Maverick Citizen

FROM ARCHIVES: EDITORIAL

Lest one day we forget: With Putin’s Russia, South Africa is committing a historic mistake

Lest one day we forget: With Putin’s Russia, South Africa is committing a historic mistake
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hands with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa during the BRICS Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, 26 July 2018. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Sputnik / Kremlin Pool)

In the light of Alexi Navalny's death we republish an editorial from 25 June 2023 where we asked why the ruling party insists on being best friends with Putin's Russia.

 

A prisoner of his own incompetence in the fortress of the Kremlin on Saturday, fearful for his presidency, his own legacy and his very life. As Sunday dawned, he emerged greatly weakened, his brutal grip on power shaken. Why is this man still the South African ruling elite’s best friend, leader to so many?

Russian President Vladimir Putin faced a dilemma on Saturday that many failed dictators have faced before. Should he leave the country on one of his many private jets? Should he push on to spill more Russian blood, to attempt to destroy his erstwhile chef, the Wagner Group’s mercenary owner Yevgeny Prigozhin? Or should he cut a deal to negotiate his way out of the existential trouble that he himself has created. 

At the end, he chose to cut a deal.

Yes, the Wagner mutiny may fade one day into a historical footnote. But Putin’s problems, which can sometimes seem like blood-soaked farces, are entirely of his own making. 

By any and all measures, Putin’s multiple presidential terms have proved a gigantic failure. He presides over a country that has been blessed with natural resources like no other. The Russian people supply human capital that in some respects is unmatched in the world today. Russia’s culture and rich history should supply a solid intellectual and emotional foundation. By far the biggest country by size in the world, Russia has all the potential to be wealthy, prosperous and indeed a superpower for good.

Tears in Heaven: Why everything Ramaphosa & Putin touch ends in a gigantic farce

And yet. And yet.

Russia under Putin has turned into the purveyor of hate and violence.

Even before the invasion of Ukraine in February last year, the Mighty Russia’s GDP was smaller than Italy’s, a country that itself has never been considered the world’s best-run place, whose surface area is 57 times smaller than the giant in the north and is not blessed with almost any natural resources. Russia’s economy, regardless of truly awesome skill sets and goodwill from ordinary Russians, was mostly a one-trick resource pony, even before Putin committed economic and military suicide.

Rise of the oligarchs

In times of a necessary global switch towards renewable energy, Putin’s Russia heavily depends on the sale of oil and gas. His mediaeval-style granting of sectors to oligarchs meant not only that he collected all dues and off-shored them to the Western world, but also that the oligarch-controlled sectors of the economy allowed no space for genuine entrepreneurship – for the small guys who could bring their expertise and superior products at better prices than Putin-approved businesses. 

Travel through Russia, away from the big cities, and you will see a hinterland that has not changed much from the days of the USSR, apart from the local bosses now driving Bentleys and Gelandewagens instead of Chaikas. Mud is still the main building material for most of Russia’s roads and houses. People are still poor – but this time they are also hopeless. Communism abandoned them and capitalism mostly meant they could now window shop without being able to afford windows. The net result is a rancid cynicism that pervades the land.

Failed leader as he is, Putin did bring peace to the streets of Russia in his early years – and to outsiders it is difficult to understand just how deeply grateful the Russians were to him for that achievement. Russia during the nineties was a truly awful place, where violence and bloodshed buried law and order. As a securocrat of the highest calibre, Putin brought in his old KGB buddies, re-negotiated the deal with oligarchs (you don’t challenge my power and you get to live and enjoy your caviar, hookers and Big Macs) and took many men with AK-47s out of circulation.

But he needed to do more than that to reclaim Russia’s sense of exceptionalism, and re-igniting the war with Chechnya was an obvious candidate. 

Russia prosecuted this war in retaliation for the “fact” that Chechen terrorists were behind multiple blasts in Russia’s smaller cities in 1999. Independent investigations have since concluded that it was in all likelihood Putin’s people who perpetrated these atrocities, to manufacture the nation’s consent to war. This was not too difficult, given that the Russians were still smarting from the horrific first Chechen war, a ghastly conflict in 1994 that left them covered in blood and shame. And Putin delivered by not just defeating Chechnya – he razed it to the ground. Russia was once again led by a bulletproof tsar, and felt good about it.

