Response to grounding of African Peace Mission plane reveals very selective outrage

Response to grounding of African Peace Mission plane reveals very selective outrage
Special forces and South African journalists were stranded in Poland. (Photo: Pieter du Toit / Twitter)

Why are commentators bending over backwards to justify the actions of Warsaw in holding South African journalists and officials hostage?

If you’ve been following the saga of the South African plane carrying journalists and security officials that was grounded in Poland for 26 hours, you’ll know by now that the emerging consensus is as follows.


  1. Poland detained the plane out of their noble sense of moral outrage regarding South Africa’s cosiness with Russia; or
  2. Poland detained the plane because South African bureaucrats were too stupid, too naïve or too disorganised to make sure the necessary paperwork was in order, particularly given the weaponry being carried by bodyguards; or
  3. Some combination of both.

As a journalist who has previously travelled internationally with the Presidency, I can confirm the sense of absolute logistical chaos that swirls around these missions, seemingly regardless of context. Journalists are routinely kept in the dark until the last minute about when exactly these trips are happening. The scramble for visas at the eleventh hour is always nightmarish.

(A Dirco official once complained to me, in fact, that the outraged reporting over the Gupta family’s attempts to jump South African visa queues was slightly rich given how often South African journalists do the same with other countries when an international trip looms.)

poland peace mission plane

Polish President Andrzej Duda (left) welcomes South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (right), before their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland on 15 June 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Radek Pietruszka)

In other words, nobody should have any trouble whatsoever believing that South Africa may have messed up the required documents. This is particularly the case given the almost unprecedented complexity of the mission: to bring supporting security staff for a visit involving six heads of state, plus journalists, to an active war zone. A sense of the headaches involved was provided by the news that nobody was willing to insure the relevant aircraft.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Why was Ramaphosa’s security detail grounded in Poland – pro-Russia perceptions, or underprepared securocrats?

So sure, we probably screwed up the paperwork. And sure, Warsaw is probably angered by Pretoria’s stance on the Ukraine conflict – though we know that Warsaw is also pissed off, tellingly, by South Africa’s refusal to date to deport to Poland the hate-filled Polish-origin murderer of Struggle hero Chris Hani.

Which brings us to the missing element of the analysis on the grounded plane fiasco: Polish racism.

This was something raised by chief Ramaphosa bodyguard Wally Rhoode, but which many people seem astonishingly quick to dismiss, as if white Europeans should only ever be imputed pure motives for their actions.

The Freedom Front Plus, in fact, has already demanded that Rhoode appear before Parliament “to explain the fiasco in Poland involving President Cyril Ramaphosa’s security detail”. Rhoode’s accusations of racism against Poland, the party charged, are “rash statements” for which the bodyguard “must be called to account”.

News24’s Pieter du Toit, one of the journalists on board the marooned plane, wrote on Monday: “Did the Poles discriminate against the airplane and its passengers because they’re from Africa? Unlikely.”

Yet, if the simplest explanation is often the correct one, there are few things more straightforward in this picture than Polish prejudice. Stories are already emerging – stories which are not mine to tell – of the treatment doled out to the black women on that plane, in particular, by Polish officials. They should surprise nobody.

Almost half of all hate crimes committed in Poland are against people from sub-Saharan Africa. After the invasion of Ukraine by Russia in February 2022, Polish nationalists dressed in black “attacked and abused groups of African, south Asian and Middle Eastern people” who had fled across the border from Ukraine seeking safety.

The government in Warsaw is controlled by the far-right Law and Justice party, which came to power on an explicitly anti-refugee platform and has overseen a swing even further to the right in Polish society. In recent years the government has abolished anti-racism bodies and raided anti-racism NGOs. It is anti-abortion, ranks lowest for the protection of LGBTQI rights of any government in Europe, and has systematically sought to undermine democracy and the rule of law in its crackdown on judicial and media freedom.

It is on record that Law and Justice party officials have supported far-right protests in Poland where participants carried banners proclaiming, to give one example, “Europe will be white or uninhabited”. Little wonder that the guys at the top seem to love Janusz Waluś so much.

One of the only things that has enabled this repulsive regime to rehabilitate its image in the eyes of much of the West is its support for neighbouring Ukraine since the outbreak of war with Russia.

But the idea that South Africa should swallow lessons on morality and human rights from Poland is frankly ludicrous – as is the idea that the Polish approach to a plane full of black Africans and weapons would be miraculously devoid of racism.

Weapons and bodyguards

poland peace mission plane

Cargo from the aircraft stranded in Poland. Special forces and South African journalists were stranded in Poland. (Photo: Twitter)

Let’s talk about the weapons and bodyguards, which have predictably become another area of attack on South Africa: the idea that Ramaphosa for no apparent reason (save hubris?) chose to bring more than 10 times the number of security personnel to the African Peace Mission than did the other African presidents attending. It appears that the reason for this, which again goes curiously unmentioned, is that South Africa reportedly agreed to supply additional security support staff as backup for all the heads of state on the mission.

