The African Discussion Club continues to work. Its second session was held on July, 10, 2019. A discussion topic focused on the current position and perspectives of the African National Congress (ANC), ruling party.
A wide range of experts has taken part in this event. Thus, business community was presented by the Chair of the Africa Business Initiative (ABI) Nataliya Zaiser, a junior BSC’s partner Sergei Kopylov and the Head of the IONOV TRANSCONTINENTAL’s Department of External Trade Nikita Komarov. Director of the Eurasian Integration Center Konstantin Dolgov, project Manager of the International Anticrisis Center Yulia Afanasyeva, Deputy Director of the MPGU’s Institute of History and Politics Vladimir Shapovalov, General Director of the Centre for Geostrategic Studies in Belgrade Dragana Trifrovic and the British politician Clifton Ellis attended that meeting on behalf of the political advisers’ group.
The Institute for African Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ officers including the Head of the Centre of History and Cultural Anthropology Valentina Gribanova and the Head of the Centre for South African Studies Andrei Tokarev were involved too. The Ambassador of the Republic of Sudan Dr. Mohammad Ali was at that meeting. The Vice President of the International Human Rights Committee Alexander Ionov and the Head of the Department for cooperation with experts of the Russian movement «For Real Things» Maxim Bardin presented the public organisations during discussions.
Alexander Malkevich, Head of the Foundation for the Protection of National Values, was a moderator.
A number of questions were discussed. The main theme was the last legislative elections in South Africa and their impact on the current situation in the country. The recent electoral campaign was considered in terms of political technologies use and outside interference. The studies were mainly focused on the perspectives of BRICS and the participation of South Africa in the organisation. The cooperation between the Russian Federation and South Africa had been actively discussed in the context of the upcoming Russia-Africa Summit, which will be held in Sochi in October 2019.
Nataliya Zaiser outlined the economic aspects of the cooperation between South Africa and Russia. According to expert perceptions, nowadays the interest in the work on the African continent has grown considerably but the real number of launched business projects remains relatively small.
“Now there are few specific projects with Africa that can be introduced as real ones. In means that we are working on the projects that were documented and consequently there are cooperation with partners and profit in accordance with the sector that a project is focused on”, – explained the Head of the ABI.
The Russia-Africa Summit, which will include business and public forums, should be a crucial point for realizing the potential of economic partnership with the countries of the “dark continent”. One of the main goal of the summit, in the expert’s view, is to show the Russian state corporations of business initiatives’ support at the level of heads of State. The summit will also become a platform for discussing questions that the sides are especially interested in because it is important due to the development of regional integration and globalisation.
Nataliya Zaiser in her address focused attention on the development of economic ties with Africa that represents a task to be solved in the short term. She noted that Africa was in all senses a “fast-growing” continent and cooperation with its countries provides an opportunity for Russia to integrate into the technological sectors of the local economy. Moreover, it needs to take places in these markets now otherwise Russian exporters will still have to fit in the already established schemes that will be much more expensive.
It was also mentioned that South Africa and Russia had a few number of mutual projects despite the membership of both countries in BRICS.
“We don’t have so many projects that Russia are leading with the Republic of South Africa in spite of the membership in BRICS. We have some companies working there…For example,“Renova” which has had an office in the RSA for a long time. There is also a company “KAMAZ” which is responsible for the transfers of equipment. Nevertheless, these projects seem to be episodic for our country if we are speaking about the large business. To my mind, we have a lot of things to do within BRICS”, – explained Nataliya Zaiser.
A full potential of the cooperation between the RSA and Russia can and should be used because the RSA can open the way to Africa for others BRICS members.
According to the experts’ opinion, the change of power in the Republic of South Sudan, even though a coup d’état, will not lead to leaving BRICS or to breaking-off the relations with BRICS members. Neither the Republic of South Sudan nor other African countries can break off the ties with China and India. However, such events can lead to the bilateral economic cooperation out of BRICS platform.
Yulia Afanasyeva provided participants with the results of the extensive studies carried out by the group of experts in the RSA under her leadership. Summing up the results of the research, she noted that the ANC had lost its prime position in recent times.
“Despite the fact that the ANC has been in power since 1994, the party has lost its prime position over the last few years. Previously, the ANC used to win most votes/ But in 2019 the ruling party has risked not obtaining 50% of votes. It was mentioned not only by the opposition, exaggerating its chances, but also by ANC members who were aware of the current situation”, – said the expert.
