South Africa’s opposition leader goes to Ukraine for fact-finding

African countries have mostly been silent on the Russia-Ukraine war but SA President Ramaphosa has lambasted NATO for it.

John Steenhuisen, the leader of South African main political opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA).
John Steenhuisen, the leader of South African main political opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), arrives ahead of the State of the Nation address by Cyril Ramaphosa, the President of South Africa, at the South African Parliament in Cape Town on February 13, 2020. [File; Rodger Bosch/AFP]

The leader of South Africa’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), is visiting Ukraine to see the damage and suffering caused as a result of Russia’s war.

“I am in Ukraine to see for myself and to speak for my country. Someone must. It is strongly in South Africa’s interest to stand with the free world and come out hard against Russian aggression,” said John Steenhuisen in a Wednesday statement.

According to the statement, Steenhuisen is currently on a six-day visit to the Eastern European nation. He started his tour early this week and will stopover at refugee camps and hold meetings with various leaders including mayors and governors as well as students and Ukrainian citizens.

Photos from his page show Steenhuisen meeting Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko.

The opposition leader said he wants to see firsthand the effects of the Russian war and the ongoing occupation of parts of Ukraine.  “In the era of fake news and propaganda, this is the only way to truly know what is happening,” he said.

Steenhuisen said Russia’s war against Ukraine is not a European problem but a global one whose effect is also being felt in Africa.

“The knock-on effect of this war on our own fuel, maize, cooking oil and fertilizer prices will reach deep into the pockets of poor South Africans who can already not make ends meet,” he said.

Russia and Ukraine are among the world’s largest grain producers, together exporting more than a quarter of the world’s wheat.

Steenhuisen blamed President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has rebuked the West, blaming NATO for the war in Ukraine. The president who had a call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said he would resist calls to condemn Russia.

“The war could have been avoided if NATO had heeded the warnings from amongst its leaders and officials over the years that its eastward expansion would lead to greater, not less, instability in the region,” Ramaphosa said in parliament last month.

Nearly half of all Africa countries abstained or did not vote at all in UN resolutions demanding a Russian ceasefire in Ukraine and that Moscow end its war.

 “Russia’s expansion into Africa has been through ‘elite capture,’ where pliable leaders are ensnared in long-term patronage schemes,” Steenhuisen claimed.​​​​​ “Fifteen African nations are currently involved in Russian-financed nuclear power deals, and many more are locked into Russian security contracts.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies