JOHANNESBURG, July 26 – Protests were held across the country on Friday calling on Israel to end its attack on Gaza with thousands of people marching through city centres and religious organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and political parties united in one voice.
In Pretoria, prayers were held, followed by a march to the Israel Embassy. Among the protestors was the leader of opposition party Economic Freedom Fighters, Julius Malema, and South Africa’s former Ambassador to Israel, Ismail Coovadia.
Thousands of pro-Palestinian supporters descended on Parliament in Pretoria to hand over a memorandum calling on the government to exercise sanctions on Israel.
The Deputy Chairperson of the Islamic Unity Convention, Mogamat de Vries, said: “We [are] telling them to recall the (South African) ambassador and to cut ties with the illegitimate Israeli regime. We see them as an illegitimate regime.”
In Port Elizabeth, similar messages were conveyed. Protest organizer Tasneem Fredericks said: “We are saying to the ANC (ruling African National Congress) government today that they must expel the Israel Ambassador immediately and we also want the ANC government to recall our ambassador to come back home.”
On the streets of Mbombela in Mpumalanga Province, there was more solidarity with the people of Palestine. Palestine Solidarity Alliance leader Zaid Mohamed Boroko said: “We are calling on the Israelites to stop killing children, women and the elderly in Palestine.”
In Limpopo Province, hundreds also marched through the streets of the capital, Polokwane, to hand over a memorandum to premier Stanley Mathabatha.
In his response to the memorandum, Mathabatha said: “We are saying to you ‘Don’t lose hope’, this memorandum will be delivered to the Department of International Relations as a matter of urgency.”
The Tripartite Alliance in Northern Cape Province — which groups South Africa’s ruling ANC with the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the South African Communist Party (SACP) — joined hands with members of the Ulamah society.
Meanwhile, Cosatu has questioned the deployment of South African soldiers to Gaza.
Cosatu leader Anele Gxoyiya said: “Apartheid was declared a crime against humanity and if any of the South African soldiers are conscripted by Israel to go and attack innocent women and children in Palestine, we obviously would call that those people on their return to our shores, they must be charged, they don’t belong to South Africa.”
Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed in the assault that Israel says is designed to destroy tunnels that Hamas fighters use to enter Israel, as well as to target the rockets being fired into Israel.