The Executive: Government Departments and Subsidiary Bodies

  • Deon Geldenhuys


To discuss the role of civil service institutions in the foreign policy making process separate from that of their respective political heads or ministers is to some extent an artificial division. For one thing, the contribution of a minister may be materially influenced by the quality of information provided by his officials. Then, top civil servants, through the State Security Council, have become involved in policy formulation to a degree previously unknown. Nonetheless, a principal distinction between the respective roles of politicians and officials remains that politicians are accountable to Parliament and the electorate, officials not. Related is the (theoretical) possibility that the government may be replaced by another, whereas the civil service is a relatively permanent institution and its officials are normally not subject to political dislodgement.


Prime Minister Foreign Policy Foreign Affair Ivory Coast State Security 
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Notes to the Text

  1. 1.
    Mulder, PWA, op. cit., pp.394–8.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Ibid., pp.396–407.Google Scholar
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  4. Rees, M & C Day, op. cit., pp.42, 43,165 & 167, and Erasmus Report 3, op. cit., par. 11.19–24. 4. The four divisions were Foreign, Domestic, Audio-Visual Services and Publications, and Press Liaison. After the reorganisation the Department consisted of the following eight divisions: Planning, Foreign Information, Domestic Information, Foreign Publications, Audio-Visual Services and Production, Administration, Press Liaison,Google Scholar
  5. and Training (Mulder, PWA, op. cit., pp.433 & 434).Google Scholar
  6. 5.
    See De Villiers, LES, op. cit., pp.46ff, and Republic of South Africa, Department of Information, Report for the Period 1 January 1974 to 31 December 1974, Government Printer, Pretoria, p.10. De Villiers has also written another book, South Africa: A Skunk Among Nations, Universal Tandem, London, 1975, 186pp. Only his book on Information is cited in the present work.Google Scholar
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    It was only in November 1974 that Houphouet-Boigny agreed to confirm publicly his meeting with Vorster by releasing pictures taken on the occasion and issuing an official statement. Senghor, however, insisted that his participation remain secret. He therefore had to be cut out from the pictures released to the press. The excision almost worked, but for one widely publicised picture in which Senghor’s amputated arm appeared. In African diplomatic circles the riddle of the day was whose arm it was (De Villiers, LES, op. cit., p.79, and Mulder interview).Google Scholar
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    HA Deb., 7/12/1978, col. 24. In December 1978 PW Botha revealed that the interdepartmental committee of investigation had reported on 125 secret Information projects. On the basis of these findings, the State Security Council decided to terminate 57 projects for various reasons, “such as having become redundant or totally unacceptable”; 68 would be continued, 56 of which as secret projects (ibid., 7/12/1978, col. 19). Among the projects that would be openly financed were South African institutions engaged in foreign affairs research, namely the Institute for Strategic Studies at the University of Pretoria, the Centre for International Politics at the University of Potchefstroom, and the Southern African Freedom Foundation (subsequently renamed the Southern Africa Forum) in Johannesburg (Rees, M & C Day, op. cit., p.209).Google Scholar
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    Coetzee, formerly Minister of Community Development and of Public Works in Vorster’s Cabinet, gave a colourful account of his duties as ambassador to Rome: “After six months I can say that I slowly had to discover what exactly the work of an ambassador is, and I still don’t know what the work of an ambassador is. All I know is that he has very, very little to do. He has great difficulty in keeping himself occupied. You have correspondence and you make at the most one or two visits a day. For the rest of the day you read newspapers and try to keep yourself informed.” (Quoted by Olivier, GC, op. cit., p. 198.)Google Scholar
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© D. J. Geldenhuys and the South African Institute of International Affairs 1984

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  • Deon Geldenhuys

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