But being a mightier thug than the next guy is not a sufficient qualification for running a country with 7,000 nuclear warheads, one that is in dire need of improving the lives of its people. At some point, you need to show actual aptitude for governance. Once the street fights were over, Putin still didn’t feel like swapping his natural brutal style for something more appropriate.

The Stalinesque style of prosecuting wars helped him keep the nationalists happy through conflicts in Georgia in 2008, Ukraine (Crimea and Donbas) in 2014, and Syria a year later. The Chavez-style spending of oil and gas revenues bought him decades of goodwill, peace and control.

Through all of this, he remained a thug, always after someone else’s lunch money. And he remained deeply fearful of losing his life, his total control, and for the safety of the billions he’d stashed in the West – exactly the place he officially disdained and yet privately committed a large portion of his illegal wealth to.

But you can’t count on luck and the commodity cycle to carry you forever. The Obama administration’s push to lower the global price of oil and gas would end up hitting the kingdom of Putin badly. The Magnitsky Act, also pushed by Obama, angered Putin even more after limiting the places he could stash his money overseas. 

The decades of incompetence also started to take their toll. The ‘mighty’ Russian Army is now in direct combat against a Nato-equipped Ukrainian army, and we can clearly see that outdated and poorly maintained equipment is no match for high-tech Western technology. It turns out that the myth of a modern, powerful, well-supplied and well-organised Russia under Putin was exactly that, a myth. Its mighty army was not an exception.

Instead of benefiting from its incredible human potential, Russia under Putin solidified its top spot as a great exporter of hatred, racism and authoritarian control, constantly circling the drain around the ultimate cultural and political issue – is the world better under democracy or autocracy? Putin’s “success” gave space to Xi Jinping, Donald Trump, Narendra Modi, Recep Erdogan, Victor Orban, Jair Bolsonaro, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and so many more.

Even the obvious mistakes could not deter Putin. The 2020 Covid-19 anti-vaxxing campaign, in good part fed by the trolls from St Petersburg’s Internet Research Agency (IRA), which is owned by Prigozhin, boomeranged into his face, with only 30% of Russia’s citizens electing to get vaccinated (hesitancy was also fuelled by the Russian vaccine’s unproven record and outdated technology – more proof of the wholesale deterioration plaguing the second half of Putin’s 23 years of rule).

The IRA trolls are still a massive spreader of hatred around the world, but Putin does not sweat over the details, it appears.

So, we must ask, why did the government of South Africa decide to take Putin’s side so hard following his invasion of Ukraine – even while doing the weak-but-vicious passive-aggressive thing, claiming that it was neutral?

Beats me. And so many others. But let’s discuss it.

A historic mistake

It was always a kind of macabre fun since late February 2022 to wait for the next rationale from the comrades in the ANC and their assorted allies in EFF and elsewhere. These followed the rhythm of the dancing rationales that Putin put forward for his invasion: Ukrainians are Nazis, gay-lovers, Ukraine does not exist but it brought Nato to the Russian border and set up bioweapon laboratories … Remember the laboratories? Whatever happened to them? And remember when Putin’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, who recently awarded Independent Media’s Dr Iqbal Surve a medal for cooperation, said to a laughing global gathering in India that Russia was attacked first

South Africa’s Putin fanboys at first insisted that the Russians helped the ANC when it needed it the most, and so comrades must stick together because, you know, a truly good friend will help you bury the body.

Except that is not entirely true. Russians were of course part of the USSR, but so were Ukrainians. Somehow the comrades also managed to forget that after the USSR’s near-economic collapse in 1987, and even before that, it was the Swedes who jumped in and helped the ANC by donating tens of millions of US dollars a year. Rather convenient selective memory, knowing now that Sweden is so bitterly opposed to the Russian invasion of Ukraine that it has decided to break hundreds of years of neutrality in favour of joining Nato.

Why so, comrades?

Perhaps the most cynical rationale goes something like this: If the US was allowed to invade Iraq and bomb Yugoslavia and Libya, why is the Western world so up in arms about the one tiny mini invasion of Ukraine? QED.

Well, where does one even start with this one?

The simple response to this logical fallacy is that one evil does not justify another. But let’s put more detail in it.

