CAPE TOWN - The DA has defended the controversial six-day visit by its leader John Steenhuisen in Ukraine this week, saying they would not be neutral and pretend that the war would not impact South Africans.
Steenhuisen is visiting various parts of Ukraine and is meeting with various government and business leaders, as well as students and ordinary citizens to ascertain the effects of the Russian invasion - mostly around the capital of Kyiv.
“We dare not pretend that this is a war that has nothing to do with us. And we dare not pretend that remaining ‘neutral’ in this situation is admirable. When we have clear and undeniable evidence of injustice, we owe it to the victims to pick a side and speak out,“ he said of the visit.
However, ANC head of communications, Sifiso Mtsweni, accused the DA of seeking media attention.
“The DA is hypocritical. As we speak, there is currently a war in the Cape Flats, instead of resolving these issues and as usual, they try to milk media attention by this trip. The South African government has a clear position on the Ukraine-Russia hostilities and is on record that dialogue is the best mechanism to bring about lasting peace.
“We are opposed to all forms of violence and loss of lives; however ours is not to pick sides but to continue to plead with all parties involved to find an amicable solution to this impasse urgently,“ Mtsweni said.
DA spokesperson Cilliers Brink said as a leader of the opposition, Steenhuisen had the responsibility to develop and model alternative policy, including alternative foreign policy.
“We’re not here to follow the ANC’s lead and pretend that the war has no effect on South Africans, our interests and our standing in the international community. The Russian war on Ukraine has profound implications for South Africans; rising prices of fertiliser, food staples and general cost of living. To suggest otherwise is to be wilfully blind,” he said.
Bonteheuwel ward councillor Angus McKenzie echoed the same sentiments, adding that Steenhuisen had “immersed himself in both localised crisis as well as global challenges that affect the poorest of the poor”.
“In the same way John has walked the streets of Bonteheuwel addressing gangsterism on the Cape Flats, it's equally important to address this ongoing war which is affecting us here in South Africa with increased fuel cost, increased food prices and the threat of food security,” McKenzie said.
UWC political analyst Keith Gottschalk said the Russian-Ukrainian war had divided the country in an “exact replay” of the cold war divisions of the last century.
“The ANC and SACP support Russia; the DA and VF+ support the West. Neither side seems to care that today, President Putin's Kremlin, and his United Russia party, are stridently anti-communist,” he said.