10 Surprising Facts You Didn’t Know About South Africa

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1. South Africa is still the only country in the world to voluntarily abandon its nuclear weapons program.

South Africa approved the first nuclear explosives research in 1971, and three years later, then Prime Minister John Forster approved further development. This resulted in the production of six atom bombs, intended to be used only as a “deterrent,” and kept largely a secret for the next 16 years. Yet in 1989, with the international backlash against apartheid, it became clear to Prime Minister De Klerk that dismantling the nuclear program was essential to restoring South African relations with the international community.

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No other country since has ever followed South Africa’s example. As de Klerk said in a piece in the Los Angeles Times, “Nuclear states continue to give lip service to the goal of nuclear disarmament, but little has been achieved in practice.” He went on to admit that “The world should realize that real security does not lie in increasing our power to destroy others; it lies in our ability to live with others on the basis of peace and justice.

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