Cryptic 'Just landed in Ukraine' Mbalula tweet has people guessing, speculating

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Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula.
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula.
  • Fikile Mbalula tweeted "Just landed in Ukraine" to his followers on Saturday, after which it was followed by radio silence. 
  • Was he polishing his makarapa for the Soweto Derby or was he, in fact, visiting the war-torn country?
  • His department was not immediately available to clarify.

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula dropped a cryptic tweet - "Just landed in Ukraine" - to his 2.7 million followers on Saturday morning, and then went into radio silence. 

It was not clear whether he was polishing his makarapa for the Soweto Derby or was, in fact, visiting the war-torn country.

Mbalula and all his spokespeople were not immediately available to shed any light, but ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe said: "I suspect he has been hacked."

Fikile Mbalula
Screenshot from Twitter

He said he had spoken to Mbalula, and would call back with further information.

READ | 'Unspeakable danger': Nelson Mandela Foundation calls for ceasefire in Ukraine

But he then became unavailable and did not respond to a reminder for an update on where the maverick minister was, given the national importance of whether Mbalula had travelled to Ukraine.

A retweet by Mbalula's account of a statement by the Embassy of Russia in SA also raised eyebrows in some quarters. 

A reply, by the Embassy of Germany in SA, disagreed: 

Mbalula, who is more familiar with visits to the Southern Line in Cape Town, or getting furious taxi bosses to sit down and agree to a truce, was not immediately available to elaborate.

South Africa's ambassador to Ukraine, Andre Groenewald, said: "I have no information on that," he said, on the phone from Budapest, when questioned about a possible visit.

Groenewald has had a fraught time since the first salvos were fired by Russian forces on 24 February in Ukraine.

At first, he decamped to the country - and, from there, coordinated the evacuation of South Africans, while also keeping his family safe. They are now based in Budapest, Hungary, as evacuation operations continue.

Groenewald was occupied with sending names to checkpoints to help get the remaining "20 or so" South Africans out of Ukraine amid reports that Russia had called a ceasefire to allow Ukraine civilians to leave key cities. 

READ | Siya Khumalo: Ramaphosa stamped his indecisiveness on Dirco's response to Russia's Ukraine invasion

Clayson Monyela, spokesperson for the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, has been closely involved in communicating on the evacuation of South Africans in the region. 

He said seven border crossings were visited by South African officials, and there appeared to be no more South Africans or Africans needing to cross. 

Asked whether any government officials were present, he said: "No, there's a war going on there."

Asked if Mbalula had perhaps gone over, he replied testily: "I'm not getting involved in that Twitter thing."

Presidency spokesperson Tyrone Seale said he could not speak for another department, despite Mbalula serving as a Cabinet appointee of President Cyril Ramaphosa.

South Africa has been walking a barbed diplomatic tightrope because it refuses to side with either Ukraine or the Russian Federation, balancing its way through old allegiances and modern alliances, holding onto diplomacy as a resolution.

This, in itself, has attracted severe criticism from some quarters, who want a more robust response on the part of South Africa. 

An update will be provided when available.

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