A great majority of people condemning Russia today also condemned the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia. 

My own parents, family and friends suffered terribly through those harrowing 79 days of bombs and cruise missiles, and still suffer to this day. I was here in South Africa, and it’s difficult to explain the pain of being 10,000km away from your loved ones as bombs and missiles ruined the country, killed more than 5,000 people and caused estimated $80-billion damage.

What the US and Nato did from March to May 1999 is unforgivable and will never be forgotten. And yet, I refuse to allow the suffering of my people to justify the suffering of Ukrainians at the hands of Putin. What have the people of Ukraine done to you, dear ANC comrades and other assorted propagandists, to deserve your disdain for hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of refugees? 

The next rationale is very similar, with an important broadening of the argument: the US behaved horribly so many times over, with their neo-colonialism and spate of coups in sovereign countries, while the USSR was always helping out liberation movements.

Let’s say it up front: The global suffering caused by the US policies and actions devastated vast areas of the globe during the Cold War. The Vietnam War, the coups in Latin America and Iran, to say nothing of the post-Cold War invasion of Iraq and the botched 20-year occupation of Afghanistan, along with so, so many other examples. Only a person living under a rock could deny that.

But Putin’s disciples have a two-continent-wide hole in the middle of their argument: the USSR occupied half of Europe for more than 45 years, and big swathes of Asia for much longer. How do they explain the rush of the USSR’s former European vassal states to join Nato and the EU other than as a legitimate and existential wish not to be occupied ever again? 

Stemming from the last point, there was also the claim made that because Nato spread towards Russia, that justified anything Putin would do to Ukraine. But Ukraine is not a Nato country. The followers of that logic mostly know but do not care to admit that the Russian nuclear doctrine states that nuclear weapons can be used even if only one foot of Russia’s territory is invaded; the argument falls apart immediately as only suicidal nations would have dared to do so before February 2022.

It is obvious that none of these rationales is anchored in reality. They are talking points, possibly cooked from inside Putin’s massive propaganda machine, which, incidentally, is one of the few sectors where Russia remains a true global power. These talking points sound good on social media and to people who prefer not to use their own brains. Everywhere else, they melt like Putin’s army in the face of Ukrainian, and even Wagner, fighters.

Russia has committed some of the worst human rights abuses in recent history and yet the party of Mandela supports them.

Russia is ranked as South Africa’s 51st economic partner. It has no technology of note to export to South Africa, other than those that can kill people, and maybe some cheap-ish oil, should China and India leave anything on the table.

Continuation of the obvious, if unspoken, support for Russia will cost South Africa billions of dollars in trade and millions of jobs once some of our biggest trading partners come to the point of no return, which is approaching fast.

SA has mortgaged its moral compass

So, why are we supporting Russia, Mr Ramaphosa? Why are we tethering the future of our 65-million people to the rapidly deteriorating fortunes of the world’s most hated man and his murderous cronies? We have mortgaged our most precious moral compass, for which many millions suffered for way too many decades, to provide a cover of respectability for one man, who happens to be devoid of all values that made South Africa’s sacrifice so important a moment in modern history?

Why, Mr Ramaphosa and the ANC government?

How much more do you need to know about just how catastrophic Putin will be for South Africa? The new world order you might help birth will rely upon some of the nastiest, cold-blooded killers alive today. Is that really the strategic direction to take for the country that can still benefit from great relations with the democratic world? Because there is no doubt that, should South Africa publicly decide to once again stand for what is right, the world would come our way overnight.

This weekend, Putin was challenged for the first time by someone who is even more disdainful of morals and norms, a man who values human lives the same way Stalin did a long time ago, back when sacrificing 20-million people was good politics. Putin has emerged as the “winner”, but he is now a damaged goods in the eyes of so many. His armour is getting rusty. The man’s word will be much less trusted than ever before.

Mr Ramaphosa. Dear African National Congress:

If you are fully intent on taking South Africa down this path, the least you can do is tell the truth to your fellow people you still (apparently) aspire to lead. But never forget this: you are making a historic mistake. And we deserve to know why. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Anthony Akerman says:

    Excellent piece – cogent, well argued and important.

