Gigaba to take Israeli visa regulations proposal to Cabinet

BDS representative say current agreement has led to an imbalance in relationship between the two countries

Gigaba to take Israeli visa regulations proposal to Cabinet

16 May 2018

Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba says he will take a proposal he received on Tuesday regarding the status of visa regulations for Israeli citizens entering South Africa to Cabinet for consideration.

Gigaba met with representatives from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement at his parliamentary offices on Tuesday following a mass march to Parliament.

Marchers took to the streets of Cape Town following the killing of at least 58 people by the Israeli defence force and the wounding of more than 2 700 who protested along the Gaza border on Monday.

BDS representatives Braam Hanekom and Muhammad Desai asked Gigaba to review government's current visa agreement with Israel regarding entry into South Africa.

The group's main issue was that current visa regulations were guided by an apartheid-era agreement that has remained in force, resulting in Israeli officials and some citizens needing very little visa requirements when entering South Africa.

Hanekom said the agreement had led to an imbalance in the relationship between the two countries in that some South Africans found it tough to enter Israel, yet South African laws were more lenient on Israeli officials entering South Africa.

Dual citizenship

Desai also argued against a lack of vetting, considering that some officials may have served in the Israeli army in the conflict.

"I sat with the colleagues from BDS and heard the issues they raised with me," Gigaba told journalists at a press briefing on Tuesday.

"One will need to consult with Cabinet colleagues so that whatever response we give is a well-considered collective response of Cabinet.

"We will take forward the issues that are being raised in relation to a possible review, either altogether or to some limited extent, on the visa requirements in relation to the state of Israel."

They would also consider the group's complaints about South African citizens – who have previously fought in the Israeli army – holding dual citizenship.

"We all take a very dim view of any South African participating in a massacre of people regardless of the fact that those people are outside South Africa," Gigaba said.

A reminder of the days of apartheid

"The South African government regards the occupation of Palestine as unjust, and to that extent, we need to continue the effort that there is a climate for peace... and encouragement of dialogue."

Cabinet would not interfere in any person's right to hold dual citizenship as Jewish citizens, but the issue of participating in the Israel-Palestine war would be considered.

"We obviously are going to apply our minds with Cabinet colleagues, and we will respond in due course at the soonest available opportunity," he said.

Gigaba joined his colleagues in Cabinet, including International Relations Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, in condemning the killing of unarmed Palestinians and in sending condolences to the families of the deceased.

"The massacre reminded us of the hated days of apartheid," he said adding that it was time for peace and that the violence could only make "the lives of Israeli citizens more insecure".

"The government has responded appropriately as measure of first resort to recall the ambassador of South Africa to Israel."