News March 07, 2022 at 08:00 am

Ukraine crisis: Why South Africa’s Jacob Zuma is backing Putin

Mildred Europa Taylor | Head of Content

Mildred Europa Taylor March 07, 2022 at 08:00 am

March 07, 2022 at 08:00 am | News

Russian President Vladimir Putin meeting with South African President Jacob Zuma on 4 September 2017. Image via Wikimedia Commons/Presidential Press and Information Office / Пресс-служба Президента России

As Vladimir Putin continues to receive condemnation from around the world following his invasion of Ukraine, South Africa’s former president Jacob Zuma has thrown his weight behind the Russian leader.

Putin launched a military operation in Ukraine on February 24 with explosions heard across the country. Despite international condemnation, Russian troops attacked Ukraine on multiple fronts from Belarus, Russia and Crimea in what experts said could be the start of war in Europe over Russia’s demands for an end to NATO’s eastward expansion.

A draft United Nations resolution on Wednesday called on the Kremlin to “immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.” The resolution passed with 141 nations voting in favor but South Africa was among several African countries that abstained from the vote.

Days after the country abstained from voting, a statement from the Jacob G Zuma Foundation said Zuma felt it would be remiss of him not to exercise his constitutionally enshrined freedom of expression and share his thoughts on the developments in Russia and Ukraine conflict.

Zuma in the statement described Putin as “a man of peace” whose actions were justified in response to the threats posed by the U.S. and Nato’s eastward expansion. Zuma said Putin has been clear from the start about his position to the eastern expansion of NATO into Ukraine, and thus, felt “provoked”.

“Ukraine and Russia are separated only by a line on the map and not by the Baltic Sea — why is this complicated to understand? If forces, globally known to be hostile to the USA, were known to be establishing the presence of any sort in any of the adjacent territories, the USA would certainly act in a manner that it believes would neutralise such a perceived threat,” said Zuma.

The former South African leader added that Putin’s actions are still a far cry as compared with what other big powers have done when faced with such a situation.

“Some western powers, who are today playing holier than thou, have invaded a number of small countries in the world e.g., Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya to name but a few. These glaring examples of interference have left those countries in ruins. The western countries, and their acolytes’ support of Ukraine (under the guise of defending the sovereignty and democracy in Ukraine) is a selfish act to further their own interests at the expense of innocent lives and property in Ukraine,” Zuma said.

Zuma further believes that Russia and Ukraine could have solved their issues without antagonism had “western powers” not intervened. “I am certain that his excellency Vladimir Putin will reciprocate and will bring in all his power to make peace a reality, as I know him to be a man of peace who has worked hard to ensure peace and stability across the globe,” he said.

Analysts say it is not surprising that Zuma is supporting Putin. The former South African leader and some members of the country’s ruling ANC party reportedly received training in the then Soviet Union during apartheid. During his tenure as president, Zuma also resuscitated his country’s relationship with Russia and joined BRICS – a grouping made up of the world’s emerging economies.

While Zuma was in power, South Africa abstained from voting on a UN General Assembly resolution supporting Ukraine’s territorial integrity after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.

Russia has been increasing its presence on the African continent in recent years and supporting it through aid, trade, military training, among others. It’s uncertain how the latest conflict could affect the relationship between the continent and Russia.

Last week, three Black women raised more than $60,000 to help Black and African students flee Ukraine. Many African students are stranded in Ukraine. Apart from many Africans traveling to Ukraine to work, there are those who go there to study thanks to the European country’s affordable tuition fees and its ties with Africa. Currently, Morocco, Nigeria and Egypt are the African countries with the most students in Ukraine, with Morocco having about 8,000 students and Nigeria with 4,000.

Many have since been concerned about their safety. Recently, African students and families trapped in Ukraine said that they were being blocked from boarding trains or crossing borders to neighboring countries. Ukrainian border officials were reportedly helping their fellow citizens cross over to safety first before foreigners. So far, Ghana and Nigeria have welcomed home some evacuated students who were studying in Ukraine when Russia invaded.

For a long time, there had been tensions between Russia and Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, but the situation started getting worse in early 2021 when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged U.S. President Joe Biden to let Ukraine join NATO. Russia didn’t like this, and started sending troops near its Ukraine border for “training exercises” in spring last year and later increased it.