Can you imagine the security detail that would be in place if six G7 heads of state were on one combined mission to an active war zone?

Fortunately we don’t have to imagine, because this stuff is on record. When just one such head of state – the US’s Joe Biden – visited Kyiv in February 2023, it was a trip of such logistical complexity that US news outlets breathlessly recounted the months of planning that were required across “the White House chief of staff’s office, the National Security Council, the White House military office, the Pentagon, US Secret Service and the intelligence community”.

The train Biden took from Poland to Ukraine was occupied, other than by the US president’s small personal contingent, entirely by “heavy security”. US military jets circled the Polish border; Kyiv residents were subjected to lockdowns in the city centre.

Read more in Daily Maverick: The Biden White House operated under cloak-and-dagger secrecy to plan his Ukraine trip

Did anyone suggest that such measures were unnecessary? Of course not. Similarly, if it was a planeload of American journalists who had been treated in this way by Warsaw, you can bet that there would be a serious international incident on the table by now.

An additionally perplexing dimension of the African Peace Mission narrative has been how quickly – and on the basis of zero evidence – commentators have declared it a terrible failure.

Russia reports fierce fighting as African Peace Mission leaves empty-handed”, ran the headline of a fairly typical Reuters report, begging the question of what exactly the departing African presidents should have been clutching in their hands – a written promise from Zelensky and Putin to stop fighting?

The African Peace Mission, the report stated, had “failed to spark enthusiasm from either Moscow or Kyiv”.

poland peace mission plane

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (second from right) welcomed the delegation of African heads of state and government officials representing the African Leaders Peace Mission to Ukraine and Russia. (Photo: Kopano Tlape / GCIS)

Why this is presented as evidence of the mission’s failure is, again, beyond comprehension. As journalists know, when you are pissing everybody off, it is a pretty good sign that you are close to achieving true neutrality. In fact, it is hard to imagine a more ringing endorsement of the mission’s premise than the fact that neither Moscow nor Kyiv was enthusiastic about it.

It is, of course, impossible to assess the impact of the African Peace Mission 72 hours after it ended. To suggest otherwise is imbecilic: a level of reasoning I would expect from my three-year-old son. (“Is the war over now, mama?”)

What is most concerning, however, are the levels of intellectual dishonesty this conflict is increasingly foisting upon us – in the name of a manufactured liberal consensus. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Pet Bug says:

    Mmm, not convinced Rebecca. Too much mud flying in all directions.
    The only reason CR clobbered this trip together is to rub up the pissed-off US and somehow reveal the marvelous non-alignment fruits. Theatrics.

  • L G says:

    Good point about Poland’s deplorable racism, and it’s disturbing to hear about the treatment of black women on that plane.

    However, you say ‘the simplest explanation is often the correct one’, having just said that ‘as a journalist who has previously travelled internationally with the Presidency, I can confirm the sense of absolute logistical chaos that swirls around these missions.’ You also say ‘nobody should have any trouble whatsoever believing that South Africa may have messed up the required documents’.

    So – isn’t that the simplest explanation for the plane being grounded?

    And yes – agree that it sounds like a complex operation, and good that SA was providing security for others. But the Presidency should be able to handle executing on a complex operation. After all, running an entire country is also a complex operation.

  • rmrobinson says:

    This piece is replete with hysteria and short on facts. The time for Africans to stop screaming ‘RACISM’ whenever they are confronted with the consequences of their unacceptable and stupid actions, is long past. Among others, this piece fails to consider that South Africa, which quite ostensibly supports Russia in this illegal war of terror and illegal occupation, thought fit to fly in to Poland, a country threatened by Russia, with 12 crates of weapons. Which country in its right mind would have permitted that plane, in those circumstances to unload? The analogy with the USA is quite unfounded in this case. The USA is not considered by Poland as supporting that which threatens Poland. Futher, whether we like it or not, South Africa is just a little tin pot messed up country, run by a quite insignificant and failed president, of no interest whatsoever to anyone in Eastern Europe. There is much South Africa could learn from this experience, but it won’t, because it will comfort itself by screaming ‘racism’ when, in fact, the Africans were the racists in the situation. Rather than be sensitive to the realities of Russian terrorism, they flew in to Poland with their usual blundering arrogant insensitivity and disregard for the realties of the day. Ramaphosa said not one word in solidarity with Ukranian suffering. All this outrage is really outrage at having, at last, been met with the reality of consequence. Nee wat Rebecca, tyd om ‘n ander deuntjie te sing.

    • Sue Malcomess says:

      Wow so much anger!

      • Sydney Kaye says:

        We should all be so angry at the position into which this bunch of corrupt incompetents has Ied us.

        • PETER BAKER says:

          What a retarded notion to compare a trip by the President of the US to that of a Leader of a tinpot African country, one which the political expediency of the all-powerful ANC has completely ruined the legacy of a world leading exemplary rainbow nation, left by one single African leader who did have his head screwed on!

