Despite the high-profile reporting on the Lady R docking at Simon’s Town Naval Base and – in the dead of night – cargo being loaded on and off, President Cyril Ramaphosa would have us believe that he has no idea what was loaded – so much so that he has asked a retired judge to investigate.

‘The option of calling the head of the Simon’s Town Naval Base or the Defence Minister or both into his office and demanding some straight answers by close of play on the day the story broke is a task beyond or below the President,’ says The Brenthurst Foundation’s Ray Hartley and Greg Mills.

‘This suggests either unspeakable incompetence or a desire to cover up an unspeakable truth. Sadly, the former is a possibility given the government’s recent record of announcing and withdrawing decisions on states of disaster, national orders and other matters.’

Writing on the Daily Maverick site, the authors say the suspicion must surely fall on the explanation that SA helped its ‘friend’ Russia ‘with some ammo for its press-ganged convicts to fire at soldiers and civilians in Ukraine and is now severely embarrassed’.

Hartley and Mills say this is a ‘decisive pivot’ away from the democratic world – including away from the majority of African countries that have consistently protested against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – and towards the authoritarian world inhabited by the likes of Russia, North Korea, Eritrea, Venezuela, Cuba and Iran.

‘The ANC has, in the past, fantasised about turning SA into such a state. It attempted to curb media freedoms using security legislation as a smokescreen and even proposed a government-appointed “media tribunal” where it could mete out punishment to journalists who asked the wrong questions. Those efforts failed when they met with public opprobrium.’

The authors point out most South Africans are against this ‘anti-democratic shift’.

A survey by The Brenthurst Foundation found that 74.3% of South Africans – and 74% of ANC supporters – believed that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was ‘an act of aggression that ought to be condemned’.

A full 80% of South Africans said it ought to actively support a country invaded by a neighbour militarily, diplomatically or with moral support. South Africans, they add, do not want their country to ‘become some ideological backwater in the orbit of one of the world’s worst human rights abusers. They fought hard to create an open democratic society with accountable government and they are not going to give that up easily.’

The ANC government, they add, appears pathologically unable or unwilling to face up to facts, including about its relationships with despots.

‘At the very least, Washington’s action shows that the West has finally woken up to the realisation that the ANC today is no longer the party of Mandela and Mbeki, but something incompetent at best and more sinister at worst. Either way, it is not a reliable friend and ally, by no means a safe haven for pensioners’ investments and citizens’ tax dollars. Pretoria is now to be measured not by the apartheid explanation, but on its own merits. And apparently no longer does the US, in particular, view the ANC through the prism of its own civil rights experience.’

Full analysis on the Daily Maverick site