President Cyril Ramaphosa shared a photo of him and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Russia-Africa Summit back in October 2019. He captioned the post:
“I spoke to President Vladimir Putin and asked for technical expertise on infection control; supply of lifesaving equipment for mobile testing & infection control.”
President Ramaphosa also explained that South Africa has “a long friendship with Russia”. He added that Russia “supported China, Italy and United States in the fight against COVID-19”.
Russia’s ‘support’ for the USA and Italy
Earlier this week, Russia dispatched a cargo plane with masks and medical equipment to the United States. Putin spokesman Dmitri Peskov told reporters that President Trump “gratefully accepted the humanitarian aid:
“Now that this situation has affected everyone without exception and is global, there is no alternative to joint action in the spirit of partnership and mutual help”.
Russia also aided Italy be dispatching 100 medics to assist in the fight against COVID-19. At the time, Janis Makonkalns from Modern Diplomacy described the aid “as nothing more than a PR stunt by the Russian army”.
In addition, Italian newspaper La Stampa stated that 80% of the supplies sent by Russia “were completely useless”. The publication claimed that President Putin wanted to further his political and economic ends.
According to an Italian official, the Russian delivery contained equipment for bacteriological disinfection and a field laboratory for chemical-biological sterilisation. Italy needed ventilators and personal protective equipment.
La Stampa also reported that the medical experts were dispatched by the Russian defence ministry; not the health ministry. The medics were senior biological, chemical, and nuclear officers, whereas Italy needed front-line medics to assist with the humanitarian crisis.
South Africans react
International publications weren’t the only ones cautioning countries against accepting Russia’s help; South Africans responded to President Ramaphosa’s tweet with similar vigour. One user said:
“Russia is self-sustaining and you are always begging and powers to foreigners. We need foreign relations, yes, but we must rely on our self first, Africa then the globe. You make us a donation case”.
Another suggested to “rather use BRICS to fight the virus,” while a netizen known only as The Real Afrika, warned the president to be careful, because “Putin does not play, that one is dangerous.”
At the other end of the spectrum, one netizen said that “Russia is more trustworthy than the IMF and World Bank”. Another added:
“Thank you Mr President, it is indeed high time we run to our allies in times of panic and need. I’m confident we will receive the best service from President Putin”.