    • Mike Waghorn says:

      Yes 👍 Absolutely agreed. The Biden train was not going to be carrying combat weapons to Russia and the Biden administration had not loaded Lady R with weapons a month before his trip. This is not racism, this is taking a stand against Russian supporters.

      • David Forbes says:

        You must have access to some highly secret information Mike! How on earth do you know, for a fact, that there were no combat weapons on Biden’s train??? You also have zero proof that weapons of any sort were loaded onto the Lady R. The US can’t provide us with proof of this either. So this whole thing appears to be some kind of false flag raised to bully SA into abandoning its non-aligned stance. Poland has a long history of racism, and also, nazi support and actions. Maybe just go read Wiki’s entry on Poland. Wiki is a Western outfit, so their entries are all biased towards the West, you will find there that the historical facts of Poland’s racism and right wing ideology is deeply entrenched.

        • Deon36 says:

          David you are so right! Mike surely does not know what was on/off loaded on/from the Lady R, but neither do you, or CR or the ministry of defence or the chief of the navy or the harbour commander. A bloody panel had to be put together to try and determine what was written on waybills. But is seems that you are in the know and can criticise as “the whole thing appears..” to you. Why the hell, if it is well known that Poland is so racist and against Africans, would SA choose Warsaw as port of entry to the region? And if you knew they would be making it difficult being racists, bring copies of documents and not the originals to declare cargo? Nobody travelling would be so stupid. I need an original receipt to travel with my Panados and a original/certified copy of a prescription for other medicines! Do you think it is racist to demand a declaration and proper documentation to enter any country with fire arms? Do you travel with a copy of you passport? Come on!

        • David C says:

          Did you just write “non-aligned stance” with a straight face? The SA kakistocracy government’s stance in the Russia/Ukraine war is as non-aligned as it’s stance in the Israel/Palestine conflict. The fact that Poland is right-wing and racist (when viewed from an African communist point of view) is all the more reason the planning, dotting of “i’s” and crossing of “t’s” should have been performed with more diligence – of did our cretinous DIR not understand that about Poland prior to planning this latest folly?

        • rmrobinson says:

          And one is so comforted that the current ANC regime is absolutely not racist, even more by the USSR and Russia’s long history of absolutely no racism whatsoever. No anti Jewish racism, even to think of. Thank heavens also there were no Gulags, EVER! A haven and beacon of freedom, democracy and anti-corruption.

        • rmrobinson says:

          What point are you trying to make here? Poland has right wing elements, it also has a long history of fighting against Russian fascism. Ever heard of Lech Wałęsa? Russia has a long history of racism, etc etc. England has a long history of racism, as has the USA, Germany, France, China, in fact, the entire world has a long history of racism. Currently, South Africa is probably the country with the most race based laws in the world. But you just throw this out as if instances of Polish racism, uncovered by the little English monolingual coterie in Rhodes will then be the end of Poland. That will then have defined Poland in its entirety as far as you are concerned. Ever read Kapuściński? Try it, and then try it again, until the mind opens.
          And then, as far as the Lady R is concerned, there is surely one evident point: what was it doing in SimonStad? This is a simple matter, capable of a simple answer. If the latter is not forthcoming, suspicions will arise.
          And why, oh why, would Biden transport combat weapons destined for Russia? Because that was the point you responded to.

    • Sue Malcomess says:

      I think this a balanced article. Thanks. There are mentions of things that have not been talked about before. “One swallow doesn’t make a summer” and one attempt will not bring lasting peace so to write off the attempt thus early is hasty. Why are South Africans so quick to criticise their own and accept foreign actions as wonderful ie large security detail when the US president travels.

      • Sydney Kaye says:

        Because any 10 year old can see that this was a transparent stunt to convince the US we are “non aligned”, after realising that their big mouthed arrogance had gone one step too far. Even if that were not so smarter people (meaning the whole diplomatic world) has concluded that any talks are premature at this stage of the war.

      • Kelsey Boyce says:

        Because to compare the US Presidents security requirements to those of ours is too simplistic. Basically more people in the world want to hurt Biden than they do Ramaphosa.

    • cgdeegs56 says:

      Spot on!
      This is not research based journalism. It’s an opinion rant!

    • Irma Kerremans says:

      Well put, totally agree 👏👏

    • David Forbes says:

      RM Robinson’s little rant also without much factual content. If she is so disillusioned with SA, maybe she should go live in Poland?

      • rmrobinson says:

        Not before we know the truth about Max du Preez’s revelations today. That little shindig was not an Africa initiative. Further, he confirms the complete absence of confirmation of Polish racism. This is just another case of ANC bungling. The plane did not even have permission to fly over Italy. It was a complete mess from start to finish (well, there was no finish). Read his article before another outburst of hysteria and then respond on the facts. And please, tell me, how were the supposed sharp shooters to protect Ramaphosa against the bombing in Kyiv, or is that also just another fantasy? There is, really, no invasive, terrorist, oppressive war, in the Ukraine, as you lot seem to believe? Or is it that the suffering, the deaths, the destruction, do not matter because it is happening to people with white skins?

