SA abstains from UN General Assembly resolution demanding Russia pay reparations to Ukraine for war damage

SA abstains from UN General Assembly resolution demanding Russia pay reparations to Ukraine for war damage
Members of the UN General Assembly in New York City vote on a draft resolution during a special session in the General Assembly Hall at United Nations Headquarters on 14 November 2022. The UNGA continued its Eleventh Emergency Special Session to hold a vote on a draft resolution brought by the Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations, Sergiy Kyslytsya, calling for the UNGA to create an ‘international register’ to document claims of damage, loss, or injury to Ukrainians caused by Russia. (Photo: Michael M Santiago / Getty Images)

Pretoria has so far abstained from every UN resolution addressing Russia’s war against Ukraine.

South Africa has abstained from a UN General Assembly resolution calling for Russia to pay reparations for the damages inflicted on Ukraine since its invasion of the country on 24 February.  

The resolution was adopted by a vote of 94 in favour, with 14 against and 73 abstentions, the UN stated. But South Africa’s UN ambassador objected to the “exceptionalism” and “double standards” of the initiative, saying it proposed reparations for Ukraine, but not victims of other attacks.

The text adopted on Monday called for a register to be established to record the damage Russia has caused to Ukraine and for the establishment of an international mechanism for reparations for damage, loss or injury arising from Russia’s actions.

The General Assembly also reaffirmed its commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and demanded that the Russian Federation immediately cease its use of force and completely and unconditionally withdraw all its military forces from that country’s territory.

“Many delegates expressed their support for the establishment of a registry while others voiced their concern over the resolution’s divisiveness and dangerous precedent in allowing the establishment of a mechanism that is not accountable to the Assembly,” the UN’s news service said. Some countries accused the resolution’s sponsors of hypocrisy and double standards.

WW2 reparations for Soviet Union

Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN, Sergiy Kyslytsya, argued that 77 years ago at the end of World War 2, the Soviet Union had demanded and received reparations, as the moral right of a country which had suffered war and occupation.

He added that the resolution aimed to avoid any future aggressor’s temptation to start a war.

Backing the resolution, Poland’s ambassador Krzysztof Szczerski said: 

“It is not enough if the perpetrators only admit their wrongdoings. It is not enough if they express remorse. Moral gestures are welcome, but never enough. It is material compensation which is needed to rebuild damages caused by wars.”

Russia’s ambassador Vassily Nebenzia countered that the initiative was obviously flawed as the UN would have no role in the establishment of a mechanism created by a group of states which would decide its functioning.

“The West is attempting to use the assembly as a smokescreen to conceal an act of open robbery intended to draw out the conflict,” he said.

South African stance

South Africa’s ambassador to the UN, Mathu Joyini, said the impact of the war in Ukraine was being felt all over the world.

“South Africa reiterates that the territorial integrity of all states, including that of Ukraine, must be respected and rejects all actions that undermine principles laid out in the United Nations Charter,” she said.

However, she said that the UN Security Council should be playing a constructive role in resolving this conflict, while the  General Assembly should create conditions conducive to dialogue, mediation and diplomacy. She failed to mention that the General Assembly has only been discussing the war in Ukraine because Russia has vetoed every attempt by the Security Council to pass resolutions or take action on it.

Joyini said the UN should devote equal time to the resolution of all conflict situations that threaten international peace and security. This resolution was “sending a message of exceptionalism” that reparations matter in some situations, but not others.

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Member states must refrain from double standards, she said.

“The draft resolution places the United Nations in uncharted waters. The General Assembly is being asked to grant its authority to the setting up of a reparations mechanism, but there is no clarity on what the mechanism will look like or what its eventual legal status will be.

“We are uncomfortable” with the draft text, she said, noting that South Africa would abstain from the vote.

South Africa has abstained from every one of several UN General Assembly resolutions addressing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, all of which have been adopted. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    SA under this hideous ANC government reeks and drips with hypocrisy and deception. We blindly side and support a brutal, evil and murderous regime in Putin’s Russia (very much in the ANC DNA as our actions indisputably show) whilst claiming some false moral high ground. Where were the morals of this obnoxious government when they betrayed the people of Zimbabwe after rubber stamping as free and fair elections that were repeatedly stolen by Mugabe and his hideous party? Where was this poor excuse of a government when billions were stolen by Zuma and his state capturers? All they did was shielded and protected him. Wholesale corruption, theft, gross incompetence through cadre deployment and mismanagement continue unabated to this day instead of providing decent healthcare, education, security etc. Nothing but betrayal of the population and high treason! Why are there still pit toilets still at schools nearly 30 years after they came to power? The list is endless and yet, we pontificate about morals??

    • Glyn Morgan says:

      For a start, ask the journalists who so vocally advised us all to “vote ANC” instead of the DA in the last election as “Ramaphosa is the “good” ANC”. If those sheep had voted DA then we would be having far less of this “coalition chaos” that we are having now.

      • Roelf Pretorius says:

        In all fairness Glyn, I doubt whether the fault really can be put at Ramaphosa’s door. The ANC yes, but not Ramaphosa. After all, his actions have to have the approval of the majority in parliament – which IS the ANC. The President has shown his preference to what is not done at the moment, but the factions in the ANC such as the coal lobby is using the ANC to constrain him.

