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Mmusi Maimane.(Photo by: REUTERS)
South African opposition leader faces backlash after visit to Israel
In a statement, the ANC said it noted the anger and joined “fellow South Africans in condemning the visit by the DA’s Maimane to Israel and to Israel’s prime minister”.
JOHANNESBURG — The Democratic Alliance (DA), South Africa’s opposition, has hit back following heavy criticism of its leader Mmusi Maimane’s visit to Israel.

This after the country’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), slated the opposition on Thursday night for allowing Maimane to visit the country.

The Jerusalem Post first revealed that the charismatic opposition leader was currently on a low-profile, private visit to Israel, just two days after South African President Jacob Zuma called on his countrymen not to visit Israel.

In a statement, the ANC said it noted the anger and joined “fellow South Africans in condemning the visit by the DA’s Maimane to Israel and to Israel’s prime minister”.

“The ANC together with other progressive organizations and forces is not surprised by the DA’s visit to Israel and to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu," the statement said.

"At a time when the world," the statement continues, "is increasingly standing up against Israel’s illegal settlements, including the United Nations Security Council, it is a pity that the DA is endorsing the Israeli regime instead of condemning its violations of international law.”

“The allegations that the DA is funded and controlled by Apartheid Israel sympathizers seems to be true,” it added.

It also warned the opposition party not to mislead the public in suggesting that the South African government and the ANC shared the same position as the DA on Palestinian statehood.

“The ANC not only supports a just and fair solution but we also have, for for several years attended, actively supported and organized international solidarity campaigns with the people of Palestine. We, unlike the DA, call out Israel for its racism against African refugees, we condemn Israel’s Apartheid policies and its violations of international law including building of illegal settlements and the inhumane Gaza siege.”

The ANC also accused the DA of remaining on the wrong side of history, choosing the oppressors and not the oppressed.

“The DA has once again let down our masses and betrayed the solidarity that Comrades Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo built with the Palestinian people. Without a doubt, they would be turning in their graves.”

The ANC said it fully supports its government's position of discouraging relations with Israel until that country abides by international law and the peace process. With the backing of the majority of South Africans, the ANC said it would ensure government implementation of strict measures against countries violating international law and human rights abuses.

In response, DA spokeswoman Phumzile Van Damme (corr) retorted that Maimane was visiting Israel and the Palestinian Territories in order to listen and learn about the conflict first hand.

“He is there to discuss how South Africa should be playing a more constructive role in bringing the parties together for peace. “He is also here, as a person of deep faith, to visit some of the most important holy places that are of spiritual meaning to him,“ she said.

Although Maimane had met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the leader of the opposition, Zionist Union MK Issac Herzog, Van Damme said a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had been scheduled, but was cancelled by his office due to a scheduling conflict in the President's diary.

“Mr Maimane met with Palestinian officials in Ramallah and Rawabi, Palestinian human rights activists, as well as senior representatives of the Palestinian and Israeli business community to discuss how business and trade can be used to advance peace when politics is failing to make progress,” she pointed out.

Van Damme emphasized that this was done in keeping with the DA's commitment to a two-state solution, where Israel and Palestine exist side by side, “which is the position of the South African Government as well as the United Nations”.

“Under the DA's leadership, South Africa will play a constructive role in bringing the two parties together instead of inflaming tensions between them.

“The DA will always place human rights at the centre of its international relations, a moral policy long disregarded by the ANC,” she added.

However, despite the wide condemnation, both South African Friends of Israel (SAFI) and the SA Zionist Federation (SAZF) commended Maimane for his willingness to visit the country.

“We hope that Mr Maimane’s experience and engagement with leadership in the Middle East will give him the perspective he needs to help find solutions for lasting peace in the region,” said National SAZF Chairman Ben Swartz.

“Mr Maimane embodies true South African values of dialogue and engagement and has shown vision and courage in these times of great slander against of the State of Israel.”

Swartz added that South Africa had a major role to play in peace building globally and it was reassuring to see young South African leaders not shirking that responsibility but rather embracing it.

In a statement, SAFI said the Israel is a world leader in food security, water management, technology and innovation.

“These are areas in which South Africa stands to benefit through strengthened connections with Israel,” it said.

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