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In apparent effort not to upset Putin’s Russia, ANC government bans arms sales to Poland

In apparent effort not to upset Putin’s Russia, ANC government bans arms sales to Poland
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is welcomed for bilateral talks with his South African counterpart, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor, in Pretoria on 23 January 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Kim Ludbrook)

The ANC’s South Africa has bet firmly on a dark side of history in selecting its partner of choice in the Russification of its foreign and domestic policy. Its choice is not based on human rights, or democracy, or international law. Instead, it is a choice rooted deeply in the fiction of the past, not the promise of the future.

Following another visit by a Russian delegation entertained by  International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor, the ANC announced on 1 April that it would undertake a working visit to the United Russia Party from 30 March to 2 April.

The party’s official notice observed that the United Russia Party, the party of Vladimir Putin, is “a longstanding ally and friend to the ANC”.

It was, surprisingly, not an April Fool’s gag.

In between toasts to the downfall of imperialism and the future of democratic centralism, the visit’s agenda, led by Obed Bapela, the ANC’s international relations subcommittee deputy chairperson and an NEC member, as well as Deputy Minister of International Relations Alvin Botes, was to include “discussions on the recalibration of the global order to reverse the consequences of neo-colonialism and the previously prevailing unipolar world”.

This full mouth of caviar came after Pandor hosted Alexander Kozlov, Russia’s minister of natural resources and environment, at the 17th session of the two countries’ joint intergovernmental committee on trade and economic cooperation.

“There are some who don’t wish us good relations with an old, historical friend,” the ANC minister said in her opening address. “We have made it clear that Russia is a friend and we have had cooperative partnerships for many years, including partnerships as we combated the apartheid regime.”

The world is no doubt going to be a safer place now. Or maybe not.

Arms sales

Such slavishness follows talk that the South African government has barred arms sales to Poland because it fears that the munitions would be passed on to Ukraine.

Independent sources – in Poland and South Africa – have confirmed that export permits for artillery ammunition sales to Poland have not been granted while applications to supply munitions to Turkey and the UAE have been accepted.

The decision is said to have been arrived at after the advice of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation and South African intelligence agencies, presumably not wishing to offend their Russian friends by arming a neighbour that supports Ukraine, even though this is precisely what end-user certificates are for, a system that South Africa has apparently signed up to.

These systems do work. Poland recently refused to send Leopard tanks to Ukraine unless it obtained permission to do so from Germany, the original manufacturing country.

Defence Web reported in February that “a Nato state” had ordered €17-million worth of 155mm Assegai ammunition.

“We’re very pleased that two customers – including a Nato member state and a non-Nato country – have again placed their trust in our globally proven Assegai indirect fire technology,” Jan-Patrick Helmsen, managing director of Rheinmetall Denel Munition, was reported as saying. “As a systems maker, we work constantly to improve our cutting-edge technologies so that we can provide our customers’ soldiers with the very best, most reliable solutions possible.”

A decision to ban munition sales to Nato countries would be devastating for the domestic arms industry and would raise new questions about the growing alliance with Russia, the belligerent in the Ukraine invasion.

Policy price tag

Given that the sanctioned Russian businessperson Viktor Vekselberg’s United Manganese of the Kalahari (UMK) is the largest donor to the ANC, it also raises questions about the price tag on South African foreign policy.

Late last year, a Russian munitions vessel docked at Simon’s Town naval base at night and goods were transferred off and on to the vessel. The SA government is yet to clarify what these goods were or whether there were any military supplies going to Russia.

If it smells rotten, it usually is rotten.

Under the terms of South Africa’s National Conventional Arms Control Committee, South Africa does not license the sale of arms to countries in conflict.

Notwithstanding that Poland is not at war and has a legitimate need to defend itself, given Russian aggression next door along with some rather obvious previous invasive Russian history in 1939, consider for a moment the countries to which South Africa admitted it exported arms in 2020.

The list includes Russia, which had invaded Ukraine in 2014 to seize areas in the east and Crimea.

According to the third quarter National Conventional Arms Control Committee report of 2022, SA arms exports were officially licensed to Niger, Togo, Zambia, US, Ghana, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Bangladesh, Denmark, France, Singapore, UAE, Germany, Philippines, Australia, India, Italy, Kazakhstan, Sweden, the UK, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Eswatini, Republic of Congo, Portugal, Chile and Nigeria.

Of this list, Denmark, the US, the UK, Germany, Australia, Sweden, Spain, Ghana, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Chile and France were then considered (by Freedom House) to have “free” political systems.

Niger, Togo, Nigeria, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Eswatini may all be considered to be in a state of war, internal or external, of their own or others’ making. And of this export list, Togo, Congo, Kazakhstan and South Africa, along with BRICS members India and China, voted to abstain in February’s UN General Assembly Resolution calling for Russia to leave Ukraine. Azerbaijan and Eswatini did not vote.