  • Mike Blackburn says:

    It’s not reasonable to use “whataboutism” as a defense against taking action. If this were the case then nothing would ever get done and the world will never be a better place.

  • james davis Davis says:

    Was this comment moderated to ensure it conforms with the DM policy of restricting comments to “well thought out ideas, experiences and new perspectives”?

  • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

    South Africa has not abstained on anything, but the ANC government or regime has abstained, and it is important to make this distinction. The South African people are with the people of Ukraine that the Russian thug has unleashed a campaign of terror by deploying murderers, rapists, paedophiles, bank robbers, serial killers and rapists and all the vile prisoners released to fight along the weak Russian army. The ANC regime response had to be expected if people read the interview of Lindiwe Sisulu in Sunday Times. She confirmed what we know that there is no South African foreign policy, but an ANC foreign policy informed by past sentiment and financial interests of the ANC from Russian oligarchs. It is also a confirmation of its criminality against the people of South Africa and their state. We need a movement in support of the people of Ukraine and to organise demonstrations inside South Africa against Russia and to call for its expulsion from our country as criminals.
    We must not rely on the ANC regime to do what is correct because it has not done so for South Africans from electricity, rail, road, communication infrastructure. What the ANC regime has done, is to squander the liberation premium and the goodwill of the world and acted against the interests of the South African people at every turn.

  • Johan Buys says:

    This is almost as embarrassing for South Africa the 80’s. What has Putin done for South Africans this century??? (ignoring his bribes to former prisoner zuma) We put out the begging bowl to the countries with a spine that stand up to the little poison dwarf but then act like this. Shameful for a party that loves to claim it is pro human rights.

  • Stef Naude says:

    The adage that one’s character is measured by the friends you keep aptly applies to the ANC. South Africa is now firmly aligned with a rogue’s gallery of nations that includes Russia, China, Iran and Saudi Arabia. How far does Russia have to go to earn a rebuke or distancing from South Africa? It seems there is no limit. The ANC’s worldview is firmly shaped by the prism of ideological alignment with a state that purports to be inherently socialist, with all the supposed egalitarian principles it embodies, but is in reality a kleptocratic and murderous cabal. Through this prism, it then simply fails to see the facts for what they are – they are twisted into the sophistry of a discredited organisation that was once held as a liberation icon, an inspiration to oppressed people around the world. It is utterly disingenuous to talk about the UN’s attempt to sanction Russia as unacceptable “exceptionalism” – the ultimate “whataboutism”. Russia’s utterly ruthless scorched earth assault on its neighbour is by far the most serious geopolitical crisis facing the world, having in less than 9 months, left hundreds of thousands of people dead and tens of millions of displaced, ratcheted up international tensions, threatened the use of nuclear weapons and negatively impacted on every single economy across the globe. The ANC’s decision to abstain with 72 other countries directly emboldens Russia to keep practicing its special military operation. Their stance is simply reprehensible.

  • Lorinda Winter says:

    I expected nothing less since integrity, common decency, honesty, transparency, intelligence, serving the common folk and all that constitutes a love for humanity flew out the window when Nelson Mandela died. He would be horrified at the attitude of his ANC party today but then, unfortunately, greed and shortsightedness and just a lack of intelligence took over. Ship of fools!!

  • Carsten Rasch says:

    “We” … we are uncomfortable. Who cares how comfortable you are, and there is no doubt in mind that you are very comfortable indeed, much more comfortable than 80% of other South Africans who are trying to keep alive because of your despicable government’s lack of focus, and inability to govern. We are also “uncomfortable” with you.

  • Andrew Newman says:

    At least it is still a clear world majority vote opening the door to releasing $600 billion of seized Russian reserves to be used for Ukraine’s reconstruction.

  • Roelf Pretorius says:

    No, here I have to side with the rest of the world against the SA government. Russia is obviously doing its’ best to destroy everything in Ukraine because they have not been able to colonise it. The only way that they would stop is if they know that all that destruction is for their account in the end. And as for the argument that the rest of the world can’t decide on something they are involved in, well, the UN has been working on the basis that states that are involved such as Russia itself would be part of the decisionmaking process. So the idea that they must pay for the damage is GREAT – in fact it should be made a permanent principle of the consequences of war.

  • Richard Bryant says:

    I think the truth is that Putin through his oligarchs has been bribing top officials in the ANC for years. Its the only way he does things. There is corruption embedded in his signature and his hand shake. In fact, it is so much a way of life in Russia, it fully explains the disarray of his so-called army with everything old and broken.
    Unfortunately, with the Russian foreign reserves now soundly frozen, the bribe tap has been switched off. So why would the ANC support reparations if this means there will be no more handouts?

  • Bee Man says:

    Its like prostitution. We don’t like the decent West, but we gleefully want the billions for energy renewal etc. Lie back and enjoy the circus

  • Andrew McWalter says:

    Not only a corrupt gangster cabal, the ANC can now proudly add hypocrisy to their CV.

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