Cape Town -
President Jacob Zuma is to dispatch former deputy foreign minister Aziz Pahad to Israel and Palestine to convey South Africa’s “growing concern with the escalation of violence there, including the endless wanton killing of Palestinian civilians and the destruction of homes in Gaza”.
Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane announced this at her department’s budget speech in Parliament on Tuesday.
She said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would soon be invited to make a working visit to South Africa to discuss the crisis.
South Africa would provide $1 million (R10.6m) of humanitarian assistance to Gaza.
Officials had earlier indicated that Nkoana-Mashabane would announce a “special envoy” to the Middle East, tasked with seeking a truce in the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, which has already claimed more than 500 lives.
They believed the envoy would be acceptable to both sides, as the government had maintained a “balanced” position in the conflict.
South Africa had close ties with Palestine but had resisted growing pressure from the pro-Palestine lobby in South Africa to expel Israel’s ambassador, Arthur Lenk, and recall South Africa’s ambassador to Israel, Sisa Ngombane.
However, the minister did not call Pahad a “special envoy”in the written version of her speech nor describe his mission as trying to bring about a ceasefire.
“The restoration of lasting peace in the Middle East is in our interest. In this respect, President Zuma will be dispatching a team, led by our former deputy minister Mr Aziz Pahad, to Israel and Palestine to convey our growing concern with the escalation of violence there, including the endless wanton killing of Palestinian civilians and the destruction of homes in Gaza,” she said.
The announcement of Pahad’s mission to the Middle East could help the government resist the pressure for action against Israel.
Independent Foreign Service