Several of South African political parties put aside their differences to mark the International Day of Solidarity for Palestinians in Johannesburg today.
Together with pro-Palestinian civil society organisations they marched from the Mary Fritzgerald Square to the Nelson Mandela Bridge several kilometres away in the Central Business District.
The day is commemorated annually by the United Nations and this year takes place as Israel and Palestinian group Hamas are engaged in a conflict that began on 7 October.
The Johannesburg march takes place under the theme “Unite Against Genocide, Ceasefire Now”. Several hundred supporters congregated at the Mary Fritzgerald Square on Wednesday morning, their black, white and red, white keffiyehs flapping in the warm Johannesburg breeze.
Brandishing pro-Palestinian placards and the black, white, green and red striped flags they called for a ceasefire to the current fighting and a long-term solution to the decades-old political crisis between Israel and the Palestinians.
Amongst the political parties in attendance was the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which last week successfully sponsored a motion in Parliament for the expulsion of the Israeli Ambassador to South Africa.
“We are united against inhuman behaviour that is happening in Palestine, it is not about political affiliation and our ideological differences, today is about the children of Palestine, it is about the women, it is about the more than 50 journalists that have been killed in Israel,” says EFF’s Gauteng Secretary-General Moshe Koma.
The current pause in fighting in Gaza has been welcomed by the protestors. Besides Parliament’s motion, President Cyril Ramaphosa, together with a number of countries, referred Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the International Criminal Court for his arrest to be expedited.
The African National Congress’ Gauteng Provincial Secretary TK Nciza says the governing party has always championed the Palestinian cause and welcomed a number of the country’s other political parties putting their differences aside for a common cause.
“We always put and stand with those who are oppressed, if a motion comes in Parliament and we agree with it we are not going to stand against it because it is brought by any other party, we are not that organisation, we are an organisation that believes that people must be free. They must be able to express themselves, there must be freedom. We stand with the oppressed, so we commend all the political parties that are here as long as this will benefit the people of Palestine, we don’t believe in unnecessary divisions.”
ANC Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula says there is overwhelming support in South Africa for a ceasefire:
Over 14 800 people had been killed in Gaza and the West Bank by the Zionist Israeli regime since October 7, with over 6000 of those being children as reported by Al Jazeera. By the 10th November 2023, half of Gaza homes equivalent to 222 000 homes were damaged, with over 40 000… https://t.co/A1fQgavs4y pic.twitter.com/Nn3raP4qwJ
— ANC SECRETARY GENERAL | fikile Mbalula (@MbalulaFikile) November 29, 2023
ANC alliance partner, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) also joined the fray, saying recent developments point to the eventual liberation of Palestinians.
“Taking Netanyahu to the ICC and also the expulsion of the Israeli Ambassador in South Africa, it is an affirmation or confirmation of the historic long struggle and call for a termination to that it is how South Africa got its liberation. It was the termination and isolation and disinvestment and sanctions against the apartheid state at the time and now the same must happen to Israel,” said Cosatu’s International Relations Spokesperson Bongani Masuku.
The parallels between South Africa prior to 1994 and the plight of Palestinians in Gaza was echoed by Thami Hungwe of the Socialist Party of Azania.
“Their struggle is the same as our struggle, it is the struggle to fight in order to return to their land. It is the struggle in order to win back their land which has been occupied by the Israeli settler colonialists just like us here in Azania, our struggle is the struggle to return our land to the rightful owners which are the Azanians, the land which is still under the control of the white settler colonialists.”
The march ended at the Nelson Mandela Bridge, named after the stateman who famously said, “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”