Press statement by Alliance components, progressive civil society, student and youth organisations and the progressive academia
27 April 2015, Johannesburg, South Africa
We, the undersigned progressive civil society organisations, youth, student and South Africa’s liberation Alliance components;
Gather today on 27 April, which is marked as Freedom Day in South Africa.
The struggle for our breakthrough which laid the foundation for the development of democracy and our march to complete freedom was fought for by our democratic people and supported by millions around the world, to whom we are indebted in solidarity.
Former President Nelson Mandela famously said:
"Our Freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”
As South African political and progressive civil society, we consider Israel’s decision to deny Higher Education and Training Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande and three officials from the Department entry into Palestine an affront to not only the Minister, the Department, but also as a diplomatic insult to the South African Government and its people.
Let us be very clear, Minister Blade Nzimande's support for the Palestinian struggle and boycott of Israel is not a personal position but representative of the resolutions of the various organisations that he is a leader of – the SACP and ANC in the main.
It is wrong for the Israeli Government to try and suggest that Dr Nzimande is acting on his personal whims when supporting the freedom of the Palestinian people.
In fact, we see clearly what the Israeli lobby is trying to do, it is trying to isolate supporters of Palestine from within the ruling ANC Alliance not realising that leaders who are vocal in support of the Palestinian freedom are simply articulating the ANC-led Alliance and South African government’s long-standing positions.
The Israeli lobby tried to isolate in our recent past other ANC members and government officials including International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana Mashabane, Deputy Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim; ANC Deputy Secretary General Jessie Duarte, ANC Head of International Relations Obed Bapela and various other leaders.
Vocal South African activists for the Palestinian struggle have for a long time now been denied entry to Palestine. Enough is enough is enough!
The support for Palestinian freedom and Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign was most recently reaffirmed by the ANC National Executive Committee which called for:
"a cultural, academic and education boycott of Israel including travel bans for members and leaders of the ANC, the Alliance, Members of Cabinet, Members of Parliament and Government Officials to Israel”;
as well as a the recommendation that:
“companies that do business in the Israeli occupied [Palestinian] territories, such as Capegate, G4S Security and Caterpillar must not be allowed to business with [the South African] state.”
When Dr Nzimande then supports and advances the academic boycott of Israel in his capacity of Minister he is not articulating his personal positions but in fact that of the ANC, the SACP and various other South African organisations and its people.
This apartheid of not granting a visa to Dr Nzimande exposes Israeli control of Palestinian borders, access and general freedom of movement. No one after this incident can claim that Palestine is not occupied by the Apartheid Regime of Israel.
The oppressor state of Israel denied South Africa’s Higher Education and Training Minister and Member of Parliament, Dr Blade Nzimande and three officials from the Department entry visas to Palestine. Dr Nzimande, who is a Member of the African National Congress National Executive Committee and South African Communist Party General Secretary was invited to visit Palestine in his capacity as Higher Education and Training Minister by his counterpart, Palestinian Minister of Higher Education, Dr Khawla Shaksheer.
The visit was planned to take place from 25 to 29 April 2015 following a state visit to South Africa in November 2014 by Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas. The purpose of the visit was for the two Ministers to discuss an implementation plan signed during the state visit on behalf of the people of Palestine and South Africa by President Abbas and President Jacob Zuma respectively.
The academic co-operation between the two countries is also meant to encourage further academic collaboration among the two countries’ various academics, students and research communities, said the Higher Education and Training Department on 23 April 2015. “Birzeit University and the University of Johannesburg have been identified as possible partners to collaborate in hosting area study programmes at their respective institutions and during the visit Minister Nzimande was to participate in a launch of the Centre for African Studies to be based at the Ibrahim Abu-Lughod Institute at the Birzeit University”, said the Department which expressed its disappointment at the decision by Israel.
Israel is has destroying any chance of diplomatic relations with South Africa. Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman shamefully attacked the South African government over the weekend saying:
"It would be best for the South African government and the Communist Party to desist from attacking and inciting against Israel, which is a glorious democracy that deals exceptionally well, while ensuring maximum human rights and international norms, with threats and terrorist elements which, had they been active in South Africa, would have caused a bloodbath in the streets… it's no surprise that the South African Communist Party prefers the Palestinians over Israel, as like is attracted to like."
We are unapologetically attracted to the oppressed!
Programme of Action to be rolled out from today onwards:
1. Calling for the decision by the ANC to institute a travel ban to Israel as articulated by the National Executive Committee to be strengthened and further implemented at all levels of government.
2. Meeting with the Department of Home Affairs to demand that the automatic visas for Israelis – which is a hang-over from Apartheid – will be suspended and requirements will be introduced for Israelis wanting to travel to South Africa including requiring them to declare their involvement in the Israeli Defence Forces, the Israeli occupation, illegal settlements or other Israeli war crimes.
3. An announcement on Thursday by the SRCs of five SA universities to deal with the academic boycott of Israel and will include the participaton of the South African Union of Students which represents all Student Representative Councils of universities.
4. BDS South Africa together with all our progressive organisations will host an international conference on the academic boycott of apartheid state of Israel; the Department of Higher Education and Training has been invited to participate and support the event. Special guests to be included Minister Nzimande; former UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Professor Richard Falk of Princeton University (who has also been denied entry to Palestine); Omar Barghouti (of the Palesitnain Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel); National Coalition; and Progressive Israeli academics.
5. Meeting with Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to call for an immediate end to Israeli agricultural interests in South Africa.
6. Engaging with the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions to prosecute South Africans serving in Israeli defence forces in violation of South African law.
7. If the Department of International Relations and Co-operation does not expel the Israeli Ambassador 10 days from now, our progressive organisations will take upon ourselves to be at the Israeli Embassy on the 15th of May to expel the Israeli Ambassador in a protest march which will also commemorate the Palestinian Nakba.
8. COSATU together with alliance partners will use the upcoming May Day rallies to mobilise support for the Palestinian freedom and intensify the boycott of Israeli products as well as services including the#BoycottWoolworths campaign.
The decision by Israel to deny the Minister and other government officials entry into Palestine constitutes a suppression of academic freedom. The South African government must act! Failure to do so means Israel can pick and choose which South African government ministers and officials are allowed to visit Palestine. This will be tantamount to Israel undermining South Africa’s national sovereignty – which we cannot allow. In terms of international law Israel does not have any right to decide who the friends of the Palestinian people should be.
- Solly Mapaila, South African Communist Party Deputy General Secretary (on behalf of the SACP National Chairperson who is also the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Cde Senzeni Zokwana)
- Bheki Ntshalintshali, COSATU Acting General Secretary
- Muhammed Desai, BDS South Africa Co-ordinator
- Mluleki Dlelanga, National Secretary, Young Communist League of SA
- Matome Chiloane (Provincial Chairperson, ANC Youth League)
- Ahmed Saloojee, Chairperson, Palestine Solidarity Alliance)
- Kwara Kekana, Deputy Coordinator of BDS South Africa
- Dr Anis Daraghma, National Coalition for Palestine. Institute of Palestine and South Africa
- Tebogo Thothela, Deputy President, South African Union of Students
- Lucas Qakaza, South African National Civic Organisation (HQ)
- Altaaf Adam, Chairperson Palestine Solidarity Alliance Youth League
- Bassam Elhussiny (Palestinian Embassy in South Africa)
- Riekert Koen, Political Commissar of South African Students Congress (Wits)