Moulding South African Public Opinion on Economic Cooperation with Russia


Boris Gorelik


A study of over 300 articles and opinion pieces in popular and academic publications in South Africa, issued in 2016–2021, shows that South African journalists and political scientists are sceptical of large state-sponsored economic projects involving Russian state companies.

Statements by the Russian partners that the current economic initiatives uphold the tradition of Soviet assistance to the anti-apartheid movement are interpreted by critics of the South African government as demagoguery and exploitation of history. Such authors assert that Russian-South African state cooperation in business led to “dodgy deals” which were concluded in the interests of South African high officials as well as entrepreneurs associated with them. South African journalists and political scientists focus on internal political and economic problems, presenting Russian initiatives as an aggravating factor.

Many leading members of the ANC and the EFF have spoken in favour of cooperation with Russian state companies. Such initiatives are also often supported by the Independent Media & News publications. Collaboration between Russian private companies and their local partners does not tend to raise objections from observers in that country. South Africans welcome joint ventures with Russian participation which not only create jobs and provide advanced training to their local personnel but also contribute to import substitution by establishing manufacturing facilities in South Africa.

The previous failures have not discredited trade and economic cooperation with Russia. South Africans do not seem to be opposed to Russian economic initiatives, apart from major state projects which are often scrutinised by the media. A considerable number of South Africans view Russia as an alternative to the Western influence and favour economic collaboration between our countries.


Russian-South African cooperation, South African media, Rosatom, Jacob Zuma, Julius Malema, public opinion, image of Russia in South Africa, Russian economic initiatives, Russian investments in South Africa




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