by Institute for Global Dialogue
by Institute for Global Dialogue
South Africa established non-resident diplomatic relations with Jamaica and other CARICOM states on 9 September 1994, from its embassy in Caracas Venezuela. As of October 2000 however, South Africa set up its High Commission in Kingston Jamaica, and appointed the High Commissioner at the time, TH Chiliza. Presently, South Africa and Jamaica enjoy strong formal bilateral relations, demonstrated by the high-level visits and various agreements signed across a number of sectors since 1994. Since 1994, the key areas of cooperation between the States includes: education and skills development; science and technology; arts and culture; and tourism. However, as trade remains minimal and considerably imbalanced in South Africa’s favour, the cooperation is increasingly becoming more considerate of trade relations. Furthermore, the Jamaica South Africa Friendship Association (JASAFA) was established in 2004 to strengthen people-to-people, educational, business and cultural relationships between Jamaica and South Africa.
The state visit by South African President Zuma in 2012, and the Working Visit by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane in late September 2015  to Jamaica has been articulated as the implementation of one of South Africa’s key foreign policy objectives; the consolidation of the African Agenda and strengthening Pan-African solidarity . This working visit by the Minister is on the heels of President Zuma’s state visit, where many agreements were concluded. These agreements were related to issues of trade equality, sports cooperation  and science and technology cooperation . Tourism, a crucial component of both Jamaican and South African economies was also discussed in the bilateral meetings between the States, resulting in the joint decision to waive visa requirements for all South African and Jamaican passport holders enabling their citizens to stay in the host state for up to 90 days without visas. It is clear that this provision has been aimed at increased people-to-people relations between South Africans and Jamaicans, especially those who are engaging in music, education and sport. This does however question the African Agenda in itself, as Jamaica is a Caribbean State, and the visa and migration flexibility afforded to African people or States by the South African government have been under the microscope as to the lack of a Pan-African character.
Further strengthening this relationship was the September 2015 working visit by the minister which commenced with an address to the International Women’s Forum (IWF) on September 20 2015 in Kingston, Jamaica. This was followed by bilateral consultations with her counterpart , the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Arnold J. Nicholson; where the ministers signed off on a Memorandum of Understanding on the establishment of political consultations, which would provide a framework for bilateral cooperation between these States for the envisioned future.
When considering the well-developed framework and frequent interaction between these States and societies, it could be considered as a significant milestone in the implementation of the objectives of the African Agenda, in pursuit of Pan-African Solidarity and resolving the challenges of Africa and the Global African Diaspora. In fact, this relationship has been interpreted to be in pursuit of the African Agenda and Pan-African Solidarity by the South African government.
Most Jamaicans form part of the African Diaspora: thus the application of the South African foreign policy objective of the African Agenda and Pan-African Solidarity, in pursuit of better relations with Jamaica and the region, does follow the logic. However, this does create some epistemic intrigue as to how Pan-Africanism is understood and applied in its foreign policy decision-making and planning circles, as well as within its domestic policy-making circles. This intermestic nature of relations between South Africa and the various global actors instigates a call for a more critical analysis of how South African foreign policy and Pan-Africanism is applied with regards to Jamaica, the Caribbean and Africa. Additionally, the identity rapprochement in South African foreign policy studies, societies, psyche and decision-making also has a further impact on this conceptualisation of and application of Pan-Africanism and the African identity.
This demonstrates the on-going dialogue and contestation of the African identity as being time and geographically bound to the continent, i.e. people who have been inhabitants of this continent from a certain time period. This debate is also subject to the inclusion and exclusion of ethnicities such as Berber, Tuareg and Arabic ethnic groups. This comes about as a result of geographical and social history, self-acceptance of the African identity and external-recognition of their identity as Africans. It also further stimulates the dialogue about their concerns of marginalisation within the African Agenda and in comparison with the African Diaspora. In other words, it is a dialogue that remains time and geographically bound, with the inclusion of differing perspectives of what or who people of African descent are phenotypically, genetically and culturally. This dialogue does present other challenges as well, as it is argued that the socio-historic and lived experiences of people in the sub-region of sub-Saharan Africa are more painful and burdensome to carry and repair than that of the people from upper-Saharan Africa. A third and perhaps neglected challenge is the fact that there are people across the world who are of African descent or phenotypically defined as black in places such as Australia, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, the USA, Russia, France and other regions across the world. They can also claim legitimate attention from the African Agenda and Pan-African Solidarity objectives through a focus on the resolution of challenges and the shared socio-historic experiences of Africans and the African Diaspora. This call for legitimate attention is further strengthened by the amendments to the Constitutive Act of the African Union Article 3  and the Declaration of the Global African Diaspora Summit of May 2012 , which recognises the diaspora as the sixth region of Africa and as an important area of interaction for AU member states.
Despite the fluidity and challenges present within the African Agenda and South Africa’s interactions with the African Diaspora, the significance of the South Africa-Jamaica relationship is much more than a bilateral partnership. It is a relationship driven by considerations of domestic economic conditions of the states; the global visibility and diplomatic capital of these States in multilateral forums and groupings such as the G-77, the UNGA and the ACP. Furthermore, it is a relationship that has sought equality both between states and people across the world with a particular focus on resolving the challenges of Africa, the African Diaspora and the Global South, whilst keenly pursuing increased and entrenched social and cultural relations.
*This commentary piece was first published on Pambazuka News on 19 October 2015 http://www.pambazuka.net/en/category.php/comment/95820
Wayne J. Jumat is a research assistant at the Institute for Global Dialogue associated with the University of South Africa. His research interests include foreign policy analysis, international relations and diplomacy with a focus on African, more specifically Southern Africa, and Latin American relations. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the IGD, Unisa.
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