  • Cape Doctor says:

    The fact that you are reaching to (rather than preaching to) the converted detracts nothing from this superb, eloquent and heart-rending editorial. Do the senior members of the ANC read articles like this? Do they read? And if they do, are they able to suspend their outdated party dogma for one second, and search their souls for a clue as to what is morally right, and in the best interests of South Africa. So many questions, all of them apparently rhetorical.

    • Ansie du Toit says:

      No, I doubt that!

      • johan.massyn says:

        Search their souls for what is morally right – the ANC sold their souls for 12 pieces of silver long ago

      • Marina Hall says:

        Some in leadership definitely do read this publication:
        Minister of Home Affairs “said he was shocked to learn of what had happened in court when reading about it in Daily Maverick, as he knew nothing of the case before it went to court.~DM”

        (Good to know DM actually leads the discourse…)

        It’s not whether leaders read the public commentary, they clearly do (& they must be acutely aware of what’s at stake), so more to the point, what’s actually driving their responses…

        …Ons moet nog agter die kap van die byl kom…as the saying goes.

  • Errol Price says:

    The assessment of Putin and his grotesque ruination of a potentially -great country is spot -on.
    However, the somewhat plaintive and rhetorical request addressed to Ramaphosa at the end of this piece is somewhat curious in the light of the incisive bit that precedes it.
    I doubt whether Ramaphosa asd his Mafiosi friends are enmeshed with the thugs in the Kremlin out of some nostalgic loyalty from the days of the apartheid struggle.
    More likely they are attracted by the yachts, fancy cars anf bank accounts hidden away in tax-free locations

    • Jane Crankshaw says:

      I have to agree with you there Errol! There is nothing sentimental in politics and certainly when it comes to money and politics….so let’s be realistic and call a spade a spade…

  • rmrobinson says:

    We will not forget, because this is just another step in the process of destroying South Africa at the hands of the ANC.

  • Nick Robert says:

    A thought provoking piece. Well written. Not sure the ANC are listening whilst they stay “insular” in the knowledge that they can bulldoze Parliament or sway the foreign policy. However, 2024 remains pivotal for what WE as the South African public will allow to happen post that election. This voting cycle is critical

  • Anne Munnik says:

    The ANC has utterly failed our hero, and saviour, Mr Mandela.
    Let us call unwaveringly on the government to stand up and Defend / Speak the Truth … and save Umzantsi Afrika.
    Amandla ngawethu ~ The Power is ours.

  • Cheryl Siewierski says:

    Brilliantly put. I just wish the ANC leadership would hear it too.

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    What a brilliant piece that sums up the current reality in the world around us. Most of us know what a murderous thug and evil monster Putin is. If only the long suffering, highly abused and downtrodden Russian people would rise up and claim their right for freedom, human rights and democracy! As for SA, we achieved it all, only for it to be trashed by the putrid, treacherous, thieving, treasonous and criminal anc. Their DNA is the same as Putin’s – they want a country where the elite and connected cadres live in the lap of luxury, are free to steal the country blind, as is the reality, and have no opposition/media/NGOs to call them to account. Narrow, greedy party interest trumps the national one and in this abominable party/government, one is dealing with the most inept, incompetent, totally unfit for purpose and stupid bunch of morons around.

  • Peter Utting says:

    Thank you Richard for trying to get people to think, but opinions aren’t the solution. “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
    William Shakespeare, Hamlet

    The only solution is NOW. When we live NOW, in the moment, we cannot change the past and we cannot change the future. We can only go from this moment to the next. Belief is not being. Belief cannot change anything – the past or the future.

    I don’t believe in anything. If I don’t know I’ll find out. Then I’ll know and can’t believe in what I know. Change can only come from NOW.

    When we are all in the moment together – change happens.

    I would like to amend THE SA Constitution which I understand should be secular.

    “We, the people of South Africa,
    Recognise the injustices of our past;
    Honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land;
    Respect those who have worked to build and develop our country; and
    Believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.”

    [I don’t BELEIVE in anything – if I don’t know, I will find out. Replace BELIEVE with KNOW.]

    “We therefore, through our freely elected representatives,”
    [the Zondo Report thus far, clearly shows that our freely elected representatives have failed us]
    ” adopt this Constitution as the supreme law of the Republic so as to –
    Heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social
    justice and fundamental human rights;
    Lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by law;
    Improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person; and
    Build a united and democratic South Africa able to take its rightful place as a sovereign
    state in the family of nations.
    May God protect our people.”

