/ 20 October 2023

Boycott Israeli imports, urges ANC at pro-Palestine rally

Demonstrators held aloft scores of banners and posters calling for an end to the violence in Palestine's Gaza Strip.
We cannot be like the West and turn our back on the Palestinian people and the question of their freedom

ANC deputy secretary general Nomvula Mokonyane has urged South Africans to boycott imports from Israel in response to its retaliatory siege of Gaza following attacks by Hamas.

Speaking during a march to the Israeli embassy in Pretoria in solidarity with Palestine, Mokonyane reiterated the ruling party’s condemnation of Israel. She also called for the closure of the embassy.

“Down with the Israeli government, down. Down with the killing of people and the bombing of hospitals, down. The Israeli embassy must leave South Africa. The embassy must close and the ambassador must go. Boycott Israeli products,” Mokonyane said.

Speaking to the Mail & Guardian last week Mokonyane, who heads the ANC international relations committee, accused the Israeli embassy in South Africa of “arrogance” and unwillingness to engage about the conflict and called out the “inconsistencies” in how the world’s superpowers have reacted to it.

On Friday, Mokonyane reiterated South Africa’s calls for an immediate end to hostilities in the Middle East, the release of hostages and the establishment of humanitarian corridors.

The ANC said Friday’s march was aimed at raising awareness of the Palestinian people’s predicament and to advocate for peace talks between the warring parties.

In 2017, the ANC’s national policy conference decided to adopt a resolution made by the party in the Western Cape to downgrade South Africa’s embassy in Israel because of the expansion of Israeli settlements into Palestinian territories. That resolution would be brought to the elective conference where it would have to be approved before it could be put to government.

In 2019, then minister of international relations and co-operation Lindiwe Sisulu clarified that a decision had been made to not replace the ambassador.

The embassy, which would be downgraded to a liaison office, “will have no political mandate, no trade mandate and no development co-operation mandate”. 

“It will not be responsible for trade and commercial activities,” Sisulu stated. However, consular services, such as visa issuing, remained in place.

On Thursday, ANC secretary general Fikile Mbalula told a media briefing that the former liberation movement would always stand with the Palestinians.

“We’ve got a democracy today that is flourishing, we’ve got everything in this country, because somebody, somewhere had to stand at the United Nations to say, ‘No apartheid, apartheid is an evil,’” he said.

“What is happening today in Palestine is evil and the ANC will be in the trenches and will be on the side of the Palestinian people.”

He questioned the US’s support for Israel, telling journalists: “There is a problem, there is a challenge in the Middle East and all of that, we will give you arms … that’s what happens. Where does the notion of peace come in from a state and a superpower like America?”