Inter-parliamentary relations with South Africa were frozen during the apartheid years. The European Parliament (EP) had, nevertheless, supported the anti-apartheid struggle and backed the financing of the humanitarian aid via NGO's in South Africa. This demonstration of solidarity became most evident when in 1988 the EP honoured Nelson Mandela, while still in prison, with the first Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.
With the dawn of a new democratic order in 1994, the EP created a Delegation for Relations with South Africa. Since then, the longstanding relations between the two Parliaments have further strengthened and deepened. Two Inter-parliamentary meetings with the "Rainbow nation" are organised a year, alternately in Europe and South Africa. In May 2007 the European Union (EU) and South Africa entered into a Strategic Partnership. The EP Delegation provides the upgraded EU-South Africa relations and political dialogue with a dedicated and substantive parliamentary dimension.