South Africa’s ruling party said on Thursday it will support a parliamentary motion to suspend diplomatic relations with Israel until it agrees to a ceasefire in Gaza.
The African National Congress (ANC) said it also backs calls to close the Israeli embassy in Pretoria in protest over the war raging in the Hamas-ruled territory.
“We cannot sit back and watch the genocidal actions of the Israeli regime,” said ANC spokeswoman Mahlengi Bhengu-Motsiri.
“The African National Congress will agree to a parliamentary motion which calls upon the government to close the Israel embassy in South Africa and suspend all diplomatic relations with Israel.”
South Africa recalled all its diplomats from Israel earlier this month.
War erupted with Hamas’s October 7 massacre, which saw some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel from the Gaza Strip, killing some 1,200 people and seizing over 240 hostages under the cover of a deluge of thousands of rockets fired at Israeli towns and cities. The vast majority of those killed and abducted as gunmen seized border communities were civilians — including babies, children and the elderly. Entire families were executed in their homes and over 260 people were slaughtered at an outdoor festival, many amid horrific acts of brutality by the terrorists.
Israel declared its intention to topple the Hamas regime, and launched an air campaign, and later a ground offensive, saying it was targeting terrorist infrastructure while taking steps to minimize civilian casualties.
In Gaza, more than 11,500 people have been killed in Israel’s air and ground offensive since, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. Those figures cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include both civilians and Hamas members killed in Gaza, including as a consequence of terror groups’ own rocket misfires.
Pretoria has long been a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause, with the ANC — the party of late president Nelson Mandela — often linking it to its struggle against apartheid.
The parliamentary motion, which is being discussed on Thursday, was put forward by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), a radical leftist opposition party.
It is not binding and would need government approval to be implemented.
South Africa is not the first country to consider severing ties in response to Israel’s offensive in Gaza, which aims to destroy Hamas’s military and governance capabilities. Bolivia’s government severed diplomatic relations with Israel at the beginning of November, accusing it of carrying out “crimes against humanity” in Gaza, and Chile and Colombia recalled their ambassadors to Israel as they criticized the military offensive against Hamas.
Arab countries with diplomatic and economic ties with Israel have made similar moves in recent weeks, with Bahrain and Turkey both recalling their ambassadors from Israel without officially severing ties.
The ANC statement came a few days after South African police fired stun grenades and water cannons in Cape Town to quell clashes between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian demonstrators.
A prayer for Israel and the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza was to be held in the early afternoon Sunday in an affluent area of Cape Town on the Atlantic coast, a popular place for family walks on Sundays.
But several hundred pro-Palestinian demonstrators gate-crashed the event, following a pro-Palestinian demonstration that brought thousands of people onto the streets of the port and tourist city, according to AFP journalists on the scene.
The pro-Palestinian demonstrators, wearing keffiyehs and waving Palestinian flags, chased away those attending the pro-Israel prayer meet, tore up their placards and occupied the space.
Police intervened with a water cannon and sound grenades to disperse the demonstrators, then set up a roadblock to keep people out of the area.
Numerous demonstrations in support of both sides have been held for weeks in South Africa’s major cities, where the ruling ANC party has been a fervent supporter of the Palestinian cause for decades.
But the country also boasts the largest Jewish community in sub-Saharan Africa, some of whom have organized vigils and demonstrations in support of Israel. More left-wing members of the Jewish community, which played an active part in the fight against apartheid, have held rallies in support of the Palestinian cause.