      • rmrobinson says:

        And, please o tell me, how would the 12 crates of weapons have protected Ramaphosa against the Russian air strikes?

    • Grenville Wilson says:

      Hear hear, good comment!

    • Grenville Wilson says:

      This article is absolute Drivel!

    • paul7271 says:

      Nicely put.

    • andrea96 says:

      100% correct. Who in their right mind would accept that 120 “security” -read soldiers, and 12 CRATES of armaments would pass as a presidential protection team, must have rocks in their head. My guess is this was left over from the load meant to go on the Russian ship last December. Airlift to Russia anyone?

      • Jane Crankshaw says:

        Haha….could be or maybe Lady R was loading Lithium from Zimbabwe for the manufacture of EV batteries in China via Russia!! Who knows? Nobody seems to! And who cares…it’s just another dodgy ANC deal!

  • cs0834815071 says:

    I will skip Rebecca’s articles for the time being

  • Maria Janse van Rensburg says:

    What a refreshing balanced analysis of a very important international event. Rebecca, your article represents the quality of journalism our world needs. The cheap headlines and lazy reporting that have followed the story to date is so disappointing. And it is no surprise that opposition political parties in South Africa decide to write it off and declare outrage at the audacity of our President to try and act as mediator. To really identify racism in all its formats and wherever it occurs takes courage, a deep understanding and a determination to shine a light on it no matter how unbearable it is. Well done to you for your thorough and balanced reporting and well done the Africa delegation for their bravery to propose an alternative solution to sending in more weapons. The mission can also be seen as an opportunity by our government to obtain first hand, the true facts and the attitude of both parties that can guide our government’s position on the way forward regarding this war that has a negative effect on the whole world.

  • Agf Agf says:

    Another biased article by the pro ANC anti DA Rebecca.

  • Keith Clubb says:

    Bit harsh to characterise mission as a total failure. Particularly as some of Rebecca’s colleagues gave credit to the Zambian President for “valuable input” and “best prepared”. Perhaps the other Presidents looked to Zambia to lead the mission. Certainly there was no request from Zambia for security backup from South Africa : us Zambians are not stupid.

  • Rob vZ says:

    Rebecca Davis uncovers Racism in Eastern Europe.

  • Tim Price says:

    I found this article illuminating being unaware of Polands present politics and societal issues on the subject of migrants. That said their right wing stance seems quite tame compared to the murderous xenophobia seen in South Africa from time to time. Also, it seems strange that even embedded journalists were unable to reach the same conclusion as this article while being on the ground, as it were. Time may tell I suppose.

  • Alan Paterson says:

    A touch of the white institutional racism mantra here? Before taking the knee I suggest Rebecca should peruse the article by Liubov Abravitova in the current Daily Maverick.

  • Gavin Brown says:

    So Rebecca…. the Poles are right-wing racists who don’t throw out the red carpet for a failing state with too many guns, too little electricity and too much love for their mortal enemy Russia ? I would have hoped that someone in DIRCO would have been aware of these things while planning the ensuing circus ? We have long ago lost the love the world had for us in ’94 !

  • Jennifer Hughes says:

    Thanks, Ms. Davis, I thought this was an excellent article and I respect your insight. Definitely a different take with real merit. I wonder if some of our political leaders weren’t typically so quick to cry racism we might have taken the suggestion of it more seriously in this case.

  • Wayne Holt says:

    The unanswered question is what did the 12 crates contain. That is the all important question in this entire article much as what was on board the Lady R

    • Scott Gordon says:

      Agreed , as most of our ammunition is useless for Russians .
      Surely not 12 crates of biltong and red wine ?
      Those crates looked large .
      Heard an interesting theory on what was on the lady R this weekend .
      Way back when we had soldiers fighting over our borders , after ‘victory ‘ our soldiers collected all the AK 47s and ammo , in their 1000 s . Then just stored here .
      So SA was just ‘ Returning to Sender ‘ 🙂
      My source loves all things military , down to shell sizes 🙂
      Then , it rang a bell in my mind .
      With regard to the Lady R , the CEO of Denel basically said ‘ If arms were loaded , they were not South African ‘ , what did he mean ?
      Sending AK 47 s back to Russia will fit that bill !
      I assume that the Poles inspected all the crates , can we ask ‘Them ‘ what they found ?
      I assume once again , the crates have returned to SA , where have they gone ?
      CR wanted ‘transparency ‘ for the Lady R investigation , then he found out he would have more than egg on his face if the truth came out .
      Report now classified , for his eyes only , due to National Security !
      Which in real speak means ? How would our National Security be compromised , apart from having a sanctioned vessel , with AIS switched off , docking at a ‘ Major Keypoint ‘ ?
      Maybe we should ask Cyril ?
      If all above board , he should have no issues handing over the cargo manifests to Parliament .

      • Hennie at Work says:

        My take on this has always been that the “arms” on the Lady R has always been western made computer chips needed for missiles and goodness knows whatever weaponry. We may have been a tech middleman.

