Thapelo Lekabe

By Thapelo Lekabe

Senior Digital Journalist

Russia-Ukraine: DA calls for urgent parliamentary debate

President Cyril Ramaphosa has not used the voice he has as a member of Brics to speak out strongly against Russia, says DA leader John Steenhuisen.

DA leader John Steenhuisen on Friday said he had written to National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, to request that she schedule a debate of urgent national public importance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russia-Ukraine conflict 

Russian President Vladimir Putin unleashed a full-scale invasion on Thursday that has killed dozens of people, forced more than 50,000 to flee Ukraine in just 48 hours and sparked fears of a new Cold War in Europe.

Steenhuisen said the Russian aggression was a violation of international law, and while many global leaders had added their voices to the growing chorus of outrage and condemnation against Moscow’s invasion, President Cyril Ramaphosa had been “ominously silent” on the issue.

This was despite Ramaphosa’s call on Friday for the United Nations (UN) to lead in mediation in the conflict. Ramaphosa said international organisations should engage and mediate between the two countries to end the war.

ALSO READ: Russia-Ukraine war needs mediation, says Ramaphosa

Steenhuisen said the “belated statement” by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) on Thursday afternoon – calling on Russia to immediately withdraw its forces from Ukraine – did not go far enough in condemning the Russian Federation, which is South Africa’s Brics partner.

“President Ramaphosa has also not used the voice he has as a member of Brics to speak out strongly against Russia and President Putin,” said the DA leader in a statement.

United Nations Charter

He said as a signatory to the UN’s Charter, the South African government had a duty “[to] maintain international peace and security… [through] the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace”. 

Government’s actions and Ramaphosa’s voice had been entirely insufficient to date, Steenhuisen said.

“The National Assembly, in terms of section 92(2) of the Constitution, has a duty to hold the president and cabinet accountable for this failure of leadership.

“This is a matter for which government can, and should, be held responsible, and which can urgently be addressed in parliament.

“If the executive branch of government finds it difficult to stand up to its dubious global allies, then the legislative branch should guide its hand,” he said.

Ukrainian and Russian forces fight on streets of Kyiv

Meanwhile, Ukrainian soldiers repulsed a Russian attack in the capital, the military said early Saturday, only hours after President Volodymyr Zelensky warned that Moscow would attempt to take Kyiv before dawn.

Ukraine’s military said Russia had “attacked one of the military units on Victory Avenue in Kyiv” but that the assault was “repulsed”. It also reported another incident northwest of the capital. 

Kyiv said that 137 people, including soldiers and civilians, have been killed.

Earlier, small arms fire and explosions were heard in the capital’s northern district Obolonsky as what appeared to be an advance party of Russia’s invasion force left a trail of destruction.

Ukrainian forces reported fighting with Russian armoured units in two locations between 40-80 kilometres north of Kyiv.

The Ukrainian defence ministry said that 2,800 Russian soldiers had been killed, without providing evidence. 

Moscow has yet to report on casualties.

Additional reporting by AFP

NOW READ: SACP backs Putin standing up ‘against US imperialism’

Read more on these topics

Democratic Alliance (DA) Russia Ukraine

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits