INVITE: Picket against pro-Israel “sell-outs” at South Africa’s Department of International Relations 

28 November 2017

Today, Tuesday 28 November, at lunchtime, there will be a picket against pro-Israel “sell-outs” at South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO). The protest will be addressed by, among others, NEHAWU General Secretary Zola Saphetha, YCLSA National Secretary Mluleki Dlelanga, SA Jews for a Free Palestine member Allan Kolski Horwitz, ANC Provincial Officer for International Relations Nomantu Ralehoko, COSATU Provincial Secretary Dumisani Dakile, SASCO Provincial Secretary Luvuyo Barnes and others.

Members of the media and public are invited to join:

DATE: Tuesday 28 November 2017
TIME: 12h00, with brief speeches at 13h00
ADDRESS: DIRCO head office (460 Soutpansberg Road, Pretoria)
CONTACT: 0785268663 for interviews of for more information.

Today’s picket will mark the 40th UN International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People which takes place annually in November. The picket is organised and has the support of the Gauteng structures of the YCLSA, COSATU, SASCO, SA Jews for a Free Palestine and others including trade union NEHAWU which has members who work within DIRCO. NEHAWU members from DIRCO will also be attending the lunch-time picket both in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle but also to raise certain workers specific issues.

Last week Palestinians from various civil society organizations held a similar protest outside the SA Embassy in the West Bank Palestinian city of Ramallah against the increasing “betrayal” by SA Government officials of the Palestinian struggle against Israeli Apartheid (click here). Below are some of the issues that will be highlighted at today’s picket.

ISSUED BY KWARA KEKANA ON BEHALF OF BDS SOUTH AFRICA

ISSUES TO BE HIGHLIGHTED AT 28 NOVEMBER 2017 PROTEST

South Africa gifting Israel
An official at South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) recently gave a gift on behalf of the South African people to the departing Israeli ambassador Arthur Lenk (click here). The gift was given even after the Israeli government’s unprecedented attack earlier this year on South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (click here). This act by the DIRCO official, Anil Sooklal, was an insult to peace and justice loving South Africans and is contrary to the wishes of our people. An indication of the South African peoples support for Palestine is that the largest protest since the dawn of democracy was the Palestine solidarity and BDS protest in 2014 on the streets of Cape Town (click here).

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Former DIRCO DG and current SA Ambassador to the UN normalising relations with Israel
Last year the former Director-General of DIRCO, and now SA Ambassador to the UN, Jerry Matjila, met with the Director-General of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in an attempt to normalise relations with the oppressive Israeli regime. This is not the first time DIRCO officials have insulted South Africans and sadly DIRCO is not taking action against officials who contradict South African policy. Click here

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DIRCO officials working to suppress ANC resolution on downgrade of SA Embassy in Tel Aviv
Certain officials at DIRCO including an Ambassador who is a Special Advisor are actively working to prevent a resolution by the governing party for the downgrade of the SA Embassy in Israel.

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SA Ambassador to Israel contradicting SA policy
South African Ambassador to Israel, Sisa Ngombane, has, in an interview with Israel’s Jerusalem Post, spoken  of “pressuring” President Jacob Zuma and the SA government “to send ministers to Israel.” Click here.

Ngombane also infamously claimed that Israel was justified in its attack on the Palestinian Gaza strip (which led to 2500 Palestinians being killed including over 550 children). Click here.

Ngombane has said to Israeli media: “it is important for the two governments [Israel and South Africa] to establish a pattern of meeting and talking so that they can find avenues of common ground outside the heated political arena. Trade is one of those avenues.” Ambassador Ngombane has also belittled, insulted and shown disregard to South African civil society saying that: “The South African street might be strongly pro-Palestinian, but its calls against Israel have nothing to do with government policy”. (Jerusalem Post, 26 March 2016)

Ambassador Ngombane seems to celebrate, in his official Government capacity, a relationship with the Israeli organization called TelFed inviting the group for various events, meetings and engagements as well as attending events and programs of TelFed (click here). TelFed is the Israeli arm of the Israeli lobby group, the South Africa Zionist Federation, that was established in 1948 and was part of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian villages during the Palestinian Nakba “Catastrophe”. TelFed (which Ambassador Ngombane has developed a public relationship with) , through the SA Zionist Federation, was even involved in flying military supplies to Israel during this period (click here). TelFed today boasts of its support for Southern Africans serving in the Israeli Defence Forces, on its website it states: “Do you know that every year there are between 35-50 ‘lone soldiers’ from Southern Africa volunteering in the Israeli army at any given time? […] Telfed keeps a protective eye on Southern African ‘lone soldiers’ and where possible matches them up with families in Israel to host and provide them with a ‘home from home'”. South Africans serving in foreign armies violates various South African regulations. Organizations that support such mercenary activities should not be celebrated or endorsed by South African Government officials.

International Relations Deputy Minister Luwellyn Landers recommended to Parliament that DIRCO recalls Ngombane but this is yet to materialise (click here). In fact, instead of his deployment being ended Ngombane’s term has been extended till 2019.

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Inter-ministerial meeting between Israel and South Africa
According to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a “pre-arranged inter-ministerial” meeting between Israel’s Minister of Regional Affairs, Tzachi Hanegbi, and the ANC’s International Relations Sub-Committee headed by South African Minister Edna Molewa recently took place. Hanegbi, an ardent advocate of war crimes against Palestinians, has recently threatened the Palestinian people with a “new Nakba,” referring to the premeditated ethnic cleansing of a majority of the indigenous Palestinians around 1948 to create a Jewish-majority settler colony in their homeland.  Hanegbi voted this past January in favor of a racist anti-African law, which sought to compel non-Jewish African refugees to self-deport by seizing their wages. Palestinians have described this meeting as a “betrayal”. Click here

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Worker and labour issues
Some of the labour issues to be raised at today protest include NEHAWU’s call for the Chief Finance Officer of DIRCO to be investigated for mismanagement of funds. The issue of senior accounting clerks not being properly remunerated. Various funded posts within DIRCO not being filled. DIRCO’s lack of transformation, with serious discrimination particularly with unfair placements to foreign missions. DIRCO’s union bashing and disrespect for shop stewards.