The struggle against apartheid propelled South Africa to an unusual international prominence. The country’s first democratic elections, in 1994, were watched with fascination and hope around the world. After the decades of political turbulence that have followed – and following the death of global icon Nelson Mandela in 2013 – the country no long embodies international expectations of a better future for the world’s developing countries. South Africa has matured as an actor in global politics, but it has also become a more cynical player that has largely abandoned the principled advocacy of human rights and democracy. The government continues to be at the heart of the fractious project to remake Africa’s political life, and to transform the continent’s economic prospects, but there is no longer any expectation that South Africa will be the leader of the continent in such endeavours. On a wider canvas, Pretoria participates in the struggles of the countries of the South for more representative global institutions and for a more equitable international trading order.
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