South Africa


Thandi Modise at Russian security conference shows ‘solidarity with occupiers and aggressors’

Thandi Modise at Russian security conference shows ‘solidarity with occupiers and aggressors’
Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Thandi Modise. (Photo: Gallo Images / City Press / Deon Raath)

Experts have questioned whether the Russians have anything to teach South Africa militarily and whether it was ethical for Modise to associate with Russia’s military at this time.

Defence minister Thandi Modise’s participation in a Russian conference on international security — while the Russian military is attacking Ukraine — has sparked criticism at home and in Ukraine.

A Ukrainian security expert said the conference was of no intrinsic value to others and was merely an attempt by Russia to solicit solidarity from countries such as South Africa.

Modise’s office announced she had arrived in Moscow on Monday to attend the 10th Moscow Conference on International Security at the invitation of the Russian Minister of Defence, General Sergei Shoigu. 

The conference would be attended by defence ministers from different countries and military experts and “key stakeholders.” Modise would address the conference on Tuesday.

Flying Circus — Thandi Modise’s shocking trip to Russian security conference

Professor Abel Esterhuyse, chair of strategic studies at Stellenbosch University, said in principle it was important, at the operational level, for South Africa to work with foreign militaries — especially “paradigm militaries” which were copied by many others. But even at the operational level, he questioned “whether we want the Russian military to be our paradigm military, whether it’s the military which the South African military really wants to learn from, given the Russian military doctrine and military culture.”

‘Questionable ethics’

He said South Africa’s military was essentially based on the British military model. And so he questioned why South Africa suddenly wanted to learn from the Russians. Esterhuyse also questioned the ethics of Modise attending a military conference in Moscow while Russia was conducting “its so-called special military operations in Ukraine”. 

He said it was an open-ended question whether South Africa should support Russia or not, “whether we should actually choose sides”.

“But the fact of the matter is that Russia is the aggressor in that situation. And one needs to bring in a comparative approach here and ask yourself whether South Africa would fly to Israel if we got the same type of invitation from Israel to attend a military conference? 

“Whether our minister would fly to Israel?  Because Israel in the Palestine conflict obviously seems to be, or is considered by our government to be, an aggressor. So there’s a huge ethical question hanging over our minister attending a military conference in particular,” Esterhuyse said, adding that it would be different if it were a trade conference or a technology conference. 

Visit our Marikana anniversary page for analysis and reflections on the massacre that occurred 10 years ago.

“Our government ought to be very cautious in aligning themselves too openly with the Russians,”  he said. 

Petro Chernyk, an independent Ukrainian military expert, said the conference Modise was attending with more than 35 of her counterparts from Africa, Latin America and the Pacific, was “only intended to raise the status of Russia”. 

“Russia is trying to somehow whitewash its status as an aggressor country, a terrorist country, a country that resorts to nuclear blackmail and nuclear collapse for the whole world. I think that this conference has no real security aspects. Nothing serious should be expected from this event.”

Chernyk also suggested that Russia was experiencing a shortage of weapons because of the war in Ukraine and might be using the conference in Moscow as an opportunity to ask some of the defence ministers attending the conference to return some of the weapons they had bought from Russia — particularly armoured vehicles and aircraft. 

‘Solidarity with aggressors’

When Russia was committing “aggression against an independent state” and committing “direct genocide against the Ukrainian people”, the presence of any defence minister at the conference “is nothing but solidarity with the occupiers and aggressors”.

All countries should have boycotted the conference, he said.

Ukraine’s ambassador to South Africa, Liubov Abravitova, said she could not comment on South African politics, but that it was “cynical and wild” for Russia, the “neo-colonial aggressor which is violating international law and threatening the global security system to be hosting an international security conference”.

“I’m wondering if the leaders of the so-called LRP and DPR are invited as well” she added, referring to the Luhansk People’s Republic and the Donetsk People’s Republic, two regions of eastern Ukraine that Russia recognised as independent pro-Russian states just before invading Ukraine, and which it has now largely occupied militarily. 

