Minister of Sport Thulas Nxesi
Johannesburg – A political storm cloud is hovering over the forthcoming Davis Cup by BNP Paribas match against Israel, organised by Tennis South Africa (TSA), and to be held in Pretoria from the 2nd to the 3rd of February following South African Sports Minister Thulas Nxesi’s decision to boycott the event.

Nxesi’s decision to boycott the event follows a letter sent to the minister by several South African human rights organisations and the personal humiliation he experienced in 2012 when he was refused entry into Israel-Palestine.

“I would actually have loved to attend the Davis Cup but given the concerns that activists and fellow South Africans are raising regarding the presence of an Israeli team I believe that it would not be proper for me to attend,” said Nxesi in his response to a letter sent to him by BDS South Africa, National Coalition 4 Palestine, SA Jews for a Free Palestine, Palestine Solidarity Alliance and the Wits University Palestine Solidarity Committee.

“I myself have experienced Israeli discrimination and occupation when I was denied entry to Palestine in 2012. In response to this and other practices by the Israeli regime against the Palestinians, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and many other notable South Africans, have called on the world to support the Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement,” added the sports minister.

“This call for BDS is increasingly supported by progressive Jewish Israelis who remind us of our own icon, Joe Slovo, who, while he was Jewish, dissociated himself from the practices of the Israeli regime.”

On Friday BDS South Africa released a statement in response saying they welcomed Nxesi’s decision to boycott the upcoming tennis match.

However, TSA has distanced itself from the political divide.

“The event has evoked a variety of views, from different groups within our society. For this reason, we would like to clarify our position,” said TSA in response to a letter sent to it by rights groups.

“TSA, along with 200 other countries globally, is an affiliate of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and participates in the Davis Cup – the World Cup of Tennis – on an annual basis.

“One of the ITF’s key objectives for this competition is to grow the sport of tennis, and to do so without discrimination on the grounds of colour, race, nationality, ethnic or national origin, age, sex or religion.

“The ITF believes that sport should be used as a unifying element between athletes and nations.

“The ITF’s flagship competitions, Davis Cup by BNP Paribas and Fed Cup by BNP Paribas, were founded on the idea of fostering greater understanding among nations through tennis, a principle that is as valid today as it was over 100 years ago.

“TSA fully supports the guiding principles of both the ITF and the Davis Cup,” concluded the statement.

In 2009 South Africa’s Human Sciences Research Council documented a report in which they claimed Israel was practising apartheid in the Occupied Palestinian territories.

South Africa further raised the ire of Israel on Tuesday during a fiery exchange in Geneva, Switzerland during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), an assessment held every five years by the United Nations Human Rights Council, which is seen as a barometer of the state of human rights in a given country.

Delegates from over 100 countries, including the 47-strong United Nations Human Rights Council, attended the debate.

On the subject of Israel’s human right record, South Africa’s delegate Clinton Swemmer stated: “Israel is the only state in the world that can be called an apartheid state. We remain deeply concerned at the denial of the right of self-determination to the Palestinian people, in the absence of which no other human right can be exercised or enjoyed.”

African News Agency/ANA