The resolution was passed with 141 member-states in favour, seven (Belarus, North Korea, Eritrea, Mali, Nicaragua, Russia and Syria) against, and 32 abstentions.

Coming over to the dark side

The ANC’s South Africa has bet firmly on a dark side of history in selecting its partner of choice in the Russification of its foreign and domestic policy. Its choice is not based on human rights, or democracy, or international law.

This choice is also not about where South Africa’s trade and investment interests lie. It’s about the mythology of the ANC and its tilting at ideological windmills, represented by Putin, a relic of the Cold War.

And it is about the ANC staying in power at any cost, since that is how its contracts are derived, money is made, and pockets are padded.  

Dalai Lama debacle: Whose country is it anyway?

The West has to shoulder its share of the blame. It has given the ANC a free pass for decades, based more on the morality of the anti-apartheid struggle than the liberation movement’s increasingly dismal record of delivery, good and clean governance, and growth, a record that mirrors its behaviour and thinking in exile.

What should be clear is that the ANC is not a partner of choice for democratic nations. It represents the fiction of the past, not the promise of the future. DM

Dr Greg Mills and Ray Hartley are with The Brenthurst Foundation.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • jcdville stormers says:

    Call our goverment what they really are”Communists”

    • andrew farrer says:

      EU and USA should cancell all trade agreements and donor funding to SA with immediate effect. See how that hits the idiots who vote anc before 24 elections!

  • Marc Slabber says:

    How can we as ordinary South Africans, express our discontent for these ANC policies?
    If this goes too far we can kiss the EU free trade and AGOA inclusion good bye, and then EVERY South African will feel the impact and know who South Africas real friends are.

  • Peter Doble says:

    No surprises then as the birds of a feather flock in a geopolitical mating dance. With many of the Arab states also showing their colours, the middle ground is firmly nailing its undemocratic colours to the mast.

  • Anthony Sturges says:

    … more correctly, short-dighted. Biting the hand that feeds you is as myopic as it gets. Pandor will realize this once AGOA is repealed and the replacement Russian support turns out to be nothing more than a wisp of smoke!

  • betsy Kee says:

    This is so sad to read. Siding with an invader like Russia shows that the South African government as no moral compass. And – although Denel may be good for our GDP wouldn’t it be wonderful if we didn’t make money out of killing people.

  • Pierre Joubert says:

    Minister Naledi Pandor said “We have made it clear that Russia is a friend and we have had cooperative partnerships for many years, including partnerships as we combated the apartheid regime.”

    Having been friends for many years is no justification for supporting Russia’s aggression and violation of human rights in the Ukraine war, when it is clear Russia is using South Africa to it’s own advantage

    Relationships between parties can change over time, depending on many things, marriages end in divorce, leaders come and go, international relations ships change

    Russia was an Ally during World War ll, but turned against its former Allies in starting the Cold War

    While it is true Russia supported the fight against Apartheid, it had other motives, such as expanding Soviet influence. The fight against Apartheid was a convenient aside to its main objective, an earlier time of using South Africa for its own benefit, which has now proved to have been a good investment into its future

    The ANC talks with two tongues when it supports Russia. Other than having two stands on human rights, in South Africa its wrong to have White Monopoly Capital, while in Russia the Oligarch Equivalents are OK. They were subjugated by Apartheid, but today practice their own form of Reverse Apartheid

    Naledi Pandor has become a grave disappointed, herself being a moral believer whom I highly respected, was beaten into submission after she first spoke from her heart, against Russia and the Ukraine war. Today I see her as only a puppet, mouthpiece for the establishment

    Quo Vadis South Africa. Nelson Mandela must be turning in his grave

    • Allan Wolman Wolman says:

      She and the rest of her department have become a ‘grave’ disgrace. But the taste of Beluga is indeed intoxicating. She shames South Africa

  • Martin Bongers says:

    In many cases it is difficult to balance national economic interests and to take a moral stand.

    The Ukraine/Russia conflict is not one of those situations. Economically we have greater alignment with the war’s detractors. As soon as Russia crossed the border of another sovereign country, they gave up any moral high-ground they believed they had.

    The position taken by our leaders are not aligned to the average citizens best interest. At best, the decision is naive and at worst it is corrupt.

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    The evil and deranged (Russia) leading the blind, stupid beyond words and unscrupulous (SA)! We have to be the most false, hypocritical and pathetic country in the world as we willfully ignore and debase our fight for freedom, democracy and human rights where just about the whole world supported us – yes, including the West – not just the hideous Russians, and yet we are now subserviently in bed, tripping over ourselves in the rush to serve the most vile and evil oppressor in that monstruous mass-murdering KGB thug Putin. This abominable ANC has no shame, no morals or integrity – just a rapacious, corrupt, criminal and self-serving bunch of parasites sucking the life and blood of this country, and damaging its future. To HELL with the lot of them!

