Russia-Ukraine: Speaker Mapisa-Nqakula toes the party line at international event

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National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.
National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.
Jan Gerber
  • Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula says it is "wrong" to blame one party for Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
  • She toed the ANC party line at an international parliamentary event.
  • A Ukrainian MP called on the world to take a strong stand against Russia.

National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula toed the party line at an international event, where she said it would be "wrong" to blame only one country for Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Not even the impassioned plea of Ukrainian MP Lesia Vasylenko to take a strong stand could sway Mapisa-Nqakula, who implored world leaders to stop making "inflammatory statements", but she didn't call on Russia to withdraw its military from Ukraine.

Mapisa-Nqakula leads the South African Parliament's delegation to the 144th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in Bali, Indonesia.

The IPU allows any member country to request the inclusion of an emergency item in its agenda, which must be accompanied by a draft resolution.

Three such draft resolutions were received.

Ukraine's was titled "Russian and Belarusian aggression against Ukraine", coming out strongly against Russia and President Vladimir Putin.

Indonesia's draft resolution was titled "The role of Parliaments in supporting a peaceful resolution to the Russian-Ukrainian Conflict", and did not mention Russia's aggression.

LIVE | UN says it is time for Ukraine and Russia to negotiate amid 'unwinnable' war

New Zealand's draft resolution was titled "Peaceful resolution of the war in Ukraine, respecting international law, the Charter of the United Nations and Territorial Integrity".

Despite being more moderately worded than the Ukrainian draft resolution, it did note "that the leadership of the Russian Federation has committed a crime of aggression, which is a flagrant violation of a fundamental rule of international criminal law".

New Zealand's resolution received the majority of the votes.

South Africa supported Indonesia.

At the start of the debate on Monday, Vasylenko, a member of Ukraine's parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, and the IPU's Forum of Women Parliamentarians president, addressed the assembly via video link-up.

"It is in the power of the IPU to take a strong stand… and condemn the war of aggression that Russia is waging against Ukraine, but also against the framework of defence and security as we today know it in the world," she said.

"By taking a soft stance against Russia now, we are sending a message to other totalitarian and authoritarian leaders and terrorist states across the globe, saying that it is ok... it's ok the break the law, it's ok to break every single rule in the international humanitarian rulebook, there won't be any sanctions, the international community will just be calling you to dialogues."

Russia is not participating in reaction to a statement by the IPU executive on 26 February, which condemned Russia for invading Ukraine.

However, the deputy speaker of Russia's Federation Council, Konstantin Kosachev, also delivered a video message.

He said: "The problem is too important to be presented just from the point of view of a certain geopolitical group. What is happening in Ukraine is a great and common tragedy for all of us."

He claimed to understand the emotions of those horrified by war.

"But the truth is that the war in Ukraine didn't start now. It has been going on since February 2014 when nationalists seized power in Kyiv and set out the policy to genocide the Russian speaking population of Ukraine.

"The aim of this draft [resolution] is to justify one side, and to put the whole responsibility on the other, pretending that nothing had happened before."

He said what happened before was "partially the responsibility of the West", who were now trying to avoid responsibility.

He claimed Russia did not target cities or civilian populations.

READ | Ukraine war: How Russian denial of civilian casualties follows tactics used in Syria

"The Western mass media is trying to pass the horrifying footage made in Donetsk, where a missile strike recently killed 20 civilians and wounded dozens more, for the shots of Kyiv or Mariupol, because they have nothing else of these places."

He also alleged "the West" was staging footage.

Mapisa-Nqakula said South Africa joined millions of global citizens to "call for [a] cessation of hostilities and allow peaceful mediation efforts between Ukraine and Russia".

She further called on the United Nations Security Council to "pursue its objective of maintaining peace among the nations of the world".

"In calling for peace between Ukraine and Russia, we are mindful and cognisant of many acts of aggression in many parts of the world, such as Afghanistan, Palestine, Syria and Western Sahara, where there is continued loss of life. Yet, these conflicts have not received the global attention they deserve," Mapisa-Nqakula said.

She said it was of great concern that women and children suffered the most in "these situations".

"We call upon world leaders to desist from making inflammatory statements and demonstrate political maturity to calm water everywhere where there is conflict. Do not exacerbate the situation by being emotional and irrational in the manner in which conflict is dealt with.

She said:

We are of the firm view that durable peace is needed in Ukraine and that our collective efforts as the international community in general and Parliament's in particular should seek to help the two countries to find a peaceful solution.

"In this regard, it would be wrong to simply and selectively blame one country. We urge both parties to fully commit to the peaceful negotiation process."

She said South Africa called for the "hostilities" to cease and a de-escalation process.

She said it was unfair that the African continent was not represented on the UN Security Council.

"We call for the urgent transformation of the UN Security Council, to ensure inclusivity.

Mapisa-Nqakula was essentially singing from the same hymn sheet as President Cyril Ramaphosa, when he answered questions in the National Assembly on Thursday, and ANC MPs who participated in a debate on Russia's invasion of Ukraine last Tuesday, also in the National Assembly.

The IPU assembly will conclude on Thursday, when it will adopt resolutions.

The South African Parliament delegation to the IPU includes Mapisa-Nqakula, NCOP deputy chairperson Sylvia Lucas, National Assembly House chairperson Cedric Frolick, ANC deputy chief whip Doris Dlakude, ANC MP Fikile Masiko, DA MP Annelie Lotriet and EFF chief whip Floyd Shivambu.

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