AFRICAN PEACE MISSION
Mission to Ukraine, Russia ‘successful’, chimes Minister in the Presidency while chiding ‘negative’ SA media
The mission to try to end Russia’s war against Ukraine was heralded as successful, while the grounding of the plane carrying journalists and security officials in Poland for more than 24 hours ‘was just a small issue’, said Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni.
Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni on Thursday, told off South African journalists for focusing on the “unfortunate” incident involving the grounding of the South African Airways flight carrying journalists and security personnel in Warsaw for 26 hours — rather than the successes of the African Peace Mission.
The Minister was briefing the media on the outcomes of the Cabinet meeting held on 21 June, on Thursday morning.
“With regard to the flight that transported South African presidential security personnel and media representatives to Poland en route to Ukraine and Russia, [the] Cabinet noted the unfortunate events that unfolded when this flight landed in Warsaw, Poland,” said Ntshavheni.
The Polish government had grounded the South African Airways charter plane at Warsaw airport, refusing to allow President Cyril Ramaphosa’s security detail of about 120 personnel, plus about 12 containers of weaponry and 11 journalists off the plane. After 26 hours, the security personnel and the team of journalists were eventually allowed to disembark the aircraft and were taken to a hotel in Warsaw, without their hand luggage.
The Polish foreign ministry, in a statement, said the plane and security personnel had been grounded because of “a failure to comply with standard entry procedures required by the Polish side”.
The manner in which journalists and security personnel were treated by Polish authorities indicated that, in addition to poor planning by South Africa, systemic racism seemed to be at play. Presidential Protection Services head Major-General Wally Rhoode accused the Poles of racism and “jeopardising” the safety of the President by not allowing security personnel to offload their equipment and weapons, Daily Maverick’s Queenin Masuabi reported.
Read in Daily Maverick: What it felt like to be grounded in Poland on Ramaphosa’s African peace mission
Minister Ntshavheni said the Cabinet deemed the events in Warsaw “as unfortunate because everything was done properly”.
“We want to indicate that on our part, everything was done according to the normal protocols.”
Ntshavheni said the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) is considering measures to be taken to address the incident in Warsaw. She said Dirco and the Police Ministry will give further details on the matter.
“Cabinet noted that the Department of International Relations and Cooperation will pursue discussion on this matter through the appropriate diplomatic mechanisms and channels.”
Read in Daily Maverick: Response to grounding of African Peace Mission plane reveals very selective outrage
However, in response to questions, the Minister called the African Peace Mission “successful”, saying the plane fiasco was “just a small issue.” She said the government should not be lambasted for a “small matter — the focus should be on the peace mission and apologies were extended to journalists”.
“Maybe we should not take the media [on] this kind of trip, we must just cover ourselves and go,” she quipped about future missions.
The Minister set off into what seemed to be a riff about South African media coverage of the saga in Warsaw and the other mishaps which plagued the mission since its inception.
“Also — I do not know why — as South Africans, and South African media in particular, we are obsessed with finding wrong with an initiative that is being celebrated worldwide about the effort initiative of the African leaders,” said Ntshavheni. She added that it was the first mission of its kind to see African leaders engage both the Ukrainian and Russian presidents on a proposal for finding a way to end the war.
It was a “significant milestone” in the possible peaceful resolution of the conflict, she said.
“So the focus on the negativity of our media in South Africa should not deter us from the efforts that this government and the African leaders are making in resolving conflict…
“Despite our obsession with wanting to find negativity with this government, we must focus on the good that the government is doing, and give credit where it is due. We will accept the criticism where the criticism must be levelled. But where we have done well, commend us,’ she said.
Daily Maverick senior political journalist Queenin Masuabi, who was among the 11 journalists who travelled to Poland disputed the Minister’s claim of an apology. She said the Presidency’s silence on the issue “has been deafening”. DM