  • Jennifer D says:

    It is good to gain a different perspective which Rebecca has offered. However, South Africans are responding with derision to the peace trip because the ANC have long lost the respect and support of their constituents. Having pillaged the country, why would you think we might give them the benefit of the doubt? They don’t deserve it.

  • JC Mouton says:

    Thanks Rebecca. You remind us that there are more sides to a story than Western propoganda journalism. Its always good to think about different narratives.

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    If this is actually “Polish racism” it’s no worse that the racist BEE policies adopted in this country! Each to his own perhaps?

    • Helen Lachenicht says:

      Jane, my thoughts exactly!

    • rmrobinson says:

      I am really puzzled. Why is it racist to insist that rules be obeyed? The SAA plane (and hats off to the pilot who had to keep his cool in difficult conditions), was even refused permission to fly over Italy, Hungary and, I believe, Estonia. Surely one gets all this sorted BEFORE take off, just in case you find yourself stranded with 12 crates of weapons in a country terrified of the threat presented by your ally?

  • Rod H MacLeod says:

    Rebecca – take a look at the photo with Zelensky. There are five chaps in an assortment of Gucci and Armani suits, and one guy with his work clothes on. There are five guys who don’t care about what the Wagner group is doing in Africa, yet want to tell the working guy how to make peace with the same Wagner group illegally waging war in his country. And the five guys (and you) cry racism because they fall foul of the working guy’s ally’s weapons laws. Tsk tsk.

    • rmrobinson says:

      De Ruyter writes how he would arrive at plants in crisis, kitted out in his overalls and boots, only to be met by a station manager in a suit and shiny pointing shoes. Despite the nation threatening crisis, the manager had clearly been nowhere near the proverbial coal face.

  • Karl Nepgen says:

    Ouch Rebecca! What were you smoking when you wrote this?
    The whole mission was ludicrous to start with, and my taxes paid for this nonsense. Can you really inagine a bunch of local cops and soldiers veing deployed effectively in Kyiv and Moscow? Dream on!

  • Carsten Rasch says:

    In another point of view, I suggest that the African contingent, lead by South Africa, is reaping what they have been sowing for years. Who can take leaders of these failing states seriously when they can’t even run the administrations of their own countries, never-mind keeping the peace on the continent? Who can take a character like Rhoode seriously when his recent history (Phala phala) clearly reveals his total disrespect if not arrogant ignorance of due process, protocol and doing the right thing. I would absolutely expect him to wave the only card in his deck as soon as the consequences of his ‘actions’ start taking form. This story is a little too woke for me, despite being aware of Duda’s rightwing position. The EU has had lots of trouble with Poland, and so have many Poles, that’s true. But the time of giving Africa, especially the ANC, the benefit of any doubt, for me, is long over.

  • Rae Earl says:

    Rebecca seems to be overly supportive of the inept Ramaphosa and his ridiculous coterie of armed guards with their excessive arsenal of weapons. The fact that Ramaphosa completed most of his trip in Ukraine and Russia with none of them in attendance seems to adequately spell out what an oversubscribed fiasco it turned out to be. Zelensky (3rd from right in the above picture, not 2nd?), must have been imbued with a sense of utter outrage that a friend of Russia had arrived from a near-failed state in Africa to preach the need for him to sit down and talk peace with an aggressive war criminal who had invaded his country, killed his countrymen and rained hell on his towns and cities. The Poles may indeed be inclined to racism, but at the same time they are close allies of America and they , hate the Russians. They would have seen the pro-Russian Ramaphosa mission as an affront to their closeness with Ukraine. The same goes for Hungary who refused to allow Ramaphosa to enter their airspace en route to hob-nob with Putin. Half of Ramaphosa’s contingency had the good sense to pull out of the exercise at the last minute which further underscores our embarrassment as South Africans in this hopeless fiasco.

  • Sydney Kaye says:

    You fail to mention a third reason. That the Poles didn’t want the weapons ( or what ever was in the crates) to be flown to Russia

  • Dana van der Merwe says:

    SA has just had a mysterious visit from a Russian ship at Simonstown, a naval harbour. We have had joint military exercises with Russia off our East coast. We are the “S” in BRICS, Russia is the “R”. I do not think we can blame Poland for refusing to accept heavily armed visitors. Nevertheless, I am still proud of the role that Ramaphosa managed to play in speaking to both the Russian and Ukrainian leaders.

  • Andre Parker says:

    Good article – nothing beats journalism that is well researched, fair & reasonable 👏

  • Bronwyn Keene-Young says:

    Great piece Rebecca. The kneejerk reaction to denying racism is so prevalent in these situations and conveniently ignores the fact that there can be two unconflicting truths: that the Polish officials were racist AND that there was incompetence by the SA government delegation.

  • Karl Sittlinger says:

    “What is most concerning, however, are the levels of intellectual dishonesty this conflict is increasingly foisting upon us – in the name of a manufactured liberal consensus. ”

    A little like some of your opinions on the DA.

    But pot shots aside, some of the arguments are weak such as trying to justify the huge contingency and alot of serious weaponry, especially in light of South Africa’s disastrous open sympathy for Russia and public statements of support (‘We’ve made it clear that Russia is a friend’: Pandor).

