A series of leaked documents reportedly show that Russian operatives planned to influence South Africa’s general election to strengthen the governing ANC.
The documents were first reported on by The Daily Maverick, and London-based investigative centre the Dossier Centre. They have also reportedly been seen by UK-based publications The Guardian and The Telegraph.
The documents were reportedly prepared by an organisation linked to Yevgeny Prigozhin – a St Petersburg businessman who is close to Russian president Vladimir Putin.
They promise a campaign to support the ANC ahead of the elections and to counteract and discredit the pro-western DA, and the EFF.
Contrary to projections prior to the elections, the documents suggest the ANC will struggle to poll above 50% and that the EFF is likely to come second.
To ensure a more favourable outcome for the ANC, the Russians allegedly planned to set up a think tank to influence the results through public rhetoric, generating and disseminating video content, coordinating with a ‘loyal pool of journalists’ and producing pro-ANC videos’
It is not clear whether the plans were enacted, and the documents do not appear to have any direct connections to the ANC.
This is not the first time that Prigozhin’s name has been mentioned in possibly influencing other country’s elections.
The Guardian reports that he runs the notorious troll factory in St Petersburg – the Internet Research Agency (IRA) – and was responsible for an extensive social media operation in 2016 to mobilise support for Donald Trump and to disparage Hillary Clinton.