Thursday, 21 April 2022 16:10

Ramaphosa and Zelensky talks should help repair relations given SA's stance on the war.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

President Cyril Ramaphosa and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky telephonic conversation finally took place late on Wednesday night.

This comes after Zelensky had revealed on Wednesday that he had a telephone discussion with Ramaphosa over the situation in Ukraine.

On Thursday, Ramaphosa said he had a call with the Ukraine president.

"I had a telephone conversation with President @ZelenskyyUa of Ukraine to discuss the conflict in Ukraine and its tragic human cost, as well its global ramifications. We agree on the need for a negotiated end to the conflict which has impacted Ukraine’s place in global supply chains, including its position as a major exporter of food to our continent. President Zelenskyy anticipates closer relations with Africa in future, "said Ramaphosa.

Ukraine's ambassador to South Africa, Liubov Abravitova, said that although South Africa had requested the call, Zelensky made the call to Ramaphosa "because of our circumstances". In other words, it seems he had to find a moment between conducting the defence of his country.  

The call took place almost two months into the war – and seven weeks after Ramaphosa called Russian's President Vladimir Putin to get his side of the conflict.South Africa requested the call with Zelensky only a week later – which clearly irritated Ukraine.

Ramaphosa has been calling for talks between Russia and Ukraine to end the conflict.

He has said the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s office should also be involved in those discussions for a ceasefire and an end to the war.

The opposition parties meanwhile have been accusing Ramaphosa of not talking to Zelensky when he had spoken to Putin.

This was after Ramaphosa had confirmed a few weeks ago that he had spoken to Putin on the conflict in Ukraine.

However the call should help to repair relations between the two countries which have become strained by South Africa's diplomatic positions on the war. It has abstained three times from resolutions in the United Nations General Assembly condemning Russia’s aggression.

Dirco insists it has abstained not because it condones Russia's aggression, but because it believes that a balanced approach is necessary to try to find a diplomatic resolution to the war.

But judging by Zelenksy's tweet, the two presidents did discuss bilateral – country to country – relations as well as the impact of the war on food prices and hunger. Ukraine is one of the world’s largest producers of wheat and sunflower oil, so the war has cut supplies of these products drastically and pushed up prices. The impact has been felt particularly hard in Africa and Ramaphosa may have raised this in his call with Zelensky.