    [Where did this God come from? God has never been proven to exist. The onus is on those who claim there is a God to prove God exists! The Constitution should be secular. Rather: May this Constitution protect our people.]

    The SA Constitution has been hijacked by politicians – unprotected by The Constitution.

  • frances hardie says:

    Net so.

  • Sydney Kaye says:

    Backing a loser is always a mistake.

  • Wilhelm Boshoff says:

    Because, the ANC was bought by Putin. He owns them!

  • robertbreyer says:

    Branko,
    ” When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
    The only explanation left is that Putin funded ANC and its last election campaigns. So our great democratic miracle is in fact a lie and we are in fact living in a defacto one-party state.

  • Papa Red says:

    Fantastic piece. Well done!

  • Jon Quirk says:

    A pithy, concise commentary on both the global situation, the grotesque mess that is present day Russia – and if you get a chance read either or Anne Applebaum or Simon Seebag Montefiore on Russian history since Peter the Great, and you will realise that Russia has always a mess, and then watch the brilliant satirical film – the Death of Stalin – and it will also reinforce the emptiness of Stalinism, and you will double-down on the question as to what the heck the ANC, in all it’s many guises, phases and disguises was thinking about when it cosied up to the Russian spectre.

    Most serious thinkers, as with Branko, were/are appalled by American overreach and braggadocio, their belief in their omnipotence and bullying rights over much of the World, but that does not make their antithesis automatically better; rather the European way of trying to work with and ameliorate their rough edges, is/was the better route, and without the ogre of the communist monster, the character that came to be Uncle Sam would not have needed to exist?

    The World is not perfect, never will be, but making wise, informed choices must surely ever be the best way?

  • John Millar says:

    Why? A dog barks and money talks….

  • harrypoortman001 says:

    This text should reach the e-mail-in-boxes of every politician/parlement attendee first thing this morning. Better as a print out on their desks. Of course none of the mentioned will read it. On a daily basis we understand that only info in line with party politics is being read, and not even that. A collective memory loss and cut-off-from-reality attitude drives our political rulers in an attempt to mass-destroy our country. A mute government that cann’t see nor hear nor speak the truth. We are in deeper problems than we even want to believe.
    Thanks for this much needed article!!

  • Donald Clark says:

    If only our ‘leaders’ and their ilk would actually take note of the logical & coherent arguments put forward in this article. Sadly, we all know the answer…

  • Fiona Ronquest-Ross Ronquest-Ross says:

    Well put, thank you. Excellent short lesson in world history. Eloquently sets up why we should keep challenging the thinking of our leaders. Time for a course correction.

  • Johann Olivier says:

    I’m sorry, Branko, but the American/NATO bombing of Serbs was long overdue, after incredible atrocities committed, mainly by Serbia. Of course, on a personal level, it must have been a horror show. Most of us simply remember Srebrenica, or Sarajevo, and the extended period of terror wrought by Serbs (who, it is worth noting, seem to now fully support Russia and continue to agitate in the Balkans). That was the ultimate horrorshow. And those victims were helpless. No revisionism, please. It saddens me that you would use this to tar the US/Western alliance. There are, as mentioned, a sufficient number of worthy examples.

    • Paul Savage says:

      Excellent comment Johann. But other than that one point, this is a superb piece of analysis by Branko, and the article should be forwarded to the inbox of all ANC members of parliament, and the NEC. I suspect that the ANC simply doesn’t care.

    • Jana Krejci says:

      refresh my memory, what was it US/NATO bombed Serbia for 70+ days? Did UN approved or did the empire of lies decided the country needs to be bombed?

  • Richard Bryant says:

    Thank you Branco. Your piece eloquently resonates my feelings. That my disgust for putin does not mean I automatically support US/ Western hypocrisy.

    But in answering your question, I think we need to properly understand what happened with the Zuma nuclear deal and the subsequent time David Mabuza spent in russia. I suspect that the vile putin has a financial hold over the ANC and has enough dirt on them to collapse them in a second. Same hold he has over trump.

    Extortion can be the only reason why a party behaves so irrationally. Especially since they held the upper hand on questions of international human rights, now relegated to laughing stock.

