This article reviews a trilogy of memoirs written by diplomats who served South Africa’s apartheid government. It explores the ‘communication’ versus ‘representative’ function of diplomacy and sets this in the context of a pariah state, as apartheid South Africa once was. It suggests that all diplomats who served under apartheid were complicit in that system. The article also looks towards the role that the idea of the international setting played in the formation of a southern African state system. This is viewed again the backdrop of Britain’s fading empire. This explains how South African diplomacy was cast in the imperial mode. The porousness of southern Africa’s borders is used to explain how diplomacy was used to reproduce states.