Cape Town – Democratic Alliance (DA) leader John Steenhuisen says the war in Ukraine is set to damage the global economy, with the poorest of the poor being the hardest hit.
Steenhuisen said this, following his “six-day tour” of the war ravished country.
He was in Ukraine to ascertain for himself the situation in a country that has been under siege from the Russian army for over two months.
“It’s very easy to push what is happening in Eastern Ukraine to the back of your mind. It’s easy to think of it as far away, particularly with everything else that is going on here in our own troubled country. But I want to implore you not to do that.
“If I learnt one thing on my visit to Ukraine, it is this war will reach into every corner of the globe and it will affect the lives of the poorest of the poor.
“This is a war that is going to have severe global economic consequences whether you choose to have an interest in it or not,” said Steenhuisen, as he briefed the media in Cape Town on Monday.
He added: “I know that we are heading for a very bleak time as the effect of this war hits our economy and our imports. This impact is right around the corner, and it will coincide with the winter months, the ongoing electricity cuts, our runaway unemployment and our spiralling inflation.
“This will truly be the winter of our discontent, and when it arrives, Ukraine will be on everyone’s lips. I want to be able to speak on the issue from a position of authority.”
Steenhuisen’s visit to Ukraine raised a lot of questions among South Africans, with some asking for his party to clarify who was paying the expenses for the trip. Others also dubbed the trip as a publicity stunt.
But the DA leader said that the “ripples of this war are only just starting to arrive on our shores now”.
“That is why I get angry when I hear people say: This is not our war, we needn’t involve ourselves or speak out.
“That is why the position that our government has taken – which is to avoid saying or doing anything that might offend Russia – is so deeply immoral.”
He said that the conflict would soon bring great suffering on South Africans.
“Think for a moment about the disproportionate amount of disposable income that poor South Africans spend on transport costs, on staple foods like bread and maize, and on things like cooking oil.
“Sharp rises in these products will hit all of us in the pocket, but for those who spend such a large portion of their monthly income on these basics, the effect of this war will be unbearable,” said Steenhuisen.
It is strongly in South Africa’s interest to stand with the free world and come out hard against Russian aggression.
In my meeting with the Mayor of Kyiv, Vitaly Klitschko, I expressed our stand with the people of Ukraine.
We remain committed to promoting human rights globally. pic.twitter.com/nydTF3ar5F
— John Steenhuisen MP (@jsteenhuisen) May 5, 2022
He said that no country should remain neutral regarding the Russia-Ukraine war.
The Russian attack – which began on February 24 – on Ukraine has killed dozens, as airstrikes hit military installations and ground forces moved in from the north, south, and east of Ukraine.
The South Afriucan government has maintained a non-aligned stance on the conflict.
Despite widespread anger at its position, South Africa argues that negotiations are the best option to end the conflict.
The country has so far abstained from voting in two high-profile UN rebukes of Russia.
Steenhuisen said he made it clear to the Ukrainian mayors, governors, members of parliament, former prime ministers, leaders of civil society, citizens and more that the ruling ANC did not speak for South Africa on this war.
“I told them all the same thing: Our ANC government speaks only for its own narrow financial interests. It does not represent the citizens of South Africa in its immoral support for Russia.”
During his live media briefing, he asked President Cyril Ramaphosa what would he expect the global community to do if South Africa was in the position Ukraine finds itself in with citizens being slaughtered by another nation’s army?
He added that President Ramaphosa would not be holding a neutral stance if he had been to Ukraine and seen what he saw and spoke to the people he spoke to.
“You would be mortified by your government’s initial response. You would be deeply ashamed and you would change your view,” he said to Ramaphosa.
Steenhuisen said that those who supported the war and those who remained silent in a time of moral crisis would be judged harshly by history.
“We must choose democracy and we must choose the right side of history,” Steenhuisen said.