Thirteen years ago, the United Nations General Assembly declared 29 August as the International Day Against Nuclear Tests, and the South African example bears a re-examination.
Soon after FW de Klerk became president in 1989, he realised that, with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, South Africa was in a more favourable position than ever before to undertake fundamental reforms.
In the immediate post-Cold War era, large-scale nuclear disarmament was discussed as a distinct possibility. In this new era, De Klerk realised that South Africa’s nuclear arms programme had become a liability and a potential security risk. In response to the changed geopolitical reality as well as a means to restore South Africa’s international reputation, he decided to dismantle the country’s nuclear weapons and voluntarily abandon its nuclear arms programme.
In 1991, South Africa became a State Party to the international Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), and has signed and ratified the treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) in 2017 and 2019 respectively.
We remain the only country to have dismantled our own nuclear weapons programme. This is of increasing relevance in a world where the threat of nuclear conflict could be rising because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and growing world tensions.
Learn more in the Mail & Guardian article by political consultant and FW de Klerk Foundation board member Christina Teichmann.