Cape Town - The South African Rugby Union’s (Saru’s) decision to withdraw their Mzanzi Challenge invitation to Israeli team, the Tel Aviv Heats, has received a mixed response from lobby groups in the country.
The Heats were scheduled to compete in a competition with four other international teams and six South African provinces from next month.
SA Rugby announced the withdrawal on Friday, following outrage from various groups, and engagements with various stakeholders.
Africa4Palestine director Muhammed Desai applauded sports and rugby representatives who engaged on the matter.
“In 2017, the ANC adopted a resolution to downgrade South Africa’s embassy in Israel. Since then, South Africa has limited diplomatic relations with Israel and no ambassador posted to Tel Aviv.
“We commend the South African government, sporting associations, representatives and others for embracing the spirit of global solidarity with the oppressed.
“International solidarity was made popular by the global anti-apartheid movement in the ’70s and ’80s when apartheid South African rugby teams were barred from participating in international events.
“Today international solidarity is being made popular by the international anti-apartheid movement to isolate the apartheid regime of Israel,” Desai said.
South African Friends of Israel (Safi) spokesperson Pamela Ngubane, however, had a different view, and criticised the decision, saying Israel has “consistently shown itself to be a valuable partner for sustainable development in its relations with all other African nations”.
“It is sad to see that Israel, as the only democracy in the Middle East, is being treated in this manner by SA sporting structures. “Israel is home to a multicultural society where the rights of all religions, minorities, ethnicities and beliefs are protected and promoted.
“Safi will be taking action against Saru for allowing political interference in our sporting events and will communicate these steps in due course.”
Saru president Mark Alexander said: “We have listened to the opinions of important stakeholder groups and have taken this decision to avoid the likelihood of the competition becoming a source of division, notwithstanding the fact that Israel is a full member of World Rugby and the International Olympic Committee.”
The Israeli rugby team will now be replaced by a team from Mexico.