South Africa and Chile only began their established official diplomatic relationship in 1991, although there was an unofficial relationship since 1976 with a consul general. This was when an ambassador to Chile was appointed even if a South African embassy opened in Santiago, Chile, in 1974. One of the strongest ties between the two countries is the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which used the Chilean Rettig Commission as part of its foundation.
The Chilean Rettig Commission was establish to investigate the suspected corruption and abuses of the previous Chilean President Pinochet. The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission was created after the Apartheid period in an effort to find out and record the abuses committed during that period, and find ways how to reconcile and rehabilitate strained relationships.
There is currently a bilateral agreement under a Memorandum of Understanding between South Africa and Chile about meeting on possible trade and points of common interest. While both countries have been through terrible ordeals in the past, Chile was able to get back on its feet quicker than South Africa. The main reason for this is the aggressive stance of Chile with Free Trade Agreements especially with the U.S. and European Union countries, even if South Africa was given preferential treatment under agricultural trade agreements with the U.S. and European countries. Furthermore, the post-Apartheid period was difficult for South Africa in the sense of not being able to establish a foreign policy immediately.
When South Africa eventually formed its foreign policy, the principles established were designed to protect human rights, find solutions through democracy, and work towards supporting the interests of the continent of Africa.
In Africa, South Africa is recognized as the richest country. It enjoys a GDP of over US$106 billion and ranks 31st in the world economies. South Africa exports agricultural products to the international market and this is equivalent to 9% of the country’s total exports. Since 1990 to 2008, there has been a steady increase in horticultural, livestock, and field production. South Africa’s information technology sector is also on the rise owing to its increasingly good telecommunications infrastructure: this fact is witnessed by the growth of online businesses and online shopping sites.
Some of the fruits of the diplomatic relations between Chile and South Africa include the following:
- The abolition of official, ordinary, work, tourist, and diplomatic visas
- Mutual agreement on nuclear energy and its use
- Military links were strengthened
- Agreement on illegal drug trafficking
- Cooperation in agricultural and livestock technology
- An Extradition Treaty
If one were to compare banks and the investment sector, South Africa can currently be seen to be investing heavily in the Chilean economy. Indeed, South Africa has recently become Chile’s 3rd biggest foreign investor. This was in response to the support Chile gave during the transition period after Apartheid. In fact, the Chile military was reported to be very active in helping the South African government intercept and translate military communications between Cuba and Angola during the 1980s.
Over the period since 2000 up to the present, there have been many occasions where government officials from both countries have visited the other and affirmed their support. In 2006 to 2007 alone, over 20 technical missions took place. Engineers from South Africa travelled to Chile to study poverty alleviation, social development, and family protection.
Over and above the diplomatic ties developed between the two countries, citizens from both would do well to buy a camera, tour guide and aeroplane ticket, and visit the other: both are steeped in interesting cultures, and both have a natural beauty to explore