Ramaphosa says African delegation’s visits to Russia and Ukraine got ‘positive reception’

Many analysts in South Africa have perceived the peace mission as partly ‘shambolic’

South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa has said he believes people should be optimistic that the proposals the African peace mission made to the leaders of Russia and Ukraine to end hostilities between the nations will be seriously considered.

In his weekly newsletter on Monday, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, who led the African delegation to Ukraine last week, said a key achievement of the recent mission “was the positive reception we received from both sides”.

The African group found this reception “encouraging”, Mr Ramaphosa said, before adding it “provides cause for optimism that the proposals will be given consideration”.

The mission also included the presidents of Senegal, Comoros, and Zambia, the prime minister of Egypt, and envoys from the Republic of the Congo and Uganda.


The African delegation delivered a 10-point proposal which they believe provides the basis to end the violence in eastern Europe to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Russia’s Vladimir Putin on Friday and Saturday respectively.

Included in the proposal were calls for a de-escalation of fighting and for urgent negotiations to commence, for the release of prisoners of war and the return of children to Ukraine, for greater humanitarian support to those affected by fighting, and for Ukraine’s reconstruction to be prioritised.

Another point of the proposal was to allow for the movement of grains from Russia and Ukraine across the Black Sea to world markets.

According to the African Development Bank, the conflict has “triggered a shortage of about 30 million tonnes of grains on the African continent, along with a sharp increase in cost”.

Ukraine’s ambassador to South Africa, Liubov Abravitova, also believes the mission changed the participating African leaders’ views of the conflict, which they finally recognise as a full-blown war rather than a “military operation”, as Putin describes it. “If you listen to the [initial] press conference you will hear the leaders failing to call the conflict by its real name. But later we did hear the leaders saying this is a war,” she said.

While Mr Ramaphosa’s assessment of the mission’s potential to end the Ukraine-Russia war was cautiously optimistic, it contrasts starkly with how many analysts in South Africa have perceived the undertaking, describing it as “shambolic” in some instances.

The chief criticism relates to how Mr Ramaphosa’s team approached the mission in terms of its logistics and planning as a South African plane carrying nearly 100 presidential security personnel and a dozen journalists was grounded in Poland before being sent home.

The contingent of South Africans was supposed to transit through Warsaw en route to Ukraine and Russia. However, the Polish authorities refused to allow them to leave the plane for 26 hours, saying the paperwork they provided for their weapons was inadequate.

In addition, the ruling African National Congress party’s “friendship” with Russia is being called into question by government critics, given Mr Putin’s regime launched a number of missiles at Kyiv while Mr Ramaphosa was in the Ukrainian capital on Friday.

Writing in the Daily Maverick, an online news publication, analyst and journalist Stephen Grootes said what transpired meant Mr Ramaphosa would have to respond to accusations “this shameful series of events shows he has absolutely no influence on the global stage”.

Bill Corcoran

Bill Corcoran

Bill Corcoran is a contributor to The Irish Times based in South Africa