During this period, South African foreign policy became truly globalised as Mbeki reached out to other emerging powers in pursuit of South Africa’s national and international ambitions. The shift from IBSA to BRICS represents an important turning point in South Africa’s understanding of its role as a leader in Africa and an emerging power on the global stage.
The African National Congress (ANC), as the governing party, faced increasing criticism and pressure from its traditional tripartite alliance partners, the trade union movement, and dissident elements to address the deteriorating racially based class division in South Africa. Between 1994 and 2014, unemployment (narrowly defined) increased from 20 to 26 per cent. During the same period, the Gini co-efficient deteriorated and the percentage of black Africans living in poverty increased by 10 per cent. Importantly, the wage share of GDP decreased from 56 per cent in 1994 to 50.6 per cent during the first decade post-apartheid, reinforcing perceptions on the home front that the transformation had failed. Unexpectedly, political freedom did not bring economic freedom and prosperity. Further, the neo-liberalist growth-path favoured by Mbeki in his Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) policy, and subsequently his successor President Jacob Zuma’s New Growth Path policy of 2010, which aimed to create and promote a black capitalist class, failed to address the needs of the masses of black Africans who remained poor and unemployed. Increasingly, South Africa had to turn to the external environment to seek resources – tangible and intangible – in the service of domestic power struggles.