The EFF Panda's Putin pander

Andrew Donaldson on the bullshit unleashed by the ANC and EFF in the parliamentary debate on Russia-Ukraine


READERS may have noticed a mass change in career paths in recent weeks: many in the commentariat who had listed among their achievements a high degree of expertise in epidemiology appear to have abandoned this calling and are now instead active in punditry on eastern European affairs. As usual, those who have the faintest grasp of such matters appear to be making the most noise.

This is not surprising. What continues to amaze, however, is the extraordinary extent to which a half-truth or even outright lie can be manipulated to further a populist agenda. In that sense, bullshit has a longer half-life than plutonium. 

And so it was with Tuesday’s parliamentary debate on the impact on the economy of Russia’s war on Ukraine. As far as the ANC were concerned, this was an exercise in weaselly whitewashing, a semantic exercise in which any mention of war or invasion or aggression on the part of Moscow was avoided. 

Instead, ruling party MPs spoke of the “developments in Ukraine” and the “Russia-Ukraine matter”. According to Daily Maverick, David Masondo, the deputy finance minister, did however let the side down a bit by referring to “the conflict”.

All this denialism stems directly from the Russian state media’s propaganda playbook and the Kremlin’s crackdown on independent news outlets, which includes a law criminalising “fake news” and seeks to punish those journalists who contradict official versions of the invasion with prison sentences of up to 15 years. 

This assault on truth harks back to Stalin’s Great Purge and the airbrushing of unwanted individuals from photographs. Such crude manipulation of the historical record may seem unthinkable to the naive and innocent, but that old maxim, often misattributed to Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Goebbels, about an oft-repeated lie eventually becoming truthful remains valid. 

And so it is that we have lying liars who have somehow convinced themselves that their lies are not lies at all. Who knows what to believe, for example, when ministers tell Parliament that Squirrel will play a crucial role in assisting Russia and Ukraine to settle this “matter” in a diplomatic manner? 

As the social development minister, Lindiwe Zulu, put it: “Our president is called upon to engage in peaceful negotiations … President Cyril Ramaphosa will speak to the president of the Ukraine when he avails himself to speak … In this particular case, I can assure you that President Cyril Ramaphosa will speak to both sides to make sure both sides are brought to the table.”

When she is not wasting time with social development, Zulu chairs the ANC’s international relations sub-committee. So maybe she does know how it is that Squirrel will feature in attempts to resolve “the situation” — if, that is, there really are such plans. 

The notion that Ramaphosa can make any sort of contribution in this regard is quite delusional. Remember, it was he who tweeted last week: “Thanking His Excellency President Vladimir Putin for taking my call today, so I could gain an understanding of the situation that was unfolding between Russia and Ukraine.”

Ukraine’s ambassador to South Africa, Liubov Abravitova, was particularly scathing in her reaction to this supine nonsense. Addressing the Cape Town Press Club on Friday, she described the war as a “human catastrophe happening at the heart of Europe” and spoke of the millions who had fled their homes in terror.

“This is the ‘special military operation’ of Putin. Our people, schools, kindergartens, hospitals, power stations, infrastructure, architectural and cultural places are under the intense shelling and shooting of the Russian armed forces,” Abravitova said.

“I hope this is what the Russian president explained to the president of South Africa who called him ‘to gain an understanding of the situation that was unfolding between Russia and Ukraine’.

“Children have died of dehydration because of the Russian invasion. Is that what you call the ‘unfolding situation’? Murders and crimes against humanity? Is that what the beacon of democracy on this continent calls conflict? Would this be the balanced approach of Madiba? Or maybe this is the new trend of mediation, when you engage with only the aggressor and terrorist state who is violating all possible norms of international behaviour? The Rainbow Nation united by the respect for human rights? During the month of human rights in South Africa?”

One may safely conclude, then, that Squirrel had no understanding of the “situation” before it “unfolded” on Ukraine. It is a sign perhaps of South African exceptionalism that very few, if any, other countries had to ring up the Russian tyrant to find out what he was up to. God alone knows what Putin may have told him, but five will get you ten that Squirrel’s understanding of the situation remains wanting. Perhaps he should have called the Ukrainian ambassador instead.

Abravitova was correct in criticising the government for its peculiar fence-sitting act. Officially, South Africa has adopted what it insists is a “neutral position” — yet it maintains Russia’s concerns are valid: “Peaceful resolution of the matter,” deputy international relations minister Candith Mashego-Dlamini has said, “can be achieved by all parties if diplomatic efforts are made to find a solution to the concerns raised by Russia…”

There are those who feel that this sort of “neutrality” is not partial enough. Floyd Shivambu, deputy leader of the EFF and a man closely resembling the Addams Family’s Uncle Fester, feels we should do more to strengthen ties with the Russians. He told Parliament:

“South Africa’s relationship with the Russian Federation is rooted through bonds of brotherhood. At the core of the Soviet Union was the Russian Federation and anyone who argues against this is dishonest. The USSR, Russia in particular, dedicated military, political and ideological resources in the struggle against colonialism and apartheid in South Africa.”

