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Calls for South Africa to kowtow to Nato, US and EU demands on Russia are partisan posturing and selective outrage

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Cornelius Monama is the media liaison officer and spokesperson for Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Thandi Modise.

Diplomatic relations between South Africa and Russia have never been a secret, and the visit to Russia by Defence Minister Thandi Modise was consistent with South Africa’s foreign relations policy. Yet the matter has been hijacked for cheap political point-scoring.

The article Defence Minister Modise’s dangerous dance with Putin”, by Ray Hartley and Greg Mills in Daily Maverick of 30 October 2022, reflects the all-too-familiar tendency to take cheap shots at government leaders by distorting the truth and toying with facts. 

The article is not only sensational hot air, it is also political posturing masquerading as journalism. In a righteous tone characterised by moral condemnation, the writers come across as part of a desperate campaign to propagate a particular narrative. “South Africa can only be a loser if it’s selling weapons to Russia. And if it’s not, why did the defence minister not simply say so?” they assert. However, the apparently simple and straightforward issue that the article suggests is a bit more complex and not that simple. 

It is not clear why the article failed to indicate or acknowledge that the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) is the controlling body that takes decisions to provide or deny permits for sale of ammunition, not the minister of defence. 

In the interests of transparency and accountability, and to ensure that South African arms trade and transfer policies are in line with internationally accepted practices, the NCACC submits regular reports to Parliament. The latest report was for April to June 2022. Instead of embarking on a fishing expedition, I urge the two gentlemen to do what journalists do – study the NCACC reports, verify facts and then draft a well-informed article. The reports are there.

Having said that, we must also state that the diplomatic relations between South Africa and Russia have never been a secret, and the visit to Russia by Defence Minister Thandi Modise was consistent with South Africa’s foreign relations policy. Yet, for opportunistic reasons, the matter has been hijacked by some political parties and their media for cheap political point-scoring.

Modise remains loyal to the foreign policy of her government and will not pander to the whims of her detractors and their proxies in the media. Commitment to multilateralism is a central pillar of South Africa’s approach to global peace efforts. 

In this regard, we believe that the United Nations (UN) must be afforded the space to play its role. Multilateralism remains an effective and sustainable approach to resolve global conflict. We are keenly aware that it is not always a popular position to take. 

We appreciate the writers’ eagerness to nail their colours to the mast on the current conflict involving Russia and Ukraine and to trumpet their ideological loyalties. However, they must accept that South Africans do not necessarily share their overzealousness on this matter. South Africans have consistently chosen peace, dialogue and multilateralism. Modise has no intention to deviate from this principled position. 


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We wish to remind the writers that the UN has not called for any sanctions against Russia. In the absence of a UN resolution, on which basis was South Africa expected to deny the Russian yacht permission to dock in Cape Town?

It is a matter of public knowledge that the European Union, Nato and the US are spearheading sanctions against Russia. South Africa is neither a member of Nato nor the European Union. Neither is it a colony of any Western country. As an independent and sovereign state, we reject any attempts to undermine South Africa’s right to independently conduct its foreign relations. 

Your enemies are not our enemies

Instead of looking at this issue objectively, the writers choose to chill our spines with dire predictions of sanctions and economic devastations. In other words, we are called upon to pick a side and to surrender our sovereignty for fear of economic consequences. In their book, everybody must adopt an anti-Russian position merely on the basis of threats of sanctions, not reasoned rational debate. 

Indeed, in an environment where oversimplification of complex issues is the norm rather than an exception, where selective morality and selective outrage characterise public discourse, and where pontificating from the pulpit has replaced rational engagement, a measured position calling for dialogue, peace and for cool heads to prevail would not be a popular one. We have always known that choosing a road less travelled would come at a high price. 

Every time this partisan posturing and selective outrage, as reflected in the Daily Maverick article, is called out, they predictably dismiss it as “whataboutism”, without addressing the core and substance of the argument. To cry “whataboutism” does not explain away inconsistencies, nor does it absolve anyone from explaining their double standards and selective morality. 

To those who seek to demonise South Africa’s relationship with the Russian Federation, we wish to say: Your enemies are not our enemies! South Africa will work with any partner in pursuit of her national interest. South Africa will oppose attempts to bully her into taking certain positions or be dictated to. 

Their enemy is not our enemy. DM

Cornelius Monama is the media liaison officer and spokesperson for Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Thandi Modise.

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  • Peter Doble says:

    Mr Monama makes a half-hearted defence of the indefensible. He supports a political regime in a undemocratic country which has once again become an international pariah. South Africa’s stance is partisan posturing and its lack of outrage for unprovoked destructive and deadly attacks on a sovereign nation is absolutely despicable.

  • Sydney Kaye says:

    There are no UN sanctions against Russia because since Russia has a veto on the Security Council there is no point in attempting a resolution. . Duh!!

