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

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.”

Deputy Minister of International Relations and Co-operation 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 detention without trial, and other human rights violations in Israel.

“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 from our prison cells in protest against apartheid South Africa’s human rights violations.

“We also note the growing number of 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 January 7, 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 Ramaphosa, Davies, and Mfeketo, 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.