Wagner in SA: “Extremely likely” to meddle in election

It is “extremely likely” that the tentacles of the Wagner Group reach all the way to South Africa – and that its propaganda division has already been meddling in the country’s politics with a view to influence the outcome of national elections next year. This has emerged from an interview with Dr Bohumil Doboš of Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic. “It is extremely likely that they are (in South Africa) and they are doing this for quite some time right now. The Internet Research Agency (IRA) of Yevgeny Prigozhin, which is based mainly in St. Petersburg, is operating worldwide…it is quite obvious that the Russian elites have their interest in the outcome of the upcoming general election… If African National Congress remains to be the unchallenged leader in South Africa, this is definitely something that Moscow can make use of.” Dr Doboš also speaks about Yevgeny Prigozhin’s IRA operations elsewhere in Africa; the difference between its modus operandi on the African continent and in the West; how their propaganda operations have shaped the views of African countries on the East-West conflict; as well as Wagner’s origins, its funding, and its military operations. – Chris Steyn

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Relevant timestamps from the interview

  • 00:31 – Dr Bohumil Doboš on the rumours that the Wagner Group propaganda division is operating in SA
  • 03:26 – On the capabilities they have to interfere in elections and to stoke unrest
  • 04:42 – Where else in Africa are these operations taking place
  • 06:16 – The difference between the modus operandi on the African continent and in the West
  • 07:41 – On how the propaganda operations have shaped the views of African countries on the West East conflict
  • 09:16 – On Wagners military might on the African continent at the moment
  • 15:54 – On Russia continuing with its engagement in Africa
  • 17:13 – On the origins of the Wagner group and its funding
  • 19:51 – The relationship between Wagner and the oligarchs
  • 23:17 – Conclusions

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Highlights from the interview

It is “extremely likely” that the tentacles of the Wagner Group reach all the way to South Africa – and that its propaganda division has already been meddling in the country’s politics with a view to influence the outcome of national elections next year. 

This has emerged from an interview with Dr Bohumil Doboš, a lecturer and researcher at the Institute of Political Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic. He focuses on topics related to geopolitics, more specifically territoriality and violent non-state actors, with a special interest in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“It is extremely likely that they are (in South Africa) and they are doing this for quite some time right now. The Internet Research Agency  (IRA) of Yevgeny Prigozhin, which is based mainly in St. Petersburg, is operating worldwide, which is something that we have seen already for quite some time right now. 

Read more: Katzenellenbogen: South Africa’s ominous silence over Wagner Group’s activities in Africa

“Regarding South Africa, it is quite obvious that the Russian elites have their interest in the outcome of the upcoming general election; that there are some clear connections to African National Congress (ANC). 

“Given the historical ties, we can see it recently with some of the speeches given by the political elites in South Africa. And this is something that the Russian elites and the Internet Research Agency (IRA) will seek to continue to make use of.

“If African National Congress remains to be the unchallenged leader in South Africa, this is definitely something that Moscow can make use of.”

Describing the modus operandi of the IRA, Dr Doboš says: “…they make use of the already existing divisions inside of the society and exacerbate them, meaning that they make use of disputes that might be marginal at the beginning, but thanks to the working of especially social media, they can turn them into the major battlefields that then help to create some sort of internal chaos or instability that then they make use of to propagate their own candidates, which seem to be standing on the right side of the issues and thus shifting the popular support towards the Russian-backed candidates.

Read more: Wagner stays, UN peacekeepers have to go…

“Now, how this will be successful is hard to measure. It’s hard to measure even in the elections that have already taken place. But there is definitely some presence globally – and it’s extremely likely that these efforts will be present in South Africa throughout the upcoming elections as well.”

As to the IRA’s meddling in elections in other parts of the world, Dr Doboš says: “There have been some accusations of interference in the US presidential elections already some six years ago. So this is nothing that would be that new. Especially here in Europe, we can see the effects taking place for quite some time…”

As to the ties between Wagner and the IRA, he says: “Now there is an issue how this IRA can be attributed to Wagner because it seems that they are.  Even though they are personally connected, it’s not part of the same organisation. But given the lack of transparency in Russia in general, this is something to be discussed further on and where we don’t have clear evidence.”

Dr Doboš also speaks about IRA operations elsewhere in Africa; the difference between its modus operandi on the African continent and in the West; how their propaganda operations have shaped the views of African countries on the East-West conflict; as well as Wagner’s origins, its funding, and its military operations.

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