Bodies of people killed in the attack by Gaza-based Hamas militants on southern Israel await identification outside the National Center for Forensic Medicine in Tel Aviv on October 16, 2023. (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP) (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP via Getty Images)
President Cyril Ramaphosa and International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor said on Tuesday there was no truth to a claim by Hamas that she had expressed support for its bloody incursion into southern Israel on 7 October.
“Not true at all,” presidential spokesman Vincent Magwenya told the Mail & Guardian.
“We do not have a bilateral relationship with Hamas.”
He was responding to a local news report on a statement from Hamas saying one of its political leaders, Ismail Haniyeh, had received a phone call from the minister to express solidarity and support for the unprecedented onslaught.
Pandor confirmed speaking to Haniyeh but said their conversation centred on humanitarian relief for Gaza, which is bracing for a ground invasion as part of Israel’s deadly retaliation to Hamas’s attacks.
“Pandor and the Hamas leader discussed how to get the necessary humanitarian aid to Gaza and other parts of the Palestinian territories,” her office said, before dismissing the rest as propaganda.
“The reports that minister Pandor also offered support for the ‘Battle of Al-Aqsa Flood’ are untrue and meant to impugn the minister and the government of South Africa.”
The statement from the militia group read: “The head of the Hamas political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, received a phone call from the South African Foreign Minister, where he [sic] affirmed South African solidarity with the Palestinian people and with Gaza in the Al-Aqsa flood battle, and expressed his sadness and regret for what the Palestinian people are experiencing in Gaza.”
Both Ramaphosa and Justice Minister Ronald Lamola have deplored the loss of civilian lives on both sides of the conflict, which is now in its eleventh day. Both have said that South Africa is ready to help negotiate a lasting peace settlement in which Palestinian statehood is recognised.
“The atrocities committed against civilian populations are causing great concern and we urgently call for an immediate cessation of violence from all parties involved,” Lamola told the 61st session of the Asian African Legal Consultative Organisation in Bali, Indonesia, earlier on Tuesday.
“South Africa believes the ongoing delay in resolving the conflict has led to an unending cycle of unspeakable atrocities and human rights violations.”
The department of international relations said it was in this context that Pandor had spoken to Haniyeh.
“Minister Pandor’s call with the Hamas leader is in line with South Africa’s readiness to engage all interlocutors as part of facilitating dialogue to end the ongoing conflict,” it said.
“South Africa therefore calls on all sides to seize the opportunity for peace, as opposed to violence, and for the international community to actively advocate for the implementation of its own international resolutions and establish a credible peace process.”
Lamola’s spokesman Chrispin Phiri criticised News24 for headlining an unverified claim by Hamas, saying: “This is not even probable.”