South Africa ANC Backs Minister on Israeli Embassy Downgrade

South African Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Lindiwe Sisulu. (Photo: via MEMO)

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) party has backed the country’s Minister of International Relations, Lindiwe Sisulu, who has come under attack for her role in downgrading South Africa’s embassy to Israel.

Sisulu has been attacked from a number of fronts, including by South Africa’s Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD). Vice-president of the SAJBD, Zev Krengel, last week accused Sisulu of being “the single biggest enemy” of South Africa’s Jewish community, claiming she is “obsessed with criticizing the Jewish state [Israel]”.

Krengel’s attack continued:

“Either the minister [Sisulu] was electioneering and trying to cozy up to the BDS-SA [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions South Africa] movement and other radical elements within the Muslim community, or she was adding to internal ANC struggles, and trying to embarrass the president [Cyril Ramaphosa].”

South Africa last week held its general election, during which President Ramaphosa and his ANC party were re-elected, but with a reduced majority of 58 percent.

Despite Krengel’s accusations that Sisulu was trying to weaken the ANC with her policies vis a vis Israel, the party yesterday publicly backed its minister. 

The ANC said:

“Minister Sisulu’s integrity is beyond reproach […] The ANC is satisfied that minister Sisulu has recalibrated South Africa’s foreign policy so that it reflects the people of South Africa’s profound opposition to gross human rights abuses and colonial occupation of Palestine.”

Meanwhile the ANC’s Secretary General, Ace Magashule, also expressed his support for Sisulu, saying:

“We congratulate you, because you are moving with the collective […] Stay resolute because you are implementing the decisions of the highest decision-making body of the ANC national conference.”

Sisulu has been at the forefront of South Africa’s downgrading of relations with Israel since 2017 when the ANC decided to implement a resolution directing the government to “immediately and unconditionally downgrade the South African embassy in Israel to a liaison office”. 

Last month South Africa implemented the first phase of this decision, downgrading its formerly full-service embassy in Tel Aviv to a liaison office – a diplomatic mission with limited functionality. Sisulu explained in a statement at the time that this office “will have no political mandate, no trade mandate and no development-cooperation mandate,” adding that it would focus only on “consular [assistance] and the facilitation of people-to-people relations”.

South Africa’s Ambassador to Tel Aviv, Sisa Ngombane, was also permanently recalled as part of the downgrade.

(Middle East Monitor, PC, Social Media)

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