The ANC has indicated its intention to back a parliamentary motion calling on the government to close the Israeli embassy in South Africa and suspend all diplomatic relations with that country until it agrees to a ceasefire and commits to binding UN-facilitated negotiations.
This was just hours after President Cyril Ramaphosa confirmed that the South African government had put through a referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC) against the Israeli government.
“We cannot sit back and watch the genocidal actions of the Israeli regime.
President Ramaphosa has stated clearly that the ANC-led government as well as the ANC does not condone any form of violence directed at citizens. We welcome the fact that in this intervention South Africa is not alone it has the support of other nations. We reiterate our call for a ceasefire for humanitarian corridors to be fully operational.
“Given the unfolding atrocities in occupied Palestine, the African National Congress will agree to a parliamentary motion which calls upon the government to close the Israel embassy in South Africa and suspend all diplomatic relations with Israel until Israel agrees to a ceasefire and commits to binding United Nations facilitated negotiations whose outcome must be a just, sustainable and lasting peace,” the ANC said in a statement.
Israel has vowed to eradicate Hamas in retaliation for the attacks of October 7, which killed 1 200 people, most of them civilians, and saw about 240 people taken hostage, according to Israeli officials. However, Palestinian civilians have suffered the most as a result of the Israeli attacks, with officials saying the death toll from the offensive has now topped 11 500, including thousands of children.
In Parliament on Thursday, parties were split in the middle when they debated the EFF-sponsored motion whether South Africa should close the embassy and cut diplomatic ties with Israel.
While the Department of International Relations and Co-operation said the government needed to take into consideration the effect of closing the Israeli embassy on its diplomatic presence in Palestine, the EFF was amenable to an ANC proposal to amend the draft resolution to be voted on this Tuesday.
EFF leader Julius Malema said they tabled the draft resolution understanding that later when the full plenary of Parliament sits, the House would vote hopefully in their favour.
He said their call was based on brutal and inhumane violence that Israel unleashed on Palestinians over the past several weeks.
Malema called for the world to isolate Israel through disinvestment and sanctions until they end military occupation and allow Palestinian refugees in surrounding countries the right of return.
“We call on the Ramaphosa-ANC government to shut down the Israel embassy in Pretoria and end diplomatic relations with that brutal apartheid Israeli regime in the name of our constitutional values.
“We must end this relationship until the human rights of Palestinians are respected, protected and promoted.”
He said Israel should comply with international law and welcomed the referral of a complaint to the ICC.
Deputy Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Candith Mashego-Dlamini said the actions witnessed in the Israel-Palestine conflict were a violation of international law including the UN Charter and Geneva Convention and protocols and also condemned Hamas for attacking civilians and taking hostages.
“The ICC needs to expedite its investigation of Israel for committing war crimes including genocide,” she said.
ANC MP Hope Papo said the party was working hard politically and diplomatically with other countries to adopt a hard stance against Israel.
However, he said any decision taken has to be “rational, strategic and tactical and should not result in weakening of and isolation of the country from the rest of the region and the continent”.
“While we support the essence of motion, we are open for an engagement with the EFF so that there could be some amendment which does not change the essence of the motion,” he said.
“We hope that the EFF will accept the amendment we have to make to the motion which does not change its essence,” Papo added.
In response, Malema said they were not opposed to any amendment because the resolution was not for political point scoring.
However, DA MP Emma Powell said it was vital for South Africa to retain diplomatic channels with both Israel and Palestine.
“The ANC’s decision to withdraw diplomats from Tel Aviv, and the EFF’s proposed expulsion of the Israeli ambassador from South Africa, will simply diminish our country’s ability to demand accountability in the region, and to influence a swift and peaceful resolution to this abhorrent war,” Powell said.
ACDP leader Kenneth Meshoe said: “The EFF and the ANC must stop being hypocrites and accept the fact South Africa has many needs and Israel has the expertise to meet them in areas such as health care, innovation, technology, agriculture, and economic growth.”
IFP MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa said they did not believe the cutting of diplomatic ties with Israel was the best course of action.