When applying the generic political catch-all “the West”, some confine their gaze to the US and the UK alone, countries that so dominated news cycles when Trump and Johnson were in charge of the political asylum.
Donald and Boris are old news now and, while the two grifters get to feel their lying nuts in a vice, events in northeastern Europe, where the world’s latest bloody “reality” political showdown is taking place, have overtaken it all.
At the weekend the Russian invasion of Ukraine took a Trumpian turn when Yevgeny Prigozhin, head terminator of the Wagner Group private army, seemed to threaten a coup.
Wagner raises hell for cash all over the globe and Prigozhin does his recruiting in prisons. It’s a hands-off business for the Kremlin, which pretends it knows nothing of Wagner’s considerable global interests and the bodies it leaves behind. Plausible deniability.
Events were in limbo at the time of writing as Putin held off on the nukes while Prigozhin rushed into the warm embrace of Belarus’s warlord president, Alexander Lukashenko.
The only country in the world that recognises Lukashenko is Russia. Putin is his only ally. This is all going to end in tears. It’s Europe.
Little England, shrinking
Over in Little England, where the economy is as bleak as the politics, Oxford’s finest, Boris Johnson, resigned as an MP and would have been suspended from the House of Commons if he were still an MP, according to the Privileges Committee.
The old truth-bender finally had to face up to his lockdown partying, but left protesting that the committee had “not produced a shred of evidence” that he had “knowingly or recklessly misled the Commons”.
Johnson is in good company, as here in South Africa former president Jacob Zuma and Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane also know about these witch-hunts by ‘enemies’ seeking to reverse their successes.
“They know perfectly well that when I spoke in the Commons, I was saying what I believed sincerely to be true and what I had been briefed to say, like any other minister,” Johnson fulminated.
The cognitive gap between what Johnson must know went down at those parties and the words leaving his mouth during his “explanation” is as deep and wide as the Mariana Trench.
Johnson said he was not “alone in thinking that there is a witch-hunt under way, to take revenge for Brexit and ultimately to reverse the 2016 referendum result”.
And he is right. He is in good company, as here in South Africa former president Jacob Zuma and Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane also know about these witch-hunts by “enemies” seeking to reverse their successes.
On his way out, Johnson attacked Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government for raising taxes, not being Conservative enough and failing to make the most of Brexit. That nature hates a vacuum is not something Johnson understands.
Get us some Cokes
Speaking of a vacuum, over in the US former president Donald Trump is being charged with stealing loads of classified documents.
In leaked tapes, Trump boyishly boasts about being in possession of said classified documents and, while showing them off, the totem of global populist politics can be heard ordering a minion to “get us some Cokes”.
The FBI, meanwhile, has offered a $250,000 reward for Prigozhin for “conspiracy to defraud the US”.
Read more in Daily Maverick: President Putin unmasked – pulling back the curtain on Yevgeny Prigozhin’s mercenary mutiny
The “wanted” poster reads: “Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin is wanted by the FBI for his alleged involvement in a conspiracy to defraud the United States by impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of the Federal Election Commission, the United States Department of Justice, and the United States Department of State.”
The scene of the crime, according to the FBI, was Washington, from early 2014 to 16 February 2018.
Prigozhin was the primary funder of the St Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency and, says the FBI, “oversaw and approved their political and electoral interference operations in the United States which included the purchase of American computer server space, the creation of hundreds of fictitious online personas, and the use of stolen identities of persons from the United States”.
A federal arrest warrant for Prigozhin was issued in 2018 in the US District Court for the District of Columbia. Maybe Lukashenko could cash in – and make Prigozhin Joe Biden’s problem.
European Spring in Africa
While local news junkies were chewing over whether the African peace mission to Ukraine and Russia had any value and what it all meant in the bigger picture, the Europeans flocked to South Africa.
Happening right now is a state visit by German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. She comes with some faith in South Africa’s capacity to resolve the war in Ukraine.
Baerbock praised President Cyril Ramaphosa’s peace mission to northeastern Europe.
“When the country of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu raises its voice against injustice, the world listens,” she said.
While she was in Pretoria, she added: “I also want to talk about how South Africa can leverage its weight to help bring an end to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and to preserve the UN Charter.”
In June, Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa paid a state visit to South Africa. Later in the month, the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, and his Danish counterpart, Mette Frederiksen, arrived on a “joint working visit”. Green hydrogen and a “just renewable transition” were top of the agenda.
French President Emmanuel Macron wants to join the BRICS summit in South Africa in August, saying he is “available and interested”.
And, in March, Belgian royals King Philippe and Queen Mathilde popped in to say hello.
With friends like these
Our top five trading partners, according to the SA Revenue Service, are China (11.7%), the US (8.6%), Germany (8.1%), India (5.9%) and Japan (5.1%).
According to Lloyds Bank, South Africa has “many attractive assets for investors such as an important demography; a diversiﬁed, productive and advanced economy; abundant natural resources; a transparent legal system; and a certain political stability”.
Investment “potential”, however, is hampered by crime, electricity supply, logistics and high levels of corruption.
Lloyds says Ramaphosa’s administration “encourages foreign investors as they are responsible for job creation and wealth-creating economic growth”, with traditional and active investors being the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the UK, the US, Japan, China and Australia.
Russia hardly features. Just saying. DM
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.