Thapelo Lekabe

By Thapelo Lekabe

Senior Digital Journalist

Cabinet reiterates its call for a ‘diplomatic solution’ to Russia’s war in Ukraine

Gungubele has denied that government has been inconsistent on its stance on the raging conflict.

Cabinet on Thursday reiterated the South African government’s call for a “negotiated diplomatic solution” to end Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele said government urged all parties to uphold and protect human rights, during a media briefing in Tshwane on the outcomes of Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting.

War in Ukraine

Gungubele said government remained “deeply concerned” by Russia’s invasion into Ukraine, saying the socio-economic cost of the war were devastating and its impact would be felt around the world.

“Cabinet calls for a negotiated diplomatic solution and urged all parties to uphold and protect human rights, and abide by their obligations in terms of international law and international humanitarian law,” the minister said.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government has been roundly criticised over its stance and refusal to condemn Moscow for the raging conflict, that has claimed thousands of civilians’ lives and led to the mass exodus of at least 2.2 million people fleeing Ukraine.

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Some opposition parties and civil society organisations have accused government of “flip-flopping” on its stance on the war after it walked back its statement calling on Russia to withdraw its forces from Ukraine, and abstained from voting on last week’s UN resolution condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military invasion.

‘Government not inconsistent’

Gungubele denied that government was being inconsistent in its stance on the conflict, saying South Africa remained against wars that led to the deaths of civilians, especially children.

The minister said the war in Ukraine was a conflict “underlined by complex factors” and this informed goverment’s decision not to take sides on the matter.

“Russia would have had their reasons [for invading Ukraine], the West, they have their views. But at the end of the day, it actually results in people fighting and people dying. How you enter that [conflict] you must ask the question: how I’m I improving the situation?

“That’s why South Africa avoids taking any side on this matter because the best intervention you can make, is the best possible solution that can South Africa provide,” Gungubele said.

READ MORE: Child among three killed in attack on Ukraine hospital

He insisted that government stood for peace and cannot be “comfortable about the bombing of children” after Russia attacked a children’s hospital in the besieged port city of Mariupol.

Some 1,207 civilians were killed in the 10-day Russian siege of Mariupol, its mayor said. The Red Cross called the situation there “apocalyptic” after more than a week without water, power or heat. Safe routes out had repeatedly come under attack.

Gungubele added that government was of the view that developing countries should also enjoy a “greater share of voice and influence” in institutions of global governance like the UN and its Security Council.

“South Africa, therefore, advocates for a more equitable international system and for the reform of multilateral institutions to promote greater equality,” he said.

SA students flying home from Ukraine

Meanwhile, a group of South African students trapped in Ukraine was expected to touch down on home soil on Thursday morning.

This thanks to a partnership between the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) and Aspen Pharmacare, who are assisting with the emergency evacuation.

The stranded students, many of whom had limited resources, were forced to flee Ukraine into neighbouring countries such as Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.

Aspen and Dirco said the first group, consisting of ten students, was expected to arrive at OR Tambo Airport at around 11am on an Air France flight. A total of 25 students were expected to be evacuated by next week.

Gungubele said government continued to assist South African citizens to leave Ukraine and a number of them had since returned home.

“We have also expressed our concern at the ill-treatment of Africans trying to cross international borders during this time,” he said.

Additional reporting by Nica Richards and AFP.

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