PRESS STATEMENT: Non-return of SA Ambassador to Israel and the downgrade of the SA Embassy in Tel Aviv

24 September 2018

The human rights and Palestine solidarity organisation, BDS South Africa, notes the return (and now non-return) of the SA Ambassador to Israel, Sisa Ngombane.

According to a (20 September 2018) letter by the SA Embassy in Tel Aviv, Ngombane was “re-instated” this past weekend (21/22 September) as SA’s ambassador to Israel. This was was slammed by various organizations and activists (click here for a statement by ANC MP, Chief Mandla Mandela).

We join others in welcoming the statement that was then issued by SA’s Department of International Relations, late on Monday night (24 September), clarifying that “the South African Ambassador is still recalled” (click here) and that he has “not resumed his duties as an Ambassador for South Africa in Israel” (contradicting the earlier misleading letter issued by the South African Embassy in Tel Aviv). We hope that this is indeed the case.

Ngombane was recalled earlier this year, as a form of protest by the South African government, following Israel’s 14 May 2018 massacre. However, the downgrade of the SA Embassy in Israel to a liaison office has, to date, nine months later, not been implemented.The decision to “immediately and unconditionally” downgrade from an embassy to a liaison office was unanimously adopted by the ANC’s 54th National Conference.

Some officials and ANC deployees are failing, possibly refusing, to carry out the party’s internationalism, mandate and resolutions. There is a clear failure to implement the ruling party’s own un-ambiguous decisions. It would seem that certain forces have elevated themselves above, and are bent on subverting the will of, the highest authority of the ANC (its National Conference).

The delays are insulting and the good faith between civil society, the electorate and government is disintegrating. Furthermore, Palestinians with one united voice, have called on the ANC to downgrade the SA Embassy in Israel; They have spoken through their churches, civil society and political parties including Fatah, PFLP, Hamas and the PLO. Most recently the Palestinian Ambassador to SA reiterated their call for South Africa to downgrade relations (click here).

We, along with various South African solidarity organizations, human rights groups and churches, have tried to meet directly with the relevant government officials, on this issue, for several months now, to gain clarity and discuss matters in a comradely fashion.

Earlier this year the BDS and Palestine solidarity movement led nationwide actions with thousands of people in Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, Nelspruit and elsewhere specifically supporting and calling on the SA Government to implement the ruling party’s downgrade resolution. These protests were addressed by the Deputy Secretary General of the ANC, NWC and NEC members of the ANC, the Chief Whip of the ANC, the ANC Head of International Relations, various Ministers and Deputy Ministers, Parliament’s House Chairperson, Members of Parliament, Members of Provincial Legislatures, Father Michael Weeder of St George’s Cathedral, Reverend Thulani Ndlazi of the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa, the leadership of the MJC, Chairperson of the National Coalition 4 Palestine Reverend Edwin Arrison, Ambassador Hashem Dajani of the Embassy of Palestine and members from the SA Jews for a Free Palestine among others.

Notwithstanding the inexplicable delay and the growing failure of government on this issue, we have no doubt that the members and branches of the ANC, who championed this resolution at NASREC in December 2017, are unequivocal in their – and our – support for the Palestinian struggle against Israeli Apartheid. Furthermore, the ANC alliance partners and leagues have also been firm on the call for the implementation of the ANC’s national conference downgrade resolution. This past week, the newly elected President of South Africa’s largest trade union federation, COSATU, Cde Zingiswa Losi, publicly called on the ANC-led Government to implement the ruling party’s downgrade resolution (click here). Furthermore, several provinces of the ANC have in recent months called on Government to implement the downgrade resolution. Other South African political parties, such as the NFP, have also added their support, including in parliament.

We will be meeting with various partners and stakeholders this week to discuss a multi-pronged campaign going forward and will share details thereafter.

ISSUED BY KWARA KEKANA ON BEHALF OF BDS SOUTH AFRICA
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