifying it by saying “we are called upon by our constitution to respect the sovereignty of any state and we must mind what we say about other people”.
So, not only does Uganda get a free pass, but the government keeps quiet when despots go on the rampage, as it did with Robert Mugabe and continues to do through lionising the late Zimbabwean president.
South Africa also went against the International Court of Justice when now deposed Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was wanted for crimes against humanity.
Maybe South African leaders don’t really believe African lives matter.