Elections 2024: What the major political parties say about Israel, Russia and the DRC

We sent questions questions on foreign policy to the ANC, DA, EFF, IFP, FF Plus, ActionSA, PA, MK Party and RISE Mzansi

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Photo of Palestine solidarity pilgrimage

People calling for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip in a protest at Claremont Main Road Mosque in March. Archive photo: Matthew Hirsch

Today’s questions to the major political parties deal with key current foreign policy issues.

We asked the ANC, DA, EFF, IFP, FF Plus, ActionSA, PA, MK Party, and RISE Mzansi on 13 March and sent follow-up queries to those who did not respond. Some have still not responded.

Answers are very lightly edited for grammar and typos, except for the first answer by the ANC, which included a lengthy preamble that we cut. You can however read the full ANC answer to this question here.

South Africa is sometimes elected to the UN Security Council. How should South Africa vote on the following resolutions should they be proposed again:

(a) Demand an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the Gaza Strip that must be respected by all parties. (Note, we asked this question before the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2728.)

(b) Demand an immediate withdrawal of Russia from all territories it currently occupies in Ukraine.

Answers on Gaza:

ANC: On the Palestinian question, our position is unequivocal, as articulated by South Africa’s founding father, Nelson Mandela, that our freedom will be incomplete without that of the Palestinians.

The ANC have since the start of the recent conflict which is unfolding as a genocide, called for an immediate ceasefire and for genuine negotiations to find a just solution to the plight of the Palestinian people.

The Genocide case that South Africa initiated at the International Court of Justice speaks to this commitment to a just and peaceful resolution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

Our government supported the recent UNSC Resolution 2728 (2024) on an immediate humanitarian ceasefire “that should lead to a lasting sustainable ceasefire”.

DA: A DA-led South African government would vote in favour of this resolution.

EFF: The EFF stands firm in their stance on critical international resolutions. Should these resolutions be proposed again, South Africa, under EFF leadership, would advocate for an urgent and unwavering call for a humanitarian ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, emphasizing the absolute necessity for all involved parties to uphold and respect this crucial ceasefire.

We have been consistent in standing with the occupied state of Palestine by Apartheid Israel and would go further as to call for an end to the occupation and ongoing genocide by Israel in the area.

IFP: We would fully support this resolution should it be tabled before the UNSC. This should be on condition that all parties/sovereign states are in agreement.

FF Plus: The FF Plus said it would support this resolution on condition that hostages from both sides are released.

ActionSA: ActionSA has long maintained that it is crucial for the global community to unite in calling for a de-escalation that will pave the way towards a lasting cessation of hostilities. We respect international law and processes and support a humanitarian ceasefire that makes for lasting peace.

PA: Are we also demanding that Hamas should give back the remaining hostages, or have we now forgotten about what happened on 7 October? Of course we are against the violence and loss of life in the Gaza Strip, but before anyone comes up with any bright ideas about ceasefires, they should tell us what the plan is to wipe out Hamas with the same kind of enthusiasm people once showed for wiping out Isis and Al-Qaeda, or do we now get to choose which terrorists are “okay”? Until South Africa deals with its own humanitarian crisis of more than 27,000 people being murdered per year, we should stay out of the rest of the world’s problems.

MK Party: The MK Party did not respond to our questions.

RISE Mzansi: RISE Mzansi is guided by the values of the South African Constitution, United Nations Charter and international law. Based on the principles of human rights and a rules-based international order, a RISE Mzansi government would vote to endorse this resolution.

Photo of protest against Russian invasion of Ukraine

Stellenbosch University students protest in March 2022 against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Archive photo: Liezl Human

Answers on Ukraine:

ANC: We will continue to promote an inclusive peaceful resolution to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, that takes into consideration the security and sovereignty of both peoples. South Africa was part of an African mission to both countries in 2023 to talk about ending the conflict, and continues to be part of global initiatives to end the conflict

DA: A DA-led South African government would vote in favour of this resolution.

EFF: When it comes to Russia, we remain clear that we stand unwaveringly in support of Russia in what is essentially a conflict against NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) veiled as a Ukrainian war.

IFP: We would fully support this resolution should it be tabled before the UN Security Council. This should be on condition that all parties/sovereign states are in agreement.

FF Plus: The FF Plus said it would support this resolution.

ActionSA: ActionSA was founded on respect for democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, both domestically and internationally. These values are entrenched in the South African Constitution and should underpin all our foreign policy considerations. Therefore, we are committed to ensuring, through diplomatic efforts and dialogue, that we can restore and maintain the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

PA: We don’t think “demands” have done much good when it comes to Russia, have they? We may politely suggest this, however. Until the West actually decides it is willing to physically go in and fight against Russia for its Ukrainian commitments, its cries are hollow. Think about it, I’m not going to “demand” that someone stop abusing their wife if I see her being beaten at the bar unless I’m willing to actually go and punch the guy if he doesn’t stop. I don’t think South Africa should be trying to punch Russia. In any case, South Africa needs to sort out its own messes before trying to save the rest of the world.