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      Dummy Monama ‘forgot’ to tell us that … yet feigns to lecture journalists about how to perform their jobs ! What a despicable political stooge .

  • Carsten Rasch says:

    Let’s not forget that the writer is Modise’s spindoctor, the person paid (probably quite a lot, too) to lie, obfuscate, demonise and wrought asunder any action against the minister, and of course to put her in the best light possible, albeit the dying light of the day. This man will happily sell his mother to keep his salary flowing, just as he has no qualms selling his country down the line. No one takes him seriously, or believes a word he says, writes, or otherwise shares, as a matter of course, or shouldn’t in any case. But note the arrogance of his writing, as if he and his minister has the special insight of the morally superior; that the ‘policy’ of their government is somehow drifting above us lowly citizens like all-knowing angels or little gods, or at least super-beings with knowledge we cannot possibly possess; Note how glibly he writes about South Africa, as if his failed government is really in control of anything other than the deployment of cadres, or the handing out of patronage. He clearly has no idea that the good ship South Africa is sinking under their watch. ‘Their enemy is not our enemy’ is his plaintive conclusion. Has he not realised that our enemy is them?

  • lancecharlespe says:

    This is the very same ANC that called for sanctions & boycotts of the Nat government to end an unjust system. However, when their “Russian masters” invade a sovereign state, the ANC remains tight lipped and by association, supportive of Putin’s actions. The Russians have committed more (war crime) murders in the past 10 months than the apartheid government did in decades. The ANC refuses to condemn the gross human rights abuses committed by their Russian bedfellows.

  • Hartley and Mills are fully capable of defending themselves. It is nevertheless worth noting that Russia invaded Ukraine in February, the end date of the NCACC report in 30 June and we are now in November. A simple answer to a simple question would have been preferable to the ministerial dissembling, ducking and diving in her answer to the leader of the opposition’s questions in parliament. He should follow up in the interests of exacting accountability from the minister, Manama’s piece only serves to compound the confusion or lack of information which led to the parliamentary questions in the first place.
    SA does not want to find itself on the wrong side in a conflict which involves gross human rights abuses and a threat to world peace. Our Bill of Rights requires the state to respect and protect human rights. The obfuscation evident in Monama’s stance does not advance the open, accountable and responsive form of governance required by section 1 of the Constitution. If SA is in breach of its own laws, the public deserves to know. And to vote accordingly.

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      The criminal enterprise the ANC has descended into since the Madiba era. does not yet realise that we are a constitutional democracy … and still hankers after the authoritarian ideals and notions of Putin et al. How else does one explain that someone like the current president (who was party to drafting of our constitution and one with a legal background) as recently as the Zondo commission tried to convince the judge that ‘cadre deployment’ was acceptable ? Such a comingling of hubris and cheek is staggering ! I hope Modise will quickly realise the need to dispense with the sheer recklessness and utter waste of state resources in the ‘deployment’ of Monama, who would be better described as a melonoma !

  • André Pelser says:

    A poor attempt to emulate Bell Pottinger and Baines. Putin’s Russia is a rogue state, like North Korea. Ukraine is a victim of a misguided attempt to resuscitate the former USSR. Russian aggression and indiscriminate artillery and missile attacks on the civil population of Ukraine without provocation is unjustifiable and has further destabilised the region. Labelling the Nato defensive alliance as a threat to Russia is ridiculous, the biggest threat to Russia is Putin and the oligarchs that are destroying a nation that has produced some of the finest writers, ballerinas, choirs, playwrights in the world.
    SA is in poor company and it’s claim to a neutral foreign policy patently false.

  • David Stevenson Stevenson says:

    If I was walking in the street, and someone was attacked, I would go to their aid. I would not ask which club he belonged to. I would not side with the attacker because he gave me gun 30 years ago. Sitting on the fence shows indifference to the plight of others But then, I am not a politician

  • Bob Marsden says:

    The proponents of asymmetrical political righteousness must declare their support of or opposition to the 8-year shelling of Russian-speaking civilians in Donbas by Ukrainian military forces. Or provide an empirical refutation of its reality.

    Ad hominem rhetorical attacks on anyone dissenting from their moral orthodoxy, or correct opinion, as if they were heretics tends to disqualify their position.

    • Rod H MacLeod says:

      “Or provide an empirical refutation of its reality.” Only a Russian acolyte would require empirical evidence of something that did not happen.

