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ANC twists call for scrutiny into Israel ‘fight-back’



The African National Congress (ANC) has doubled down on its conspiracy theory of an international “fight-back” campaign in response to the government having taken Israel to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

While South African opposition parties are calling on the United States (US) and other countries to help keep foreign interference out – in other words, from Russia and Iran – the ANC is claiming that the 29 May national elections may be shanghaied by the US and other Western countries because of its stance on Israel and Hamas.

“President Cyril Ramaphosa’s warning has come to pass, where he said, ‘There will be a systematic fight-back campaign,’” said the ANC in a statement on 9 March. “There can be little doubt that these forces will do all in their power to prevent South Africa from concluding its case at the ICJ. The fight-back may also focus on our domestic politics and electoral outcomes to pursue a regime-change agenda.”

On 8 February, the Multi-Party Charter wrote to G7 countries and the European Union saying that it was concerned about the potential for foreign interference in the elections.

This was followed by a letter from Emma Powell, the Democratic Alliance (DA) Shadow Minister for International Relations and Cooperation, to United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken on 7 March, saying, “We note with increasing alarm the potential for foreign interference in our elections by malign actors. Your country can help safeguard against any attempts to disrupt the democratic process or negatively influence the South African electorate through disinformation campaigns.”

Though the ANC said the DA was “mortgaging the country” by asking for support, Powell said, “The fact is that it’s the ANC which is mortgaging our country to its friends in Iran and Russia, and it’s for this reason it has hit the panic button.

“We have faith in the IEC [Electoral Commission of South Africa] at national level, but it’s not unsurprising that anomalies and miscounts occur at times at granular level,” she said. “This is where independent monitors can help ensure accurate results. The ANC government consistently sends observers to other countries to monitor elections. It’s clear it has something to hide, given its ferocious response to a standard request worldwide.”

When asked about the ANC describing this as a “fight-back” for taking Israel to the ICJ, Powell said, “They’re referencing a broader Western ‘fight-back’ with regards to their new alignment with Iran and Russia.”

“This plea [by the DA] is a clear attempt to bring about a regime change,” the ANC said. “It’s beyond coincidence that the very same nation [America] which continues to arm Israel and blocks pleas for a ceasefire at the United Nations Security Council is now being called upon to ‘oversee’ our elections.”

“It’s insane to say we’re attempting to work with foreign governments to overthrow [South Africa],” Powell said. “Our requests are simple: that resources be made available for independent domestic observers; that civil society is assisted in providing voter education and capacity building; that resources are directed into a parallel vote tabulation process that will help guard against irregularities; and that technology to help protect South Africans from sinister attempts to manipulate election outcomes by undemocratic foreign governments is provided.

“We’ve seen attempted foreign interference in elections in many parts of the world using artificial intelligence, cyber hacks, and disinformation campaigns. This cannot be allowed in South Africa,” she said.

“The ANC government must answer the 36 questions the DA has submitted to Parliament demanding answers about who is financing it and why,” Powell said. “If the ANC had nothing to hide, it would have no problem with scrutiny of the elections.”

Local political analyst Steven Gruzd said, “Russia has interfered in several elections in Africa and elsewhere, particularly through polarising extreme positions on social media. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if it has an eye on the South African elections. It’s difficult to tell what the outcome of interference would be – and difficult to prove it. But it would probably radicalise the electorate, which would serve the interests of parties like the EFF [Economic Freedom Fighters] and MK. It might tip the balance as to whether the ANC gets 50% of the vote.

“I can’t see direct consequences for the Jewish community if Iran is interfering in the election unless the rumours about it supporting the ANC financially are true. The stronger the ANC gets, the more likely it is to be re-elected,” he said. “The EFF and MK parties are also no great friends of Israel. If there’s Iranian interference, it would probably give these radical parties greater chances of being elected.”

Regarding the ANC’s claim of a “fight-back” campaign, Gruzd said, “This might be one way to undermine the DA or to set up the claim that the elections weren’t free and fair if the ANC loses.”

Sara Gon, the head of strategic engagement at the Institute of Race Relations, said, “I’m inclined to think that South Africa isn’t important enough [for election interference], but given the slavish devotion that the ANC has shown towards autocracies including Russia and Iran, the ANC may have promised them access to our resources in exchange for helping to keep it in power.

“The IEC has had increasing resource constraints, so notwithstanding its relatively sound reputation, it’s severely stretched by the sheer number of parties and individual candidates,” she said. However, “opposition parties can always demand recounts, and since the ballots are on paper, it makes interference unlikely to succeed”.

On the accusation of a fight-back because of Israel, she said. “That’s the ANC trying to create the impression that the West is punishing it for its stand for the Palestinians. But the West was angry with South Africa before 7 October.

“The problem for the ANC is that Israel is really not an election issue,” she said. “When people are told what’s happening, the majority support Israel.”

Political and economic adviser Dr Frans Cronje said, “All major powers have an interest in South Africa’s political evolution, and they all therefore invest in projects that seek to shape the trajectory of the country. Efforts at extremist radicalisation do take place.”

As for the ANC implying that this is a fight-back in response to the ICJ case, Cronje said, “It shows how poor the ANC’s strategic acumen has become. The correct response would be to welcome observers, given that South Africa is a free society with nothing to hide. The ANC has stepped right into the trap the DA set for it.”

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