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How Israel’s war on Gaza could influence South Africa’s election

With the African National Congress (ANC) taking a clear pro-Palestine stance, while the Democratic Alliance (DA), remains neutral on the issue.
How Israel’s war on Gaza could influence South Africa's election www.whoownsafrica.com How Israel’s war on Gaza could influence South Africa's election www.whoownsafrica.com
Supporters of Tembeka Ngcukaitobi gather at O R Tambo international airport, Johannesburg, to welcome him home after he represented South Africa in the genocide case against Israel at The Hague. Photograph: Anadolu/Getty Images

The ongoing conflict between Israel and Gaza has been a key issue in the upcoming South African election, with the African National Congress (ANC) taking a clear pro-Palestine stance, while the Democratic Alliance (DA), remains neutral on the issue.

This divide has created tension among voters, especially in Muslim-majority areas such as Surrey Estate in Cape Town.

The ANC’s support for Palestine is rooted in its historical ties with the Palestinian struggle for independence and human rights.

The party has consistently condemned Israeli occupation and has taken legal action against Israel for alleged human rights violations in Gaza. This strong stance has resonated with many South African voters, particularly those with a connection to the Middle East.

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How Israel’s war on Gaza could influence South Africa's election www.whoownsafrica.com
South Africans attend a rally in support of a free Palestine [File: Rogan Ward/Reuters]
On the other hand, the DA’s neutrality on the Gaza issue has left some voters feeling alienated and frustrated. The party’s support for Israel has been met with criticism and backlash, as seen in the incident at the pre-election panel discussion in Surrey Estate.

The DA’s refusal to take a clear stand on the conflict has raised questions about its commitment to human rights and international justice.

The official opposition DA, despite historically supporting Israel, has taken a stance of neutrality in the Israel-Palestine conflict, advocating for a two-state solution and condemning violence and radicalism from both sides.

This position has drawn criticism from some, especially in Muslim-majority areas like Surrey Estate in the Western Cape, where the party has enjoyed support but faced backlash for perceived complicity in condoning genocide in Gaza.

Despite attempts to engage with the community, as seen in a recent event where DA representatives faced hostility and chants of “free, free Palestine”, the party’s position remains firm in advocating for peaceful co-existence and the right to statehood and sovereignty for both Palestinians and Israelis.

This complex and divisive issue highlights the challenges of navigating foreign policy in a region where emotions run high and deep-seated grievances persist.

President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa visited the suburb of Rylands, where he addressed residents and reaffirmed the ANC’s support for the people of Palestine.

How Israel’s war on Gaza could influence South Africa's election www.whoownsafrica.com
Supporters of Tembeka Ngcukaitobi gather at O R Tambo international airport, Johannesburg, to welcome him home after he represented South Africa in the genocide case against Israel at The Hague. Photograph: Anadolu/Getty Images

In a show of solidarity, Ramaphosa wore a keffiyeh and announced plans to make it easier for Palestinians to travel to South Africa by considering visa waivers.

The crowd, many wearing Palestinian colors, applauded his statement and showed their fervent support for the cause. During a question and answer session, ANC member Mandla Mandela questioned why South Africans fighting in the Israeli army have not been arrested, to which the president promised action.

Banners declaring the ANC’s solidarity with Palestine adorned the stage behind Ramaphosa, emphasizing the party’s consistent support for the Palestinian people during election campaigns and public events.

The community’s strong support for Palestine was evident as they listened to the president’s speech, highlighting the importance of the issue within South Africa’s political landscape.

The ANC has consistently drawn parallels between Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and the apartheid regime’s oppression of Black South Africans before democracy in 1994.

While some skeptics believe the party is using this issue to gain voter support, Imraan Buccus, an analyst, argues that the ANC’s stance is rooted in historical solidarity with Palestine. He dismisses claims of opportunism, emphasizing the party’s principled stand.

On the other hand, opposition leader Herman Mashaba accuses the ANC of hypocrisy, criticizing its focus on Gaza as a distraction from the pressing issues within South Africa.

Mashaba highlights the high levels of violence and crime in the country, questioning the government’s priorities. The debate showcases the complex intersection of domestic and international concerns in South African politics.

How Israel’s war on Gaza could influence South Africa's election www.whoownsafrica.com
People participate in a ‘Free Palestine’ family walk in Durban, South Africa [File: Rogan Ward/Reuters]
ActionSA and the Patriotic Alliance (PA) have sparked controversy with their stances on the Israel-Palestine conflict. ActionSA leader, Herman Mashaba, believes that South Africa should prioritize addressing its own domestic issues before getting involved in international crises.

Similarly, PA leader, Gayton McKenzie, enraged Cape Town residents by emphasizing the country’s high crime rates when questioned about his support for Palestine. McKenzie’s unapologetic backing of Israel stems from his religious beliefs, citing his Bible’s command to stand with Israel.

On the other hand, the EFF and uMkhonto we Sizwe have openly supported Palestine, while the IFP remains neutral on the issue. Al Jama-ah, a Muslim-centered party with a seat in Parliament, has made Palestine a key focus of their election campaign.

Despite differing stances on foreign policy, analyst Buccus noted that historical voting patterns in South Africa have not been heavily influenced by such positions.

How Israel’s war on Gaza could influence South Africa's election www.whoownsafrica
South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor, left, and South African Ambassador to the Netherlands Vusimuzi Madonsela speak at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) following accusations by South Africa that Israel is committing state-led genocide in Gaza [File: Piroschka van de Wouw/Reuters]
This election was unlike any other, as the ongoing “genocide” in Gaza was a significant factor that influenced voter attitudes.

The impact of this issue on the election was evident, with working-class Muslim voters in Cape Town and other regions reconsidering their support for the DA, a party they had previously endorsed with pride.

The atrocities unfolding in Gaza prompted a shift in perspective and sparked a wave of reflection among these voters, leading them to question the party’s stance on pressing humanitarian issues.

The election landscape was undeniably shaped by the turmoil in Gaza, highlighting the interconnected nature of global events and local politics.

Moving forward, political parties will need to navigate these complex dynamics and address the concerns of their constituents with sensitivity and empathy.

Go to Who Owns Africa for more news from the African continent.

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