South Africa

Nuclear-weapon-free state

Has joined the TPNW

Signed: 20 September 2017

Ratified: 25 February 2019

 

Summary

South Africa has signed and ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. It was among the original 50 states parties to the treaty when it entered into force on 22 January 2021.

 

Signature and ratification

Jacob Zuma, the then-president of South Africa, signed the treaty when it opened for signature on 20 September 2017.

In an address to the United Nations that same day, he said: “We are making a clarion call to all member states of the UN to sign and ratify the ban treaty in order to rid the world and humanity of these lethal weapons of mass destruction.”

Jacob Zuma, the then-president of South Africa, signs the treaty in New York on 20 September 2017. Photo: ICAN

The national assembly of South Africa approved ratification of the treaty in November 2018. Jerry Matthews Matjila, the permanent representative of South Africa to the United Nations, deposited the country’s instrument of ratification with the UN secretary-general on 25 February 2019.

South Africa was the 22nd state to ratify or accede to the treaty.

Jerry Matthews Matjila, the permanent representative of South Africa to the UN, deposits the instrument of ratification on 25 February 2019. Photo: UNOLA

 

Implementation

In accordance with Article 2 of the treaty, South Africa submitted a declaration to the UN secretary-general on 18 February 2021 confirming that it possessed nuclear weapons in the past but has not manufactured, stationed, or tested nuclear weapons since “voluntarily abandoning” its nuclear-weapons program in 1989.

Per Article 12, South Africa has promoted universal adherence to the treaty, including by co-sponsoring and consistently voting in favour of an annual UN General Assembly resolution since 2018 that calls upon all states to sign, ratify, or accede to the treaty “at the earliest possible date”.

In a statement to the United Nations in September 2019, South Africa hailed the treaty as “a bold and positive step towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons” and urged all states that have not yet done so to ratify it.

In August 2018, South Africa hosted in Pretoria a regional conference to encourage African states to join the treaty. Delegations representing 20 states participated and “pledged to work with policymakers in capitals to effect the policy processes necessary to ensure signature and ratification of the [treaty]”.

Luwellyn Landers, the deputy foreign minister of South Africa, speaks at an African regional conference in Pretoria in 2018 to promote the treaty. Photo: DIRCO

 

Treaty negotiations

South Africa participated in the negotiation of the treaty at the United Nations in New York in 2017 and was among 122 states that voted in favour of its adoption.

In its opening statement to the negotiating conference, South Africa hailed the treaty-making process as “a major milestone in the history of nuclear disarmament” and argued that a “higher norm on nuclear weapons can only strengthen international security”.

It rejected as “illogical” and “morally unethical” the argument “that nuclear weapons are indispensable for the security of some states, but not for others”.

In its closing statement, South Africa said that it was its duty to vote yes to this treaty, quoting the anti-apartheid leader Desmond Tutu: “Disarmament is not an option for governments to take up or ignore. It is a moral duty owed by them to their citizens and to humanity as a whole.”

South Africa, Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, and Nigeria comprised a “core group” of states that played a leading role in bringing the negotiations about and ensuring their ultimate success.

In 2016, South Africa co-sponsored the UN General Assembly resolution that established the formal mandate for states to commence negotiations on “a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”.

The South African ambassador Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko briefs members of the press following the treaty’s adoption on 7 July 2017. Photo: ICAN

 

Before the negotiations

South Africa was among 127 states that endorsed a “humanitarian pledge” in 2015–16 to cooperate “in efforts to stigmatise, prohibit, and eliminate nuclear weapons”. The pledge was instrumental in building momentum and support for convening the negotiations.

 

Former nuclear-weapon programme

South Africa formerly possessed an arsenal of six nuclear weapons. It dismantled them prior to acceding to the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1991, recognising that its security was best achieved through disarmament.

In 1994, the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that one partially completed nuclear weapon and six completed weapons had been dismantled by South Africa.

