Anti-apartheid struggle veteran Laloo Chiba has appealed to all South Africans to participate in a 24-hour hunger strike on May 15 in support of Palestinian political prisoners. This comes as some 1500 Palestinian prisoners are on day twenty-four of their hunger strike demanding basic rights in Israeli jails. 86 year old Chiba, who already undertook a 24-hour hunger strike on May 3, encouraged “all freedom loving individuals” to support the #DignityStrikeSA campaign.
Several ministers have confirmed that they will heed the call to action and embark on the solidarity hunger strike along with ordinary citizens. They include: Minister of Communications Ayanda Dlodlo, Minister of Heath Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, Deputy Minister in the South African Presidency Buti Manamela, Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Nomaindia Mfeketo, Deputy Minister of Basic Education Enver Surty and former Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom.
Other individuals who have committed to participate in the hunger strike include former Robben Island prisoners Kehla Shubane and Mpho Masemola, and ANC Deputy Secretary General Jessie Duarte.
In addition, radio and TV personality Kuli Roberts, TV presenters Shaka Sisulu and entertainer Nina Hastie, and media personalities Kay Sexwale, Yusuf Abramjee, Bongani Mbindwane and journalist Janet Smith have also confirmed their participation.
The solidarity hunger strike will commence at 6pm on May 14 and end at 6pm on May 15. Participants will be allowed to drink a sugar and salt water solution twice during the 24-hour period to maintain their strength. The hunger strike will be coupled with lunchtime pickets at provincial legislatures across the country where memorandums will handed over to public representatives; as well as solidarity meetings leading up to and after the hunger strike.
The hunger strike is being held specifically on May 15, to mark the start of the Nakba (Castastrophe), which saw Palestinians forced en masse from their homes in 1948 and the establishment of Israeli occupation.
Commenting in the importance of participating in the solidarity action, Chiba said, “As a former Robben Island prisoner for 18 years, and a political detainee in the 1980s, we had embarked on several hunger strikes against the apartheid prison authorities. I feel that I am duty bound today, to support the Palestinians, who are in the same condition that we were in all those years ago.”
Unperturbed about his age and the health risk it may pose to him, Chiba was adamant that he would participate.
“We must pledge our continued support for the freedom and dignity of the Palestinian people, just as countless people across the world did for South Africans standing up against the brutal apartheid regime. I am convinced that those who support the Palestinian struggle will be willing to sacrifice their meals for 24 hours to boost the morale of our comrades in Palestine, who have been without food for almost a month. I also think this show of global solidarity will send a strong message to the Israeli authorities, that the Palestinians are not alone in their struggle, and that our support for them will not diminish until they achieve freedom and dignity,” Chiba stated.
Kwara Kekana from BDS South Africa urged those who are participating in the hunger strike from across the country to send an email to the campaign organisers with their names, where they are from and a brief bio, as well as to include if they are a former detainee and if so, during which period. “Details can be emailed to email@example.com . The names of those who embark on the #DignityStrikeSA will be recorded and put online,” Kekana said.
She also noted that details about the provincial pickets, as well as the that of solidarity meetings and rallies will be made publicly available in the week.
The Palestinian hunger strike is being supported in South Africa by organisations including the: Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, BDS South Africa Cosatu, SACP, South African Jews for a Free Palestine, Palestine Solidarity Alliance,Wits PSC, and the MJC amongst others.