January 26, 2023
ANC critics have seized the opportunity of the visit of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to South Africa to accuse the ruling party of spitting on international law and siding with dictators against democracy.
Even more aggravating to those critics is the fact that the SA National Defence Force plans to host joint military exercises in our country involving units of both the Russian and Chinese armed forces.
The argument goes that this sort of military cooperation takes place in the middle of a gross violation of international law – the Russian invasion of the sovereign country of Ukraine.
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Lavrov’s visit and the military manoeuvres are, the argument goes, clear evidence of the ANC making South Africa take the side of the Russians in the conflict.
This, of course, has been hotly denied by the party – led by International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor – which claims it is merely emphasising its nonaligned position in global politics.
The ruling party’s loyalty to Moscow is rooted in its nostalgia for the liberation struggle, in which the former Soviet Union provided it with military support when the West would not.
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For some, this loyalty is further confirmation of South Africa sliding into a sort of Communist demise. Yet, the reality is somewhat different. Much of what the ANC says in public, relating to both local and international affairs, seldom means anything.
Hosting Russia’s foreign minister is not a sign of an impending takeover of the country by Moscow, nor is it abandoning SA’s major trading partners, who happen to be Western nations. Our country remains in the Western orbit. It is likely that most practical leaders in the West know that, as do the Russians. This is all elaborate playing to a number of different galleries. None of the important deals – with either side – will be done in public.
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