24 October 2016

The human rights and Palestine solidarity organization, BDS South Africa, is encouraged by and welcomes the call by Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on International Relations for action against SA’s Ambassador to Israel, Sisa Ngombane.

In a statement released this past Friday (21 October) titled “Alleged Conduct of Ambassadors Should be Acted Upon”, Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation said:

“The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation, Mr Siphosezwe Masango, has called upon the Minister Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane to investigate the veracity of the allegations reported in the media against South Africa’s ambassadors to Singapore and Israel […] Mr Masango said it was important that the record of those who represent South Africa abroad is above reproach. “South Africa’s image should not be compromised by the same people we send abroad to promote our country. We hope that the Minister will take appropriate corrective actions should the allegations be true,” Mr Masango said. The Committee further calls upon the Minister to establish whether Mr Ngombane’s reported pronouncements are in conflict with policy on Israel and Palestine.” [Click here for full statement by Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation.]


In addition, according to news reports, South Africa’s Deputy Minister for International Relations and Cooperation, Mr Luwellyn Landers, has also called for South Africa’s Ambassador in Israel to be recalled. According to media reports, “Landers said Ngombane essentially claimed Israel was justified in its attack on [the Palestinian] Gaza. Deputy Minister Landers said the department had not made an official decision yet on Ngombane, but that his personal view was that he should be recalled as an ambassador.” (Click here for a News24 article.)


Several human rights organizations including BDS SA (click here), Women’s Boat to Gaza (click here), SA Jews for a Free Palestine (click here), MRN, PSC and others have called for action against South Africa’s ambassador in Israel for his conduct at a press conference last month as well as for his continued violation of South African Government policy on Palestine.


The long standing policy of the South African government and the ruling party, the ANC, is to only engage in meetings with Israel to pursue the peace process. Former DIRCO Deputy Minister and current Parliamentary advisor to the South Africa’s President, Ebrahim Ebrahim MP, has previously explained that: “Because of the treatment and policies of Israel towards the Palestinian people, we strongly discourage South Africans from going there.” Ebrahim added that this was South Africa’s “general policy.”

In 2013, our International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane confirmed that: “Palestinians had asked us in formal meetings to not engage with the [Israeli] regime […] we have [therefore] agreed to slow down and curtail senior leadership contact with that regime until things begin to look better”.

In November 2014, the ANC National executive Committee (NEC) took a decision supporting “the call for a cultural, academic and education boycott of Israel” which includes “travel bans for members and leaders of the ANC, the Alliance, Members of Cabinet, Members of Parliament and Government Officials.”

In 2015 the ANC’s NGC explained that: “we must continually review South Africa’s relations with the State of Israel…[and] encourage disengagement on programmes and activities that may impact on our solidarity with the people of Palestine. Travel to Israel will be discouraged, and we shall make a concerted effort to conscientise our young people, leaders and public representatives”. Immediately following last year’s 2015 NGC, President Zuma expressed frustration that: “Israel is continuing to kill Palestinians [but] nothing is said about Israel”.

This year in March 2016 the National Speaker of Parliament called on: “all progressive forces to continue to be in solidarity with the people of Palestine, for it was civil society and progressive governments that backed our cause that ultimately contributed to the collapse of apartheid in our country…Just as the world rallied to support South Africa in its struggle against Apartheid; we must now give back and support the international movement in solidarity with the indigenous Palestinian people, and their progressive Israeli allies.” President Zuma reminded political leaders earlier this year in January that: “We reiterate that we discourage travel to Israel for ANC leaders, members and representatives for business and leisure purposes”.


Following civil society complaints and calls for action activists are encouraged by these recent developments within Parliament and Government as well as the swift move towards action by members of Parliament, the Ministry and the leadership of the governing party, the ANC.  We are hopeful that there will be strong and firm action taken against Ambassador Ngombane or any other representative who defies and betrays our collective and democratic policies and principles, which includes our solidarity with the Palestinians and all other oppressed people.


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