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Cold War

FEAR OF COMMUNISM
Fear of Communism haunted the white minority government of South Africa from the 1950's to the collapse of single party rule in Eastern Europe in 1989. South Africa, along with Egypt, were the first two countries on the continent to give rise to Communist parties - both in the 1920's. But the significance of this in domestic politics was only felt after the Second World War.

After 1945, Africa became caught up in the confrontation between America and the Soviet Union, the so-called Cold War. Anti-Communism informed almost every aspect of the South African government's foreign policy and much of its domestic policy.

SUPPORT FROM WEST
The South African government's stand found support in the Portuguese colonial regimes of Angola and Mozambique, which hung on until 1975, and the white government of Ian Smith in Rhodesia (modern Zimbabwe), which only yielded to majority rule in 1980.

All these regimes equated political opposition with a desire to overthrow capitalism and nationalise the private sector. In this they were discreetly supported by most of Western Europe and America. The West was willing to turn a blind eye to institutionalised racism and minority rule government, if that meant keeping commercial and mining investments safe from nationalisation.

The Zairean leader President
Joseph Mobutu was similarly supported by the West for making a public stand against Communism, while at the same time he systematically stripped his country of its wealth and resources.

SOVIET SUPPORT
For its part the Soviet Union was happy to give military support to the governments of Angola and Mozambique and to the ANC. They had tried to achieve their goals of majority rule through peaceful means and failed. Now they had to contemplate using violent means.

Aside from military aid, the Soviet Union also offered a number of educational scholarships to young people, mainly in the former English and Portuguese territories.

But the Soviet Union gave little in the way of aid or trade. There was no great Soviet strategy for taking over Africa, and generally the Soviet Union was under informed about history, political structures and the needs of the countries it supported.

Listen to the Soviet National Anthem

BELIEF IN SOCIALISM
The level of ideological commitment or interest in socialist doctrine varied among all the different governments and movements which received Soviet military aid. Their main aim was not socialist revolution, but to be free of military aggression from South Africa and see independence with majority rule throughout the continent. Had the West offered assistance, there would have been much less need to look to Moscow.

At another level the anti-capitalist, socialist outlook at the heart of communism was very attractive to people in a region where mineral and human resources had been so ruthlessly exploited for the sake of profit for the very few. But for many leaders, it made more sense to evolve an African form of socialism, drawing on African traditions than following in the footsteps of the Soviet Union.

AFRICAN GOVERNMENTS WHICH RECEIVED DIPLOMATIC OR MILITARY SUPPORT FROM THE SOVIET UNION
Angola under Agostinho Neto and Eduardo dos Santos.
Mozambique under Samora Machel.
Guinea Bissau under Amilcar Cabral.
Congo (Conakry) became a Marxist Leninist state in 1970, under Major Ngouabi.
Egypt under Nasser in 1954-69.
Somalia under Siad Barre. Allied in 1969, but soon changed sides to become violently anti-Soviet. During the Cold War period, it was the only government to do so under the same leader in Africa.
Ethiopia under Mengistu Haile Mariam, following the revolution in 1974.
Uganda briefly under Milton Obote in 1969.
Benin declared a Marxist Leninist state in 1974, under Mathieu Kerekou.