Ukraine: this was never an African initiative

MONDAY WITH MAX DU PREEZ

Ukraine: this was never an African initiative

President Cyril Ramaphosa's handling of the war in Ukraine has been a strategic blunder from the start, but now it is becoming catastrophic, writes MAX DU PREEZ, with the news that the entire visit to Ukraine and Russia was orchestrated by Vladimir Putin's confidants.

Image: ANGELA TUCK

THERE is now solid information that Ramaphosa's visit, along with other heads of state, to Kyiv and St. Petersburg, was not an African initiative at all but rather that of two shadowy billionaires in Vladimir Putin's orbit: Jean-Yves Ollivier and Ivor Ichikowitz.

It now also appears that the chartered plane carrying 100 soldiers, policemen, and a handful of journalists who were supposed to travel with Ramaphosa was detained at Chopin Airport because there was no documentation for crates containing long-range sniper rifles, as reported by the Sunday Times. Such weapons are used in warfare and not for protection.

Pieter du Toit of News24.com who was on the flight, reported that the air force warned the police that their documents were not sufficient, but the head of the presidential protection unit, Gen. Wally Rhoode, stated at a press conference that it was due to Polish racism and sabotage. The Polish government angrily denied this.

Jean-Yves Ollivier
Jean-Yves Ollivier

Jean-Yves Ollivier, the head of the Brazzaville Foundation in London, had ties with apartheid South Africa and the Bell Pottinger group and was a consultant for the Russian nuclear power company Rosatom, with whom Jacob Zuma entered into an agreement that was later declared invalid by the court. He was Pik Botha's friend and played a major role in securing the release of SADF captain Wynand du Toit from an Angolan prison in 1987.

His “good friend" Ivor Ichikowitz is the owner of the South African Paramount Group, which is active in the arms and defense industry and has donated large sums of money to the ANC.

A spokesperson for his family foundation in South Africa, Nico de Klerk, confirmed to the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail that Ichikowitz assisted the Brazzaville Foundation with the peace initiative and “ensured" the participation of six African states in this process. 

Yesterday, speculation was that it might have been weaponry from the Paramount Group that was loaded onto the Russian cargo ship Lady R in December at Simon's Town Naval Base. The company sells weapons to Saudi Arabia and various African states. Paramount manufactures armed drones, among other things.

The first suspicion that Ollivier was behind the visits to Ukraine and Russia came when he (with Ichikowitz in the background) had a video conference with Presidents Macky Sall of Senegal, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Azali Assoumani of the Comoros, Hakainde Hichilema of Zambia, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt, and Ramaphosa – and Museveni posted footage of it on Twitter.

Ivor Ichikowitz
Ivor Ichikowitz

The Russian news agency Tass reported on May 17 that Ollivier was arranging the president's visit. Tass quoted Ollivier: “It has been agreed with the President [of Russia, Vladimir Putin] that the visit should occur before the summit between Russia and Africa at the end of July. So it should occur between June 15 and July 15, not later."

According to the Russian publication Embassy Life, Ollivier met with the Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Putin's Africa man, Mikhail Bogdanov, four weeks ago in Moscow. 

Newsweek quoted Ollivier as saying, referring to the presidents of South Africa, Senegal, Uganda, Zambia, the Congo, and Egypt: “Most of them were my personal friends. Why not have a peace mission, an independent peace mission led by heads of state representing Africa? And we started negotiating with Moscow and Kyiv about it." 

Ollivier (78) named his foundation after Brazzaville because he was involved in the negotiations in the Congo 35 years ago that facilitated the withdrawal of Cuban troops.

He was a middleman who helped break France's arms sanctions against apartheid South Africa. He was a shareholder in the arms manufacturer Thompson CSF, which later became Thales and is now facing corruption charges along with Jacob Zuma.

Tim Bell, founder of the PR agency Bell Pottinger, which Zuma and the Gupta brothers used in a propaganda campaign, was a trustee of the Brazzaville Foundation until shortly before his retirement.

Jean-Yves Ollivier and Ivor Ichikowitz at a special screening of Plot for Peace at The Curzon Mayfair on December 9, 2013 in London, England.
Jean-Yves Ollivier and Ivor Ichikowitz at a special screening of Plot for Peace at The Curzon Mayfair on December 9, 2013 in London, England.

According to a Truth and Reconciliation Commission report, Ollivier was paid by the apartheid government to promote their interests in French-speaking Africa.

Swiss Leaks said one of Ollivier's HSBC bank accounts was linked to “a former member of the apartheid-era SADF."

Ollivier's foundation partnered with the Dialogue of Civilizations in Berlin in 2020, which belongs to Vladimir Yakunin, a Putin oligarch who heads Russia's RZD rail transport company. The foundation stated that the two institutions “share many of the same objectives".

Ollivier has been trading in Africa for decades and negotiating between warring groups. He is a friend of Congo's kleptocratic President, Denis Sassou Nguesso, and received shares in mines and a cellphone company for his services.

Ichikowitz's Paramount Group in Russia specialises in imports and exports from Russia. 

Ramaphosa's warm reception in Russia, including a double bear hug from the germaphobe Putin, was in stark contrast to the chilly reception in Kyiv.

Did the Kremlin orchestrate the whole initiative to serve its interests? It no longer seems impossible, but much further investigation must be done.

♦ VWB ♦


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