Ramaphosa to engage world leaders on SA’s stance on Russia/Ukraine war
President Cyril Ramaphosa may not have plans to travel to Russia yet, but he will be engaging world leaders to explain why South Africa decided to abstain during a recent UN General Assembly vote.
“We are grateful for the conversation that we had [with Russian President Vladimir Putin], we asked for it because we felt that we needed to hear from him. I will also be talking to other world leaders as well and also to explain the stance and the position that we have taken,” said Ramaphosa on Saturday.
The president was speaking after the inaugural presidential Imbizo at the Mmabatho stadium in Mahikeng, North West, shortly after getting his Covid-19 vaccine booster shot.
He was quizzed about the telephonic conversation he had with Putin, which he tweeted about on Thursday. The Sunday Times reported that SA’s decision to abstain from voting on a UN General Assembly motion to reprimand Russia had upset Ukraine, the US and the EU.
Of the assembly's 193 members, 141 voted in favour of the resolution to censure Russia. Thirty-five members, including SA and China, abstained and five countries — Russia, Syria, Belarus, North Korea and Eritrea — voted against the resolution. While General Assembly resolutions are non-binding, they carry political weight.
On Saturday, Ramaphosa said many other countries had taken the same position as SA. “He [Putin] explained to me what is happening in that theatre of war and also explained why they took the actions that they took.”
In turn, Ramaphosa said Putin appreciated the position that SA took of abstaining in the UN General Assembly vote, “and we abstained because the resolution did not address all the issues that would engender and encourage mediation and a peaceful negotiation.”
Ramaphosa said Putin accepted that SA still preferred that the conflict be subjected to mediation.
When asked if he had any plans to go to Russia, Ramaphosa said: “Not as yet. This is not the time to be visiting because they are busy with a whole lot of other things, like the war. We have lots of places to go to, many other places in the world and the continent, so we will be proceeding with those plans.”
Reflecting on the government’s first imbizo since he became president, Ramaphosa said he found the session very enriching.
“They [residents] were able to raise their concerns and complaints, but they also put solutions forward on what we need to do better.
“I found it very enriching. We are going to be focusing more on service delivery because many of the issues raised were of a service delivery nature.”
Ramaphosa noted the incident which almost led to a stampede when community members became unruly because they wanted to speak to him. The police were called in to restore calm.
“There was so much enthusiasm, nearly all of them wanted to speak. There was so much enthusiasm that it was almost a stampede -a very positive stampede that was avoided. So it was great to hear our people raising questions and speaking openly and freely. This is what enriches our democracy.”
On ending the national state of disaster, Ramaphosa explained: “I said, I want it to come to an end and we are looking at health measures that can be put in place to enable us to continue managing the pandemic.
“So, it will not be heavy duty. It will be light duty, so that we are able to manage this pandemic going forward. People should not stress too much about this. We are finding the best way possible of bringing a logical conclusion to this state of disaster.”
On the Zondo commission report and the fact that some of his ministers- including mineral resources and energy minister Gwede Mantashe- have beenimplicated and want to take the report on review, Ramaphosa said: “Well, they feel aggrieved. The Zondo commission report is going to make many people feel aggrieved, that is a given.”
He said people feel they need to explain certain things and he does not think “that should be seen in a negative light”.
“They want to explain themselves. Anybody who elects to explain themselves, we should welcome that.”
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