As South Africa presented its case accusing Israel of genocide to the International Court of Justice, the presence of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in and around the Hague court gave a flavour of the calibre of those willing this case on.
It was predictable that the South African government’s championing of this cause would ignite the ardour of the left. Quoting Nelson Mandela, the Labour MP Zarah Sultana took to X (formerly Twitter) to say with certainty that South Africa’s case against Israel was ‘devastating’.
The African National Congress (ANC), which has exercised an unbroken monopoly on power in South Africa since the end of white-minority rule in the mid-1990s, continues to hold a certain type of westerner in thrall. Their imagining of South Africa likely fails to extend beyond the feelgood parameters of the film Invictus and the opening ceremony of the 2010 football World Cup. The case in The Hague will only add to that Panglossian imagining of a virtuous rainbow nation doing its bit for the so-called global south.
The notion of ANC-run South Africa as a good global citizen does not, however, last when it collides with reality. Consider its ongoing dalliances with Russia: it has refused to condemn the war in Ukraine and participated in a joint naval exercise with Russia and China in February 2023. It has also been alleged that embargoed Russian ships have been able to stock up on materiel and munitions in South African ports. Added to this, the state-owned Gazprombank has continued to win contracts in South Africa, allowing Russia to duck and weave around the global sanctions regime it faces.
The ANC’s financially motivated flirtations with the Moscow regime have, predictably, slipped under the radar of its new coterie of admirers who believe Cyril Ramaphosa’s government is an example of atavistic virtue.