Foreign Relations of
South African forces fought on the Allied side in both World War I and World War II, and it participated in the postwar United Nations force in the Korean War. South Africa was a founding member of the League of Nations and in 1927 established a Department of External Affairs with diplomatic missions in the main Western European countries and in the United States. At the founding of the League of Nations, South Africa was given the mandate to govern German South-West Africa, now Namibia; South-West Africa had been a German colony from 1884 to World War I. In 1990, Namibia attained independence, with the exception of the enclave of Walvis Bay, which was reintegrated into Namibia in March 1994. After South Africa held its first multiracial election in April 1994, most sanctions imposed by the international community in opposition to the system of apartheid were lifted. On June 1, 1994, South Africa rejoined the Commonwealth of Nations, and on June 23, 1994, its credentials to the UN General Assembly were accepted. South Africa also joined the Organization of African Unity (OAU), now known as the African Union; the change from the OAU to the Union was initiated by South African President Thabo Mbeki in 2002.
Having emerged from the international isolation of the apartheid era, South Africa has become a leading international actor. Its principal foreign policy objective is to develop good relations with all countries, especially its neighbors in the Southern African Development Community and the other members of the African Union. South Africa has played a key role in seeking an end to various conflicts and political crises on the African continent, including in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Comoros, and Zimbabwe. In August 1998, South Africa assumed the chair of the Non-Aligned Movement, which it relinquished in July 2002.
Swaziland has asked South Africa to open negotiations on reincorporating some nearby South African territories that are populated by ethnic Swazis or that were long ago part of the Swazi kingdom.
South Africa's status as a transshipment center for heroin and cocaine has been controversial. Domestic drug abuse has helped fuel a drug trade; cocaine consumption is on the rise, and South Africa is the world's largest market for illicit methaqualone, which is known locally as Mandrax and usually imported illegally from India through various East African countries. Illicit cultivation of marijuana is also widespread.