  • Peter Doble says:

    Superb summation. At a guess the answer to your question posed is – handouts to keep the dead dog ANC afloat, kudos on the world stage (aka the Poland fiasco) and a massive middle finger to all neo colonialists. But whatever the real truth, it is certainly not the welfare of the South African people and the best interests of the country.

  • D'Esprit Dan says:

    “But never forget this: you are making a historic mistake. And we deserve to know why.”

    Very simple – salaries at Lootfreely House are now being paid after years of ANC bankruptcy. And let’s face it, the ANC’s ‘moral compass’ was chucked away with disdain by Thabo Mbkei years ago when he decided that there was no crisis in Zimbabwe and that HIV didn’t cause AIDS: possibly the two most damaging decisions in our post-apartheid history, leading to millions of deaths, dislocations and poverty. Add to that his absolute denial of anything – includes the Arms Deal – that could show him and the ANC in a bad light and that is the genesis of our collapse into dysfunction and begging bowls to the worst of dictators.

    • Jess Bouwer says:

      The ANC is following the no-questions-asked money since they know the West will demand at least some accountability which will have disastrous consequences for them.

  • JC Coetzee says:

    Your excellent article chronicles reality, and touches on morality. The answer to the why, I am afraid, has nothing to do with intellectual dissection: follow the money!

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    While I agree entirely with the comments below, not one of them appears to come from a voice that isn’t English speaking or the ANC.

    • b.breytenbach says:

      ‘n Bietjie onregverdig, Meneer Bailey! Ek is seker baie Afrikaanstaliges (ek weet nie so mooi van die ANC nie) lees ook Branco Brkic se uitstekende ontleding van die bloederige gemors waartoe die Eenpartystaters Mzansi wil verbind. En stem saam. Ek vermoed die ANC se verbintenis tot Putin, afgesien nou van die geld, is dat hulle hom wil glo wanneer hy voorgee sy ‘stryd’ is teen die Weste, teen alles wat ‘wit’ is. En dit is grotendeels waar vir die res van die kontinent. Wagner se skollies en plunderaars is aanvaarbaar as boelies om die Westerse imperialiste uit Afrika te verwilder. Hulle is mos nie wit nie! What a tragic farce!

      • Net so, Mnr Breytenbach! Mnr Bailey vergeet dat DM in Engels verskyn en daarom antwoord mense in Engels al is ‘n groot aantal lesers Afrikaanssprekend. Ek wonder of hy ooit iets in Afrikaans probeer lees, en of hy in net sulke korrekte Afrikaans sou kon antwoord?

        • Pierre Myburgh says:

          Mnr Bailey, ons lees in Engels en Afrikaans, jy mag dalk verbaas wees hoeveel Afrikaanssprekende Suid Afrikaners die Daily Maverick daagliks lees.
          Doet so voort Branko en jou uitstekende span.

    • John Strydom says:

      I was brought up in an Afrikaans-speaking home, but this is an English newspaper, so my comments are in English.
      We are here, Mr. Bailey.

  • Mark Borchers Borchers says:

    I’d like someone knowlegeable to comment on Russia’s modus operandi of getting dirt on key people, and then blackmailing them to conform to their wishes. That’s not talked about much, tho I suspect is a huge factor in the current situation where this inexplicable support for Russia persists to the detriment of the country.

  • bobby.freeman78 says:

    Comprehensively researched, informative, so well written but very disturbing.

  • annemarieburgers says:

    Excellently put! Clear and well reasoned!

  • Libby De Villiers says:

    Great article, but surely lost in the deep, dark chaos of our illiterate, non-thinking, irrational politicians.
    When last has there been a good reason for doing what they do, or an educated and informed decision made by the ANC?
    Putin told Cyril to back him, so that’s what he does – there are some hand outs and bribes that Cyril can share with his gang and there we go.
    Neither Putin nor Cyril has any dignity or decency or values or ethics. They are a match made in heaven.

  • Jamie Meyer says:

    The only reason I can think of is that the Russians must have enormous leverage over the ANC. Money inevitably must have changed hands over the ill fated nuclear deal under the dark days of Zuma. Money the ANC has clearly spent and cannot pay back – we all know how Putin deals with that. The result is that the ANC top guard are probably more concerned about continuing to stay alive than the welfare of the country. We are Russia’s bitch whether we like it or not.

