Ukraine-Russia: Ramaphosa doubles down on DIRCO stance, wants ‘peaceful negotiation’

The South African government has been widely criticised since it abstained in the UN General Assembly vote to demand Russia withdraws its troops, earlier in March, with some suggesting the country has placed itself on “the wrong side of history.”


After the vote, South Africa’s ambassador to the UN, Mathu Joyini, explained that the country remained deeply concerned about the ongoing conflict and its worldwide implications. However, it felt the resolution “does not create an environment conducive for diplomacy, dialogue and mediation.”

Joyini’s post-vote statement echoed earlier statements made by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) Minister Naledi Pandor before the conflict started on 24 February.

President Cyril Ramaphosa furthered the government’s position on the matter in his weekly letter, on Monday, 7 March.

 “South Africa abstained from voting in last week’s United Nations resolution on the escalating conflict between Russia and its neighbour Ukraine because the resolution did not foreground the call for meaningful engagement,” he said.

In response to those who say the country is on the wrong side of history, Ramaphosa said South Africa “is firmly on the side of peace at a time when another war is something the world does not need, nor can it afford.”

Second round of negotiations, on 3 March, the parties failed to broker a ceasefire. However, the neighbours agreed to create humanitarian corridors to facilitate the evacuation of civilians.

On Monday, the Interfax news agency reported that the Russian Defence Ministry would hold fire in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Mariupol and Sumy to open these corridors and allow evacuations, per Al Jazeera.

Ramaphosa took issue with the fact that the call for a peaceful resolution through dialogue was “relegated to a single sentence close to the conclusion of the final text.”

The president said hostilities may be halted by military actions or economic pressure but he believes it is unlikely to lead to lasting and sustainable peace.

He said South Africa’s experience with ending apartheid and its role in helping mediate conflict elsewhere in Africa have yielded a number of insights.

“The first is that even the most seemingly intractable differences can be resolved at the negotiating table.

“The second is that even as talks may collapse, they can and do resume, as was the case in our own negotiating process.

“And that even when it seems the parties cannot see eye to eye, breakthroughs can and do happen,” he said.

Ramaphosa opined that slow progress is still progress and said the international community should make every effort to bring Ukraine and Russia to the negotiation table and support their talks.

“The peoples of Russia and Ukraine – two neighbours whose histories, peoples and fortunes are inextricably bound together – deserve a peace that is durable, sustainable and lasting,” he concluded.

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