WAR IN EUROPE
ANC Youth League lends credibility to sham Moscow referendums in Ukraine
ANCYL officials are observing — and condoning — the referendums that Moscow is using to justify annexing conquered territories.
Several ANC Youth League officials are acting as international observers of the controversial referendums which Russia is holding to legitimise its annexation of the Ukrainian territory that its military has conquered.
They mostly seem to be members of the task team that the ANC appointed last year to revive the moribund ANC Youth League. They appear to be observing the voting in polling stations in Russia where citizens of the occupied territories are being allowed to vote.
The participation of members of South Africa’s ruling party in observing the referendums is lending official credibility to polls that are widely regarded elsewhere as a sham to justify Moscow’s forcible seizure of four Ukrainian provinces. The ANC Youth League officials are also being quoted by Russian state media as justifying the plebiscites in the oblasts or provinces of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.
Ukraine itself and Western nations have called the referendums “sham elections” designed to provide Moscow with the pretence of legality for incorporating into Russia the four provinces that it has already occupied by force.
The state-owned news agency RIA Novosti on Sunday quoted Khulekani Mondli Skhosana, described as chairperson of the ANC Youth League’s international relations subcommittee, as saying that the residents of the four provinces had a right to hold the referendums.
“People should have the right to self-determination. They have the right to vote. This applies not only to the regions in which we are located, but to the whole world. We support legitimate elections and condemn any attempt to sabotage such democratic processes,” Skhosana was quoted as saying.
“Democracy is, first of all, the right of people to vote, to choose their path, and this should be done for the people and done by the people,” he told reporters in Simferopol, which Russia regards as the capital of the “republic” of Crimea which it annexed by force from Ukraine in 2014.
Stella Mondlane, described as Speaker of the Matlosana (Klerksdorp) municipality, was quoted by the official Russian news agency Tass as calling the referendums “a project of historical scale” and adding that people who for a long time had been deprived of the right to choose, had now received the opportunity to reunite with the country (Russia) which they had always been part of.
She was quoted as comparing what is happening in Ukraine with the development of South Africa.
“We believe that in the struggle for freedom it is impossible to stand aside, it is necessary to really fight. This is what happened in the history of South Africa. We fought for freedom. Our people, our ancestors, such as Nelson Mandela, fought for the liberation of the country, and only thanks to this we have our freedom,” she told Tass.
South Africans ‘back Russian actions’
Mondlane said most of South Africa supports Russia’s actions and believes that it is necessary to “protect its citizens and fight for freedom”. “Of course, in any struggle there are sacrifices, but the freedom that this struggle will bring is worth much more,” she said.
Mondlane also told Tass the referendums were going well. “I see that the organisation is going pretty smoothly. There is a queue but it is advancing, everything is calm. People fill out ballots, vote, make lists. I think that the organisation is at a high level.”
She said she was monitoring voting at several polling stations. She however said she was surprised that the referendums did not have voter lists assigned to a specific territory and instead voters had their passports to show where they were from.
“I think we can then adapt that to ourselves as best practice,” Tass quoted her as saying. Mondlane appeared to be in Rostov in Russia, across the border from Ukraine’s Donetsk province.
Tass also quoted Venus Lorato Blennies, who it said was chairperson of a regional branch of the ANC Youth League, as saying, “About 80% of South Africans support the residents of Donbas, Kherson, Zaporizhzhia in their desire to unite with Russia. My country generally adheres to freedom of expression, the ability to take part in what people want to participate in. Therefore, public opinion is to give the people the right to vote in choosing what they want to get,” she said.
ANC Youth League task team
Skhosana, Mondlane and Blennies are all part of the 35-person task team which suspended ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule appointed in April last year to revive the flagging ANCYL.
Another South African, Tsakani Shiviti, described as being deputy president of the Student Diversity Committee, is quoted from St Petersburg in Russia as saying; “I didn’t see buses here that bring people in crowds.
“I did not see here that people are forced to vote and brought in large groups,” the Peterburgskii Dnevnik quoted him as saying. “ All I saw was the voluntary vote of a large number of people. And we are very pleased with what we saw. This is a democratic approach that we really appreciate.”
Dzvinka Kachur, honorary president of the Ukrainian Association of South Africa, was shocked to discover that the ANC Youth League was officially observing the referendums and lending credibility to them.
“It is shocking to read that individuals involved in the ANC youth league are participating in the so-called “referendum” and that anyone who grew up in South Africa can believe that for democracy it does not matter “who is voting”.
“Almost 12 million Ukrainians had to leave their homes because of the Russian invasion. They will not be “voting”. Thousands of people have been tortured and silenced by Russian soldiers and they will not be “voting”. Many choose to hide as the “voting” is happening under the watch of Russian guns.”
Kachur said it was particularly upsetting to hear people like Mondlane and Skosana talking about free elections and freedom when some of the Ukrainian association’s volunteers had been tortured in the occupied parts of Ukraine.
“A few of our volunteers were tortured for their positions and so many people had to leave for their safety. So it’s difficult to read what those people are saying about free elections and freedom, etc. It’s just so upsetting.”
Kachur explained that the Ukrainian Association of South Africa and the South African charity Gift of the Givers have been supplying humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
“In the occupied territories of Kherson, we cooperated with one of the young doctors from a local clinic, Nikita. One day the doctor was taken away, kept for a few days and tortured by Russian soldiers.
“When he returned, his back was burned with acid and his teeth knocked out. Another 59-year-old from Kherson was kidnapped by putting a bag on his head, soldiers were shooting the gun next to his head and beat him.
“They threw him out when they thought he was dead, but he was found on the street and recovered. We know many more stories like those; people simply disappear from the streets. Some come back, but others will probably be only found in mass graves like those in Izyum, Bucha and many other cities,” she said, citing cities that Ukraine forces have recaptured from the Russian military.
In both Bucha and Izyum, the Ukrainians discovered bodies of citizens, some of whom appeared to have been deliberately executed and/or tortured.
No response from ANC
Daily Maverick approached the ANC and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation for their reaction to and comment on the participation of the ANC Youth League in the monitoring of the Ukraine referendums. Neither has got back to us.
The residents of the four provinces of Ukraine have five days in which to cast their ballots. Voting started on 23 September and will close on 27 September.
Russia claims that the initiative for the referendums came from the people of the four provinces — supposedly as a way of securing Russian protection against Ukraine. But most observers believe the initiative has come from Moscow itself.
The four provinces all have some Russian-speaking inhabitants, some of whom do support annexation by Russia. But Western governments have said it will be impossible to determine whether a majority of the citizens of each of the four provinces really supports incorporation into Russia, as the referendums’ results are likely to be rigged. In any case, the results would be distorted as many of the inhabitants not sympathetic to Russia have already fled the provinces to avoid falling under Russian control. DM