  • Peter Merrington says:

    Well put. History isn’t only an invention made up by the winners. It’s a complex, broad, unfolding roadmap. No nation is innocent. But in these latter days Putin’s Russia (oligarchy? Fascist state? Gangster state? No more a communist state, anyway) has wickedly overreached. Wake up, ANC leadership. The ‘West’ is not all bad. It is SA’s historic and deeply rooted foundation. There is a matrix of reality deeper than the anti-western flap. I like living in a functional DA-led Cape Town suburb and feeling part of a wider saner world.

  • Bruce Q says:

    Excellent editorial Branko.
    This should rather be in the form of an open letter to our ostensible government, and in particular, our lackluster (a kind term) president.
    Perhaps they might read it then. If they can.
    So sad.

  • Ismail Lagardien says:

    Quite exceptional. Draws on a deep well of knowledge and understanding.

  • mike van wyk says:

    Geopolitical missteps on the part of SA; largely founded on policies based on fear. Fear of past and fear of future. In 1984 the rand trade 1:1 with the USD. In 1994 the rand traded just below 4:1 to USD. During the last 29 years the rand has devalued against the USD, not reflecting true economic potential; but largely due to negative sentiment based on ill founded policies. SA has implemented domestic and foreign policy based on fear. Fear that apartheid would re-emerge and foreign policy joining BRICS, which is also based on fear. Fear of being economically excluded. As a result of these fear based policies, we have progressively made all South Africans poorer. Thereby eroding the purchasing power of the rand. We have not being wise in which company we choose to associate. Which in conjunction with a weak rand, has worked to generate mistrust, confused political posturing that has contributed to a growing negative perception of SA on the world stage. South Africa’s alignment with Russia makes no sense geopolitically or economically. It’s as if the ANC lead government is hell bent on find ways to wreck South Africa, both politically and economically. By simply not considering the longterm ramifications of its ill founded policies. This confusion generally stems from how the ANC itself is formed. An uneasy grouping of African social democrates (Conservatives), Communists (SACP), Trade Unionists (COSATU). Each influencing policy in apposing directions.

  • Glenn Jennings says:

    Ah… the purveyor of logical thought appealing to ANC cadre’s decision making. While everyone is scratching their heads trying to understand why the ANC is doing this, I am scratching mine trying to understand why people cannot see the obvious reason why. The ANC is bankrupt and cannot fund its bloated Luthuli house salary bill nor the underhand patronage on which it is built. It needs money to survive, to existentially exist after 2024 elections. All that matters to ANC decision makers is how to maintain their hands on the levers of power so they can continue their kleptocratic feeding. And for this they need to try win the 2024 elections… and that requires money. The taps have somewhat been squeezed since Zondo days.

    If you think for one second that the effect of their decisions on the plight of the poor marginalized citizens even crosses their minds, then you are delusional.

    If you want to understand the ANC’s non sensical infatuation with Russia, it’s the old story… “follow the money”.

  • nickha says:

    Amen! What can I add? Nothing, except to cry for my beloved country….

  • Tim Price says:

    I can’t imagine events like the weekends in any other modern country, except perhaps for some in Africa or other ex Soviet states – its as if the world has passed Russia by leaving it in a medieval time warp, where oligarchs and private army bosses can call the shots, or be assasinated.

  • Bee Man says:

    Excellent article. Hopefully it is widely read

  • Sue Grant-Marshall says:

    Brilliant, clear thinking, excellently worded article Branko. How about all of us Daily Maverick Insiders – about 22,000 – put some money towards a full page advert in SA’s largest circulation newspaper? Your article in full would be the content.

  • Graham McIntosh says:

    Spot on and thanks for setting out the reality so crisply. The Marxist-Leninist Comrades in the SACP/ANC are trapped in their ideology which rigidly despises the West and Putin is their PosterBoy.

  • Rae Earl says:

    Author Ayn Rand had a core understanding of the psyche of government leaders like Putin, Jacob Zuma, Cyril Ramaphosa, Robert Mugabe, and many others. She fled Russia and took her story to America. in her novels and beliefs. Just one of her many quotes gives deep insight into what the ANC is premised on as a governing party. She stated::

    “When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion – when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing – when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors – when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you – when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice – you may know that your society is doomed”.
    Ayn Rand

    • James Francis says:

      It is a pity that right wingers have hijacked Rand, meaning many people don’t see the very valuable lessons in her early works.

