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By Marizka Coetzer

Journalist


SA’s decision to abstain from Ukraine vote shows ‘its diminishing status as strategic leader’

Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba said the 143 countries which voted for Ukraine was a major turnaround in their favour.


While Russia faces overwhelming and ongoing condemnation for attacking Ukraine, people in Chernihiv, a village in the north of Ukraine, are trying to rebuild their lives despite the constant battering from artillery. A Ukrainian tour guide, Oleksandra Fedorenko, said most shops, shopping centres, coffee houses and restaurants in Chernihiv have reopened. Fedorenko said she started working at a bakery coffee shop and business was hard. “Every day we get air raid signals and missile attacks from Russia. At this point, nothing works,” she said. On Wednesday, South Africa was among 35 states which abstained from voting in the United Nations…

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While Russia faces overwhelming and ongoing condemnation for attacking Ukraine, people in Chernihiv, a village in the north of Ukraine, are trying to rebuild their lives despite the constant battering from artillery.

A Ukrainian tour guide, Oleksandra Fedorenko, said most shops, shopping centres, coffee houses and restaurants in Chernihiv have reopened. Fedorenko said she started working at a bakery coffee shop and business was hard.

“Every day we get air raid signals and missile attacks from Russia. At this point, nothing works,” she said.

On Wednesday, South Africa was among 35 states which abstained from voting in the United Nations General Assembly to condemn Russia’s attempts to annex four regions of Ukraine. The resolution was supported by 143 countries, while 35 states including China, India and South Africa abstained.

ALSO READ: UN General Assembly: South Africa explains why it abstained from Ukraine vote again

Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba said the 143 countries which voted for Ukraine was a major turnaround in their favour.

“Several African countries that had previously abstained or not voted have now voted in favour,” Kuleba said.

“President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke to their leaders in the previous weeks and months. I met their ministers and they were also part of a first in the history of Ukrainian diplomacy, the foreign minister’s tour to African countries.”

Kuleba said this result proved people need to speak to Africans, Asians and Hispanics to tell the truth and convince.

“The historic UN resolution has demonstrated that Ukraine has been supported not only by our Euro-Atlantic allies, but also by more countries of the global south,” he said. “And each of them are grateful today for the principled position on the protection of international law and the principle of territorial integrity.”

‘Lack of clarity on South Africa’s foreign policy’

Kgothatso Shai, politics professor at the University of Limpopo, said South Africa’s decision to abstain from voting reflected the diminishing status of South Africa as a strategic leader of Africa on the global stage.

“It is a manifestation of the lack of clarity on South Africa’s foreign policy and its tendency to align itself to big powers even when such corrodes fundamental principles of international relations and justice,” he said.

Kgothatso said it best explains the resilience of nonalignment politics in Africa, especially in overseas wars.

“These countries probably understand the logic behind Russia’s discomfort. But they may not be impressed with the scale of the war. So, supporting either Russia or Ukraine would compromise them in various ways. So, the easiest path is that of neutrality expressed through abstinence in voting,” he said.

South Africa’s permanent representative to the UN, ambassador Mathu Joyini, said peace remained elusive.

“Instead, we see steps being taken to encourage a continuation of the war. South Africa considers the territorial integrity of states, including that of Ukraine, to be sacrosanct and we reject all actions that undermine the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and international law,” Joyini said.

ALSO READ: Why South Africa abstained from Ukraine vote at UN General Assembly

“We abstained on the resolution because we believe that the objective of this assembly must always be to contribute to a constructive outcome conducive to the creation of sustainable peace in Ukraine. “Unfortunately, some elements of the resolution do not address this,” said Joyini.

ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba said the ANC government betrayed South Africa’s human rights stance on the international stage by abstaining from a crucial vote.

“With the vast human rights abuses the South Africans have been exposed to in the past, should SA not be a champion of human rights instead of an idle bystander, while the rights and lives of the innocent Ukrainians are taken away so callously?” he said.

– marizkac@citizen.co.za

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