South Africa has not only fully resumed its role in the international community, it has in many respects become a key player. This is reflected by the fact that President Mbeki is presently the Chairman of the non-Aligned countries and is also a key player in the newly established African Union.


As by far the largest and most advanced economy in Africa, South Africa often plays the role of spokesman for the interests of the continent, particularly in the north/south debate on gobalisation.  Within this context South Africa has become one of the main authors and supporters of NEPAD – the New Partnership for Africa’s Development.


South Africa also plays a leading role in peace-making and peace-keeping initiatives in the continent – such as the current exercises in Burundi and the DRC.  It is trying to play these roles in as modest a manner as possible and is sensitive to the fears and concerns of African countries.


At the same time initiatives like NEPAD and the African Union are sometimes criticised because of the great gap that exists between ideals and reality.  Although good governance and democracy are supposed to be the cornerstones of NEPAD there is very little evidence that the proposed peer review process will be effective.  Also, the prominent role played by Col Ghaddafi in the African Union seriously calls into doubt its democratic pretentions.


Perhaps it would have been better if the African Union had followed the example of the European Union and decided to admit to membership only those states that can comply with clear basic requirements in terms of democracy, human rights and economic policy.