Various Palestinian organisations and activists representing different groups on Monday assembled outside the South African Representative Office in Ramallah in the West Bank, protesting against what they cite as South African officials having ‘betrayed’ the Palestinian people in the fight against Zionist occupation. The activists are now asking the South African public whether they have forgotten their own history of oppression.
Speaking to VOC News, head of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction South Africa campaign (BDS-SA) Muhammed Desai says that the activists are calling on the South African public to remember the uninterrupted solidarity that the people of Palestine showed in the struggle against Apartheid.
“The activists, who gathered at this protest outside the South African Government’s office in Ramallah, started off by reminding South Africa that it was the Palestinians after all that gave us their solidarity and various other forms of assistance during our struggle against Apartheid.”
In a letter tabled to the South African Government, the activists listed three recent incidents of purported betrayal.
The first being a 2016 meeting between the Department of International Relations and Cooperation’s (DIRCO) Director General, Ambassador Jerry Matjila, and the Israeli Director general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel, Ambassador Dore Gold, who explored avenues of cooperation between South Africa and Israel.
The activists also criticised a pre-planned meeting between Israeli ministers and Ministers Edna Molewa and Jeff Radebe at Luthuli House.
With the third incident tabled being the comments made by the South African Ambassador to Israel, Sisa Ngombane, who placed the blame of the killing of Palestinians with the Palestinians themselves.
“His pro-Israel comments going completely unchallenged by DIRCO, in fact [the activists] highlight in their letter that DIRCO has apparently extended his term until the end of 2018,” Desai stated.
Given growing concern about the relationship between South African Government officials and Israel, Desai says sentiments of South African officials on the Palestine-Israel conflict is not as a result of their ‘naivety’ on the conflict.
He says that recent meetings indicate that this trend is a deliberate ‘self-serving’ move on the part of officials who have fallen trap to “Israeli tactic of buying politicians.”
“One is led to the conclusion that these officials are captured by the Israeli Lobby in this country, either through money or through other forms of coercion and the South African Government needs to do a better job of keeping these people in line and of taking necessary action – there should be consequences for violating of South African principles of solidarity with the Palestinian people.”
Desai further notes that it is now up to the South African Ambassador to Palestine, Ashraf Sulaiman, “to do the right thing” and pressurise the South African Government to keep in tow officials who sway from policy.
While calls by BDS for the South African Ambassador to Israeli to be recalled has not been heeded, BDS-SA says that there has been a number of victories, including the policy that prohibits South African government officials from travelling to Israel and the cancellations of certain events and meetings that have been debunked through continuous pressure placed on government.
“However, we do feel that South African Government has to do more and we concur with our Palestinian counterparts that both the African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Government needs to go beyond the actions that are currently being taken.
“The ANC and the South African Government needs to impose its own policies on its members that are going rouge on the issue of Palestine and that are selling out the resolutions, policies and principles of the organisation and of government on this issue.”
BDS now waits the convening of the December ANC Elective Conference where they are expecting to hear the outcome of the recommendation on the downgrading of the South African Embassy in Tel Aviv, which was tabled at the ANC policy conference in June, 2017.
A picket in support of the demands made by the Palestinian activists is scheduled to take place outside the office of DIRCO on Tuesday, 28 November, 2017
The picket is backed by a number of organisations including the Young Communist league of South Africa, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, the South African Communist Party and the South Africa Student Congress.