The hammer and sickle, the spear and shield


The hammer and sickle, the spear and shield

Evidence is piling up that Jacob Zuma's MK Party is strongly supported by the Kremlin, perhaps even a Russian proxy, writes MAX DU PREEZ.


IS the MK Party a project of the GRU, the Kremlin's intelligence arm? But then what about Russia's warm friendship with the ANC? Is it perhaps a two-sided bet, or maybe a project to pressure the ANC to make South Africa more of a satellite state for Russia? Or just to get rid of Cyril Ramaphosa and his camp's dominance?

I am extremely sceptical about the old red menace, red-under-the-bed paranoia with which I grew up. But there is no longer any doubt that Russia under Vladimir Putin gleefully interferes in the elections of other countries, even America. It is also a fact that Russia spends a lot of energy and roubles to expand its influence in Africa.

And now the evidence of Zuma and MKP's ties to Moscow is stacking up.

“Winning South Africa to Moscow’s side — a traditionally pro-Western country and a member of the Commonwealth — has been Putin’s only major diplomatic achievement," writes the seasoned academic and commentator RW Johnson. “But there is no doubt that Moscow prefers Zuma. Zuma is, so to speak, one of their own and should he regain power he would not only be far more anti-Western but would move South Africa much more decisively into Putin’s orbit. And there is still the tempting possibility of the nuclear deal…"  (Johnson is married to the Russian academic and writer Irina Filatova.)

Lees hierdie artikel in Afrikaans:

Speculation about the Kremlin's ties to MKP began in February when André Pienaar, an international venture capitalist who did his master's degree on the KGB in Britain and was a co-architect of the Scorpions, wrote: “Zuma’s new political party, MK, is deliberately militarising South Africa’s democracy, commencing a new wave of his assault on South Africa as a constitutional democracy on behalf of his masters in the Kremlin." (Pienaar is also a shareholder and director of the NVWB Media Group, which publishes Vrye Weekblad.)

That MKP is an assault on our constitutional democracy is supported by the party's election manifesto, which aims to scrap the constitution, empower parliament, and replace the National Council of Provinces with a house of kings and traditional leaders. 

Pienaar writes: “MK is the first political party in South Africa’s democracy that has been formed with the active sponsorship of a foreign intelligence service — the GRU. It has been designed to be part of the network of assets that the GRU is building across Africa under the rubric of the ‘Africa Corps’ — a network of Russian private military companies, arms dealers and client juntas for the profit of the Kremlin and Putin."

He writes that the Scorpions received information as early as 2006 that Zuma had a “longstanding paid agent relationship" with the GRU. Zuma was trained by Russian intelligence at a secret military base in Crimea, Centre 165, and was the ANC's last head of intelligence before 1990.

Pienaar provides a chronology of Zuma's many visits to Russia and his ties to the Kremlin, saying the MK Party was established three weeks after a 10-day visit to Moscow late last August.

In a second piece this month, Pienaar wrote in the London-based National Security News: “It would therefore be a grave mistake for South Africans to think of MK as just another new small party in the South African political landscape. Zuma does not think like any of his opponents in the upcoming elections.

“Zuma’s mind is filled with Russian intelligence tradecraft honed by his handlers first during his training and then over decades in countless clandestine meetings. This training and experience now make him, despite his advanced age, a valuable asset to the GRU as it escalates its hybrid warfare strategy across Africa."

Those of us who were slightly sceptical about Pienaar's articles may have forgotten how hard Zuma tried to push through an $80 billion contract with Rosatom for a nuclear power plant, even after the high court declared the agreement invalid. He summarily removed his finance minister, Nhlanhla Nene, in 2015 when he refused to provide funding guarantees that Zuma wanted to hand over to Putin.

MKP's election manifesto also declares that the party will fast-track Eskom's nuclear new build programme.

And then the existence and popularity of a pro-Russian, pro-MK, pro-Zuma and anti-Ramaphosa website, www.Amandla.site123, became known. It is based in Johannesburg and is accompanied by Amandla TV and Amandla Radio, but it is evidently in the Russian style of propaganda and dezinformatsiya and there is clearly big money behind it. Some articles are in Zulu.

(Russian state television, RT, is building large studios in Johannesburg from which it will broadcast to the rest of Africa.)

The website is highly critical of the West, supports the Russian war in Ukraine and is slanderous against Ramaphosa, alleging, among many things, that he received $500 million from the IMF and large sums of money from white businessmen — “Stellenbosch".

This week, News24 reported that Zuma is a key figure in a project in Belarus, a vassal state of Russia, to trade in carbon credits. 

In its election manifesto published this week, MKP mentions only two countries, Russia and Cuba: “The historical contributions of Cuba and Russia hold significance in our narrative." The party “stands in solidarity with Russia, Cuba and Palestine in their struggles against Western imperialist forces".

The Centre for Information Resilience told Bloomberg this week that Twitter/X accounts that serve Russian interests in South Africa are now being used to promote Zuma and MKP. 

The organisation Code for Africa recently published an investigation into the African Initiative, based in Moscow, which explains who and what the organisation is and how it wants to “build bridges" between Russia and Africa. 

But we also know that several key figures in Luthuli House are enamoured with Putin, happily attend solidarity meetings in Moscow, and blame Nato and the US for the war in Ukraine; that the Russian oligarch close to Putin who owns a manganese mine in South Africa, Viktor Vekselberg, is a major ANC donor.

Is Moscow gambling on both horses, a two-sided bet? Or is it pushing MKP but maintaining ties with the ANC just in case MKP fares poorly?

Or is it simply Putin's revenge on Ramaphosa, who finally sank the nuclear deal and is not sufficiently malleable and pro-Russian?

And surely the ANC must know about the Kremlin-MKP axis? Is MKP's funding from outside the country being investigated? Or is Ramaphosa again just too afraid to confront his opponents head-on?

Here's Johnson: “Ramaphosa must know of Amandla.site123 and must realise that, for all his blandishments at Brics, Putin is determined to overthrow him and replace him with a more reliably pro-Kremlin figure.

“But what of the rest of the ANC leadership? No one has said a word about this treacherous anti-ANC interference in South Africa’s election by the Russians who were supposed to be their friends.

“Despite all the favours Putin owes them for their backing over Ukraine, for the Lady R and so on. And this may not be the end of it. MKP leaders are threatening violence if they don’t achieve their election aims.

“If their ranks include some GRU hard men, as seems likely, that may not be an idle threat."

Pienaar writes that MKP is an attempt at a constitutional coup “to grab power as a minority party with about 13-15% of the national vote by becoming the kingmaker following the May elections. Zuma and his handlers are already actively working behind the scenes in secret talks to try and persuade carefully selected and targeted ANC leaders to form a new government with MK."

This is corroborated by a veteran adviser to Zuma who told me a month or two ago that MKP wants to have 20 to 30 MPs after the election and will offer their support to the ANC on condition that Ramaphosa goes.

An old contact, a member of the ANC's executive committee, told me yesterday upon inquiry that it is true that there is a “school of thought" in the ANC that a coalition with MKP after the election would be a way to “reunite" the ANC, avoid a coalition with the EFF and stabilise KwaZulu-Natal. “But that's not how CR and the rest of our heads work."

Is another breakup on the cards?

♦ VWB ♦

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