  • Lorinda Winter says:

    What arms? I thought Denel was bankrupt, courtesy of our mafia government and weren’t the arms we had left to rust and all our expertise in developing new ones replaced by loyal ANC cadres?

  • Confucious Says says:

    The and is only democratic when it suits them, honest when it suits them, moral when it suits them… but never clever!

  • Andrew McWalter says:

    The toxicity of the ANC’s presence as the country’s ruling party has become intolerably odious. Seeping over our borders, their sulphurous toots are too odious for anyone to bear anymore. Time for this gluttonous herd to leave office and take their offensive pong elsewhere. “Thanks”(!) to the ANC, the new South Africa now has THE textbook on how NOT to govern. Looking forward to 2024! SA 100 versus ANC 0.

  • Abri Vermeulen says:

    Morals aside, the facts are:
    – Russia did NOT support South Africa during apartheid – the country that did was the Soviet Union, which included both Russia and Ukraine. Equating Russia with the Soviet Union shows they knew then (and now) that the soviet union was a continuation of the Russian empire. The Soviet Union stopped existing in 1991 before South Africa became democratic.
    – This is a war of Russian Imperial conquest, which Russia is now openly acknowledging (if it was in any way unclear a year ago) – as was all Russia’s recent wars (Moldova/Transnistria, Chechnya, Georgia, Crimea, Donbas). This is the exact thing (imperial conquest) that the rules based international order tries to prevent, and also the exact thing that eventually contributed to (forced?) democracy in South Africa.
    – The ANC has always leaned to communism – which has very good underlying principles – but Russia today is NOT communist – and has not been for 20 years under Putin and United Russia party.
    – Russia is not major trade partner to South Africa and – unlike China and India – is also not a rising world power / economy.
    So morals aside, where does this “friendship” come from?

    • ANC must GO says:

      Russia has friendely agreed to help the ANC crook the 2024 elections

    • Willem Boshoff says:

      A common resentment of the west and western values? Together they wallow in the injustices of the past, blind to the fact that western countries have evolved to collectively become the mainstay of human rights, dignity and well-being. The continued prosperity of their old foes make their own failures and criminality only the more obvious.

  • Lisbeth Scalabrini says:

    The ANC seems to have forgotten that The Soviet Union has been obliterated a long time ago and Russia is not the friend that they used to have, but an almost tyranny trying to colonize a free democratic country.

  • Andrew W says:

    Where do you even begin on this? Its monumentally stupid and could we see us lose trade benefits from our largest partners. There can only be one real driver, and that is ANC funding. Party above country always with this lot. Very real consequences of this continuiting kleptocracy is the only outcome. We have lost perspective on just how crazy the ANC is….

  • Patrick Devine says:

    “Given that the sanctioned Russian businessperson Viktor Vekselberg’s United Manganese of the Kalahari (UMK) is the largest donor to the ANC, it also raises questions about the price tag on South African foreign policy.”

    On the positive side, the ANC’s placing a ‘value’ on ‘buying’ South African support has increased from the paltry R500k a year, Zuma had sold out SA for.

  • Peter Geddes says:

    Sad, tragic and embarrassing!
    … and to think that the world once looked up to us as a beacon of light and peace … sigh!!!

  • Marcel Pedro says:

    I wish to state categorically that this amateur Government of ours is playing with fire by supporting the Russians ,who due to expansionism and some pie in the sky notion that through force can invade a free democratic country at the expense of alianating themselves from the free World. By supporting a dictator is hardly indicative of where the people of South Africa stand and we the people will once again pay the price for this shortsighted folly! This Russian obsession makes no sense unless there is some clandestine deal that has been concluded with Putin. If this is the case the ANC need to settle this debt and realign with the democracies of the World. Look how they carried and are still carrying on about apartheid which they rightly fought against tooth and nail only to now get into bed with a couple of autocratic nationalistic dictators. This won’t wash. You will lose more than your majority in parliament as we the people totally reject Putin and his cronies.

  • Tim Price says:

    The ANC government represents the ANC, not SA or its constitution, clearly. No doubt cash changes hands or did in the past. I fear the bottom of the barrel has not yet been reached. Perhaps we need another Zondo commission into SA’s foreign policy?

  • TherealMalcolm x says:

    The DA is not seeing the political opportunity in this. Surely the DA should be using these situations to promote the idea to Western countries that the ANC is not the obvious political partner, but that the DA is. This could garner the DA the much needed financial support from international political donors.

  • Johan Buys says:

    is there reciprocity from our dear russian best buddies?

    Do we get oil and gas and refined diesel at 30% discount?

    Do we get fertiliser for 50% discount?

    Do we get cheap nickel, tungsten, cobalt?

    Or, do we get those products but the discount is captured in ANC middleman companies?

