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The Historical Relations Between Tanzania and South Africa


Since the mid-20th century, Tanzania and South Africa have maintained a healthy relationship between their governments, they have often shared in economic and social tensions, but their unique relationship exists because of their commitment to the liberation struggle against apartheid in South Africa.

One of the strongest examples of the long relationship between the two countries was Tanzania’s leading role in South Africa’s liberation struggle from the apartheid government. Starting in the late 1970s, Tanzania played an enormous part in the internal struggle for freedom. It offered asylum to those who were protesting apartheid and provided a base for movement groups, such as the African National Congress (ANC) and the Pan African Congress.

This relationship was essential in furthering the progress of the liberation struggle and shaping the course of history. Without the support of both parties, the struggle for independence may have taken much longer. The work of both countries reinforced the region’s sense of solidarity, inspiring neighbouring countries to support the cause of decolonization and the removal of states with unjust laws.

The Historical Relations Between Tanzania and South Africa
The Historical Relations Between Tanzania and South Africa

The ties between Tanzania and South Africa did not end with the decolonization of the region. To this day, they remain close due to various factors, most notably, the mutual respect they have for one another. Tanzania and South Africa have also signed several agreements indicating their commitment to working together. These agreements promote stability and economic growth, which has benefited both countries significantly.

For example, the two countries have established cross-border economic linkages, which have enabled them to share resources and investments, resulting in mutually beneficial economic development. On the regional level, South Africa and Tanzania have also come together to address issues such as poverty, food insecurity and health concerns.

South Africa has also supported Tanzania in its efforts to become self-sufficient and reduce its reliance on foreign aid. This has helped Tanzania make progress towards achieving a sustainable economy, something that would not have been possible without the assistance of its neighbour.

The historical relations between Tanzania and South Africa have been strong and have resulted in mutual benefit for both countries. Tanzania was an integral part of South Africa’s liberation struggle and still plays an important role.

Liberation struggle bonds

The liberation struggle bonds forged between Tanzania and South Africa have been longstanding and integral to the fight for African liberation. As an important part of their joint struggle for freedom, countries in the region like Tanzania provided both moral and material aid to South Africa’s liberation struggle.

The provision of material aid included weapons and supplies, as well as economic support. This economic support included supply of material resources, investments and financial aid. Tanzania also offered political and diplomatic support and provided a safe haven to exiled ANC activists. This provided a unique opportunity and platform for political strategizing and organising.

Leaders like Julius Nyerere, the first president of Tanzania, had an unwavering commitment to the liberation struggle of South Africa and continually championed the cause through constructive engagement and by mobilising regional and international support. Nyerere was a staunch critic of Apartheid and oppressive regimes in the African continent and advocated for the total eradication of them for the progress of the continent.

Through the sustained efforts of Tanzania and other nations in the region, the liberation struggle of South Africa became a global struggle with immense international recognition and support. This underscores the significance of the liberation bond and solidarity that Tanzania provided to South Africa’s liberation struggle.

The liberation struggle of 1964 to 1989 was the most successful drive for political freedom and human rights in the 21st century, and a great deal of the credit needs to be given to the solidarity efforts and liberation bonds existing between Tanzania and South Africa. The solidarity and support that Tanzania gave to the people of South Africa enabled them to successfully gain independence and ultimately eradicate Apartheid.

The liberation bond developed between South Africa and Tanzania is a reminder of how courage, bravery and solidarity can triumph over oppression and racism. It serves as a source of strength and hope for current and future generations of African people. It’s also a symbol of the power of togetherness in the face of any form of adversity. This bond should be remembered and celebrated not just in Tanzania and South Africa, but throughout Africa and the world. By honouring our heroes and those who sacrificed their lives for the attainment of peace and freedom, we can ensure that their legacy continues to be the beacon that guides us in the future.

The Hitch in Relations

From the earliest days of the struggle against Apartheid, the relationship between Tanzania and the liberation movements in South Africa experienced both good times and bad. The Tanzanian government consistently provided support for the ANC, PAC, and various other liberation parties, as they joined together in the fight against racial injustice and Apartheid. However, even in the midst of this noble cause, there have been several noteworthy hitches in the relationship over the years.

One of the earliest hitches occurred in 1965, when Tanzania imposed limits on the size of offices maintained by liberation movements in its capital, Dar es Salaam. This meant that only four members of each movement could remain there, and all other members had to relocate to Morogoro, a much smaller city without the same level of international access. This limitation was likely implemented as a response to Tanzania’s growing worries about the numbers of revolutionaries and trained guerrillas residing there at the time.

Another memorable hitch came when Tanzania, Zambia, and twelve other African countries signed the Lusaka manifesto in 1969. This manifesto expressed preference for peaceful resolution of the conflict in South Africa rather than armed struggle. Additionally, there were rumours of some kind of involvement by the ANC in an attempted coup against Tanzania’s leader, Julius Nyerere.

