Calls to expel Israeli ambassador from South Africa

The ANC (African National Congress), its alliance members, Cosatu and the SACP (South African Communist Party), and pro-Palestinian organisations held a press conference at Cosatu House earlier today, denouncing the Israeli government for denying Minister Blade Nzimande and his delegation visas to enter Palestine.  

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PRO-PALESTINE ALLIANCE: Members of COSATU, SACP, BDSSA, YCL, and SAUS, amongst others at Cosatu House announcing their plans to boycott Israel earlier today. Photo: Zimasa Mpemnyama

Various African National Congress-aligned and pro-Palestinian organisations vowed today that they would force the South African government to expel the Israeli ambassador, amongst other demands.

The demands, in response to Israel’s refusal to grant a visa to Minister Blade Nzimande and his delegation to travel to Palestine, were announced at a press conference held this afternoon at Cosatu House.

Organisations present at the press conference included the South African Communist Party (SACP), Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), the ANC Youth League (ANCYL), Young Communist League (YCL), South African Students Congress (SASCO), the South African Union of Students (SAUS), and members of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions South Africa (BDSSA), amongst others.

The organisations said they believed that Nzimande, the minister of Higher Education and Training, was denied access to Palestine because of Israel’s “apartheid” laws.

“The embassy of Israel must go.”

The acting National Spokesperson of Cosatu, Norman Mampane, said Blade Nzimande’s stance against Isreal should not be viewed as his individual views, but rather as ANC policy, adopted by the ANC National Executive Committee.

Government given an ultimatum

Mampane highlighted an action plan that included requesting the ANC government to impose bans on Israeli nationals travelling to South Africa, holding a national meeting with Student Representative Councils (SRCs), from universities around the country to discuss an academic boycott of Israel, and calling for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador, Arthur Lenk, from South Africa within 10 days.

“It’s clear that they [Israel] don’t want to talk … so in ten days if the embassy is not closed, we will go and close it ourselves,” said Matome Chiloane, Chairman of the Gauteng ANCYL.

Bheki Ntshalintshali, Cosatu Deputy General Secretary said that they are not surprised by the Israeli government’s decision to deny Minister Nzimande a visa, because the “Israeli government has been consistent in denying Palestinian people their freedom”.

“The embassy of Israel must go,” Ntshalintshali said.

Nzimande was invited to Palestine to discuss and participate in the launch of the Centre for African Studies at a Palestinian university. Nzimande did not attend the press conference.