    Comparing the US to SA in any way in this regard is pretty disingenuous again especially considering Lady R accusations and our governments mediocre response.

    You may have a point about Poland and their views on race and politics, but in this case it’s a bit of a whataboutism if SA is not even able to fill out the paperwork properly. Do you suggest that if these basic mistakes would have been done by a country of white race origin, the Poles would have let it slide? Unlikely I think. It’s not like the ANC never pulls the race card when it suits them.
    As you said, the simplest explanation is often the right one, and that would not be one of racism, but rather one of South Africa’s alignment to Russia and Poland bordering on a war zone whose aggressor is Russia.

    Wasn’t it a bit strange that the ANC denied the air raid at first?

    What I do take from this article is that we all can become a little deaf in our echo chambers to alternate views.

    • Hans Wendt says:

      An excellent response Karl. Rebecca, like her attitude towards the DA is playing very loose with facts.

    • Hennie at Work says:

      Could not possibly have said it better

    • rmrobinson says:

      What are these “points” about Poland now being taken? Are there little groups at Rhodes which discovered there is a country called Poland but, in typical monolingual style, have yet to discover, if ever, that there is a rich country, with a rich language, with composers such as Chopin and Mendelssohn, with huge suffering in WWII, and huge ambiguity arising from the camps, which stupid monolingual is fit to deal with?

    • rmrobinson says:

      Ag tog, I meant to say, unfit to deal with. Please put an editing option in place.

  • Johan Buys says:

    all sides are a bit hysterical, including jetlagged journalists. I doubt SA was smuggling weapons to putin for a number of logical and logistical reasons. Citing radical elements within Poland to paint all of Poland racist is not worthy of a good journalist. The over-the-top security for this trip was simply very badly organized and the Polish officials (correctly) stuck to their guns.

  • Grenville Wilson says:

    Rebecca, hysterical protestations don’t cut it, extremely poor journalistic piece!

  • Dee Bee says:

    Wow! Not only is my comment not stuck in moderation, it appears to have been deleted from the DM system altogether. Not sure who took such offence to me pointing out Russian racism and the hypocrisy of our stance on this.

    • Louise Wilkins says:

      Post it again.

      • Dee Bee says:

        Basically, what I wrote was that I have no doubt that there is racism in Poland, and some of the Polish officials probably were racist in their actions, but that the ANC chooses Russia and Putin as their best buddy in the region (and globally) despite a long history of white (Slavic) supremacy in Russia, fully endorsed by Putin with this support (including financial) of the Night Wolves biker gang. Not a word from the ANC about that, or the many examples (Google it) of Africans being abused in Russia.

        I also questioned the relevance of the comparison to the US mission to Kyiv – Biden would certainly have been a trophy for the likes of Wagner or the Night Wolves (who were part of the 2014 annexation of Crimea), whereas Cyril is ostensibly non-aligned and not in danger from either side. Moreover, if the weapons were sniper rifles, as we’re being led to believe, what use are they on a train traveling at 100km/h?

        I’ll add to the original comment: the ANC actively aided Omar al Bashir’s escape from South Africa despite his largely Arabic regime slaughtering up to 400,000 largely black Africans in Darfur – where was the outrage then? Ramaphosa went with Egypt’s PM on this trip, despite Egypt kicking a Dutch museum out for an exhibition linking jazz and hip hop to ancient Egypt as being ‘too Afrocentric’ or an Egyptian lawyer suing Netflix for portraying Cleopatra as ‘black’.

  • Stef Viljoen Viljoen says:

    Rebecca, Rebecca…. I realise that you do not “sub” the photos in your article. Zelensky must have being right next to an explosion just before that photo was taken. And how racist can the Poles be if they have a black president?

  • Craig McLachlan says:

    To make sense of just about everything one reads and hears via news outlets one needs to internalize two great philosophers words – namely Gustave Flaubert’s famous “There is no truth. There is only perceptions” and Friedrich Nietzsche’s “There are no facts. Only interpretations”.
    Despite our seemingly highly irrational nature Mankind is capable of determining and agreeing the “truth” and “facts” ( or as close to them as possible) but politicians, reporters, bloggers and those who write comments (lol) do not utilise the established and accepted professional tools such as scientific method, statistical analysis, game theory, beyond reasonable doubt, etc. Even “balanced reporting” is typically highly subjective and superficial.

  • Luan Sml says:

    I appreciate the alternative and reasoned view from Ms. Davis, we are dealing with people, politics and emotions and I for one am glad to live in a country where news can be reported freely, alternative views can be aired and comments from opposing sides of the spectrum can be freely expressed (within reason)!
    The lack of trust in our politicians is unfortunate, but they are being hoist on their own petard!

  • Peter Geddes says:

    Well done, Rebecca!
    What a relief to read journalism that is not shrill and opinionated, but strives to offer insights into the stances and behaviours of others.