  • Bosuns Pincher says:

    I would love to know just how much, in US dollars cash, is the ANC and the comrades receiveing from Russia? And who launders it?

  • Mervyn Bennun says:

    I have no difficulty seeing Russia as a friend to a free South Africa — we were raised to hate and fear the USSR, but the fact remains that there was no nuclear war, the USSR and Russia played a great part in that, and in our fight against apartheid. But the greatest curse to South Africa and our international relations is that we have an arms industry at all. So many of our problems would no longer exist if the arms industry were abolished. Nations want our arms because they’re “good” — what a tragic oxymoron. The arms industry is a millstone around South Africa’s neck.

  • Bert Kir says:

    Sadly, that the west, NATO, (whatever) is largely not kicking up a fuss about any of this is an indication of just how internationally irrelevant South Africa has become… “So you want to suck up to Putin ? Like, go ahead, who cares”

  • Matsobane Monama says:

    The truth shall set you FREE as they say. This article is Dr Greg Mills repetition since the war started. Human rights, democracy and international LAW, these are powerful words indeed. Does these apply to All Human Beings? Answer NO. Palestinians are murdered and their seized by Israel daily, where is Human rights? U.N refused to investigate Human rights violations by America in Afghanistan,where is the international law?French neo colonialism in West and Central Africa. Italian PM to Macron Free Africans. ANC fiction of the past, this is an insult to Africans who died holding AK 47 and Bazookas from Russia fighting for freedom from colonial beasts. Freedom doesn’t belong to anyone to give it to another human beings. ANC staying in power @ any cost, we all know we had municipal and national elections since 1994 so this is a lie. Biting the hands that feeds NO it’s called trade not charity. Development Aid is not a begging bowl but accumulated interest for violently raping Africa for centuries. Germany gave Israel R90 billion dollars for reparations where is ours? Hippocrites. I am not an ANC member nor sympathizer pls don’t draw any conclusions from what am saying. The price for true freedom is Death.

    • Willem Boshoff says:

      how does any of this justify Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine?
      You want reparations? The ANC got handed Africa’s most advanced economy for near 30 years and the ability to tax all production (currently to the tune of R2-trillion / $110bn a year), with the biggest part of that budgeted for education and social development. Africa has been decolonizing for the last 70 years; any neo-colonialism happens with the blessing of Africa’s leaders. Show me one democratic country with a decent human rights track record that’s been invaded by the west? (I’m fundamentally against all war, but there’s a huge difference between removing the Taliban and invading the Ukraine). You can keep on blaming and crying unfair as much as you want, Africa, and indeed the world’s, prosperity lies in our own hands. Elect responsible, honest and capable leaders. Foster economic growth and invest in world-class skills development. Champion equality and human rights without fear or favour. You will see Africa blossom and no one needs to die for that.

  • Geoff Woodruff says:

    I honestly don’t think that it’s got anything to do with ideology. The ANC’s slavish relationship with Russia is about money and only money. Heaven forbid that they fall out of favor with the cash cow, where would the next Mercedes come from? The government, not my government, is a total embarrassment to South Africa.

  • Pagani Paganini says:

    There is nothing new on this article. If anything, the interesting issue is what the article is silent about than the narrative it pushes through. As an example, last October the UN Human Rights Council has voted not to debate the treatment of the Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities in China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang even after the UN’s human rights office concluded the scale of the alleged abuses there may amount to “crimes against humanity”. The 47-strong UN human rights council meeting in Geneva voted by 19 to 17 to reject a call for a debate on the report. A simple majority was required. Eleven countries abstained and unsurprisingly South Africa is one of them. However, another country that you keep demonising our country for not voting for resolutions that pertains to them is, guess who, Ukraine itself. And you have conveniently decided to even highlight this disconnect. One then wonders if the lives of Ukrainians is more important than those of the Uighurs. There are many examples that one can cite but guess those will be too inconvenient since they don’t involve the Global North. How stupid to you think we are?

  • Kris Jarzebowski says:

    I wonder if any of these ANC politicians know about the Magnitsky Act in the USA? If they bothered to understand the corruption, murder, money laundering as described in Bill Browsers Frozen Orders book, would they really want to be associated with the Russian crooks? Ah, I forget, the ANC were trained by Russians – of course – so ANC are now copying exactly what Putin is doing. Silly me.

  • Terence Dowdall says:

    What you’re forgetting is possible benefits. Putin, for example, sees free countries on his border that at some time have been under Russian control, as “abominations”, needing a Special Military Operation to restore proper control of them. Would it not be possible to see independent Namibia, Botswana, Eswatini, etc, as similar abominations? And if South Africa mounts special military operations to restore them to their rightful place under SA control, who would support such military missions? Certainly not the West. That is where our old Best Friend would step in to veto Security Council action or condemnation.

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