Some confusion over SA’s stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

On Thursday, Day 2 of the invasion, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation issued a stern statement calling on Russia to immediately withdraw its troops from Ukraine.

FILE: This handout photo made available by the Russian Defense Ministry on September 13, 2021 shows the ‘Zapad-2021’ joint military exercises of the armed forces of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus at the Mulino military base in the Nizhny Novgorod region, some 350 kilometers east of Moscow. Photo: Handout/Russian Defense Ministry/AFP

CAPE TOWN – There seems to be some confusion over the position South Africa has taken in the face of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

On Thursday, Day 2 of the invasion, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation issued a stern statement calling on Russia to immediately withdraw its troops from Ukraine.

On Saturday, South African Ambassador to Ukraine Andre Groenewald said he was working with neighboring countries to help evacuate South Africans trying to flee the country.

But earlier on Sunday, at a justice cluster briefing, Defense Minister Thandi Modise contradicted that message, taking a more neutral view.

“We have not been told officially that South Africans wish to be evacuated either from Ukraine or from Russia. You will know that South Africa believes in dialogue, we hope that dialogue will indeed be followed in this situation and that is all I can say. If and when the need arises, we will let you know.”

When asked if there was a rift between President Cyril Ramaphosa and the Department of International Relations, Minister for the Presidency Mondli Gungubele replied:

“The president has been very clear on the issue as commander-in-chief in regards to mediation, negotiation. Beyond that, it’s the country’s position more particular, the latest cabinet will always prefer peaceful solutions to conflicts, we will always be opposed to any conflict resulting in the loss of life, we must not comment beyond that”.

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