Johannesburg - The South African Government is outraged that Israel has denied a visa to South African Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande to visit Palestine with an official delegation.

“The Israeli Government is trying by all means to hide their atrocities against the Palestinian people, and minimize the number of people who can actually see what is happening on the ground,” Nzimande told Independent Media on Thursday.

Nzimande was invited to Palestine by his Palestinian counterpart from 25-29 April 2015 in order to discuss the implementation of an agreement on academic collaboration that they signed when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited South Africa in November 2014.

Birzeit University and the University of Johannesburg have been identified as possible academic partners, and Minister Nzimande was scheduled to participate in the launch of the Centre for African Studies at Birzeit University, for which South Africa would be the anchor. A Centre for Middle East Studies was also due to be launched at the University of Johannesburg, for which the University of Birzeit would have been the anchor.

Nzimande and his delegation of three officials had followed normal procedures to apply for a visa through the Embassy of Israel, but the application was returned with no explanation. The Israeli Embassy has now confirmed that they declined to issue the visa, and are adamant they will not be issuing the visas.

Nzimande is convinced that the Israelis want to punish him and the South African Communist Party for being so vocal in the past on their support for the Palestinian struggle for self-determination and a viable independent state.

Minister Nzimande is incensed at this blatant discrimination, and plans to request that all South African universities and colleges that have academic relations with Israeli institutions sever their ties. This academic boycott will only be called off once Israel fulfils its obligations under international law recognising Palestine along the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Nzimande is also calling on the Palestinian Solidarity Forum to call for a general academic boycott of all Israeli academic institutions. “What Israel is also doing is trying to subvert academic freedom, which cannot be tolerated,” Nzimande said. The Israeli Ambassador Arthur Lenk was unavailable for comment.

Foreign Bureau