Russia, Fraud insisted, was not to be condemned for the invasion. Nato are the aggressors here. “There is nothing wrong with the military operations that are taking place in Ukraine to prevent the expansion [of Nato] because we know of their sins and what they have done in other parts of the world to overthrow governments.”

This sort of crap raises more questions than answers. Nato is not an aggressive state, it has never overthrown governments; it is instead a defensive alliance. Is this why Russia considers it a threat? But if it were the aggressor, why attack Ukraine, which is not a member of Nato? Is Fraud that learned that he has confused Nato with the United Fruit Company? Why does he have black rings around his eyes? Is it from reading all those history books? Or is he naturally panda?

The DA leader, John Steenhuisen, has stated that these reheated Cold War loyalties have put the country on the wrong side of history. Which may well be the case. But, when it comes to history, it seems our leaders favour a version scripted not by winners or losers but by idiots. It wasn’t the present Russian Federation that supported the struggle against apartheid, but the old Union of Soviet Socialist Republics — one of which was Ukraine.

Abravitova had also explained this on Friday; ordinary Ukrainians, now the target of Russian aggression, had played a significant role in the struggle against white minority rule. “Ukraine was part of the USSR,” she said. “As the Ukrainian Republic of those times, we were one of the founders of the UN.”  

The USSR and the Russian Federation are obviously very different entities. But not to Putinists like Supra Mahumapelo, the former North West premier now chairing the international relations parliamentary committee. On Tuesday, he dismissed the leader of the opposition’s contribution to the debate as “Steenhuisenism” — an “infant philosophy” that is a “political resurgence of global imperialist onslaught on progressive forces”. He went on:

“It has no capacity to comprehend both historical and dialectic materialism. That is why the DA et al will seek us to debate this matter in isolation from geopolitical objective and subjective factors … The Steenhuisenist DA seeks nothing but for us to unthinkingly attack, isolate and treat President Putin as an international political skunk and pariah of modern history. This we shall not do as the ANC.”

Mahumapelo had clearly given this a lot of thought, as these are big, important words, stuff that smacks of having read a bit. Steenhuisen has however slyly capitalised on Mahumapelo’s comments by defining this doctrine on Twitter: “[noun] (steen-hay-sen-is’m) The policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social end to tyranny and oppression.” He added, “I am deeply grateful to the ANC for promoting and accepting this great new doctrine. May it take root and flourish…”

Meanwhile, the war drags on, oblivious of Squirrel and his party’s shameful behaviour.

The Doek of Dof ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

Cooperative governance and traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Virodene Dlamini Proxy Nanny-Zuma, aka The Clarice is not yet done with bothering the nation. Last month, she revealed that she had a few concerns regarding the easing of the lockdown. Lifting of all restrictions, she felt, could lead to an uptick in new Covid infections. Then there was the possibility of all sorts of new coronavirus variants, and fears that not enough people had been immunised.

No-one paid the slightest bit of attention to her, partly because a war was looming (as wars do) in Europe, and partly because the unfortunate bleating tone of her voice compels people to ignore her completely. Somewhat irked by such disrespect, The Clarice has now extended the national state of disaster by another month to April 15, greatly angering just about everyone in the country.

The DA, among others, have called for her to be sacked. “Her brand of irrational dictatorship is eroding the economy and causing job losses on a massive scale,” it said. Many of the regulars at the Slaughtered Lamb (“Finest Ales & Pies”) would agree with that assessment, given her quaint vision of the socialist utopia that is to emerge from the ruins of a shattered post-colonial South Africa. Some suggest, however, that “doektatorship” is a better label for her method of controlling the proles, but this could be construed as sexist, as not all women who wear doeks behave like Pol Pot — only those in the ANC Women’s League.

Statements from the dock

It’s hardly up there with declarations of hoping to die for cherished ideals of freedom and liberty, but ANCWL president Bathabile Dlamini’s contemptuous response to her conviction last week for perjury is worth noting. The former minister of social development and minister of women in the presidency had just this to say: “We wait for the sentence and then after the sentence we will know what to do.”

Meanwhile, it would appear that the wheels of justice are perhaps slowly turning elsewhere as well. 

A full eight months has passed since the announcement of a high-level criminal investigation into the violence in July last year and not a single perpetrator has been arrested. However, News24 now reports that police are seeking to bring treason charges against several high-ranking ANC politicians and businesspeople identified as “masterminds” of the riots. 

A senior police officer close to the investigation is quoted as saying that those implicated include “a prominent former mayor of a Gauteng metro, cabinet ministers, former premiers, crime intelligence agents, State Security Agency operatives, and members of the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association”.

It appears that these people may have been implicated by their mobile phones. The unnamed officer said that police could link several people, which the State hopes to charge with treason, to specific meetings in locations through cellphone trilateration — a sophisticated and advanced method of determining the exact location of mobile phones and cars fitted with tracking devices. 

“We have made a lot of progress,” the officer said, “and the takedown is no longer far away. Although the investigation was targeting certain people, we had to cast the net wider to make sure we don’t miss any implicated party.”

Another treason trial? In our lifetime? We live in hope.