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John Steenhuisen says South Africans should take Russia-Ukraine war seriously, reports back after visit

DA Federal Leader John Steenhuisen provided feedback on his recent visit to Ukraine. Photo: SUPPLIED

DA Federal Leader John Steenhuisen provided feedback on his recent visit to Ukraine. Photo: SUPPLIED

Published May 9, 2022


DA leader John Steenhuisen, who recently returned from his six-day Ukraine visit, has pledged South Africa’s support for that country and vowed that he would not stop putting pressure on the South African government to change its stance on its conflict with Russia.

Steenhuisen said his reasons for his Ukraine visit were two-fold.

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First, he wanted to see for himself what was happening in Ukraine and hear the accounts first-hand from the people living there.

And secondly, Steenhuisen said he wanted to represent South Africa to the people of Ukraine, “because no one else is doing this”.

“Without knowing much more about our country and the local divisions on this issue, they were left with the impression that South Africa does not support their plight in this war, and that we had tacitly aligned ourselves with Putin’s Russia,” Steenhuisen said.

He called on the South African government to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine, to call on Vladimir Putin to withdraw his army, to call for the opening of the port of Odessa and other Ukrainian ports where he said more than 30 million tonnes of exports were waiting, the return of stolen Ukrainian grains and agriculture equipment, and to recognise that Russia and Putin were guilty of war crimes.

“This is a war that is going to have severe global economic consequences, whether you choose to take an interest in it or not.

“I know that we are heading for a very bleak time as the effect of this war hits our economy and our imports. This impact is right around the corner, and it will coincide with the winter months, the ongoing electricity cuts, our runaway unemployment and our spiralling inflation.

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“This will truly be the winter of our discontent, and when it arrives, Ukraine will be on everyone’s lips. I want to be able to speak on the issue from a position of authority,” he said.

Steenhuisen said he made it known to the Ukrainians, including mayors, governors, members of parliament, members of the opposition, former prime ministers, academics, leaders of civil society and ordinary citizens, that the ANC did not speak for South Africa on the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

“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 South Africa in its immoral support for Russia.

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“The ripples of this war are only just starting to arrive on our shores now, but they will soon be waves that will cause great suffering to ordinary South Africans, and particularly to a sector of our society that cannot afford any further economic hardship,” he said.

Steenhuisen said he got upset when hearing people say, “This is not our war, we needn’t involve ourselves or speak out”.

He added that the position by the South African government, “which is to avoid saying or doing anything that might offend Russia is so deeply immoral”.

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He raised a question to President Cyril Ramaphosa during his live streamed address, asking the president what would he expect the global community to do if South Africa was the country being bombed, and South African citizens were being slaughtered by the army of another nation?

Steenhuisen said that if Ramaphosa travelled to Ukraine and saw what he saw and spoke to those he spoke to, he 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,” he said to Ramaphosa.

Steenhuisen added that history would judge those who support the war harshly, along with those who in a time of moral crisis remained silent and encouraged people to choose freedom.

“We must choose democracy and we must choose the right side of history,” Steenhuisen concluded.

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Political Bureau