The rationale for the International Criminal Court (ICC) is beyond question. However, seeing the court as a conflict resolution mechanism is an idealist notion in a realist world. The actions of the government reflect a rigid loyalty to doctrine, but also an appreciation of the court’s limitations. By failing to acknowledge the nature of the government’s dispute with the ICC, the opposition has displayed a lack of nuance that, frankly, is to be expected from a party that has not yet had to govern on the global stage.
To understand the government’s position, we must return to the genesis of the African National Congress’s (ANC’s) mediation doctrine: the party’s own success in achieving a peaceful democratic transition. By empowering FW de Klerk in the negotiations, the ANC gave the National Party (NP) political space and created the conditions for a negotiated settlement. The result was a peaceful transition, the lives of many citizens were saved and the country’s economic and social infrastructure was preserved for the task of reconciliation. It was a significant achievement and a crowning moment for diplomacy.
Had an alternative path been taken, in which the NP was threatened with prosecution and handed “take it or leave it” terms from a Freedom Charter-derived ANC wish list, the result would have been very different. With backs against the wall, the NP would have drawn on all the tools of incumbency to protect its position.