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LISTEN | Steenhuisen calls on Ramaphosa to change SA's non-aligned position on Russia, Ukraine war

09 May 2022 - 15:15
DA leader John Steenhuisen has warned that the war between Russia and Ukraine is far from over and he will put pressure on the ANC-led government to change its non-aligned position.
DA leader John Steenhuisen has warned that the war between Russia and Ukraine is far from over and he will put pressure on the ANC-led government to change its non-aligned position. 
Image: Esa Alexander

Listen to what he had to say: 

DA leader John Steenhuisen has warned that the war between Russia and Ukraine is far from over and says he will pressure the ANC-led government to change its non-aligned position. 

He made the remarks on Monday after returning from a six-day fact finding mission to Ukraine.  

“This is a fight between good and evil and in such a fight you cannot sit on the fence, you have to choose and you have [to choose] the right side. The people I spoke to cannot fathom how SA’s government has taken the stance it has,” he said. 

Regarding criticism of his trip, Steenhuisen said he wanted to get first-hand accounts from people and be able to speak on the issue from a position of authority. 

He lauded the resilience and unity shown by Ukranians during the war. 

“They stand united against a common enemy and have made it clear they will not compromise with this enemy. They will only negotiate when all aggression has stopped. And given that more and more weapons are pouring into Ukraine to bolster their resistance, this war looks far from over.

“Every day Russian troops remain in Ukraine is one day longer they cannot rebuild their country and restart their economy. The people of Ukraine are doing all they can to end this war, but they need the rest of the world to back them up.”

He warned that ripples from the war are only just starting to arrive on SA's shores, but will soon be waves that will cause great suffering to ordinary South Africans and the already battered economy. 

He called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to “stop sitting on the fence” and use his voice to condemn Russia. 

“If you had travelled with me to Ukraine, if you had seen what I saw, if you had spoken to the people I spoke to, you would not still be sitting on the fence. You would be mortified by your government’s initial response. You would be deeply ashamed and you would change your view.

“You would speak out, wherever you had a platform, in an effort to bring this war to an end. You would send your own fact-finding mission to Ukraine instead of sending your party’s cadres on holiday jaunts to Cuba, Europe and the Far East,” he said.

To show solidarity with Ukraine, Ramaphosa would use his position in Brics to put pressure on Russia and let them know that he condemns their war crimes. He would also use his next phone call with President Vladimir Putin to implore him to withdraw his troops and open the port of Odessa to exports.  

Part of the visit was to tell Ukrainians that many SA citizens were at loggerheads with government over the non–aligned position it had adopted in the UN general assembly. 

“I told them all the same thing: Our ANC government speaks only for its own narrow financial interests. It does not represent the citizens of SA in its immoral support for Russia.”

He spoke to  mayors, governors, MPs, members of the opposition, former prime ministers, academics, leaders of civil society and ordinary citizens who questioned why SA would not sympathise with their plight and seemingly take the side of Russia. 

“I vowed that we would not stop putting pressure on our government to change its stance on this war, to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine, to call on Putin to withdraw his army, to call for the opening of the port of Odessa and other Ukrainian ports where more than 30-million tonnes of exports are waiting, to call for the return of stolen Ukrainian grain and agriculture equipment and to recognise that Russia and Putin are guilty of war crimes.”   

Steenhuisen has also called on parliament to send a multiparty delegation to Kyiv to meet Ukrainian leaders and assess the situation for themselves, in the hope that once they have the facts they would come back and help shift public opinion on Russia’s war against Ukraine.

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