Our take: SA flubs Russia vote

It’s day 15 of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and things keep escalating. Two million refugees are said to have fled Ukraine and, according to the UN, there have been 1 335 verified civilian casualties in Ukraine: 474 deaths and 861 people injured. 

One issue that’s coming to the fore is SA’s place in all of this. 

Last week, our country decided to abstain from voting in the United Nations’ resolution against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – one of 35 countries to do so. After a backlash, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the abstention was because the resolution failed to do his favourite thing: call for dialogue. The man who famously helped SA’s warring sides negotiate a peaceful transition from apartheid has long been a fan of talk shops. It’s an aspect of his leadership that’s often criticised but, as is often the case with our weaknesses, it’s also one of his strengths. As he plaintively put it in his weekly missive to annoyed South Africans this week: “The call for peaceful resolution through political dialogue is relegated to a single sentence close to the conclusion of the final text.” 

Considering that we’re a democratic country, the abstention was puzzling for several reasons, including the fact that we don’t have strong trade relations with Russia. It’s not like the economic formation we’re part of with Russia – BRICS – held us back either. Another BRICS country, Brazil, voted against Russia. Plus there’s Russia’s blatant racism towards African residents fleeing the war; Ukraine is guilty of this, too. (More on this later)

So there’s little reason for SA to keep its relationship with Russia intact. Oh, and calling Russian president Vladimir Putin a “man of peace” won’t earn you brownie points either, Jacob Zuma. 🙄  We know you’re besties *cough cough Russia nuclear deal* but seriously? Read the room! 

The same could be said of Ramaphosa. At a time when the world’s attention is fixed on the unfolding war, SA should be on the right side of history. 

This article appeared as part of The Wrap, 10 March  2022. Sign up to receive our weekly updates.