Agriculture MEC Gerrit van Rensburg

AGRICULTURE MEC Gerrit van Rensburg has decided against taking a trip to Israel after the Department of International Relations and Co-operation told him visits by government officials to that country had to be kept to a minimum, his spokesman, Wouter Kriel, has said.

Van Rensburg and two others were due to leave on Saturday, but Van Rensburg had decided to stay after the department’s letter was received on Friday, said Kriel.

“The visit had nothing to do with politics. The MEC was to go on a fact-finding mission and would have attended an expo on agriculture and the latest technology on irrigation. That was the purpose of his visit... The MEC was disappointed because the visit had been in the pipeline for some time,” Kriel said.

He said André Roux, a chief director in Van Rensburg’s department, went in the MEC’s place and was accompanied by Andrew Thorps, a farmworker.

Zackie Achmat, activist and a member of Open Shuhada Street, said this represented “a major step forward for the government in its stand against Israeli apartheid and occupation”.

Achmat said that the Deputy Ministers of International Relations and Co-operation, Ebrahim Ebrahim and Marius Fransman, should be congratulated for “their stand” as they had said the government discouraged high-level contact with Israel because of its occupation and expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Department spokesman Clayson Monyela and Fransman’s head of office, Zahier Amien, could not be reached for comment last night.