RIGHT OF REPLY

‘Clouding and polluting’ facts about Russia

By Embassy of the Russian Federation 5 June 2018

The Russian Embassy responds to the M Swilling opinion piece, Zexit, a Nuclear Deal and Russia’s Strong Arm Persuasion published by Daily Maverick on 12 February 2018.

A string of rubber-stamped grim articles has recently emerged in some South African media outlets, speculating how “bad” Russia is and that it cannot be trusted. They all seem quite unoriginal and alike, forged on the same template by some quiet information blacksmiths, aimed at clouding and polluting the minds of the broad public with allegations and assumptions, without bothering to give any facts and distorting the very few ones mentioned.

An article by Mark Swilling – a Distinguished Professor at Stellenbosch University – Zexit, a Nuclear Deal and Russia’s Strong Arm Persuasion, published on 12 February by Daily Maverick stands out as a “masterpiece” of the genre.

We could not let it pass unnoticed. We are not going to comment on any South African domestic issues – this is not in our diplomatic tradition. We shall limit ourselves to a few points revealing the author’s academic integrity and level of critical thinking.

First, the claim that “the Cape High Court ruled in April 2017 that Zuma’s deal with Putin was illegal”. This matter, often spoken about in such articles, is strongly politicised and mythologised. In reality, there was no “deal” but an intergovernmental agreement signed in 2014 (not by the presidents, mind you). Please read the text of the court’s ruling (in particular paragraphs 118 and 135). At no point did the court brand the agreement illegal, rather that the procedure of its coming into force for South Africa was not held properly.

By the way, the same verdict was passed in the court’s ruling on South Africa-US and South Africa-South Korea nuclear co-operation agreements (would the Distinguished Professor also call them “nuclear deals ruled illegal?”).

Second – a “real sinister story” is concocted by the author by mixing the recent meeting between Ministers Donskoy and Mahlobo with nuclear: “Zuma terrified”, “have the Russians threatened him?” etc. It is telling how Mr Swilling carefully puts everything he says on the matter in glib language: “safe to assume… could it be that… unconfirmed reports… coupled to speculation… it is perfectly plausible… “

This allegations-based conspiracy theory is not just fake news. In the South African context we would rather call it “eish-news”, fitting more with sensationalist surrealism than an academic article. It reminds of the recent hoax of President Putin’s alleged visit to South Africa early in February.

Third – we were surprised to learn that Russia’s Foreign policy was essentially about “clearing the way for Rosatom (Russia’s energy agency)”. We thought Russia was an active global player in resolving world problems such as international terrorism, disarmament and arms control, climate change, settling regional conflicts and many others. Not according to the Distinguished Professor and the Betrayal of Promise report to which he refers. Eish…

The interesting part, however, comes with the description of Russian nuclear power plants as “a kind of a hybrid between an embassy and a military base” with Russian “spies” involved.

This sounds like a breakthrough in nuclear physics and electricity generation – kudos to the Distinguished Professor. Sarcasm aside, we doubt he or the academics behind the report ever visited a Russian NPP. There are plenty of them, built or currently under construction in many countries – China, India, Finland, Egypt, Bangladesh etc. Are you seriously implying that Russia has military bases in all these places? Another “eish”.

Our congratulations to Mr Swilling, as well as authors of the above-mentioned report for a top-eish news production. Our commiserations to the broad South African public who reads them. DM

Embassy of the Russian Federation in the Republic of South Africa

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