|The SA Government: a pretender at best By Russell Pollitt SJ|
If you sought a litmus test for the South African government’s commitment to human rights, constitutional democracy and the rule of law, you need look no further. Weak would be generous, zero would be honest, or a pretender ‘neutral’.
When Russia first invaded Ukraine a little over a week ago, the SA government responded by calling for dialogue and a Russian withdrawal from Ukraine. Then, shortly thereafter, the government apologized for the comment about withdrawal, and we heard there was tension between DIRCO (Department of International Relations and Cooperation)
and the presidency. Seemingly the ‘be soft on Russia’ stance is rooted in the fact that some South African liberation fighters received training in Russia pre-1994. Russia was an ally in fighting apartheid. Does this mean that any country that supported the African National Congress (ANC) in the pre-democratic era cannot be checked when they break international law, trample on human rights and aggressively invade a sovereign state? Rather poor reasoning.
Once again, our SA leaders have not chosen to do what is right. They have chosen to do what is expedient – for themselves. Many South Africans live thinking we have a robust democracy and solid constitution. On paper, yes. But we should remove the stars from our eyes and face the truth: in as much as we have a system and constitution on paper, we do not have leaders who respect, believe or are willing to uphold or live it. Their attitude to so many things domestically is dismissive. Why would they ever – even if it is the right thing to do – stand up to a treacherous global bully?
To further highlight South Africa’s moral failure, the country’s permanent ambassador to the United Nations, in an emergency debate on the crisis in Ukraine on Tuesday night, uttered not a single word of criticism against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Not a single word. There was no mention of Ukraine’s integrity or sovereignty.
Why? To criticize a brutal invasion and the bombing of civilians – many of whom are women and children – would be to ‘pick a side’? To challenge Russia on a ‘military operation’ that was always a full-blown war would not be appropriate? To further point out that civilians and institutions like universities are being bombed – despite Russia claiming to target military installations – is not seen as important? The statement begins by saying that SA is “deeply concerned by the escalation of the conflict in Ukraine” – that is about the strongest it gets.
The inability to take the right stand against the Putin regime and abstain from voting against the tyranny at the United Nations vote against the Russian invasion, gives little hope that morally right decisions will be made domestically. There will be no serious consequences for the key enablers and looters in State Capture, for example, because we have a government that will not choose to do what is right and just.
Whether it is the Russian army crushing and murdering children, cadres killing each other in factional battles in municipalities, the breakdown in infrastructures such as power and roads, or high ranking government officials having a feeding frenzy in state coffers, the ANC-led government will ‘remain neutral’. Our government does not care. They have lost all moral capital. We have a failed leadership. God help us all.