Now for the first time, Riaan Eksteen shares his life story in his own words. His experiences and involvement in South Africa’s diplomacy stretched over 27 years. His career started in 1964 when Hendrik Verwoerd was Prime Minister. Subsequently, he served under and received ambassadorial appointments from John Vorster, PW Botha, FW de Klerk and Nelson Mandela. For 20 of those years, he dealt with the Namibian question at close range.
In all that time, it was South Africa’s main international concern and the focus of its foreign policy. He worked at the cutting edge of that policy. Riaan was South Africa’s first Ambassador to Namibia from May 1990 to January 1992.
Beyond Diplomacy covers more than five decades of extraordinary career and life transitions. Riaan describes the pivotal moments that made the difference. He catalogues his life-long experiences and how he encountered them. He reflects on many of the events that he had been fortunate to have observed at close range or in which he had been involved. In some of these, he occupied a particular vantage point. Readers will discover events that have not been aired or documented. Some are placed in a new context.
His five years as the CEO of the South African Broadcasting Corporation became an extraordinary experience.
Being a political consultant on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange at the end of the 1980s gave him the opportunity to explain to senior corporate clients the importance of international occurrences and their consequential relevance for and impact on South Africa.
His return to the diplomatic fold with a term of in Windhoek. Thereafter, his posting to the United Nations and its Specialised Agencies in Geneva was at the request of then still Mr Mandela in 1991 to focus on the socio-economic benefits South Africa could start deriving from them. The posting to Turkey with additional diplomatic accreditation to Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan presented different challenges.
After his diplomatic career, his experience in international affairs enabled him to offer authoritative guidance to several local and international companies to comprehend the political environment prevailing in Southern African states as well as the relevance, impact and opportunities for their business interests.
Riaan’s academic history is impressive. B.A. from the University of Pretoria in 1963 majoring in Roman-Dutch Law, Political Science and German; B.A. Honours from the University of South Africa in 1971; M.A. (Cum Laude) from the University of South Africa in 1974 with the thesis entitled: “The Role of the USA Senate in Foreign Affairs”; and D Litt. et Phil. from the University of Johannesburg in October 2018 on “The Role of the High Courts of the United States of America, South Africa and the European Union in Foreign Affairs” (awarded with no corrections). He authored ‘The Role of the Highest Courts of the United States of America and South Africa, and the European Court of Justice in Foreign Affairs’, which was published by Asser Press/Springer in Europe in July 2019. Also in May 2019, he became a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Johannesburg.
In the same year, he was invited to deliver two lectures in Europe and the USA at international conferences. He also contributed chapters for two books. He produces 14 articles for international journals. On more than 20 occasions he addresses audiences in Europe and the US through Zoom. As a visiting professor, he lectured to law students at the University of Uzbekistan. He serves on the Council of the Europe-based Global Institute for Research, Education and Scholarship (GIRES). In June 2022 he became a member of the South African Academy of Science and Arts.
In the foreword to Beyond Diplomacy Ton Vosloo, editor, publisher, and former chair of Naspers in South Africa opines that this autobiography fully takes in a lifetime as a professional diplomat, business executive and academic. For him, it is the legacy of Riaan Eksteen and what he views as the most informative tome on a hugely important time in South Africa’s modern history.
The following persons have already reviewed Beyond Diplomacy:
Prof. Peter Katjavivi, Speaker of the National Assembly of Namibia
Riaan Eksteen reflects on his remarkable journey that took him from a diplomatic career under the previous South African dispensation to serving the new South Africa as an ambassador to several countries, including Namibia. As South Africa’s first ambassador to Namibia, he worked with our government to lay the foundations of a new relationship between our two countries. He shows that it is possible to draw lessons from life, convert challenges into opportunities, and build friendship even with former political opponents.
Prof. Deon Geldenhuys, Emeritus professor of Politics and International Relations, University of Johannesburg
From the vantage point of an active participant in various capacities, Riaan Eksteen chronicles the events, issues and personalities that helped to shape South Africa’s foreign relations and domestic politics over five decades. He makes a vital contribution to the country’s recorded diplomatic history and also provides fascinating insights into the political machinations of both the old and new South Africa.
Dr Heinrich Matthee, Senior lecturer at the Hanze University of Applied Sciences, Groningen, the Netherlands, extraordinary professor at North-West University and a nonresident researcher at the Emirates Policy Center, Abu Dhabi
Beyond Diplomacy is testimony to Eksteen’s professional approach. The versatile Eksteen was able to establish a wide diplomatic network and also a large circle of friends and associates within Southern Africa and internationally over decades. Anyone who reads Beyond Diplomacy attentively will take a fresh look at one of South Africa’s top diplomats.