Warsaw to Kyiv: Ramaphosa’s peace mission a high-stakes diplomatic crisis?
As tensions escalate for journalists stuck in Poland, a high-risk situation unfolds in Kyiv as 'Putin welcomes African leaders' with missiles.
President Cyril Ramaphosa participating in the African Leaders Peace Mission in Ukraine. Photo: GCIS
In a rapidly unfolding diplomatic row around President Ramaphosa’s Peace Mission, Polish authorities refused to allow South African personnel to disembark a charter plane.
The team was due to provide security for Ramaphosa during his visit to Eastern Europe.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the Republic of Poland said in a statement late on Friday:
“Dangerous goods were on board the plane, which South African representatives did not have permission to bring in.
“The [ministry] made every possible effort to properly prepare President Ramaphosa’s visit to Poland.“
Ramaphosa’s Peace Mission
If that wasn’t already a cause for consternation, African leaders in Ukraine were reportedly ‘welcomed’ by Russian missiles on Friday.
Amidst the diplomatic tensions in Warsaw, the BBC reported a high-risk situation was unfolding in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.
As President Ramaphosa and other African leaders arrived in Kyiv for peace negotiations, an air raid alert was issued.
The Ukrainian air force announced the launch of several Russian Kalibr missiles from the Black Sea, moving northwards towards Kyiv.
Ukrainian diplomat Olexander Scherba tweeted:
“Sirens now. Putin welcoming African leaders in Kyiv.”
There has been a recent escalation in Russian missile attacks on Kyiv, Odesa, and President Zelensky’s hometown of Kryvyi Rih, resulting in several casualties.
Journalists stranded in Warsaw
Amanda Khoza, The Sunday Times‘ Presidency Correspondent, reported from Warsaw.
As of 1pm on 16 June, the journalists and the delegation were told they were not leaving Poland.
She said they had been instructed to disembark the plane, head to customs, and make accommodation arrangements.
Khoza added that some personnel would remain with the plane’s cargo.
According to Khoza, negotiations between South African and Polish officials are currently underway.
She said journalists were told they would be arrested if they don’t respect Polish laws.
The specifics of the current delay or problem remain uncertain.
On Friday, General Wally Rhoode, head of the Presidential Protection Service, said the demands made by Polish authorities to strip search the SA delegation were unprecedented.
He also accused the Polish authorities of sabotaging President Ramaphosa’s safety, and harbouring racist attitudes.
Several South African journalists are among those stranded in Warsaw, Poland.
Criticism from SA
In response, Democratic Alliance (DA) leader, John Steenhuisen, expressed astonishment at the entire situation.
He asked why the South African delegation accompanying Ramaphosa consisted of 126 individuals, while Zambia brought only 12.
He queried, “For what purpose is such a gargantuan team required? How much are South African taxpayers paying for this embarrassing omnishamble? [sic]”