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South African community leaders visit Israel on peace mission - ‘SA government actions do not represent the people’

Delegation on peace and fact-finding mission declares: ‘We are here to bring people together’

South African leaders visit at the Knesset (Israeli Parliament), March 26, 2024 (Photo: South African Friends of Israel).

A delegation of Christian, political and traditional leaders from South Africa arrived in Israel last week on a “peace and fact-finding mission” organized by South African Friends of Israel (SAFI) and DiploAct, an Israeli organization founded to combat antisemitism. 

The group of 14 community leaders said they were disappointed in the South African government's conduct following the Hamas invasion of Israel on Oct. 7 and said the government does not represent the people.

The delegation met with Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana during their visit to the Knesset on Tuesday. ACDP Parliament Member Marie Sukers said: “On behalf of the South African people, I ask Israel for forgiveness for the steps taken by our government in connection with the claim to the International Court of Justice.” 

“These views and actions do not represent the South African people,” Sukers stated. 

SAFI Chairman Shaun Zagnoev said the country’s reputation for being a peacemaker was at risk due to the current government’s actions. 

“South Africa has a unique pedigree for playing a role in the resolution of intractable conflicts,” said Zagnoev and added that its history is being undermined by the current government’s “very partisan stance.” 

Another member of the delegation, Bhelekazi Mabandla, said he believes South Africa should be supporting reconciliation and peace. 

“As a South African, I don't support my government's decision. It's very sad that the South African government has taken this path instead of choosing one of dialogue, reconciliation and peace," he said. 

During the visit, the delegation visited significant religious and cultural sites, met with Israeli officials and representatives of the hostage families, and visited several places that were devastated by the horrific Hamas attacks on Oct. 7. 

During a visit to Kibbutz Re’im, near the site of the Nova Music Festival massacre, South African radio host Bafana Modise condemned his government’s actions. 

"I find it difficult to understand how my government defends those who murdered 400 youth at a party for no reason,” Modise said. “I don't want to think that such a horrible thing would happen to us. I'm ashamed this is my government's decision.” 

“Our leaders hosted Hamas leaders who are behind such a horrible murder of 400 people who came here to dance. It's outrageous," Modise added. “What they did to you is genocide, not what you did to Hamas. We were here and we saw it with our own eyes, and when we go home, we will speak of what we saw.” 

Zagnoev informed the Jerusalem Post that the South African government prohibited members of the ruling ANC party to travel to Israel and suggested the government feared such visits would expose members to the truth about Israel.

Modise agreed with the assessment.

“If all of them came to this country, they would regret the apartheid narrative and would seek peace for Israelis and Palestinians. We are here to bring people together,” he said.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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