Foreign policy and the South African connection

060How does international politics influence South Africans at the poll, asks FAHMIDA MILLER

The 2014 national election is not about foreign policy.

Well, that’s according to the Democratic Alliance who made the statement earlier this month when defending its stance on a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.

I would agree that South Africans probably have more concern about jobs, clean water, electricity, houses, toilets and daily survival. Not foreign policy.

Unless, of course, our soldiers are being gunned down in Central African Republic. Or (African) foreigners stream in to the country to “take our jobs and women”.

Foreign policy, it would seem, should affect voters’ impressions. International relations are about decisions and a position, policies which indicate who or what the party you are voting for represents.

But is this the case for all South Africans? A township resident using the bucket system or a village mother watching her child walk to school barefoot may not be terribly concerned by whether there is a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, and where the governing party stands on this.

But while foreign policy in all its protocol, fanciness and external implications may not sound like a term that matters to most voters, it is one that has more to do with our daily lives than many concede. And is more apparent in voters consciousness than many realise.

The African National Congress in a policy document urges that “foreign policy belongs to South Africa’s people,” and that “the essence of South Africa’s foreign policy is to promote and protect the interests and values of its citizens”. This is, in turn, attached to all aspects of the country’s well being, from economic interests and human rights to social cohesion and the environment. It would do many a voter well to understand the implications of how their country interacts and deals with the international community and what it means for them.

There are international issues that many South Africans are well versed on, passionate about and ready to defend, and like any voter in any country they want the party they vote for to reflect those same values.

However, ultimately, good policies do begin at home.

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