Regional Cooperations Minister Tzachi Hanegbi meets yesterday withJeff Radebe, Minister in the South African presidential office in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Facebook).
(photo credit: FACEBOOK)
Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi met with high-ranking South African cabinet members while on an official visit to the country on Monday, a rare occurrence aimed at warming ties between the two countries.
Over the past five years, Israeli ministers have been unable to meet with their South African counterparts due to tensions over what the ruling party African National Congress has deemed “the occupation of Palestine.”
The ANC has often accused Israel of applying a policy of “apartheid” toward Palestinians.
“Today I held two important policy meetings in Johannesburg,” Hanegbi wrote in a Facebook post on his page. “The first was with the minister in the South African Presidential Office, Jeff Radebe, the longest-serving minister in the South African government.”
Radebe has served since president Nelson Mandela came to power when the apartheid regime ended in 1994.
Hanegbi’s second meeting was with Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa, who also heads the ruling party’s Foreign Affairs Committee.
Both ministers are senior ANC members in the party and current government.
Next month, the ANC will convene at its National Policy Conference to elect its next leader, replacing current President Jacob Zuma as party leader.
“Against this background, the connection between Israel and South Africa is reinforced,” Hanegbi added.
Hanegbi also represented the Israeli government at the annual meeting in Johannesburg of South Africa’s Jewish community on Sunday night.
He described the Jewish community as “a Zionist community connected to Israel and committed to its security in every fiber of its soul.”
Hanegbi noted that the number of immigrants from South Africa to Israel has doubled over the past two years, with many of them young people who volunteer for the IDF and serve in combat units.
In July, the ANC called for the downgrading of the South African Embassy in Israel to a “liaison office,” saying it was “concerned by the lack of commitment from Israel to finding a resolution to the Palestinian question.”
The party’s international relations commission said at the time, “This is one way the ANC will intensify its solidarity campaign with the people of Palestine, pressuring the Israeli government.”
A decision on the embassy downgrade will be discussed and made at next month’s Policy Conference.
In August, a delegation of MKs who visited South Africa was snubbed by a large contingent of ANC parliamentarians; the move was welcomed by several groups and individuals including Nelson Mandela’s grandson Mandla Mandela.
Despite the rejection, the delegation still met with several senior ANC members including former interim president Kgalema Motlanthe and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, an ANC presidential candidate, as well as leaders from several of the country’s opposition parties.