  • David Harley says:

    Ramphosa’s armed clown posse is not just a threat to Polish national security, it is a threat to our own, and you don’t need to invoke racism to explain this position. Consider a plane full of possibly hostile/collusive/corrupted agents armed with sniper rifles landing in your territory on their way to Kiev. Would you let them within 100 yards of Zelensky? I would not.
    And you don’t mediate peace by pissing off both sides. You’re supposed to win their trust and make friends. Ramaphosa has done neither and the very first point of his “plan” is both insulting and amusingly revealing. The problem is people don’t “listen” to each other? If you listen to Putin and and believe him he wants to wipe Ukraine and its culture off the map. If you listen to Zelensky there can be no peace without Russia withdrawing from Ukraine territory. Ramaphosa apparently listened to neither before departing on his quixotic mission.
    I used to have a lot of respect for Ramphosa. Not any more. Stay at home and sort out the corruption and incompetence in your own cabinet before humiliating South Africa on the world stage. This mission was a failure before it started.

  • Geoff Woodruff says:

    With the constant rumour mongering and conflicting points of view it’s impossible to find out exactly what the reasons for the fiasco were. There is quite likely to be a bit of truth concerning the Poles dislike of SA and them being obstructive but if the paperwork was incorrect and there were war grade firearms onboard then they were justified in detaining the plane and no amount of arguing would change that fact. I read earlier that Rhoode was informed by the SAAF that the documents were not in order but he assured them that he knew what he was doing and went against their advice. If that is correct then he should be summarily fired. The usual case of three sides to an argument here, the Polish authorities, the South African authorities and then only, the truth. The moral of the story, do your homework properly and leave nothing to chance.

  • John Weaver Weaver says:

    120 people on plane, assume 20 are journalists. That leaves 10 crates for 100 people, i.e. 1 crate per 10 people. What gym do those security people go to, I must go there to tone up my strength.

  • nikimoore007 says:

    What no-one has been able to tell us, in all this reporting, is why the Africans were there in the first place. Were they invited? Who invited them? Did they invite themselves? Did they check first to see if their intervention would be welcome? Who initiated this mission? Was it part of an AU outreach? Did it receive any mandate from any international body? Context is everything, and that context is very much missing from this entire story.

  • Clifford Bestall says:

    A necessary corrective to the over-heated outrage of too many.

  • valerie.scofield says:

    What country would accept a load of weapons and bullets to be loaded off on their doorstep? What purpose did this armory have exactly? The President was already protected with his bodyguards. Did they actually think they would need weapons as well as a contingent of more body guards when on a peaceful mission?
    The only reason the Government went there was to try and appear to be good guys, trying to solve the war. That is after they have upset America and the UK, aligning themselves with Russia on many occasions. However, the mission didn’t work – how could it, when Russia has spent 1 year and 4 months on a war which is one sided. Russia bombing most of Ukraine, causing countless people to flee, killing thousands of others, and flattening most of Ukraine. How can you have this happen to an individual country which is not part of Russia? Russia is the instigator, Ukraine is for the most part, the defender.
    As always, there is always a cry of Racism in reaction to not getting what they want. Crazy!

  • Martin V says:

    Great to get another view on this matter. Whether I agree with it or not is irrelevant. What is disappointing in the comments sections is the illustration of how many South Africans (and people on general) who are so intolerant of an opposing view.

    I think there are some good points in the article but let’s not kids ourselves about this so called government of ours.

    • William Kelly says:

      This sums it up for me. Well put sir.

    • Karl Sittlinger says:

      “What is disappointing in the comments sections is the illustration of how many South Africans (and people on general) who are so intolerant of an opposing view.”

      It is of course important not to conflate intolerance with disagreement. This article has alot of opinions and heavy accusations, hence it is completely permissible not to agree with them, especially if you can name reasons for it. It is possible to disagree with something and still appreciate the alternate viewpoint after consideration.

  • Lisbeth Scalabrini says:

    Trying to enter a country with twelve crates of ? and 120 military staff, they were lucky not to end up in jail.

  • Kelsey Boyce says:

    Your perspective is interesting Rebecca but doesn’t consider:

    1. If the bloated security contingent of 120 personnel from SA were possibly for other heads of state as well, I’m sure by now there would have been huge recourse and outcry against Poland from them. So far not a peep.

    2. To compare the security requirements of a US President travelling, to that of SA’s president is rather simplistic. Basically there are more people in the world who have it in for the US president than they do for ours so of course the security for a US President is going to be complex.

    3. As you correctly mentioned the US security detail for Biden’s visit took months of planning. That planning stood them in good stead and this is the reason that there was no drama.

    4. The last and most glaring oversight your argument doesn’t consider: had the ANC not exhibited in such an outstanding way their magnificent ability to mismanage anything they are tasked with doing, then perhaps, just perhaps, we could have for a second considered that some other government or country was to blame. However given the ANC’s astonishing track record of successfully messing things up (even their own conference last year at Nasrec) I, and the majority of other onlookers it seems, deduce that this is yet again another colossal example of the governments inability to to organise the proverbial p’ up in a brewery.

    ps – none of the other African contingents seemed to have experienced the same ‘racism’ on their visit.

