Azhar Vadi | Salaamedia | 07 October 2016
South African Ambassador to Israel, Sisa Ngombane, let loose in an almost drunken stupor, his true feelings regarding the occupation of the Palestinian people and the suffering they have had to endure over the last 7 decades.
And it wasn’t a pleasant experience to say the least.
Ngombane, a longstanding career diplomat accompanied Leigh-Ann Naidoo, a South African activist, back home from Israel after she was kidnapped in international waters some thirty odd nautical miles off the coast of Gaza. She was part of a crew of 13 women aboard the Zaytouna- Oliva, a small boat that recently left Spain heading for the port of Gaza. Their simple stated objective was to bring hope to a devastated people. The boat was intercepted by the Israeli navy in traditional style, unwilling to hear sense, enforcing self created laws of the sea amounting to little more than modern day piracy.
On Friday, 07 October 2016, Leigh-Ann returned to her family and a crowd of euphoric supporters at OR Tambo International airport in South Africa. Tagging along was the South African ambassador, Mr Ngombane. Although he had sacrificed his time to make sure Naidoo was not harassed enroute, perhaps he would have done better to stay in Israel.
At a presser arranged at the airport, the ambassador was given an opportunity to read out the official Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) statement on the matter. Presenting before his fellow senior staff members also in attendance, Mr Ngombane, veered from the statement to express his personal opinions. And that’s when things started to look like a pear.
“The war that broke out (Israel’s invasion of Gaza in 2014 in which over 2000 people were massacred, the vast majority of them being civilians), had started in the West Bank,” he said.
“The West Bank suffered gravely because three or two Israeli children were abducted and killed whilst in a neighbourhood in the West Bank. Of course that gave a good excuse for the Israeli Defence Force to go door-to-door in West Bank. This is an untold story and of course Gaza got the headlines because planes flew to Gaza and bombarded Gaza. But the untold story or the less known story that it is the Palestinians in the West Bank who live day to day with the IDF. And of course when actions, they may be well intended, are taken which provoke this type of thing, those families are in the forefront. We must always remember that (sic).”
The ambassador didn’t get a chance to say much more. The chairperson of the meeting and Women’s Boat to Gaza spokesperson, Zeenat Adam, stepped in and prevented him from making a further spectacle of himself, blaming Palestinians for the trauma inflicted upon them by Israel.
Her interjections however only roused the stupor level. Ambassador Ngombane refused to stop even when the crowd of supporters had started to loudly hackle him. “No, no, no,” he repeated. “I’m going to finish my statement.” Putting on his spectacles he began reading the official statement without letting go of the mic.
The statement contradicted the sentiments of the ambassador, which unlike him stated that the grave situation in Gaza had been “compounded by the Israeli blockade” and was not the likely consequence of Palestinian actions in the West Bank.
What was worrying to note, that according to the statement from DRICO, a request to provide urgent consular services to Leigh-Ann via the South African mission in Israel was delayed to the morning of 7 October 2016, the same day of her deportation.
Another attempt by the ambassador to express his personal opinions was stopped by Adam for a second time after completing the statement, upon which he became visibly aggressive in tone and behaviour.
“Don’t bulldoze me,” he angrily shouted at Adam. “I respect women but don’t bulldoze me.” In his defence of Israeli aggression perhaps he had forgotten the bulldozing of Palestinian homes. “No, no, no,” he kept shouting embarrassingly. “I’m not a small boy.”
It took the graceful and soothing voice of Leigh-Ann to bring the ambassador back to his senses and allow her to tell her story and what she had experienced being part of the Women’s Boat to Gaza.
Although the antics of the ambassador did deter the attention of those present from the real purpose of the gathering, it opened up an inner understanding into the man who the South African government had deployed to possibly the most volatile and split regions of the world. A position requiring the utmost balance and sophistication.
It was clear that he had chosen to ignore the 70 year occupation cake, creamed with the blood of thousands of innocent Palestinians, and instead accepted the very controlled and deliberate Israeli narrative as to what and who was to blame.
His extended time in Israel serving for the last four years had perhaps taken its toll on him. Could it have been a case of the host making the guest’s bed exceedingly comfortable, to put him into such a deep sleep that he becomes unaware of the host’s criminal activities in the darkness of the night. It may seem that Ambassador Ngombane has been knocked out cold during his last four years abroad.