South African International Relations Deputy Minister Luwellyn Landers said South Africa’s ambassador to Israel, Sisa Ngombane, should be recalled for recent remarks made at a press conference.
Landers was speaking before Parliament’s portfolio committee on international relations and co-operation this week, and was asked about Ngombane’s alleged “pro-Israel” comments.
Landers said Ngombane essentially claimed Israel was justified in its attack on Gaza.
Ngombane had made the comments during a press conference at OR Tambo International to welcome home activist Leigh-Ann Naidoo, who was part of an all-female pro-Palestine flotilla that sailed to Gaza in an attempt to break the Israeli siege on the enclave.
Landers said the department had not made an official decision yet on Ngombane, but that his personal view was that he should be recalled as an ambassador.
Ngombane is alleged to have not assisted Naidoo with consular services, assistance and intervention when she was detained by Israel
— Palestine Chronicle (@PalestineChron) October 14, 2016
Landers stated that, “Any ambassador, regardless of who that person is, is elected to becoming ambassador and put forward government policy,” adding that this policy should “represent the policy decisions of the government of South Africa, not him or herself.”
He said he received a complaint by the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) group saying that Ngombane defied government policy on the Israel/Palestine conflict.
BDS SA has stated that “Ngombane has frequently contradicted both ANC resolutions and Government policies. We have received several reports increasingly suggesting that Ngombane has become an advocate for normalizing relations, especially trade, with Israel.”
According to the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign of South Africa (BDS SA), Mr Ngombane “conducted… https://t.co/OEI3Z9n0Ox
— antonio maniscalco (@antoniomanisca4) October 26, 2016
The organization added that Ngombane has previously said “It is important for the two governments [Israel and South Africa] to establish a pattern of meeting and talking so that they can find avenues of common ground outside the heated political arena. Trade is one of those avenues.”
BDS SA added that Ambassador Ngombane has also belittled South African civil society saying that the South African street might be strongly pro-Palestinian, but its calls against Israel have nothing to do with government policy.
Furthermore, Ambassador Ngombane is at odds with South African Government policy of no travel to Israel for SA Government officials which was explicitly stated by President Jacob Zuma earlier this year “We reiterate that we discourage travel to Israel for ANC leaders, members and representatives for business and leisure purposes”.
— BDS South Africa (@BDSsouthafrica) January 15, 2016
Finally, Ngombane was said to celebrate a relationship with TelFed inviting the organization for various events, meetings and engagements as well as attending events and programs of TelFed, according to BDS SA.
TelFed is the Israeli arm of the South Africa Zionist Federation that was established in 1948 even before the State of Israel was declared and was part of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian villages during Israel’s establishment.
TelFed, through the SA Zionist Federation, was even involved in flying military supplies to Israel during this period.
— msatonienne (@msatonienne) August 9, 2014
The organization boasts of its support for Southern Africans serving in the Israeli Defense Forces, on its website stating that there are between 35 and 50 ‘lone soldiers’ from Southern Africa volunteering in the Israeli army at any given time.
“South Africans serving in foreign armies violates various South African regulations. Organisations that support such mercenary activities should not be celebrated or endorsed by South African Government officials,” said BDS SA.
(PC, Independent Online, NEWS24)