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FINANCIAL TIMES AFRICA SUMMIT

Russia’s Wagner is not the only evil player in Africa, Naledi Pandor tells London forum

Russia’s Wagner is not the only evil player in Africa, Naledi Pandor tells London forum
Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor. (Photo: Flickr / GCIS)

International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor has dismissed the notion that the Russian mercenary organisation Wagner is the only ‘evil’ actor instigating conflict and instability in Africa.

That the Russian military company Wagner is the only instigator of conflict in Africa was a “historic lie”, said International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor in the closing keynote address of the Financial Times Africa Summit in London on Tuesday, pointing the finger also at foreign governments. 

“There are many, many external actors on the African continent whose sole interest is the control of the resources of Africa. And we need to acknowledge this and be public about it,” Pandor said. 

“It is, yes, mercenary groups. But there are also governments that play a very negative role that are always present when there’s conflict and whose role has not served to advance the African continent. 

“So, I think we need a realistic acknowledgement of all who interfere in the development and progress of Africa. If we do that, I believe we’ll create a landscape for investment and for the development and success of the African continent.”

Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor delivers her closing keynote address at the FT Africa Summit in London, United Kingdom, 18 October 2022. (Photo: Jacoline Schoonees / Dirco)


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Pandor’s observation about Wagner was consistent with Pretoria’s refusal to single out Russia for special blame for its invasion of Ukraine in February and for its continuing bombardment of the country since then. 

The Wagner Group, owned by Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, is playing a growing role in international conflicts, in Ukraine, Syria and Africa. 

In Ukraine, Wagner is seen by Western analysts — such as the Institute for the Study of War — as steadily encroaching on the role of the official Russian military, which is widely regarded as having performed badly.
Wagner has also been widely reported to have clandestinely represented Russian government interests in the conflicts in Libya, Central African Republic (CAR), Mali and, now, some observers believe, possibly also in Burkina Faso after the second military coup there in eight months. In CAR and in the Sahel, it is believed to have a mandate from the Kremlin to displace France, which has seen its influence waning recently. 

The US House of Representatives passed legislation in April which could punish African governments, companies and other actors for doing business with “malign” Russian entities on the continent. The legislation — which has not so far been taken up by the Senate — is believed to have been inspired largely by Wagner’s activities. 

On the economic front, Pandor said the African Continental Free Trade Area, which is still being implemented, was key to the prosperity of Africa, including by catalysing industrialisation of the continent. She said free trade could only work if South Africa gave up some of its production capacity to other southern African countries.

Pretoria was looking at how it could share some of this production capacity with its neighbours. This could entail collaborating with other countries in joint production. But it could also entail releasing the entire production of some goods to other countries in the region. 

“For a free trade agreement to succeed, one must give something up,” Pandor said. “If we are selfish, we will not succeed.” DM 

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  • Donald Moore says:

    I think Naledi Pandor is acknowledging that Wagner (representing Russian interests in Africa) is an instigator of conflict in Africa. If so then how can SA remain silent or neutral about this malign force?

  • Bernhard Scheffler says:

    Pandor debasing herself by parroting putin’s propaganda

  • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

    This is a very sad situation that our moral compass, values and the AU Convention against Mercenarism is sacrificed on the altar of a defence of a thug for monetary gain to the ANC from Russian oligarchs. It is no wonder that the country has lost its leadership role on the continent. We lost when Israel was given observer status and when Morocco was readmitted. I listened to garbage from the President parading his ignorance to the public on the Western Sahawari question. Firstly he needs to be told that that the Western Sahawari is part of the AU and that the AU as a multilateral regional organisation cannot be a member of the G2o but an observer like in any other organisation. The tavern diplomacy of DIRCO to allow the President to say nonsense was shocking! He has no grasp of geopolitics and in a moment of excitement called for Saudi Arabia to be admitted to BRICS because then is an S. He needs to read the Economist article on why South Africa was invited to the club of thugs not Nigeria. Worse these fellows want a serial IMF defaulter with over 50% inflation in the name of some “new economic order” or disorder.
    The reason the AU banned mercenaries was not to replace French mercenaries or British and South African mercenaries with Russian thugs but to curb coups in Africa and regime change through coups that was prevalent in the OAU days!
    The AU support of democracy or democratic change of governments are its founding articles and conventions the Minister ought to know.

  • Malcolm McManus says:

    We do need to be realistic about who interferes with the development and progress in Africa. Its the ample criminal government officials in Africa. Just like the ANC here in South Africa. Always ready for a bribe from foreign sources, no matter where on the globe they come from. The people they represent don’t matter. They are just victims.

  • Roelf Pretorius says:

    I think the solution is for African countries, and where they don’t have the capacity, the subregional institutions and also the AU, to be far more vigilant about what we allow to happen on our land, and to take appropriate action against it. An example of action taken is for instance the current SA government response against the illegal mining industry (Zama-Zama’s); I understand that this is controlled by those who are benefitting from the exports and thus are probably also from outside. But the law enforcement agencies should establish more specialist investigation units to pro-actively deal with, and prevent such illegalities; we should not wait until such tragedies as the women that were raped, occur. We should act against such actors at the start, before they become so powerful. The trade in rhinocheros & elephant ivory is another example, although in that case the fight has been taken seriously for a long time; but the law enforcement agencies should spend a lot more money and time on pro-actively uncovering such actions & acting against it, shutting it down at the start. And governments should stop just allowing such actors to go on because of where they come from; governments should start to exercise the responsibilities that they exist for, namely to protect their citizens.

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