The South African government has finally shown its colors and sided with the dictators by inviting Russia and China to war games next month.
After months of appeasing the Russian butchery in Ukraine, Cyril Ramaphosa abandoned his supposed “neutrality” to the war by staging the naval drills off the country’s east coast near Durban and Richards Bay from February 17-27.
The move is the strongest indication yet of deepening relations between South Africa, whose ruling ANC party is believed to be in the pocket of a sanctioned Moscow oligarch, and anti-authoritarian regimes. -westerners from China and Russia.
The “multinational maritime exercise” was called by South Africa’s leading Daily Maverick newspaper “immoral, stupid and impractical”.
Chinese and Russian warships are pictured taking part in joint naval exercises in the East China Sea in December
Corruption plagues South African leaders
South Africa has been plagued by financial scandals for decades and its former president Jacob Zuma has been charged with multiple corruption charges.
He was imprisoned for refusing to testify in a high-level investigation into massive state corruption that took place under his presidency.
He was forced to resign in disgrace by the ruling ANC in 2018 following mounting corruption allegations.
Ramaphosa himself was called to resign after a parliamentary report said he may have breached monetary regulations by keeping undeclared sums on his farm.
Ramaphosa is accused of stealing millions and hiding them on a game farm.
Around $4 million in cash was stolen from the Phala Phala game farm in Ramaphosa in Limpopo, and former intelligence officer Arthur Fraser has accused him of money laundering, kidnapping and corruption.
An investigation concluded that Ramaphosa may have committed serious violations and misconduct.
But Fraser is a well-known Zuma loyalist and an ANC faction that wants Ramaphosa out.
The drills will take place around the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and will place greater emphasis on South Africa’s refusal – a leading voice on its continent – to side with the West and to condemn Russia’s actions.
The announcement also comes days before Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is due to visit South Africa and hold talks with his South African counterpart Naledi Pandor.
The South African government said last year it had taken a neutral stance on Ukraine and called for dialogue and diplomacy.
But the upcoming naval drills have led the country’s main opposition party to accuse the government of siding with Russia.
The South African government denies taking sides and has called for an end to the war in Ukraine.
But the South African National Defense Force (SANDF), which comprises all of its armed forces, said next month’s naval exercise would “strengthen the already flourishing relationship between South Africa, Russia and China”.
The purpose of the drills was to “share operational skills and knowledge”, the SANDF said.
The three countries also conducted a similar naval exercise in 2019 in Cape Town, while Russia and China held joint naval exercises in the East China Sea last month.
South Africa, a key Western partner, was one of many African countries to abstain in a United Nations vote last year condemning the Russian invasion.
The United States and the European Union had hoped that South Africa would support international condemnation of Russia and act as a leader for other nations in Africa.
The countries that voted with Russia against the resolution were Belarus, North Korea, Nicaragua and Syria.
The naval exercises will take place off the east coast of the country near Durban and Richards Bay from February 17-27
Chinese naval frigate Binzhou takes part in joint naval exercises with Russian warships in December
South Africa and Russia share a long history, after the Soviet Union supported the ANC in its fight against apartheid, the country’s black majority repression regime.
Apartheid ended in 1994 when the ANC won South Africa’s first democratic elections and Nelson Mandela became president.
South Africa is also a member of BRICS, a bloc of emerging economies, alongside Brazil, Russia, India and China.
South Africa is seen by some as a token member of a group of economic powers, and its government is desperate to stay in the group it believes provides a counterweight to Western domination.
South Africa holds a $25 billion share of the new BRICS development bank and members have unlimited drawing rights if they need to stabilize their currency.
With huge foreign exchange reserves from China and Russia, South Africa is determined to please the BRICS members for its own financial gain.
In 2014, a mammoth $50 billion deal was struck between disgraced former president Jacob Zuma, who now faces corruption charges, and Russian energy company Rosatom to build eight nuclear power plants in South Africa.
Vladimir Putin tried to invest in South Africa and the country remained a quiet ally despite the war
Cyril Ramaphosa abandoned his supposed ‘neutrality’ in war by organizing the naval exercises
The deal was eventually scrapped in April 2017 when a court ruled it illegal.
But it left a huge hole in the finances of the ANC, which had been plagued by corruption for decades.
Last year it was revealed that the biggest stake in the party’s internal investment company was manganese miner United Manganese of Kalahari, which donated around £500,000 to the ANC over the course of of the 2021-22 financial year.
The company is partly owned by Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg’s Renova Group conglomerate.
Vekselberg has an estimated fortune of nearly £8billion and his links to Putin landed him sanctions in March last year.
Experts have warned of increased Russian military influence in Africa since it first annexed parts of Ukraine in 2014.
Improving relations with South Africa is central to US efforts to limit Russian and Chinese influence.
The South African government drew further attention to its stance on Russia in October when it allowed a $500million superyacht owned by oligarch Alexey Mordashov to dock in Cape Town.
The South African government drew further attention to its stance on Russia in October when it allowed a $500 million superyacht owned by oligarch Alexey Mordashov to dock in Cape Town while under American and European sanctions.
The 57-year-old billionaire named in the Pandora Papers owns Russian mining companies Nordgold and Severstal.
With a net worth of $13.2 billion, Forbes listed Mordashov as the 51st richest person in the world last year, but Western sanctions have sent the oligarch sinking down the global wealth rankings from This year.
“South Africa has no legal obligation to comply with the sanctions imposed by the United States and the EU,” said Vincent Magwenya, spokesman for the then South African president. “We have no reason to prevent them from entering South Africa.
“South Africa’s sanctions obligations relate only to those specifically adopted by the United Nations. Currently, there are no UN sanctions against this particular individual.
The South African government has also been accused of allowing another sanctioned Russian vessel to dock at a naval base near Cape Town in December.