I have today arrived in the city of Lviv in Western Ukraine from where I will embark on a six-day tour of various parts of Ukraine – mostly around the capital, Kiev – to ascertain for myself the situation in a country that has been under siege from the Russian army for over two months.
Over the course of the next week I will be visiting refugee camps as well as meeting with various mayors, governors, business leaders, students and ordinary Ukrainian citizens to see, first-hand, the effects of the Russian invasion and the ongoing occupation of parts of Ukraine. In the era of fake news and propaganda, this is the only way to truly know what is happening.
My predecessor and stalwart of South African liberalism, Helen Suzman, used to live and work by this motto. She often offered this advice to others: “Go see for yourself. Don’t take what the press tells you, don’t take what other people tell you; go and see for yourself.” That is the purpose of my visit. We owe it to the people of Ukraine to tell the unfiltered truth about what is taking place there so that the world can stand united in bringing this injustice to an end.
It is also important to remember that we live in a super-connected world where disruptions in one part cause major ripples everywhere else.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is not a European problem, it is a global problem. The knock-on effect of this war on our own fuel, maize, cooking oil and fertiliser prices will reach deep into the pockets of poor South Africans who can already not make ends meet.
We dare not pretend that this is a war that has nothing to do with us. And we dare not pretend that remaining “neutral” in this situation is admirable. When we have clear and undeniable evidence of injustice, we owe it to the victims to pick a side and speak out.
Over the next six days I will provide updates of my visit to the media as my itinerary and connectivity allow for it.