The youth league of South Africa’s ruling ANC party has endorsed Russia’s referendums in occupied parts of Ukraine, which are designed to pave the way for Moscow to annex the territories.
The endorsement came after members of the group accepted invitations from Moscow to act as international observers of the Kremlin-orchestrated votes. The Ukrainian Association of South Africa says it is disappointed in the youth league’s stance while the ANC itself is remaining silent on the issue.
The head of the ANC Youth League’s Subcommittee on International Relations, Khulekani Skosana, has commended Russian President Vladimir Putin on Twitter.
Skosana posted a clip of his interview with the South African Broadcasting Corporation.
“We stand in solidarity with all the oppressed people of the world,” Skosana said. “It’s not just Donbas, we stand with people of Palestine, Western Sahara. We will always stand with those who are oppressed and those who don’t have anyone to defend them. The revolution will not be televised, that’s why we went to see for ourselves as young people of the liberation movement of President Nelson Mandela.”
The president of the Ukrainian Association of South Africa, Dzvinka Kachur, said the youth league members are simply being used by Russia to try to legitimize a process that falls far, far short of international laws on referendums.
Moscow has released vote tallies showing support in all four regions where the referendums were held for five days beginning September 23.
But Kachur said that was a lie because Russia doesn’t control all of these areas.
“Yes, they may be controlling almost completely the territory of one region, of Luhansk but they don’t control Donetsk, they don’t control Zaporizhzhia and they definitely don’t control Kherson,” she said.
Kachur said they’ve heard the international media reports of Russian soldiers going door-to-door to get people to vote at gun point.
“A lot of our community members have had their relatives still in the occupied territories,” she said. “We understand people being tortured and how people are hiding.”
Kachur added that the Ukrainian Association is disappointed in the ANC government for not reacting to the Youth League’s statements. The government has repeatedly said it is neutral in this conflict but the Ukrainian Association says Skosana’s comments are anything but.
“As the ANC Youth League is connected to the government, if the government is supporting that silently I think it’s a big challenge for South African democracy and all South Africans living in this country because it says that the ruling party does not understand what democracy is,” Kachur said.
Requests for comment from the ANC’s main body went unanswered. The party’s spokesperson, Pule Mabe, simply sent two text messages saying: “May I please revert back.”
Political analyst Ralph Mathekga said he was perplexed.
“It is strange that the ANC Youth League could actually send observers to Russia on a very controversial referendum actually,” he said. “A referendum that has been referred to as a sham referendum by the global community. So, for the ANC Youth League to be sending members there, it is very strange. I don’t know what exactly does the youth league aim to achieve. I don’t know whether this will give them traction in South Africa’s politics.”
Mathekga said he wonders who paid for the trip and whether the decision to go was taken within the ANC and where the decision was taken.
Reuters reports that the United States is preparing a new round of sanctions to punish Russia for any annexation move and a new $1.1 billion arms package for Ukraine that will be announced soon.