The party, which has been under the state’s protection for a long time, in her view, has a number of typical defects in its organisation: a lack of flexibility, of ability to change as new challenges arise as well as to carry out the personnel changes without any failure. The role of the ANC in social mobility is changed: young people do not think that the membership in the party can ensure the upward mobility. The party was cut off from its own electorate. The feedback mechanisms were launched only during the election campaign. But all activities were limited mostly to mass events that, taking into account local specifics, were rather entertaining.
The corruption remains a topical issue.
“This is pretty obvious. A big scandal caused by the resignation of Zuma and the “interception” of the state power, the so-called Zondo Commission which forced many officials to testify on corruption charges, nepotism, problems with the vertical and horizontal personnel changes when totally unexpected decisions to appoint people without experience and education to ministerial posts were taken. All this things are links in one chain”, – pointed out Yulia Afanasyeva.
At the same time, the party seems to be a “divided Kingdom”: it consists of many conflicting groups and, as a result, all significant decisions are taken only after a long negotiation.
During the recent legislative elections, the ANC could hardly break the 50% barrier. The expert believes that it happened because the party leadership are not able to accept that there are many problems inside the ruling party.
The opposition parties received widespread support thanks to citizens’ growing disappointment with the ANC. The DA won 21% of votes, radicals from the EFF – 11%. Support level of the little parties are also increased. Against this background, the ANC has showed the worst result in elections over the past 25 years.
In addition to the colleague’s statement, political scientist Alexander Tyrtklevich indicated that a large number of young citizens of the Republic of South Africa (about 6 million) did not attend the recent elections because they refused to register as voters. If the competitors of the ANC paid due attention to the mobilisation of this audience, the voting results could be even worse for the ruling party.
Having analysed the technological causes of the electoral crisis of the ANC, Yulia Afanasyeva drew attention to the party’s weak work in social network. This was proved by the number of the followers of the main competing parties leaders in social network. The leader of the EFF Julius Malema has about 2 million followers and the leader of DA Mmusi Maimane – about 1 million. At the same time, about 500 thousand followers was monitoring the page in social networks of the ANC leader Cyril Ramaphosa. The quality and frequency of content on parties’ pages were not encouraging. Moreover, the official website of the ANC was not available during the electoral campaign because of the accumulated debts.
The opponents of the ANC, including the representatives of the parties, which had taken a fundamentally different view, started to steel their ideas. In doing so, the stolen ideas were appealed to extremes. As a result, the ideological orientations and programme points became meaningless as a line of separation among parties.
Evaluating the prospects of the ANC, Yulia Afanasyeva expressed the conviction that the major opposition parties would maintain their reached positions in the course of the next election cycle. At the same time, smaller parties will be able to take the votes of current electorate of the ANC away. It should be noted that people living in rural areas and towns who are not familiar with the alternatives to the ruling party represent the electors of the ANC. Consequently, the ANC will not obtain even a half of votes in the legislative election, which will lead to a systemic political crisis.
The expert noted some deficiencies in South African party system in general. Any political discussion boils down to the racial issue. Each of existing parties chose a certain position regarding the solution to it. The idea of building up a rainbow nation took a second place. Furthermore, young people do not focus on the racial issue. The older generation even get nostalgic for apartheid era, which is regarded as a more stable period in terms of security and economic welfare. But the majority of parties disregard this tendency. In consequence, new opportunities open up for new political parties in the course of the next electoral cycle.
The expert also noted that there is a risk of a coup d’états. In the recent past, some attempts to violently overthrow the Government occurred during the period of Jacob Zuma. This possibility became relevant before election campaign. South African inhabitants regularly confront the corruption. The street crime rate continues to be high. The rises in the cost of communal services breeds discontent among citizens. The identified problems led to social protests several times. The major opposition parties tried to prevent them, but without success.
Turning to the issue of prospects of South Africa within BRICS, Yulia Afanasyeva drew attention to a low level of public awareness of this organisation. Just after the Summit, which was held in 2018 in Johannesburg BRICS, became more recognisable.
At the same time, many non-profit organisations, which in one way or another are related to BRICS, are acting in South Africa. However, they interact mostly with officials, businesspersons, public figures, and are less known to the most of population.
Among main political parties, only ANC are taking a clear stand regarding BRICS. The direction of the party accept the cooperation with the organisation as one of the foreign policy priorities. Develop contacts with BRICS does not form part of EFF foreign policy programme based on the principle of Pan-Africanism. As for the place on the international scene, Democratic Alliance takes their own stand: South Africa should interact with the United States, where authorities have traditionally maintained this party.
