The ANC Youth League has defended its recent mission to Ukraine and Russia to act as observers during referendums in Ukraine, which the DA and other political parties called a serious breach of international law and a way to attempt to legitimise Russia’s bid to annex Ukrainian territory.
The recent referendums held by Russia in eastern Ukraine sought to ask citizens if they wanted their conquered territories to be incorporated into Russia.
The referendums in some of the eastern and southern Ukrainian provinces on Russia’s border have been slammed as illegal and a ploy to legitimise Russia’s military occupation and its intention to annex the occupied territories by force.
Last week, members of the ANCYL went to Russia as part of its observer mission, and to familiarise themselves with some of the issues the people of Ukraine have been facing since the start of the Russia/Ukraine war.
Speaking to Newzroom Afrika, the head of the ANCYL’s international liaison office, Khulekani Skosana said they stood by their decision to go on the mission, adding that the purpose of their visit was to obtain a first-hand assessment of issues there.
“We are children of the revolutionary African National Congress, a movement that has fought for a very long time. We are taught in the ANC to be young people who look and seek information for themselves. We are not going to be spoon-fed on views and how we interpret those views,” Skosana said.
He said the mission was “to observe”.
“However, we maintain the position of the ANC. The ANC is a non-aligned movement but that does not mean that we will swallow everything that comes from the West.
“It is important for us a generation of young people in 2022 to actually go on the ground and engage with the people directly as opposed to being told by the elites as to what they want. We went there on our own observation mission. As an observer, our mission was precisely that, to observe and that does not mean we are pledging a political allegiance to this side or that side,” he said.
Last week, following reports that the youth league had gone to Russia on an observer mission, the DA's Darren Bergman said the visit was extremely insensitive and amounted to a breach of international law.
“In doing so, the ANCYL is not only lending official credibility to these sham polls, but seemingly carrying the full weight and backing of South Africa's governing party, giving a blank cheque to other pariah nations and governments to annex whatever territory they please, knowing they will have the support of the ANC-led South African government,” Bergman said.
The DA described the ANCYL's actions as a flagrant disregard of international law as well as a violation of South Africa's Constitution. “It is also in direct conflict with the ANC-led national government's official response to the conflict, which states that South Africa is non-aligned, and supports dialogue to resolve what is nothing more than a Russian attack on the sovereignty of a neighbouring country.”
Bergman said the party would be calling on the ANC to clearly state who paid for the ANCYL members’ trip to “observe” the voting at polling stations in Ukrainian territories that the Russian military had conquered.
Previously, International Relations and Co-operation Minister Naledi Pandor said South Africa could not be seen to be taking sides in the conflict after Russia's invasion of Ukraine because that went against the nation's principles.