MK Party: The MK Party did not respond to our questions.

RISE Mzansi: A RISE Mzansi government would vote to endorse this resolution.

What steps would you take concerning South African soldiers with the SADC peacekeeping force in the DRC?

ANC: South Africa participates as part of the SADC peacekeeping force in DRC to intervene in the heightened suffering inflicted on civilians in Eastern Congo and has deployed troops as part of this mission. Government will ensure that our soldiers are properly equipped and supported to carry out this mission.

We are at the same time engaging all parties to the conflict on a peaceful and sustainable resolution to a longstanding conflict. It may be recalled that South Africa over the last 30 years has continued to play a role in peace building and peacekeeping in the DRC.

DA: The DA referred to a statement by their Shadow Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Kobus Marais.

In short, Marais says President Cyril Ramaphosa’s decision to deploy 2,900 South African National Defence Force (SANDF) members to the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is “reckless, irrational and must be reversed immediately”.

Marais says the decision was made without informing Parliament timeously, and the SANDF lacks the capacity to effectively pursue an anti-insurgency campaign against the M23 rebels.

The deployment, Marais said, is one of the largest in South Africa’s democratic era, and it “is therefore utter madness to deploy a force of that size with inadequate or no air support,” he said. The impulsive deployment repeats mistakes made in previous combat missions, such as Bangui, Cabo Delgado, and the DRC.

He said that to spend R2-billion on this deployment is “ridiculous”, as the money “could have been better spent on upgrading the SANDF’s prime mission equipment and improving the logistical capacity of the military value chain”. Prioritising the capacitation and deployment of the SANDF to improve border surveillance is more important than foreign deployments, Marais said.

EFF: The current state of the SANDF raises significant concerns regarding its fitness for deployment in the DRC. The lack of resources, exacerbated by the ANC’s incompetence and mismanagement, has brought the SANDF to the brink of financial collapse. This dire situation poses a threat to the safety of our troops and hampers our ability to provide essential support for their deployment.

Under EFF governance, the defence budget will be substantially increased to actualise the necessary reforms, while a comprehensive modernisation initiative will be undertaken to enhance the SANDF’s agility and responsiveness to contemporary security threats, ensuring it remains a formidable force in safeguarding national interests and regional stability.

Through more funding, we will implement intensified training and capacity-building programs within the SANDF to equip our troops adequately for demanding peacekeeping operations, enabling them to navigate complex challenges with proficiency and resilience.

IFP: We will ensure that the SANDF is skilled, capacitated and prepared for all types of warfare including cyber and electronic warfare, by prioritising the defence budget to meet the international norms as per GDP percentage allocation, invest in Defence Force recruitment drives, and re-engineer and professionalise the SANDF’s institutional structure.

FF Plus: There is not enough budget to efficiently supply soldiers with essential equipment to partake in these operations. South Africa is currently not in the fiscal position to afford this peacekeeping mission and the SANDF should be withdrawn.

ActionSA: ActionSA is committed to playing a constructive and proactive role in ensuring peace and security throughout our continent. Regarding the peacekeeping deployment to the DRC, we believe there is a greater need for a long-term resolution to the conflict.

In the meantime, as we work towards a sustainable resolution, South Africa must ensure that our soldiers are well-equipped and that our mission is capacitated to ensure the protection of our countrymen deployed.

PA: As we have said in our election manifesto, we need young, unemployed and unskilled South Africans to join the military. Those who aren’t eligible for the military can do other forms of national service. The primary goal of this conscription will be to put this force to work to secure our borders, support local peace and security initiatives, including fighting gangsterism and illegal migration and to impart valuable skills and experience to our youth. It will also teach them patriotism. A secondary goal, however, would be to deploy this highly strengthened military force to spread peace and security throughout the rest of Africa. This will also go a long way towards creating and sustaining an economic boom throughout the continent, which will be good for South Africa and justify our stance against illegal immigration because we will be showing a commitment to investing in improving the lives of people throughout the continent so they will feel incentivised to stay home and build their own countries.

MK Party: The MK Party did not respond to our questions.

RISE: RISE Mzansi believes South Africa should use its resources to support the peaceful development of the Southern African Development Community. South Africa has a long history of supporting efforts to bring peace and security to the DRC, and the current deployment continues this policy. However, South Africa’s involvement must be properly resourced (funding, staffing and equipment) so that the SANDF members are able to fulfil their mandate. Additional resources should be provided pending a full review of our national defence strategy and funding needs.

Ultimately however, the long-standing instability in the Eastern DRC will only be resolved by regional diplomacy. South Africa should work with the governments of DRC and its neighbours to develop a framework for sustainable peace and stability in Eastern DRC.

Update on 2024-04-12 17:14

EFF response received and updated after publication.

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