In his weekly letter to the nation, President Cyril Ramaphosa discussed the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, a dispute he believes can best be resolved through “negotiation, dialogue and compromise”.
South Africa achieved democracy through a “negotiated settlement” and not through “force of arms,” Ramaphosa said, which is why he believed peace can be achieved if negotiations take place.
Ramaphosa also addressed South Africa by abstaining from voting on the United Nations (UN) resolution last week. He said this was “because the resolution did not advance the call for meaningful engagement”.
He said the government was “concerned” that the UN Security Council was “incapable” of “maintaining peace and security”.
“South Africa is firmly on the side of peace”, and has not been on the “wrong side of history”, Ramaphosa continued.
“The peoples of Russia and Ukraine – two neighbors whose history, peoples and fortune are inextricably linked – deserve a peace that is enduring, enduring and enduring.”
Read his full letter below.
Dear fellow South African,
In a world where far too many disputes between and within countries are settled by the barrel of a gun, the view that differences are best resolved through negotiation, dialogue and compromise may seem illogical and even fanciful.
And yet, as a country that has achieved democracy through a negotiated settlement, we remain steadfast in our belief that achieving world peace through negotiation, not force of arms, is indeed attainable.
This is a principle that we have been consistent with since the advent of our democracy, and which remains an important part of our foreign policy orientation.
South Africa abstained from last week’s United Nations resolution on the escalating conflict between Russia and its neighbor Ukraine, because the resolution failed to advance the call for meaningful engagement.
Even before the resolution was passed at the UN last week, talks between Russian and Ukrainian officials had already begun. South Africa expected that the UN resolution would primarily welcome the start of a dialogue between the parties and seek to create the conditions for these talks to succeed.
Instead, the call for a peaceful solution through political dialogue is relegated to a single sentence close to the end of the final text. This does not provide the encouragement and international support that parties need to continue their efforts.
The call for peaceful negotiations is in line with the values on which the UN is founded. We are particularly concerned that the UN Security Council has been unable to assume its responsibilities to maintain peace and security. This gives impetus to the long-standing call for Security Council reform to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
The UN Charter obliges member states to settle their disputes in the first instance by peaceful means, explicitly stating that parties to a dispute must first seek a solution through negotiation, investigation, mediation, mediation, arbitration and similar mechanisms. Since the outbreak of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, South Africa’s position has been to affirm this call.
Some have said South Africa has put itself on the wrong side of history by abstaining from the vote condemning Russia’s military operation in Ukraine. Yet South Africa is firmly on the side of peace at a time when another war is something the world neither needs nor can afford. The results of these hostilities will be felt worldwide for many years to come.
While an cessation of hostilities can be achieved through gun violence or economic pressure, it is unlikely to lead to a lasting and lasting peace.
The historic tensions between Russia and Ukraine make it all the more important that the agreements reached are sustainable in the long term and address the concerns of both sides to the conflict.
Our own experience of ending apartheid, and our country’s role in mediating conflict elsewhere on the continent, have provided a number of insights.
The first is that even the most seemingly intractable differences can be resolved at the negotiating table. The second is that even if the talks may fail, they can and will resume, as has been the case in our own negotiation process. And that even if it seems like the parties can’t agree, breakthroughs can and do happen.
Our continued support for the call for negotiation and dialogue does not diminish our commitment to human rights. Since the outbreak of the conflict, we have expressed concern about the impact of the conflict on civilians who believe that war is not the solution to conflict and leads to human suffering.
Our country is committed to promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms, not only of our own people, but also of the peoples of Palestine, Western Sahara, Afghanistan, Syria and in Africa and the world.
We hope that the negotiations between Russia and Ukraine will yield positive results that will pave the way for an end to the conflict.
Although the pace of the negotiations is slow, progress is being made. Any effort by the international community should be aimed at supporting these talks and bringing the two sides together.
South Africa is deeply encouraged by the words of UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who last week said he would do everything he could to contribute to an immediate cessation of hostilities and urgent negotiations for peace.
We all call on Russia and Ukraine to mediate this conflict and make every effort to reach an agreement that will end hostilities.
The peoples of Russia and Ukraine – two neighbors whose history, peoples and fortune are inextricably linked – deserve a peace that is enduring, lasting and sustainable.