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‘The tacit support that Ramaphosa has shown for Putin’s invasion is a betrayal of our common values’

‘The tacit support that Ramaphosa has shown for Putin’s invasion is a betrayal of our common values’
Emiliia Dieniezhna with her daughter Eva before they left Kyiv. (Photo: Supplied)

The failure of President Cyril Ramaphosa to condemn this Russian invasion has been difficult for many Ukrainians to understand. I’d like to remind him: Putin is a bad-faith actor. He has shown time and again his promises are hollow and that all his allegiances come with strings attached.

My daughter and I have just arrived in Munich. Like so many other Ukrainians, and millions of others before us — Syrians, Somalians, Yemenis, Sudanese, Afghans, Rohingya — we made the difficult decision to leave our beloved country and become refugees.    

This is the third time that Putin has forced me to leave an apartment I called home. First, it was my childhood home in the east, my grandparents’ house, which was destroyed in the war in 2014. I lost my next home when Crimea was illegally annexed by Russia. Now, with rockets raining down on Kyiv, I have gone again, with one small bag and my daughter in my arms. But this time I have no idea where we will next call home.  

ramaphosa invasion support putin betrayal

Emiliia Dieniezhna’s daughter, Eva, on the train en route to Germany this week. (Photo: Supplied)

I am devastated to be leaving my country. I am an activist, trying to help build a Ukrainian society that respects the values of democracy, multiculturalism and the rule of law. And as I unpack my bags now as a refugee, I leave my heart in Kyiv — with my friends and colleagues who remain and endure heroically, with the families sheltering in bomb shelters, and the babies being born underground.   

My daughter and I now join hundreds of thousands of people around the world that look to the international community for protection, and to uphold international law.  

Today (2 March 2022), the UN voted on a resolution on Aggression against Ukraine. A total of 141 countries stood with Ukraine — a vast majority, nearly 75% of all UN members, and many that were not expected to stand against Russia’s actions. Belarus, Syria, North Korea and Eritrea stood in support of the Russian invasion. 

ramaphosa invasion support putin betrayalramaphosa invasion support putin betrayal

Emiliia with family in her Kyiv apartment. (Photo: Supplied)

But 35 countries abstained. It is incomprehensible to me that South Africa was in this number.  

To many of us in Ukraine, South Africa has always been a nation that has stood up for the rights of the oppressed. The fight to end apartheid is an inspiration for people seeking liberation and democracy everywhere.  

Isolating Putin is a critical part of ending this conflict and saving lives. For that to happen we need pressure not only from those that Russia knows are against it — but far more importantly, from those that Russia thinks it can buy.

If President Cyril Ramaphosa values South Africa’s current military and economic ties to Russia more than the lives of millions, then as a Ukrainian I’d like to remind him: Putin is a bad-faith actor. He has shown time and again his promises are hollow and that all his allegiances come with strings attached.

ramaphosa invasion support putin betrayal

Emiliia’s daughter, Eva, plays with Lego in her temporary home in Munich. (Photo: Supplied)

The failure of Ramaphosa to condemn this Russian invasion has been difficult for many Ukrainians to understand. We might have hoped South Africa would play a role of moral leadership in the continent’s politics. To many Ukrainians, our fight for survival is the same fight that colonised countries the world over have faced: the fight for sovereignty and the right of self-determination.  

In contrast, the tacit support that Ramaphosa has shown for Putin’s war against a sovereign nation is a betrayal of our common values — of democracy, justice and peace. As the death toll mounts ever higher, I hope South Africa will reconsider its tacit support for Putin. I hope South Africa will continue to fight for freedom and democracy. I hope you will stand with Ukraine.

And, finally, I hope my daughter and I will one day go home again. DM

Emiliia Dieniezhna is a Kyiv-based consultant working for the Ukrainian Independent Anti-Corruption Committee. She has fled Ukraine in the wake of the Russian invasion.


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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Derek Jones says:

    Thuma mina? I dont think so. Hugh Masekela would side with the Ukranians even if it killed him.
    Its not all about money Mr President, for your country to do well it has to have a leader that earns respect. Your country needs to feel proud, we don’t need to side with a snivelling despot like Putin to survive. Get some balls!

  • Martin Ernst says:

    I have lost all respect I had for ramaphosa after his disgusting sniveling asskissing of putin. He is just another wannabe despot, and he and his pathetic government certainly do NOT represent the views of all South Africans. putin’s behaviour is despicable, he is trying to emulate Hitler and for South Africa to stand by and do nothing disgusts me to my core.

    • Lorinda Winter says:

      Agreed. Frankly it is an embarrassment, this country that we had such hope for when Nelson Mandela walked free. Now we let criminals like Omar Al Bashir walk free but close our borders to the Dalai Lama. How the ‘righteous’ have fallen!

  • Eulalie Spamer says:

    Is it possible that Putin has the ANC in his pocket and till they can find other ways of raising funds from corrupt scams he is their last resort?

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      Not unlikely … given that Judith February mentions the “scuppering” of the nuclear deal with Russia … and given Gweezy’s affection for it and disappointment at its collapse … he has not yet given up on its revival !

    • Carol Green says:

      That’s exactly what Richard Calland has suggested…that Putin / Russia have been bankrolling the ANC.

  • Sean de Waal says:

    Apologies to the Ukrainian people for our incompetent, corrupt government. I hope the decision to abstain is regarded by most South Africans as wrong, embarrassing and disgusting, frankly. The ANC must fall. We need a real government, with real leadership.

  • Confucious Says says:

    The only values the ANC have are monetary… and that’s under the table!

  • Dave Jacobs says:

    Nelson Mandela in April 1998 said “Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people”. How true does that ring for Pres Zelenskyy and how hollow are those words of the leadership of South Africa? We as South Africans are leaderless, and we collectively hang our heads in shame for the decisions made by the government representing our country. Emiliia, the majority of the people of South Africa support you and your fellow countrymen in your struggle against these unspeakable atrocities committed by the despot Putin against your country. Добро переможе!!!

  • Kanu Sukha says:

    At least the author is/was an admitted “corruption” fighter in her country, she could well become an asset here … where the will to do so seems feeble if not absent …especially in the current ‘ruling’ party !

  • Barbara Mommen says:

    It is tragic that our president is so incapable of doing what is right in just about anything. His lack of true, decisive and morally sound leadership is deeply distressing, both for this significant omission and the impunity with which his ruling party has pillaged our country. I am profoundly ashamed of our government and of our President.

  • Tanneke Bosma says:

    There is a Dutch saying : ‘wie zwijgt, stemt toe’.
    Meaning ‘he who keeps quiet, approves.’

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