Following the capture of the Women’s Boat to Gaza, the Zaytouna, the South African Government has been starkly criticised for continuing its diplomatic relations with Israel. The Zaytouna was captured in international waters, approximately 35 nautical miles from the shores of the Gaza Strip by Israeli forces while those on board attempted to break the almost decade old blockade imposed on the besieged territory. In response to the capture of the 13 activists on board the boat, the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation said that it will be investigating the actions of the South African ambassador to Israel, Sisa Ngombane. The ambassador made statements at a press conference on the return of captured South African activist, Leigh-Ann Naidoo, that clearly conflict with South African foreign policy.
Follwing the announcement by the committee, the organizors of the flotilla welcomed the call by the chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation, Siphosezwe Masango, for an investigation into the allegations made against Ngombane.
Masango’s call for an investigation comes after the deputy minister of International Relations, Luwellyn Landers, told the portfolio committee that Ngombane should be recalled.
Spokesperson for the Women’s Boat to Gaza, Zeanat Adam says that organizers of the flotilla are looking to have the ambassador recalled following his “outlandish behaviour”.
“We have petitioned and written letters to the South African government, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), to the presidency, as well as to individuals within government. [We] requested that this be looked into and that the ambassador will not be representing the South African position in respect of Israel and Palestine and, therefore, he needs to be recalled,” Adam said.
She further states that numerous pro-Palestinian organisations have supported the recall of the ambassador, including Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS) and the Media Review Network.
“I think that a number of these petitions and letters have certainly reached the Parliamentary Portfolio on International Relations, which would explain why they had this issue in the agenda,” Adam added.
Adam says that they are calling on the DIRCO’s deputy minister, Nomaindiya Mfeketo to explain what has happened and why Ngombane behaved in such a disrespectful manner.
She affirmed that the organizers are in the process of lobbying government.
“We had Naidoo’s legal counsel write a formal letter to the DIRCO, requesting an explanation for the ambassador’s behaviour upon her arrival.”
Adam says that they will continue to pursue this avenue in the hopes that they get some response from government.
“I understand that some individuals in their capacity has also lodged this as a complaint to the South African Humans Rights Commission and we believe that this is a strong position and stance to lobby government,” Adam continued.
VOC (Loushe Jordaan)