8 June 2016
Zikhona Ndiki and Vanessa Mamatho | Image: Najeh Hashlamoun, APA images
Supra Mahumapelo, the Premier of the North West province in South Africa, did not attend a conference arranged by the Israeli Embassy this week. Events were planned in the country’s major cities from the 6 – 9 June 2016.
Israeli water experts were expected to meet their South African counterparts and government officials to share knowledge regarding water affairs. South Africa has been experiencing a severe drought and water shortages over the last 18 months. The North West province has been particularly hard hit.
Mahumapelo was scheduled as the main speaker at the water event Johannesburg. He however did not attend. Brain Setswambung, the Premier’s spokesperson said, “Mr Mahumapelo did not attend the Israel embassy’s water conference due to African National Congress (ANC) engagements. He cancelled his invitation in due time for the embassy to replace him.”
The ANC has been vocal in seeking a just solution to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.
Kwara Kekana, a spokesperson for the lobby group Boycott Divestment and Sanction (BDS) said senior ANC officials did not want the Premier’s name to have been on the programme in the first place.
Michael Freeman of the Israeli embassy acknowledged the Premier’s absence but said, “there were so many guests, about 5000 of them, so the speaker’s attendance went unnoticed at the time.”
While the conference sort to assist South Africa in terms of water provision to its citizens, the Israeli state continues to violate Palestinian human rights by usurping their water resources.
In a report by the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs titled “How Dispossession Happens: The Humanitarian Impact of the Takeover of Palestinian Water Springs by Israeli Settlers,” OCHA identified 56 water springs on Palestinian land that have been taken over or risk being taken over by Israeli settlers.
Online web portal, Electronic Intifada noted that, “… according to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, there were approximately 191,200 Palestinians (living in 134 villages throughout the West Bank) without access to a running-water network in 2008. At the same time, 190,000 Palestinians lived in communities in which the water system was very limited (“Villages not connected to a water network,” 6 May 2010).