  • Donald Moore says:

    Since racialism seems to be one of the many themes of this article and the extensive comment, I feel that it is worth reminding all that the express attitude of Putin, representing Russia, towards the Ukrainians is extremally racist. Skin colour is not necessary for there to be racialism.

  • Bernhard Scheffler says:

    Such obvious bias! Can Rebecca count to six? Only four African heads of state were present! Is it fair to compare them with 6/7 (86%) of the G7 heads of state?

  • Linda Cooper says:

    brilliant – thanks Rebecca Davis.

  • Bernhard Scheffler says:

    Very selective & inaccurate reporting! Four, out of 55, (7%) not six African heads of state attended. To compare this 7% with 6 out of 7 (86%) of the G7 hardly convinces!

  • Nice to finally read a piece that is critical of the west rather than automated responses about alleged African incompetence. Thanks Rebecca.

  • Gerrit Marais says:

    FFS. You go around hugging Adolf Putin like a BFF and then you expect the Poles who hate Russia almost as much as the Baltic states to act as if, what?

    • Jack R says:

      maybe some people should read up on Polish history.
      that will explain a lot of why the Polish attitude is definately not pro Putin.
      Some reports say that some Africans where reportedly turned away from Polish borders and were told politely to go to Russia for safety, but they didnt want to. Wonder why?

  • Edward French says:

    Thank you for your illuminating perspectives on this unfortunate event. Even with your helpful insights it remains ludicrous and embarrassing – a botched play within a play in the tragedy of our world and our country.

  • roger seldon says:

    I’m not sure why any African leader thinks they might hold sway over the goings on between Russia and Ukraine.
    All anyone has to do is watch the sitcom Servant of the People for an insider look into the subtleties and insubtleties of Ukrainian social attitudes. This 2015- 2019 series stars Volodymyr Zelensky before he became president. Besides the antiquated (by Western ‘standards’) misogony and acceptance of graft as a way of Ukrainian life, African countries and politicians – mainly represented by Zimbabwe – are often the butt of jokes (and Putin too. You will see why Putin would love to blast Zelensky and the whole of Ukraine off the face of the planet).
    The attitudes in this sitcom series are somewhat representative of societal attitudes generally throughout Eastern Europe and Russia. There is a tendency to an indecorous attitude to Africans and African politics, as evidenced in Servant of the People. An African diplomatic mission stuck on the tarmac in Poland might be another piece of evidence.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    Sedibe accused one of GroundUp’s reporters of being “racist” and having “no respect for black people”, and threatened to “expose” him.

    It just happens too darned often to be taken seriously by anyone with a brain. Or are the GroundUp reporters Polish maybe?

  • Paul Zille says:

    Why are the stories of racism apparently experienced by the mission not yours to tell? Are you not a journalist? How should we readers and the SA public balance the fact of ‘screwed-up paperwork’ (which you force yourself to mention while brushing it aside) with your unsubstantiated allegations of racism on behalf of the Polish authorities as causes of the debacle?

  • David Pennington says:

    Number 2 moving on

  • louis viljee says:

    Thanks Rebecca and DM. The people choking on their cereal says much.

  • Alastair Sellick says:

    Thanks Rebecca. A balanced and measured assessment that has corrected one or two of my own misconceptions. I’m going to take the comments on Polish Racism and the South African government’s organisational incompetence away as the most useful.

  • Carlo Fourie says:

    Although more an opinion piece than a factual article, and filled with personal prejudice, it does provide some food for thought and reminds us that every story ALWAYS have at least two sides.

  • PETER BAKER says:

    Sadly this diatribe is way off point, the instant you delve into the internal machinations of Polish politics, you by default MUST permit the same on the South African side, where we; Ramaphoria and the ANC, and EFF tip the scale overwhelmingly. What is worse, some poster about being white or nothing by some anonymous party follower, or a party leader of one of the biggest parties in SA exhorting the masses to Kill the White Farmer. Has DM lost its way in some sort of mental fog of ANC sycophancy that it is no longer has any sense of what is real? I am beginning to find this reporting to be as bad as that of the Independent Group; its that bad! And yes, let that Pole out of jail; he done more time than Mandela. We are to our death, a nation of forgiving people.

  • scotspot says:

    Clearly this reporter has not read the report by her colleague,Peter Fabricius dated the previous day. So, to repeat the obvious: the other countries’ delegations, of a similar racial make-up to the South African delegation, were not stopped by the Polish authorities. The Polish government may well be racist but nothing in this shambolic foray by our government indicates that. All South Africans should be ashamed that our government is so incompetent. Their colour, and any Polish prejudices, have nothing to do with it.

  • Erik van Heerden says:

    Wow, playing the pathetic victim/racism card again… So predictable.

  • rmrobinson says:

    What does your last sentence mean? Do you mean the war in the Ukraine is not really happening? Is the ambassador of the Ukraine lying when she writes about the suffering in the Ukraine at the hands of the Russians?

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