      “The armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine started in 2014. Between then and early 2022 when Russia invaded, it had already killed over 14,000 people. Over the course of eight years, Ukrainian government forces fought Russian-backed separatists for control over much of the two heavily industrialised regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, also known as Donbas. Fierce battles in 2014-2015 ended with one third of the regions’ territory, its most urbanised part, occupied by two Russian proxy statelets, the self-described Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics. Between September 2014 and February 2015, Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany signed several iterations of the so-called Minsk agreements, which eventually stopped the forward movement of troops and reduced fighting significantly. But the agreements were never implemented, and the fighting transformed into a trench war, with roughly 75,000 troops facing off along a 420-km-long front line cutting through densely populated areas. The war ruined the area’s economy and heavy industries, forced millions to relocate and turned the conflict zone into one of the world’s most mine-contaminated areas.” – Conflict in Ukraine’s Donbas: A Visual Explainer International Crisis Group.

      Bob?

      • Stewart Tomlinson says:

        This is the same Russia that guaranteed Ukraine’s safety when they gave up their nuclear bombs. I bet they wish they had kept them.

  • sakkielearmonth says:

    Monama doth protest too much me thinks!!

  • Bruce Sobey says:

    The writer says that “Commitment to multilateralism is a central pillar of South Africa’s approach to global peace efforts.” Maybe it is a pillar, but one would have though that a commitment to democracy is an overarching principle. Maybe that is what is missing in the ANC government’s understanding – a commitment to democracy.

  • Bruce Q says:

    Mr. Monama…
    Oh dear…
    Have you no pride?
    Are you not embarrassed?
    What a sad bunch you work for.

  • jcdville stormers says:

    Go stay in Russia

  • Sydney Kaye says:

    And by the way the dire predictions are real. If not actual sanctions the negative prospects are real. Such as withdrawal of trade benefits and grey listing to actual black listing for apartmently unconnected reasons.

  • Mark Holgate says:

    That was a few wasted minutes I cant get back. Sjo. We clearly dont have enough big words to understand the ANC’s proven genius and logic.

  • NICHOLAS SCHOFIELD says:

    “Sovereign and independent”? Then why do we Kow-tow to China and refuse the authentic representative of the Tibetan people the right to enter South Africa? What Russia is doing to and in Ukraine is exactly the same as what South Africa was doing in South West Africa (now Namibia). It called it its own territory. After all, the country in the world where the most Afrikaans is spoken is Namibia. Surely that was ground enough to insist on ownership. That is the argument of – not Russia – but Vladimir Putin: Ukraine belongs to Russia because it is a cultural colony. What the ANC/Communist Party/COSATU alliance government is doing is supporting Imperialism, colonialism and Inequality. It is no different to the norms and values of the Apartheid government towards Namibia. But we all know the REAL reason why the ANC government supports Russia: it is anti-European; anti-Free Market; anti-American and anti-White. That is the simplest way to understand South Africa’s so-called “Foreign Policy”. Once you know that, then everything the ANC government does, fits together: Cuba-worship; Venezuela-supporting; North Korean-friendly etc. So say goodbye to foreign investment and full employment. We are busy joining the team of “The Losers”.

  • Rod H MacLeod says:

    Well Mr Monama – presumably you won’t kowtow to the same grouping of the EU and USA next time you push out the begging bowl for financial assistance?

  • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

    Monama assumes a completely perfect world with no asymmetrical positions and no national security strategies for the permanent members of the security council.
    South Africa is not asked to kow tow but to reaffirm the UN Charter, the territorial integrity of Ukraine and international law. He has to accept that it is barbarism for another country to invade another country in the 21st century in the name of its security interests. The tavern diplomacy he mouths, is devoid of understanding of the context of the different conflicts in the world with the majority of them being in Africa. We did not hear his lavatory mouth when NATO with the support of the ANC government dismembered Libya and ultimately murdered him under the pretext of the 2005Responsibilty to Protect. He seems to have selective memory about matters of kow towing! The other issue he exposes his illiteracy on are the powers of the Security Council and the veto power of permanent members. The United Nations Security Council will not be able to take any binding decision on any of its permanent members due to its architecture. The issue here is that we have an ANC foreign policy that does not bind all of us because it is based on the financial interests of the ANC not the country. Putin is a thug and a half even if the ANC government sucks up to him. We salute the Ukrainians and their bravery in giving the thug a bloodied nose on
    battle front and defeating the thug and its permanent stooges diplomatically.

    • Matsobane Monama says:

      Government and ANC supporting the killing of Gaddafi? The ANC n Government were consistent in condeming Szakozy( France) and Obama’s unprovoked attack of Libiya. Tata you are being Economic with the truth.

      • Rod H MacLeod says:

        It’s Sarkozy, Mr media liaison officer and spokesperson for Minister of Defence and Military Veterans. And it’s Libya. Don’t flaunt your ignorance so publicly – people might begin to think you’re not sure what you speak of.

  • Kanu Sukha says:

    When a ‘cadre’ working (no doubt for a fat fee) for another one …. who are all members of a criminal enterprise called the ANC (which is what it has become in the post Madiba era) decides to ‘lecture’ journalists … and presume to speak for all SAs … you can be sure BS is will flow ! Shame on you .

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