Nuclear-weapon-free state

Has joined the TPNW

[HIGHLIGHTS]

Signed: 20 September 2017

Ratified: 25 February 2019

 

Summary

South Africa has signed and ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. It was among the original 50 states parties to the treaty when it entered into force on 22 January 2021.

 

Signature and ratification

Jacob Zuma, the then-president of South Africa, signed the treaty when it opened for signature on 20 September 2017.

In an address to the United Nations that same day, he said: “We are making a clarion call to all member states of the UN to sign and ratify the ban treaty in order to rid the world and humanity of these lethal weapons of mass destruction.”

Jacob Zuma, the then-president of South Africa, signs the treaty in New York on 20 September 2017. Photo: ICAN

The national assembly of South Africa approved ratification of the treaty in November 2018. Jerry Matthews Matjila, the permanent representative of South Africa to the United Nations, deposited the country’s instrument of ratification with the UN secretary-general on 25 February 2019.

South Africa was the 22nd state to ratify or accede to the treaty.

Jerry Matthews Matjila, the permanent representative of South Africa to the UN, deposits the instrument of ratification on 25 February 2019. Photo: UNOLA

 

Implementation

In accordance with Article 2 of the treaty, South Africa submitted a declaration to the UN secretary-general on 18 February 2021 confirming that it possessed nuclear weapons in the past but has not manufactured, stationed, or tested nuclear weapons since “voluntarily abandoning” its nuclear-weapons program in 1989.

Per Article 12, South Africa has promoted universal adherence to the treaty, including by co-sponsoring and consistently voting in favour of an annual UN General Assembly resolution since 2018 that calls upon all states to sign, ratify, or accede to the treaty “at the earliest possible date”.

In a statement to the United Nations in September 2019, South Africa hailed the treaty as “a bold and positive step towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons” and urged all states that have not yet done so to ratify it.

In August 2018, South Africa hosted in Pretoria a regional conference to encourage African states to join the treaty. Delegations representing 20 states participated and “pledged to work with policymakers in capitals to effect the policy processes necessary to ensure signature and ratification of the [treaty]”.

Luwellyn Landers, the deputy foreign minister of South Africa, speaks at an African regional conference in Pretoria in 2018 to promote the treaty. Photo: DIRCO

 

Treaty negotiations

South Africa participated in the negotiation of the treaty at the United Nations in New York in 2017 and was among 122 states that voted in favour of its adoption.

In its opening statement to the negotiating conference, South Africa hailed the treaty-making process as “a major milestone in the history of nuclear disarmament” and argued that a “higher norm on nuclear weapons can only strengthen international security”.

It rejected as “illogical” and “morally unethical” the argument “that nuclear weapons are indispensable for the security of some states, but not for others”.

In its closing statement, South Africa said that it was its duty to vote yes to this treaty, quoting the anti-apartheid leader Desmond Tutu: “Disarmament is not an option for governments to take up or ignore. It is a moral duty owed by them to their citizens and to humanity as a whole.”

South Africa, Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, and Nigeria comprised a “core group” of states that played a leading role in bringing the negotiations about and ensuring their ultimate success.

In 2016, South Africa co-sponsored the UN General Assembly resolution that established the formal mandate for states to commence negotiations on “a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”.

The South African ambassador Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko briefs members of the press following the treaty’s adoption on 7 July 2017. Photo: ICAN

 

Before the negotiations

South Africa was among 127 states that endorsed a “humanitarian pledge” in 2015–16 to cooperate “in efforts to stigmatise, prohibit, and eliminate nuclear weapons”. The pledge was instrumental in building momentum and support for convening the negotiations.

 

Former nuclear-weapon programme

South Africa formerly possessed an arsenal of six nuclear weapons. It dismantled them prior to acceding to the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1991, recognising that its security was best achieved through disarmament.

In 1994, the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that one partially completed nuclear weapon and six completed weapons had been dismantled by South Africa.

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