On 16 May 2023, PDBY, in collaboration with Shaina Moses, approached student leaders, Cameron Rodrigues, Liam Jacobs and Sicelo Ngwenya to weigh in on their thoughts as to whether students should care about the Russo-Ukrainian conflict.
Understanding the context
In the past few months, South Africa has found itself in peculiar positions. Some actors in the international community have condemned South Africa for its stances and behaviour, and other actors have been in support of South Africa exercising its sovereignty. South Africa’s decision to stay non-aligned in the Russo- Ukrainian conflict while continuing to work closely with Russia has raised several questions: Is South Africa upholding its decision to remain non-aligned, or is she conveniently buttering her bread on both sides?
The South African government’s non- alignment while maintaining friendly relations in the public eye at a time when it is controversial to do so has not been well-received nationally and internationally. South Africa’s close working relations as a BRICS partner during this time has the potential to risk trade, investment, and threatens the ‘stability’ of the Rand as a desirable currency. The unsubstantiated claims by United States diplomat, Reuben Brigedy, alleging the South African government providing weapons and to the Russian government. These allegations saw the Rand plummet against the dollar. Such financial instability, as mentioned, undoubtedly affects the tax- paying citizen who is most susceptible.
Despite the controversy surrounding South Africa and Russia, the collaboration between BRICS and Africa remains polarising internationally and more so nationally. The ANC finds the calls to arrest Putin per an arrest warrant is hypocritical of western countries while the DA supports the idea of arrest of Putin.
What do the leaders think?
Democratic Alliance Student Organisation (DASO) Federal Leader, Liam Jacobs, states that, “The Russo- Ukrainian conflict is particularly important when considering geopolitics, finances, and the ethical ramifications of this war on South Africa. Children are allegedly being kidnapped and taken to Russia. Ukrainians are being tortured, castrated and murdered as we speak.” Jacobs continues, “This is further exacerbated by the concern of nuclear warfare, hence the geopolitical significance of this war. This is precisely why students should care.
This war directly impacts how much of your allowance goes towards putting bread on your table, oil in your pan and fuel into your car. This war has direct implications on the cost of living and forces it to continually rise.” Jacobs concludes in saying, “So while the ANC continues to side with the Russian regime, the DA holds firm the torch of justice and democracy and continues to condemn this war.”
In his view, Branch Secretary of SASCO UP, Sicelo Ngwenya states: “The war in Ukraine may seem far from our country, let alone our campus, but there is a particular importance to us as citizens and students that should not be underestimated. Firstly, the war in Ukraine presents a ripple effect that affects our daily living on basic things such as food and petrol.”
Ngwenya continues, “…this war presents an academic dilemma where security is concerned. This is due to the fact that academically, there is the argument that Russia is justified in its ‘defence’ against the United States which has used Ukraine as a proxy for its NATO and anti-communist agenda… To this effect, UP students should be very interested in the stance that our government is to take on the matter.” Ngwenya concludes, “Whatever the stance is [it] will directly result in the global shift in power dynamics that will positively or negatively impact our international stock. This means that our economy, no thanks to Globalisation, depends on alignment that our government takes. UP students should also take this opportunity to criticise government on an academic level on the basis of their stance and its cost/benefits to the national economy.”
In their view, chairperson of the Socialist Youth Movement (SYM), Rodrigues says, “From the perspective of Socialism in general, Socialists are anti-war.” Rodrigues added, “ Wars are really there to enhance capital or to enhance power of super-power countries like the US.” Rodrigues concludes, “Now I completely understand the reason why Russia has reacted the way it has, because of NATO and its allies are moving in on Russia’s boarders, but again, Socialists are anti-war and you cannot have a war without any casualties [from the working class].”