SOUTH AFRICA’s international relations and cooperation minister Lindiwe Sisulu has disclosed that her country wants, “as soon as possible” to sever diplomatic relations with Israel. Delivering her keynote address at the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) on April 3, the minister announced that “stage one” of the downgrade of South Africa’s Embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel to a liaison office had been completed.
She said South Africa’s Ambassador to Israel, Sisa Ngombane, was back “in South Africa and we will not be replacing him.”
Sisulu disclosed that South Africa’s liaison office in Tel Aviv would have neither political nor trade mandates and that it would have no development cooperation mandate.
“It will not be responsible for trade and commercial activities. The focus of the liaison office would be on consular and the facilitation of people-to-people relations,” Sisulu said, according to information availed to The Mast by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel in South Africa (BDS South Africa).
BDS South Africa is a registered organisation in that country, (together with other Palestine solidarity groups, trade unions, political formations and human rights organisations) advancing, in South Africa, the international BDS campaign against Israel. Sisulu further said South Africa’s governing party, the ANC, already had no relations with Israel and suggested that eventually the Asian country would no longer have an Ambassador in South Africa.
“The ANC’s position in relation to Israel is very clear. We have no relations with Israel. That’s what we would like the government to adopt as soon as possible,” Sisulu said.
At the same event, Sisulu was asked why the South African government allowed the University of Cape Town (UCT), a partly government-funded institution, to have relations with Israeli universities. Recently, the UCT Council overturned a decision by the University’s senate to cut off relations with Israeli universities.
“The reason why public institutions have relations with countries the ANC has decided to sever relations with is possibly because we have been slow in getting to where we should,” Sisulu said.
“If we had done it much faster, we would have had a very clear policy where we direct even public institutions like the one you are talking about [with] what the government’s position is in relation to Israel.”
Sisulu added that the government would eventually deal with the matter of public institutions like UCT and their relations with Israel. The BDS South Africa welcomed the minister’s remarks on the South African government’s and ANC’s support for the Palestinian struggle. Israeli Ambassador to South Africa Keinan said on Thursday he had “no comment regarding South African policy-making”.