Outside the addresses of the main speakers, a heated discussion took place. The following topics were covered:
– The level of the threat of colour revolution
– The level of freedom of South African media
– The acuteness of land reform issue
Estimating the chances of the opposition to organise a coup d’état, Konstantin Dolgov focused on the EFF. According to his estimation, the number of EFF faction represented in the Parliament is enough to vote against any initiatives of the ruling party. In addition, they have the opportunity to express an anti-government agenda. According to the expert, all this makes this party a “promising startup” for the United States.
Konstantin Dolgov disagreed with Afanasyeva’s opinion regarding the fact that expressing extreme patriotic views EFF will never form an alliance with the United States. The head of the Eurasian Integration Center presented the Yugoslav experience as argument: Washington overthrew Slobodan Milošević with help of Serbian nationalists. The expert also appealed to the experience of party “Svoboda” in Ukraine.
Anton Davidchenko, coordinator at the Social Engineering Agency, draw the attention to the amount of funding that the US were providing for various projects in South Africa. In 2017, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) allocated over $54 million for the South African projects. The total investment of this agency into the RSA has increased by 10% since 2010. Most of the money, received from the US, went to 170 organisations and 3 TV channels.
When discussed the preventive measures against the ‘colour revolution’, political scientist Aleksandr Tyrtklevich insisted on the futility of the attempts to block the Internet and the opposition media. Among other arguments, he referred to the Reporters Without Borders’ 2019 World Press Freedom Index, according to which the RSA had been ranked 31st.
In response to that, Aleksandr Malkevich highlighted how controversial the methods used to create this rating were. The expert also stressed the questionable positions of many countries in the rating. Russia was ranked 149th – far lower than Cambodia, Algeria, Myanmar, South Sudan, Zimbabwe, and Afghanistan. At the same time, the rating authors ranked Cape Verde 25th and the UK 33rd. Burkina Faso was ranked 36th, while Italy – 43rd. Botswana, Tongo, and Romania managed to beat not only Russia but also the US (ranked 48th) on this list.
Yulia Afanasyeva elaborated by stating that most media in South Africa traditionally belonged to the white businessmen who controlled all major media holdings. Therefore, the mass media in the country could be called relatively independent from the government, however, not exactly free, since they primarily express the position of their beneficiaries closely associated with the opposition. Among others, it includes the Democratic Alliance mainly targeted at the white minority and the members of black middle class and big businesses.
Addressing the land reform question (i.e. actual expropriation of land from the white Afrikaner farmers without compensation), Yulia Afanasyeva highlighted that all the main South African political parties had added the respective commitments to their programmes. However, none of them offered any specific mechanisms to implement this reform. In the meantime, the situation concerning the ‘land issue’ has escalated and will escalate even further. It is sure to be used as a tool to move the people.
The expert also noted that the Russian media had covered the issue of Afrikaner farm attacks in a somewhat distorted way – most of such incidents had been shown through the prism of their criminal nature without any referral to the hate crimes.
Aleksandr Tyrtklevich doubted the possibility of the land reform in the RSA. According to him, the country citizens are worried that the negative experience of Zimbabwe may take place in the RSA. The political scientist stressed that those fears played a major role because the RSA has always been the breadbasket for all of South Africa.
Andrey Markin, a representative of Interregional Agro Company, mentioned that there were documents available online presented as land reform drafts. Most of them include the proposition to hand over the expropriated land to blacks only. The expert also noted that President Ramaphosa had publicly pledged many times to implement the land reform. In the context of the political crisis, he will not be able to ignore his own promises, so it is only a matter of time when the land would be expropriated from Afrikaners.
Despite divergence on separate points, the experts agreed on the overall assessment of the country’s current situation. Russia should continue the intensive development of the relationships with the ‘black continent’ states. In order to achieve this, it is necessary to fully exploit the potential of BRICS. Besides, the scientific and cultural relations should be strengthened along with the cooperation between the social institutions and the media.
By enhancing all possible links, the strong partnership with the RSA could turn into the best guarantee of successful ‘African plan’ implementation not only for Russia but also for China, India, and Brazil.
The US and their allies threaten the achievement of these goals by systematically interfering with Africa’s affairs. The first step towards defeating that threat is, on the one hand, to improve the relationship between Russia and the countries of Africa on a multilateral basis at the Head of State and Government level, and on the other, to stimulate the research of the socio-political situation in the black continent’s states.