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SA ministers complete symbolic hunger strike to support Palestinian prisoners

Politics

Johannesburg – On Monday a large number of South African cabinet ministers, including South Africa’s Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, completed a 24 hour symbolic hunger strike in support of the Palestinian political prisoners who are now on Day 30 of a hunger strike in Israeli jails which began on April 17th. Many of the Palestinian prisoners are now facing emaciation and some even death.

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Palestinian activists stand around a mosaic portrait of political prisoner Marwan Barghouti near an Israeli military installation in the West Bank city of Ramallah. File photo: Nasser Shiyoukhi/AP

South Africa’s Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies completed the symbolic hunger strike saying, “This is a very small gesture of solidarity with those brave freedom fighters of Palestine struggling for the very same rights many of us now take for granted in South Africa, but which were in fact won through the same spirit of selfless commitment.”

South Africa’s Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Nomaindia Mfeketo also joined in the symbolic hunger strike even though she was ill at the time. She said that she was saddened by the protracted hunger strike that Palestinian political prisoners have embarked on in their demands for an end to Israel’s detention without trial, and other human rights violations.

“To many of us our solidarity in this campaign is very personal because of our own experience under Apartheid. We too, like the heroic Palestinians, were once called terrorists. We, like the Palestinians, were detained. We, like the Palestinians today, embarked on hunger strikes in from our prison cells in protest against Apartheid South Africa’s human rights violations,” Mfeketo said.

“We also note the growing number of the South African Jews who have joined this 24 hour fast and are in protest against Israel’s discriminatory policies. They remind us of our own white comrades who refused to let the Apartheid Government speak in their name,” Mfeketo said in her statement on Monday.

Mfeketo was herself detained during the 1980s, and embarked on a hunger strike in protest against apartheid South Africa's practice of detention without trial among other issues. The first time she was arrested was on 7th January 1987, when she was held for nine months, and the second time she was detained from August 1988 until May 1989. When she was arrested in 1988, she was with her three week old child.

Mfeketo has noted that in Ireland the Palestinian flag is flying above certain government buildings in support of the Palestinians, and there is a motion in the Portuguese Parliament in support of the #PalestinainPoliticalPrisoners.

Mfeketo ended her remarks by quoting former president Nelson Mandela: "We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinian people".

Former Robben Island political prisoner Ebrahim Ismail Ebrahim, South African artist Natalia Molebatsi and a number of other civil society leaders spoke at a public event on Monday evening on Constitution Hill in support of the Palestinian political prisoners.

In addition to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies, and Deputy Minister of International Relations Nomaindia Mfkeketo, other cabinet ministers who participated in the symbolic hunger strike included Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo, and Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel. There were also lunch time pickets on Monday outside South African provincial legislatures in keeping with the call made by the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation.

Independent Media

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