DA leader John Steenhuisen
The world is facing its biggest threat of war in 80 years.
A tyrannical aggressor with a finger on the nuclear button has invaded a far less powerful neighbour and is shelling civilian targets as we speak.
Over two million Ukrainians have become overnight refugees as their homes and hospitals are bombed to rubble.
President Vladimir Putin is acting with the impunity of a despot with nothing to lose.
Let’s be clear, there is no moral ambiguity here.
Regardless of the political history of the region or decades of tensions between east and west, Russia has committed an unjustifiable act of war.
Every world leader with a moral conscience has condemned it and called on Russia to withdraw.
But not South Africa’s President Ramaphosa.
Under a shameful veneer of “neutrality” the ANC government has effectively pledged its tacit support for Putin’s imperial march to restore his lost empire.
And I’m not only talking about the shameful abstention in the UN vote.
When ANC ministers attend a cocktail function glorifying the Russian military on the day of the invasion, you don’t have to read between the lines.
When a lone call by DIRCO for Russia to withdraw its army is hastily retracted and the minister admonished, you don’t have to read between the lines.
And when our president calls Putin in the middle of his invasion, pledging to strengthen bilateral ties - as the rest of the world isolates him - you don’t have to read between the lines.
To the astonishment of the world, the same ANC that once relied on global solidarity in its fight against oppression has now openly sided with the oppressor.
It has picked the wrong side of history, and it has dragged 60 million South Africans along with it.
And why? Is it because Russia once supported South Africa’s liberation struggle?
That wasn’t Russia. It was the Soviet Union, and that solidarity included Ukraine, the country now being attacked.
That was also a long time ago, and surely Russia’s recent actions have cancelled out any historical goodwill.
So is it then because of our country’s economic interests?
I can assure you it’s not that either. Russia is only our 38th largest trading partner, accounting for around half a percent of our exports and imports.
That’s less than 1.4% of our trade with NATO countries, and yet we shun our real economic partners in favour of a global pariah.
But if it’s not about South Africa’s interests, then whose?
To answer that, you need only look at Russia’s expansion into Africa through “elite capture”, where pliable leaders are ensnared in long-term patronage schemes.
Fifteen African nations are currently involved in Russian-financed nuclear power deals, and many more are locked into Russian security contracts.
Also consider that a businessman close to Putin tried to run a disinformation campaign for the ANC in the 2019 election, and that the ANC’s biggest donor last year was a Putin-aligned oligarch.
Connect these dots and the full picture of the ANC’s support for Russia begins to emerge.
There are some who say that this is not our war to become involved in. But that is simply not true.
We may be nine thousand kilometers away, but we will soon feel its effects in every single aspect of our lives.
When the oil price sky-rockets and petrol crashes through R30 or even R40 a litre, as has been predicted, this will be our war too.
When the spiraling cost of importing or transporting food is passed on to consumers who can already not afford to feed their families, and we start seeing massive increases in malnutrition, this will be our war too.
When diesel becomes so expensive that Eskom can no longer burn it in their turbines, and the lights go out and stay out, this will be our war too.
And when all of this food and fuel inflation results in a breakdown of law and order that will make last July’s riots look like child’s play, this will be our war too.
We are already involved, and there is no such thing as a neutral position. As the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu once remarked:
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
He would’ve been deeply ashamed of the position the ANC has put us in.
Countries that choose the wrong side of history will live with that tag for generations.
It shouldn’t be hard to do the right thing - to put country ahead of party.
The ANC does not speak for South Africa on this, and it certainly does not speak for the DA.
We condemn Russia’s illegal invasion in the strongest terms, and we stand firmly with the people of Ukraine.
I urge President Ramaphosa to rethink the position his government has taken.
Think of the plight of the people of Ukraine, think of South Africa’s place in the world, and think what this war will mean for all of us.
Choose peace and condemn Russia.