“We call on, and demand that president Ramaphosa places this matter [the Israeli occupation of Palestine] on the BRICS agenda,” said Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s Minister of Higher Education on Wednesday. BRICS is the acronym for the association of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
Referring to Donald Trump’s reckless decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the US embassy there, Pandor explained that there was now “a need to identify powerful members of the global community who may give greater impetus to progress in finding a two-state solution, perhaps the BRICS countries should be called on to assume such global leadership,”
Pandor made the comments at an Israeli Apartheid Week event at the University of Cape Town (UCT) on Wednesday night, where she was the keynote speaker.
The comments are significant since South Africa is chairing BRICS in 2018. Collectively, the BRICS bloc represents over 3.6 billion people, or about 41% of the world population. Russia and China both hold permanent veto power at the UN Security Council.
Hosted by the UCT Palestine Solidarity Forum (PSF), Pandor reaffirmed both the South African government and the African National Congress’s solidarity with the people of Palestine. She further urged South Africans – particularly young South Africans born in post-1994 democratic South Africa – to act in support of international struggles for freedom and self-determination just as the global community stood in solidarity with the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa.
“One of the things we failed to appreciate as South Africans is the immense contribution to our struggle by the international anti-Apartheid movement. We enjoyed support from all corners of the world and now that we are free we are ignoring and enjoying our freedom and we have forgotten those who are oppressed in other parts of the world.”
As former beneficiaries of selfless international support, South Africans have a collective duty to lend a supportive hand to others seeking justice and equality, explained Pandor to a crowd of over 250 students. “Now that we have achieved our freedom, we must not forget our friends and allies who helped us liberate ourselves,” she cautioned.
According to Pandor, it was this duty that guided the ANC’s deliberations on the issue of Palestine at its 54th National Conference in December, where South Africa’s ruling partypassed a resolution to immediately and unconditionally downgrade South Africa’s embassy in Tel Aviv to a liaison office. The pro-Israel lobby in South Africa were outraged by the resolution, calling the move “discriminatory”.
The minister said that the decision to downgrade the South African Embassy in Tel Aviv is not an anti-Israel resolution, it is a pro-Palestine resolution.
“There has been consternation in Israel about the ANC’s decision, but our decision does not detract from our commitment to a two-state solution. It does express our dismay and anger at the absence of any attempt by Israel, which is the powerful component of the struggle and its powerful friends in the north, their absence of any attempt to free the people of Palestine from the oppression they suffer today.”
Pandor’s comments were welcomed by the Palestinian solidarity movement in South Africa.