SINCE the military invasion of Ukraine, there has been an almost sycophantic and submissive swing within the ANC to accommodate Russia's Vladimir Putin.
Ever more office-bearers and ministers find a reason to pay an official visit to the Kremlin. And since the president has to approve these international trips, there can be little doubt that Cyril Ramaphosa has increasingly taken ownership of South Africa's foreign policy towards Russia.
Warrant for child abduction
Perhaps someone should remind the ANC of the allegations against Putin. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued a warrant for the arrest of the Russian president and a Kremlin official, Maria Lvova-Belova, for the alleged kidnapping of Ukrainian children to Russia.
For context, the UN has found that Russia has committed “several violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law" in Ukraine. It said the war crimes committed by the Russians included “attacks on civilians and energy-related infrastructure, murders, illegal lockdowns, torture and rapes, acts of sexual violence, as well as the illegal displacement and deportation of children".
Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry, claimed the ICC's warrant was “senseless". In a certain sense this is true, because Russia withdrew from the ICC treaty under a directive signed by Putin in 2016.
But according to the ICC, there are “reasonable grounds to believe that Putin and Lvova-Belova should take individual responsibility for these crimes" and also for their “failure to exercise proper control over civilian and military subordinates who committed the acts".
The Russian government does not deny the abduction of the Ukrainian children. Russian families even cynically use these “adoptions" for propaganda purposes. In April 2022, the Office of the Russian Commissioner for Children's Rights said about 600 children from Ukraine were placed in orphanages in Kursk and Nizhny Novgorod, after which they were moved to families in the Moscow region.
By mid-October 2022, up to 800 children from Ukraine's eastern Donbas region were living in the Moscow region, many of them with families.
Lvova-Belova rejected the ICC's warrant against her, claiming with a bizarre twisting of the facts that it was “actually great that the international community is finally recognising her work with children".
Who does CR’s soul belong to?
It seems evident that Ramaphosa's soul belongs to Putin and the Russian oligarchs, and this is a bitter pill to swallow.
The lies about how and by whom his CR-17 campaign was financed sowed the suspicion. Phala Phala proved that he had feet of clay. But his support for an autocrat suspected of kidnapping children strips him of all honour and prestige.
Over the past week, the media reported that Bejani Chauke, the president's personal adviser, is already in Moscow, allegedly in preparation for the planned visit of the African leaders' peace initiative.
Cyril and Bejani’s bromance
Frustration about Chauke's close relationship with Ramaphosa extends from Luthuli House to the corridors of the Union Buildings. In the ANC, it is well known that Ramaphosa and Chauke are operationally inseparable.
Chauke is often described as the president's special envoy.
In August 2019, he met Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on behalf of Ramaphosa.
In October 2020, he held talks with President Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in Brazzaville on the African Union's involvement in the Libyan peace process. Ramaphosa allegedly sent Chauke to Kinshasha three times to meet the DRC government.
In June 2021, he met Chad's President Mahamat Déby in N'Djamena on behalf of the South African government.
In September 2022, he visited Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, president of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), in Abu Dhabi. The general speculation is that this was more about funding of the ANC by benevolent donors than it was about Mzansi's foreign policy.
Chauke was and is one of the central figures in the Phala Phala scandal. Allegations that the money in the couch can only be explained by Chauke are raging like wildfire within the ANC.
He convinced the naive presidential candidate Ramaphosa in 2017 that if he did not know what was going on in his campaign's bank account, he could not be held responsible for the Bosasa donations. Ultimately, a court ruling made it possible for Chauke to protect Ramaphosa from the likelihood of incriminating entries on the account.
Chauke ran Ramaphosa's campaign free of charge, as he could rely on a public service salary for his services to Thandi Modise, who was then employed in the National Council of Provinces.
In November 2022, in the run-up to his unsuccessful attempt to be elected treasurer-general at the 55th national conference of the ANC, Chauke resigned as Ramaphosa's adviser.
ANC veteran Derek Hanekom at one point sarcastically enquired via Twitter about Chauke's opportunistic use of obscure funds in an attempt to get elected to the top seven of the ANC: “Just accept this Bejani — you've got very little support from the branches, although you spent a lot of money on your campaign. Where did this money come from?"
Follow the money
If there is even an ounce of truth in the logical deduction of Peter Bruce, former editor-in-chief of Business Day, that the ANC is currently funded by Russia, look no further than Chauke's flight plans and his communications with Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.
Vekselberg is an investor in United Manganese of Kalahari, in which the ANC's investment subsidiary, Chancellor House, has a majority share. In 2022, Vekselberg allegedly financed the ANC's electoral conference with $826,000. Since then, the Public Election Commission's statements suggest he is also a regular donor to Luthuli House.
Palestine vs Ukraine
I get a hollow feeling in my stomach when some cadre claims South Africa's policy towards Russia is rooted in the era during which the Soviet republics supported the liberation struggle.
Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor is certainly factually correct in her grinning attempt at sarcastic humour towards the West, especially America, when she refers to the hypocritical morality of Washington towards human rights abuses in Palestine. But does one injustice serve as justification for the human rights violations in another case?
Pandor and the ANC, like the US, clearly understand human rights only in the context of ideological interests. References to Israel's violation of the Palestinians' human rights are a cynical abuse of a brutal reality to justify the ANC's support for the human rights violations in Ukraine.
Modise and the Russian lady
Predictably, former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev rejected the warrant for Putin and Lvova-Belova's arrest in the same insulting nomenclature in which Modise referred to the Lady R's controversial stayover in Simon's Town.
The media reported that Modise said, “We put fokol on the Russian ship." Medvedev wrote on Twitter: “The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant against Vladimir Putin. There is no need to explain how that order should be used: along with toilet paper."
It is impossible not to conclude that the ANC's so-called neutral attitude towards Russia and its reckless attitude towards human rights abuses and child abductions in Ukraine have everything to do with the blood money of an oligarch.
The Ramaphosa administration is becoming part of a cynical regime of human rights abuses, and apparently, the president does not give a damn.
♦ VWB ♦
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