What these particular examples have in common is that they all demonstrate the complex and sometimes contentious nature of the relationship between Tanzania and the liberation movements during the struggle against Apartheid. Despite their mutual alignment in the fight against injustice and racial inequality, there have been several bumps in the road and disagreements as to the best approach and other matters of concern. The history of their relationship serves as an invaluable reminder of both their successes and their struggles.

Lived Spaces Of Solidarity: An Intimate History

The towns of Dakawa and Morogoro in Tanzania in the late 1970s were sites of deep solidarity between South African exiles, freedom fighters, and anti-apartheid activists, pushing forward the struggle against the brutal racist policies of Apartheid taking place in neighbouring South Africa.

In the 1970s, South African exiles from the African National Congress (ANC) and its militant arm, uMkhonto we Sizwe, had set up headquarters in Zambia and newly independent Angola and Mozambique respectively. Tanzania was an important place of settlement for South African exiles, and its government had provided the exiles with land donations for establishing a school and a vocational centre near Morogoro. This formed the beginnings of the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College in Mazimbu and the Dakawa Development Centre.

The villages of Dakawa and Morogoro became lively spaces of solidarity where individuals shared ideas, developed strategies, provided mutual aid, and formed a protective and supportive community which enabled the South African exile population to sustain themselves, and also to contribute to the struggle against Apartheid taking place in their homeland. The homes of Dakawa and Morogoro became spaces of safety and respite for South African exiles, freedom fighters, and activists, as they were able to come together in shared space and express themselves without fear of being targeted for their beliefs.

The villages of Dakawa and Morogoro formed the basis for developing new relationships, new concepts, and new strategies for combating racism and injustice, bolstered by the solidarity and strength of their community of exiles. Many of the people and organisations that developed out of the towns went on to become foundational figures in the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa, such as the United Democratic Front and the ANC’s internal exile organisation National Consultative Forum.

For many South African exiles, the lived space of solidarity was both a source of safety but also of a shared identity. From the late 1960s to the early 1990s, Tanzania — in particular the Somafco and Dakawa camps — provided refuge to thousands of people as they worked toward the fight against Apartheid. Contributing to the liberation of South Africa was a cause that was supported by not just the African National Congress (ANC), but also their supporters from other countries and organisations.

The Somafco and Dakawa camps, which provided a space for up to 5,000 exiles at any given time, featured not just educational facilities, but also hospitals, productive farms, workshops, and factories. All of these projects were made possible by donor funding and the labour of Tanzanians. For example, many Tanzanian women became involved in the liberation struggle through intimate relationships, marriages, and children, creating strong and personalised connections between Tanzania and South Africa.

These connections were deeply felt by the exiles who lived and died in the camps, though many did not even see a liberated South Africa, as the ANC handed over the Somafco and Dakawa camps in the eve of the first democratic elections of 1994. This, however, did not diminish the personal connections between those involved and the cause they shared. In many ways, these camps became unique spaces of lived solidarity and, though that tangible place no longer exists, these affective connections still remain.

Future ties between Tanzania and South Africa

The relationship between Tanzania and South Africa has a significant history. Spanning nearly two centuries, this relationship has evolved and shaped the two countries in a multitude of ways. From a political standpoint, the two countries share a common objective in advocating for the ideals of human rights and justice as outlined in the African Union Charter. Moreover, they have both made contributions to regional economic integration by strengthening economic ties and facilitating transnational trade. As leaders of the African continent, Tanzania and South Africa are key partners in both economic and political matters.

The two countries have long shared a commonality in their respect for the welfare of their people. The people of both countries enjoy a well-documented commitment to health, education, and human rights that is shared amongst the two countries. Looking to the future, Tanzania and South Africa can continue to build upon the strong relationship that exists between them and continue to strive for developmental and social progress.

An ever-expanding trade relationship is an integral part of the burgeoning ties between Tanzania and South Africa. Over the past several years, the two countries have negotiated multiple free trade agreements that have allowed for a more balanced, competitive market within the two countries. These measures align with the larger regional economic integration project by the African Union known as the Tripartite Free Trade Area. The TFTA is an economic intergovernmental agreement between the three blocs of the African Union (COMESA, EAC, and SADC) that seek to increase the economic ties of the three countries, and ultimately lead to greater integration of African nations. Tanzania, along with South Africa, serves as a leader in this initiative, which allows for greater access to goods and services and investment opportunities between the two countries.

Tanzania and South Africa have both committed to bolstering their security ties. Through mutual agreements and assistance, both countries have committed to combating terrorism and pursuing defence measures that protect innocent civilians from the potential of conflict. Such efforts have included joint training exercises conducted between the militaries of both countries and the sharing of intelligence between the two countries in order to better fight against organised crime.

Looking to the future, Tanzania and South Africa can continue to strengthen their partnership in order to foster development throughout the region.

In conclusion, the historical relations between Tanzania and South Africa have been marked by a number of ups and downs. However, the two countries have always managed to overcome their differences and have remained close allies. As the world becomes increasingly connected, it is important for countries like Tanzania and South Africa to continue to work together in order to build a better future for all.

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