Below is the full statement by Zuma’s namesake foundation:

As one of the elders in the movement who has devoted his whole life to the liberation of the people of South Africa and a committed member of the African National Congress (ANC). H.E President Zuma felt it would be remiss of him not to exercise his constitutionally enshrined freedom of expression and share his thoughts on the developments in Russia and Ukraine conflict.

Our Patron says that the current impasse between Russia and Ukraine must be seen within the context of, in the main, dynamics in the balance of forces on a global scale.

This impasse has by default also exposed the hypocrisy of what has become the conventional wisdom which always favours the western forces including their bullying tendencies and their insatiable appetite to dominate others whilst clandestinely furthering their own agendas and interests.

Countries like Russia and China, thanks to their strong political and economic independence, have managed to defend their territories from these western bullies and must be applauded.

His Excellency President Vladimir Putin has been very patient with the western forces. He has been crystal clear about his opposition to the eastern expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) into Ukraine, among other areas, and is on record about the military threat posed to Russia by the presence of these forces; if allowed to be on his door-step.

Surely in terms of efforts to achieve world peace, the sovereignty of Ukraine and all the democratic dictates cannot mean allowing NATO to establish a presence on its real estate; thus, establishing an untenable security risk to Russia.

Ukraine and Russia are separated only by a line on the map and not by the Baltic Sea – Why is this complicated to understand?

If forces, globally known to be hostile to the United States of America (USA), were known to be establishing the presence of any sort in any of the adjacent territories within the USA, the USA would certainly act in a manner that it believes would neutralise such a perceived threat.

In reality, the USA has not only acted to the counties around its borders, but it has moved around the whole world, to deal with what it has considered as threats to its national security.

There are clear examples of such invasions by NATO forces in the Middle East as well as in Africa.

With the above in mind, it looks justifiable that Russia felt provoked. It is however quite fortunate that His Excellency President Vladimir Putin, unlike other small countries, has the capacity (in Russia) to respond to security threats in line with the prescripts that are applicable to his country.

His actions, whereas justifiable, are still a far cry as compared with what other big powers have done when faced with such a situation.

Some western powers, who are today playing holier than thou, have invaded a number of small countries in the world e.g., Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya to name but a few. These glaring examples of interference have left those countries in ruins.

The western countries, and their acolytes’ support of Ukraine (under the guise of defending the sovereignty and democracy in Ukraine) is a selfish act to further their own interests at the expense of innocent lives and property in Ukraine.

Recently, there was a disguised attack on some member countries of BRICS.

In Brazil, a progressive government, under Her Excellency Former President Dilma Rousseff, was brought down under nefarious accusations of corruption.

Her comrade, His Excellency Former President Lula da Silva was accused of corruption. He was arrested and convicted. Later he was released after it was discovered that the charges were all concocted. In whose interest was this done?

In South Africa, His Excellency President Zuma was removed from office, before he finished his term, by the western forces using their forces that they are in control of within some structures of our government; and some that they control in the ruling party.

He was subsequently unlawfully arrested (as confirmed by no less than two constitutional court justices) on 07 July 2021; incarcerated without a trial by the constitutional court; denied a right to appeal both the judgment and the sentence.

To date, there is currently no case number/docket and thus the rights of His Excellency President Zuma were grossly violated. In whose interest was this done?

In India, the Indian National Congress Party, which has widespread roots in the country, “lost” elections.

China was attacked by the credit rating agencies but fortunately, China’s economic power is too big and successful, that the rating agencies failed to dent the Chinese economy and its standing globally – China continues to be a force to be reckoned with.

Russia, a BRICS member country is now in the crosshairs of the bullies. Ukraine is being used basically as a front, so that Russia can be brought to its knees through unjustifiable sanctions.

These facts as articulated above are important to be taken into consideration when the current impasse between Russia and Ukraine is being discussed and analysed. It is clear that without the insistence of western powers behind

Ukraine, the impasse between Russia and Ukraine could be resolved quickly and amicably.

We all need peace in this world; therefore, we would like to urge those involved to bring peace as swiftly as possible so that lives can be saved.

We call on President Zelensky to put the interests of the Ukrainians first, instead of pandering to his western allies at the expense of innocent lives.

H.E President Zuma is hopeful that the initiatives to have peace talks between the two countries will succeed.

“I am certain that His Excellency President Vladimir Putin will reciprocate and will bring all in his power to make peace a reality, as I know him to be a man of peace who has worked hard to ensure peace and stability in the globe,” said H.E President Zuma.

Let there be peace between Russia and Ukraine

Пусть будет мир между России и Украина

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