Africa4Palestine welcomes decision to withdraw Israeli rugby team Tel Aviv Heat’s invitation to Mzansi Challenge

Mark Alexander, Saru president during the Springboks press conference at Southern Sun Hotel, Pretoria on 23 June 2022 ©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Mark Alexander, Saru president during the Springboks press conference at Southern Sun Hotel, Pretoria on 23 June 2022 ©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Published Feb 5, 2023


Johannesburg – Human rights organisation Africa4Palestine has welcomed the decision by South African Rugby to withdraw its invitation to the Israeli rugby team, Tel Aviv Heat.

Africa4Palestine says it particularly thanks the South African Minister of Sports, Arts, and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, and all other stakeholders for upholding South Africa’s commitment to human rights and solidarity with the people of Palestine in their struggle against Israeli apartheid.

“The Israeli rugby team, Tel Aviv Heat, was to play in the recently announced 'Mzansi Challenge' due to start on March 24, 2023. Given the withdrawal, the Israel rugby team will now be replaced by a team from Mexico,” said the organisation.

Africa4Palestine also noted that in 2017, South Africa’s ruling party, the ANC, adopted a resolution to downgrade South Africa's Embassy in Israel. Since then, South Africa has had limited diplomatic relations with Israel, and no ambassador has been 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 1970s 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,” added the Africa4Palestine statement.

Meanwhile, the South African Friends of Israel (Safi) has also noted the South African Rugby Union’s (Saru) decision to withdraw their Mzansi Challenge invitation to the international qualifying team, the Tel Aviv Heats, simply because they reside in Israel.

Safi said Saru has shamelessly succumbed to political pressure and is amending the fixtures for the sporting competition as such.

“This is in direct violation of Section 5.3 of the Saru constitution, which clearly states a mandate to pursue ‘policies and programmes, at national and all other levels, aimed at redressing imbalances of the past and creating a genuinely non-racial, non-sexist, non-political, and democratic dispensation for rugby in South Africa’,” Safi said.

The organisations said it was saddening to see that Saru has allowed politics to define who is welcome to participate in sporting events in our beautiful country.

“This is particularly devastating when Israel has consistently shown itself to be a valuable partner for sustainable development in its relations with all other African nations.

“As a matter of fact, Israeli technology and innovation have provided a stable water supply to over half a million people living in rural communities in South Africa.

“And yet, we will not invite them over for a rugby match,” added Safi.

According to Safi, it is apparent that Israel, as the only democracy in the Middle East, is being treated in this manner by South African 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,” said the organisation.

The Star