The Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement in South Africa (BDS SA) has saluted the over a hundred thousand people that came out in support of the national Palestine solidarity protest march on Saturday – hailed as the largest demonstration the country has ever seen. Activists from around the country descended on Cape Town to demand decisive action from the South African government against ongoing Israeli attacks on Gaza and Israel’s ongoing violations of international law. Israel’s –ongoing– human rights violations include settlement construction, imprisonment of Palestinian political prisoners, discrimination against indigenous Palestinians amongst other abuses.
People of all ages, races and religions came from across the country – from Port Elizabeth to Nelspruit, Kwa Dukuza, Durban, Port Shepstone, Newcastle, Polokwane, Mokopane and various other towns and cities. The national Palestine march of over a hundred thousand people, with many analysts even suggesting that the protest reached the 200 thousand mark, was the largest and most diverse protest march to ever take place in South Africa – not just in post Apartheid South Africa, according to BDS South Africa. The largest protest gathering in South African history is said to be the 1990 release of Nelson Mandela.
The national protest march for Palestine was organised by various organisations including the Muslim Judicial Council, BDS South Africa, Jamiat Ulama, ANC Youth League and several other civil society organisations under the banner of the National Coalition for Palestine (NC4P). Activists and organisers worked around the clock since the announcement of the National protest March just about one week ago.
Kwara Kekana, co director with Reverend Edwin Arrison on the day of the protest, said the protest was not just one of anger towards Israel’s military bombardment. More than 2000 Palestinians, including over 250 Palestinian children have been killed.
“It was more than anger at Israeli injustice. It was a celebration of human solidarity by a focused, determined and justice-loving people. South Africans were the beneficiaries of international solidarity and now is the time that we give back this potent gift back to the Palestinian people who are asking us to impose broad based and non-violent boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until Israel respects human rights and international law. The Palestinians stood with us in our boycott of Apartheid and during our darkest days, when it was unfashionable, we owe this to them.”
BDS South Africa acknowledged the senior members of South African society that attended the national protest including, some in their personal and some in their official capacities: Archbishop Desmond Tutu; anti-apartheid struggle icon Ahmed Kathrada; Minister of Economic Development, Ebrahim Patel; Deputy Minister in the South African Presidency and Youth Communist League secretary Buti Manamela; head of ANC International Relations, Obed Bapela; grandson of Nelson Mandela and Member of Parliament, Mandla Mandela; grandson of anti-apartheid struggle icons, Walter and Albertina Sisulu, Shaka Sisula; Sheila Barsel, daughter of Esther Barsel one of the organisers of the 1956 Women’s March and cartoonist, Jonathan “Zapiro” Shapiro amongst others.
“We are glad that editors, politicians and others did not adopt the position of impartiality and neutrality towards Israeli human rights abuses, as Archbishop Desmond Tutu said: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” VOC