  • brett bowes says:

    The truth is the same thruth that had the ANC championing the proposal to sign a nuclear plant from Russia and also that led to us spending billions on the arms deal. THEY ARE BROKE AND NEED TO FINANCE AN ELECTION

  • Solly Moeng says:

    Great piece… bust many will ignore it and keep defending the ridiculously indefensible!

  • John Belyeu says:

    Such a well balanced journalistic and editorial take on the situation which affects all of us. I know some will have a knee-jerk or propagandized objection to your points, but then again many in America will still vote for Trump. I would suggest, if you haven’t yet, read “Peter the Great” by Robert K. Massie. For me, at least, the parallels and lessons are astounding, and may have a bearing on Putin’s mentality.

  • David Roux says:

    Small Factcheck Correction: The Russian vaccine (Sputnik) did not use outdated tech. Its the same tech (using adenovirus vectors) as was used in the Oxford (AZ) & J&J vaccines. Perhaps not as cutting edge as the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer & Moderna) but pretty darn good nonetheless. Note, in developing countries the Oxford (AstraZeneca) vaccine did most of the “heavy lifting” against Covid – saved more lives than the mRNA vaccines.

    • David Roux says:

      The other problem is I doubt whether its factually accurate to blame vaccine hesitancy in Russia on Putin (or Preghozin). If you look at the stats this seems to me to be a cultural issue that differentially affects quite a few East European countries. Here are the stats (source is Our World in Data) for vaccine doses administered per 100 people for selected East European countries as at 30 Jan 2022: Czechia – 162, Hungary – 160, Poland -129, Croatia – 126, Serbia – 122, Russia – 106, Belarus – 105, Slovakia – 100, Romania – 84, Ukraine – 76, Georgia – 72, Bulgaria – 61. The stats for Czechia, Hungary and Poland aren’t too bad, but they were still well short of the European Union average (183 doses per 100 pax at that date). So perhaps East European populations are simply more vax hesitant than their West European counterparts? It’s for the sociologists to go study why this is…

  • Belinda Cavero says:

    An excellent article. May God help us.

  • PETER BAKER says:

    Very nice. But sadly the message is just being read by the masses who already agree. As some obscure Canadian wrote before you were born: the media is the message; and you / we are not reaching it. Sad. But you are preaching to the converted. We don’t need that much saving. Get the message to those who need it.

  • Donald bemax says:

    The ANC has made a litany of historic mistakes and continues to do so… so why are we at all surprised ???

  • Michael Thomlinson says:

    Branko you have asked the question: why has our government (read ANC) taken the side of a thug like Putin and you have given no answer. But I think the answer is clear: MONEY. Connect the dots – at one stage the ANC could not even scrape enough money together to pay salaries but then suddenly they could after they cosied up to the Kremlin. They are selling foreign policy to the highest bidder. Perhaps if Israel had offered enough money they would have condemmed Hamas? However, a great well written article and I think it underlines the fact that we South Africans need to speak up against the ANC government and tell the world that ANC speak is not necessarily the opnion of ordinary, thinking South Africans.

  • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

    Very fair and balanced article except it doesn’t answer a few questions.
    We know the ANC has been found wanting by the Zondo commission.
    Russia is not a good role model for democracy so is china.
    American atrocities are open to the whole world to see.
    The South African State.
    We are a country with a constitution which is clear on how we need to operate in terms of trade and foreign affairs.
    Did Ramaphosa breach the constitution?
    Did Minister Pandor breach any policies.
    On the trade relations did we breach any conditions set on the agreement which is highlighted in the anticipated response?
    The solution then is simple,let’s agree that in order for South Africa to continue trading with our biggest benefactor we need to be obedient.
    Ditch our responsibility on human rights, withdraw from the UN instead of being there as a rubber stamp, attend the global stage to take instructions and come back with bags of concessions of trade and agree this is the new global way of doing things.
    The UN general secretary has clearly been honest about the war that triggered this response what is left for us is choose material gains over human lives and sleep well at night.

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