Abravitova said inviting Modise to this conference “could be a provocative move towards South Africa” by Russia. She appeared to be suggesting that Moscow was trying to compromise Pretoria’s relations with the West. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    One is judged by actions and the friends that are kept and on both counts, it is putrid and it stinks. This abominable and exceptionally hypocritical ANC and government are bereft of any human decency and values, morals, ethics and integrity. They don’t know right from wrong and support the most hideous human rights abusers and murderous regimes in the world. Not only have they deliberately mismanaged, stolen and bankrupted this country to its knees but they continue on a path that will only bring disaster to this country. Russia has bugger-all to offer us and we can learn nothing from them. Under the monster and diabolical Putin, it is a vile, brutal, kleptocratic and murderous regime that deserves to be a pariah in the world and all we do is subserviently kiss arse – summoned to the master’s table. It is pathetic, it is gross, cowardly and appalling beyond words. Being non-aligned doesn’t mean that we must be openly and deliberately anti West and pro Russian, Chinese, Cuban etc which we unabashedly are. Disgraceful and disgusting!! Confusion, ineptness, deception, arrogance and utter stupidity reign supreme in our pathetic and spineless non-government. SA deserves so much better than this heartless, corrupt and predatory bunch of thieves!
    Go to hell ANC!!

  • Peter Doble says:

    It is no surprise that all the failed states are playing together in the same minefield. Our pro communist leaders must have factored in that they have everything to lose and nothing to gain.

  • Brian Cotter says:

    Russia asks us to attend and Cyril comes running. It would be good information to obtain a list of all the countries attending. Maybe we will see the axis of evil reappearing. Iran, Russia and China had joint naval exercises in January this year. Taiwan in the headlights. Whose side is South Africa on, the bad guys or the rest of the world.

    • Malcolm McManus says:

      In this clouded and selfish world, its becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish the good from the bad. From what I see there appears to be more global evil than good. If you delve deep enough (Often just below the surface), seemingly developed, Western democratic countries are as evil, though in different ways, and in most cases far less obviously.

    • Sam Joubs says:

      Well, the bad guys are probably more inclined to contribute to personal pension funds. A big motivator that seeing that there is not much left to appropriate locally.

      • Malcolm McManus says:

        You make a valid point, which is something that worries me about Zelensky. He has access to vast amounts of weapons and monetary aid from America. America has openly stated that it does not believe it is up to them to track the funds and weapons to make sure they end up being used for the intended purpose. During the crisis of war, its unlikely it gets done effectively by Ukranian’s. Zelensky didn’t get implicated in the Panama papers for nothing.

        • Christian Pirk says:

          So and that justifies an attack on a sovereign country ?
          Also it is not really difficult to separate bad and evil. Russia is attacking its neighbour, so what is so difficult?
          Please provide the link to the claim that he was implicated in the Panama papers.

  • Aslam Dasoo says:

    The minister is guilty of being tone-deaf at best, or, at worst, doesn’t care about the ramifications, a typically arrogant trait of the political establishment..
    It was the same when they blithely associated with and ran to the capitals of the scoundrels who invaded Afghanistan and Iraq and even now sell arms to the fascist autocrats who invaded Yemen. It is regrettable that the trenchant and valid criticism of this ill-advised Russian visit was not forthcoming in these instances.
    (Is one allowed to say this, I wonder? Or is there a difference with Ukraine?).

  • Katharine Ambrose says:

    I don’t think Modise represents South Africans. She is going as the ANC rep. Their allegiance to Moscow got them into power and no doubt they hope it will keep them there.

  • Dr Know says:

    I did not vote for this government. Their opinions and methods are totally contrary to my own. They are the product of an ignorant and short sighted populace who identify with their leaders’ ignorant and short sighted ways. After 28 years the ignorance and short sightedness are producing dividends in the laughable state of everything that this government have touched. The accepted solution seems to be to apply record levels of more ignorance and short sightedness, while keeping the people ignorant and blind by ruining education and stifling the press. The most effective control of this discontented populace is to make them so needy that they do not have the energy or resources to protest and spend all their time trying to survive, just like the miserable social stability that exists in our exalted Russian role model. It will take decades to undo the damage, if there were only somebody that was up to the job.

    • Malcolm McManus says:

      I hear you. It reminds me of Hendrik. He came up with a similar idea. I likewise did not vote for this current bunch of hooligans, and although Nelson Mandela seems to have had some good intentions, he definitely did not know his own people as well as Oom Hendrik did. The ANC goes to great lengths to prove this. To quote Nelson,” If the ANC does to you what the Apartheid government did to you, then you must do to the ANC what you did to the Apartheid government.” I suspect no matter how much the populace suffer, I can’t foresee this happening for at least 2 more decades. Blind herd mentality.

  • Allan Wolman Wolman says:

    ANC has re-defined morality and ethics – neither of which was ever part of their narrative

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