Palestinian struggle fighter Leila Khaled was met with chanting and applause as she arrived at OR Tambo international airport on Friday for the start of her SA tour. She was given a warm welcome by anti-apartheid stalwart Ahmed Kathrada and Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba. A crowd of ANC Women’s League and MK veterans ululated and sang the national anthem as she arrived, holding banners and placards with the iconic 70’s image of the resistance fighter wearing the Palestinian keffiyah she made famous.
Khaled is being hosted by the human rights organisation, BDS South Africa to raise funds and to increase solidarity for the Palestinian cause. She will also be joined by ANC NEC member Ayanda Dlodlo, head of ANC International Relations Obed Bapela, former minister Ronnie Kasrils and Deputy Minister Kebby Maphatsoe at her various appearances in the country from 6 – 16 February.
Her public speaking tours include:
Friday, 6 February – Al Gazali Hall, Erasmia, Pretoria at 18h30
Saturday, 7 February – Rustenburg Civic Centre, Rustenburg at 18h00
Sunday, 8 February – The Garden Lovers Centre, Running Waters, Kragga Kamma Road, PE
Monday, 09 February – Ritson Campus, Durban University of Technology, Overport, Durban
Tuesday, 10 February- NMJ Hall, Overport, Durban at 18h30
Wednesday, 11 February – Pumulanathi Hall, Newcastle at 18h30
Thursday, 12 February – Darul Islam School, Surrey Estate, Green Haven at 18h30
Friday, 13 February – Polokwane Royal, Polokwane at 19h00
Saturday, 14 February – Mbombela Council Auditorium, Nelspruit at 18h30
Sunday, 15 February – DOCC Hall, 6545 Rathebe Stret, Orlando East, Soweto at 15h00
The tour has been shrouded in controversy, as the South African Jewish lobby is vehemently opposed to her visit, saying Khaled is a symbol of “violent resistance”.
But BDS South Africa spokesperson Muhammed Desai said they were not fazed by the criticism, dismissing the Zionist opposition as “chatter on the sidelines”.
“The outpouring of support that BDS and Leila Khaled has received has been overwhelming. The majority of people are looking forward to her visit.”
The struggle hero rose to prominence for her role in a 1969 hijacking and one of four simultaneous hijackings the following year carried out by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
She was later released in a prisoner exchange for civilian hostages kidnapped by her fellow PFLP members. She was a member of the Palestinian National Council and currently lives Amman in Jordan.
Tune into VOC Drivetime today at 17.10pm for a live interview with Leila Khaled. VOC